Before the baseball season started, oddsmakers projected that the Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, Washington Nationals and Cleveland Indians would have a more miserable summer than jail-bound Floyd Mayweather Jr. Of those five clubs, only Washington (83½ wins) was expected to finish above .500 (and barely). The other four had win totals ranging from 69½ (Orioles) to 80½ (Dodgers).
Jump ahead two months. With the season well past the quarter-pole, the aforementioned squads went to bed on Memorial Day with a combined winning percentage of .601 (144-98). More importantly, from a betting standpoint, that quintet ranked among the six most profitable teams in the league, led by the Orioles (up more than 14 units) and Dodgers (up more than 13.5 units), according to Covers.com.
Conversely, based on preseason win-total projections, the Yankees, Phillies, Angels, Tigers and Red Sox were pegged to finish with five of the six best records (with victory totals ranging from 89½ to 93½), yet they ended Memorial Day a combined 124-120. Only New York and Philadelphia were over .500, and all five were significantly in the red from a wagering perspective.
My point: I’m not the only prognosticator who doesn’t know what he’s doing!
Now, here’s where you counter with, “Hey moron, there’s still more than two-thirds of the season remaining. Remember last year when the Indians made bettors a boatload of money thanks to a 30-15 start, only to give nearly all of it back by going 50-67 after May 23?” To which I respond, “Indeed I remember—just as I remember that of the eight teams that reached the postseason in 2011, seven were either in first place or within two games of the wild card on Memorial Day.”
In other words, if you thought Bud Selig had a hefty liquor-store tab last October (when the Rangers and Cardinals played an epic seven-game World Series … smack in the middle of the NFL and college football seasons), wait till you see what it looks like when it’s Orioles-Nationals in this year’s Fall Classic!
Some additional baseball betting tidbits to chew on as the dog days of summer approach (all stats through May 28) …
• While a third of the league has either underachieved or exceeded expectations to this point, several teams are right where we thought they’d be. On the positive end are Tampa Bay (29-20, up more than seven units), Cincinnati (27-21, up five units) and Texas (31-18, up four units). Meanwhile, the Padres (17-33) and Cubs (16-32) have been a worse spring investment than Ron Paul; both are down more than 13 units.
• Situational bettors, take note: The Dodgers are a major league-best 21-6 at home, but only 11-10 on the road, while Baltimore tops everyone with a 15-7 road record (almost exclusively as an underdog) but is just 14-13 at home. Tread carefully when backing the Royals (5-17) and Twins (7-17) at home, or the Padres (5-17), Astros (6-17) and Cubs (6-17) on the highway.
• When it comes to sports wagering, starting pitchers are to baseball what quarterbacks are to the NFL (and rogue refs are to the NBA). Specifically, ride the undervalued hurlers who can’t lose, and stay away from those perennial All-Stars who can’t win. The former group includes three pitchers with a rich pedigree in Cole Hamels (team is 9-1 in his 10 starts), James Shields (8-2) and Stephen Strasburg (8-2); a high-priced Japanese import in Yu Darvish (8-2); and a slew of guys whose managers would struggle to identify them in a lineup: Washington’s Gio Gonzalez (9-1), Houston’s Bud Norris (8-2), the Mets’ R.A. Dickey (8-2), the Dodgers’ Chris Capuano (8-2) and Arizona rookie Wade Miley (6-1).
Then there’s a trio of aces who to this point have pitched like jokers: Roy Halladay (4-7, and now on the disabled list), Tim Lincecum (2-8) and Dan Haren (2-8). A $100 bettor who wagered on all 31 of their starts? He’d be down more than $2,500.
One last word on pitchers: If you’re looking to fund your summer vacation, bet against the Cubs anytime they hand the ball to Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster or Chris Volstad; the North Siders are 4-21 when those right-handers start.
• The men in blue aren’t exactly the most popular guys on the field, but when they put on a mask, they can be a bettor’s best friends. To that point: umpires Tim Tschida, Chris Guccione, Angel Campos, Jerry Layne, Mark Wegner, Scott Barry, Tony Randazzo and Dale Scott have been behind the plate for 75 games this season, and the home team is 61-14 (better than 81 percent!). On the other hand, road teams are 38-10 (79 percent) when Angel Hernandez, Hunter Wendelstedt, Dan Iassogna, Dan Bellino, Mike DiMuro and D.J. Reyburn work the dish. (Tip: Umpires rotate daily in a clockwise direction around the diamond.)