2013 MLB Handicapping Tips: Underrated Teams
by Robert Ferringo - 4/2/2013
It is easy in baseball to jump on the favorite. You find the team with the bigger bats, the better arms, and the bloated payroll and you are usually going to find the team with 90 wins and a playoff date.
But the best teams in baseball are usually fairly obvious. And because the oddsmakers are, frankly, better at this than you are, there isn’t money to be made in the baseball betting market by simply pouring cash into the clubs that are playing with heightened expectations.
No, the real key is to find the teams on the margins, the teams that everyone is overlooking. San Francisco in 2010. Tampa Bay in 2008. Colorado in 2007, the White Sox in 2005 and Florida in 2003; these were all pennant and World Series winners that were completely overlooked and undervalued heading into the season. And bettors that were able to buy in early made a mint backing these boys all summer long.
That list of teams is also just the ones that reached the pinnacle of the sport. Each year there are several other teams that overachieve or surpass expectations. These teams – like Baltimore or Oakland last year – can make a mint for backers without taking home any hardware. And being able to identify potentially profitable organizations early in the year is a key component of being a successful baseball bettor.
In no particular order, here are some underrated MLB teams as the play begins across the 2013 Major League season:
It wasn’t too long ago that Philadelphia was among the game’s elite and more overvalued teams. They played in back-to-back World Series in 2008 and 2009 and won five straight National League East titles from 2007 to 2011.
But the Phillies enter this year with modest expectations – their MLB season win total opened at just 81.5 in Las Vegas sportsbooks – and they have been pegged as the third-place team behind upstart Washington and rebuilt Atlanta.
Philadelphia went 81-81 last year. But they did so despite an almost comical rash of injuries that claimed Ryan Howard (91 games missed), Chase Utley (79 missed), Shane Victorino (61), Carlos Ruiz (48) and Placido Polanco (72). And even when most of those players were in the lineup, they were still hampered by ailments.
The Phillies are much healthier at the start of this season. They also added key pieces like Ben Revere and Michael Young. The Phillies still have a solid pitching staff and several frontline starters. They also have as much pride and savvy as any squad in the Majors. I think people are sleeping on the Phils as a true contender in the East.
I’m not exactly sure what it is about Seattle that is so appealing to me this year. But I think that the Mariners really could be one of the surprise teams in all of baseball after being one of the worst teams in the game for four of the last five years.
The Marines finally restocked their pathetic lineup this offseason. Kendrys Morales was the odd man out in Los Angeles and has all-star potential. Michael Morse is a beast and pairs with Morales and young stud Justin Smoak to give the Ms the middle-of-the-order-pop that they haven’t had in years. Seattle also boosted its offense by moving in the fences at Safeco Field, and that could have as big of an impact on this team mentally as it does in the box score.
Another big mental score for this team was locking up ace Felix Hernandez to a long-term deal in the offseason. Seattle management showed a commitment to winning by keeping King Felix and, oh by the way, he gives the M’s one of the best pitchers of the game’s last quarter-century.
Further, things have been shaken up in the American League West. The Rangers look poised for a back slide. The A’s played way above themselves last year and should come back to earth. The Angels have a lot of moving parts that still need to fall into place. And with Houston in the division, the Mariners finally have a weaker team to pound for some easy wins, the same way the Angels and Rangers have done to them the last few years. This is definitely a team to watch for.
Boston Red Sox
My largest futures play of the season was actually on the Red Sox to go “under” their 84.0 Vegas win total this year. So I know what you’re asking, “How can a team be undervalued and you are still betting their season win total to go under?” That’s because we are talking about two different things here: long-term value against short-term value.
I think the Red Sox actually have entered the season a bit under the radar. Toronto and New York dominated the American League East headlines this winter. The “can-they-or-can’t-they-repeat” question surrounding Baltimore has helped get them a lot of buzz as well. And Tampa Bay is, well, Tampa Bay. But, for the first time in over 10 years, Boston enters the season with virtually no expectations. A 69-93 season can do that for a team.
Boston still lacks pitching depth. And their lineup is really dependent on a lot of injury-prone guys or players trying to adjust a new league and/or team. They have a new manager, and this club lacks the top-end star power we’ve seen in recent years. But I think this team will be scrappier and will play a lot looser than the teams we saw implode the past two seasons.
I don’t think that the Red Sox are going to bounce back and hurl themselves into the late September playoff race. I don’t think they are 16 or more games better this year than last year. And that’s why I took their season win total under. I think that this is a .500 team. But I think they are going to be priced a lot lower than that through April and May, especially in divisional games.
Right now it is Detroit and a bunch of clowns in the American League Central. There is a definite power vacuum behind the top-tier Tigers, and any one of the remaining four teams in the division (well, three teams; the Twins suck) could step into the No. 2 slot and maybe even put a little pressure on Motown. The White Sox are expected to be that team – as they were last year – and there is a lot of buzz on the Royals right now. But the team no one is considering is Cleveland.
The Indians were actually in the thick of the Central race last summer. They were over .500 and just 3.5 games back on July 26 before an epic nosedive. Cleveland went 18-45 over its last 63 games and was the biggest money burner in the game during that time. But that was actually the second straight summer swoon for this team. They were in first place in late July in 2011 before a 21-36 close to the year.
Cleveland needs to stay healthy. And they need to find some better starting pitching than scrubs like Ubaldo Jiminez and Cookie Carrasco. The Tribe has a talented young core with guys like Carlos Santana and Asdrubal Cabrera. They brought in veterans Nick Swisher, Mark Reynolds and even Jason Giambi to add some veteran presence. And if key guys can stay off the disabled list and keep their composure, this team might be able to take that next step after two straight disappointing falls.
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Robert Ferringo is a professional sports handicapper for Doc’s Sports. He is considered one of the top MLB cappers in the country and has turned a profit in four of the last six years on the diamond with his baseball picks. He closed 2012 with an amazing $11,700 in earnings over the last four months and is looking forward to a great upcoming season against the MLB odds. Click here for more information on his MLB picks.
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