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A New York State of Capping

   by Scott Spreitzer - 04/09/2007

You'd think the baseball world would have noticed by now that the New York Mets have become a National League version of the New York Yankees.

This is of particular importance to handicappers because a team like the Mets may offer great wagering value if this continues to go unnoticed. The Gotham entry in the Senior Circuit was near pick-em every game in St. Louis on their way to victories of 6-1, 4-1, and 10-0 last week. That’s a combined 20-2 rout! They were near pick-em again in a Friday night series opener in Atlanta . The final score there? 11-1!

That 31-3 opening four-game salvo has to be one of the best regular season debuts in baseball history. And it all happened on the road! Now, they did get slowed down a bit on Saturday and Sunday in Atlanta, but what does this team have to do to get some respect?

While the Mets were rampaging over quality teams at cheap prices, the Yankees were losing as huge favorites to Tampa Bay (a 7-6 loss as a -300 favorite!) and Baltimore (a 6-4 loss as a -240 favorite!). Ouch.

Maybe it's better to say it this way. The Mets haven't become the Yankees. The Mets have become the team that the public imagines the Yankees to be, while the Yankees will never be as good as the public imagines them to be!

The similarities between the two franchises should be impossible to miss. Here's a lengthy list that should get you to do some thinking:

*The Mets manager is Willie Randolph, who learned his field generalship approach from Yankees manager Joe Torre.

*The Mets have started spending money hand over fist the way the Yankees do to bring in talent.

*The Mets have purchased some old starting pitchers, which gives them experience but makes them injury prone. The starting staff is the weakest link in the success chain for both teams.

*The Mets have purchased some big bats that do a great job of putting runs on the board. This would be more commonly known if they didn't play their home games in a pitcher's park. You saw the explosiveness in St. Louis and Atlanta already this year. The Yankees are famous for spending whatever it takes to bring in sluggers.

*The Mets have also spent well in the bullpen. This was a big strength for them last season. Overall, this is the Yankees model. Strong offense, strong bullpen, aging starting pitchers that are prone to break down.

*The Mets and Yankees both went 97-65 last year, tying for the best record in the major leagues.

*The Mets and Yankees both went 50-31 at home last year, tied for the second best home record in baseball with Toronto , behind the surprising Minnesota Twins.

*The Mets and Yankees both went 47-34 on the road last year, trailing only eventual AL champ Detroit in this category. Those are VERY strong road records, suggesting minimal home field advantage for both New York teams even though both tied for second place in home success!

The American League is the stronger league, so I'm not going to make the case that these teams were truly identical last season. The Mets were the NL version of the Yankees, but not quite as strong in the big picture. You can see that with this breakdown:

2006 Interleague Play:

Yankees: 10-8

Mets: 6-9

2006 Within Their League:

Mets: 91-56

Yankees 87-57

The Yankees were in the tougher league, so going 97-65 for the full season is the more impressive feat. But from the handicapping perspective, the Mets offered significantly more value.

2006 Moneyline Performance:

Mets: 3rd in the majors in profit, up about 17 units

Yankees: 12th in the majors, with a loss of about 2 units

The actual units will vary a little depending on the final numbers you're using. But it's safe to say that the Mets were the much more valuable team to handicappers and wagerers. They were ridiculously inexpensive for the production they were putting up, and trailed only the underrated Twins and A's in money won for backers. The Yankees actually LOST money for backers even when they finished 32 games over .500! That's how expensive that team is in the money lines.

And, again, these numbers are from last year, and don't even reflect the start for the Mets in 2007, or those expensive losses suffered by the Yankees.

So, the evidence is clear to me. The Mets have become the NL version of the Yankees in terms of success on the field, but the oddsmakers are still pricing them like a .500 caliber mediocrity! And it's still happening in 2007 even though the Mets came within one game of the World Series last year!

In full disclosure, I went against the Mets on Monday, but it was strictly due to a Cole Hamels system that I have. But the point is, keep an eye on the Mets in the coming days and weeks, and look for other teams who are performing much better than the oddsmakers and public are giving them credit for. Old perceptions die hard. I expect several teams to offer clear handicapping value in the first month of the season. Be sure you pick your spots and take advantage!

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