Pay Attention to Current Form in Baseball
Last time we were talking about the importance of avoiding old perceptions when handicapping. That's an important theme to think about right now in Major League Baseball for those of you here in my Advanced College of Sports Betting and Handicapping. There are a handful of teams on both ends of the spectrum who have "changed their stripes" over the past month. Too many of you aren't noticing!
Let's start at the top. Here are won-lost records over the last 30 games for the hottest teams in baseball right now. Most of the list isn't all that surprising compared to pre-season expectations. Nine teams were 17-13 or better heading into Memorial Day baseball. Five of the nine were expected to be playoff teams. Have you been winning lately with the other four?
Best Teams Last 30 Games
NY Yankees 23-7
Chicago Cubs 17-13
Tampa Bay 17-13
You surely knew the Yankees have been hot. They were on quite a tear, and they're the most heavily publicized team in the league. Were you sleeping on Seattle? What about Tampa Bay (whose creativity we talked about a week ago today)? Atlanta and Milwaukee sustained earlier form rather than regressing, which is a compliment to their young talent.
It can be tough to win with projected powers like Boston and Houston. An 18-12 record is 60% success, which sounds great until you realize that that percentage equates to only -150 on the moneyline. A team laying -200 must win 67% of the time to break even. Only the Yankees and Mariners have managed that steep an achievement over the last 30 games.
My suggestion with the big favorites is to isolate only the rare spots where they're likely to win about 85% of the time because of HUGE edges in the areas of starting pitching, bullpen, and offense. Those are rare, but do come up if you're paying attention to the full scope of every team.
Let's look at the middle of the pack. You can make money with 50/50 teams as underdogs, obviously. You will lose money fast if you're laying odds with teams in this form.
Teams Within a Game of .500
16-14: Colorado, Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis
14-16: Cincinnati, Cleveland, LA Angels, Miami, San Francisco, Texas
Did you stop paying attention to Cincinnati after the Reds' dismal start? A mistake, because 14-16 earns cash in this sport when the public imagines a 60-102 type team. Who would have guessed "Best Team in Ohio" honors would have been a tie between perceived doormat Cincinnati and perceived juggernaut Cleveland! Miami's another team that was supposedly going to tank all year. The Marlins are giving enough effort to match the talented Angels over the last 30 games.
You see some playoff contenders in this mix...but all will have to pick up their pace to make a run at 90 or 95 wins.
Now we head to the bottom of the majors over the past month. Even with fears of tanking, not that nobody's as "cold" as the Yankees are "hot." None of these teams are winning less than a third of their games. And, the worst slumper was actually a division leader not too long ago.
13-17: Detroit, Kansas City, LA Dodgers, Minnesota, San Diego
11-19: Baltimore, Chicago White Sox, NY Mets, Toronto
Arizona has just fallen off the map. The offense isn't hitting anywhere. The LA Dodgers felt like they righted their ship very recently. But, they're till now anywhere near 95 or 100-win potential, which was the norm before the season started.
Were any of you betting the D-backs too often because you were thinking they'd bounce back? I know several bettors here in Las Vegas who followed the Dodgers right down the toilet a few weeks ago. Sometimes you have to believe your own eyes!
Your homework this week is to develop a system for yourself that allows you to monitor the records of all MLB teams over the last two weeks and 30 days. It has to update every day obviously...so that the thirty-first day back falls off when a new game is played. It's okay to do this by hand, old-school style. You spreadsheet whizzes can probably come up with something better. At the very least, you can look at the expanded standings page at Baseball-Reference, which is where I got the numbers for today's coursework (complete through Sunday's games).
If you'd like some additional help finding smart plays, KELSO STURGEON'S BEST BETS can be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the Vegas Sports Masters office by calling office at 1-800-755-2255 during normal business hours. I do have great rates for extended packages that go through the NBA Playoffs, the MLB all-star break, or the full baseball season.
Make this note in your schedule. I'm going to hold class later this week on Thursday rather than Friday because the NBA Finals begin Thursday night. My thoughts for "How to Handicap the NBA Championship Round" will be up at this very website by midday on the East Coast, late morning Las Vegas time. The Dean of Sports Handicapping greatly appreciates your continuing attendance.