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Baseball's 2nd Half Watch List

   by Scott Spreitzer - 07/09/2006

I've always found that major league baseball money lines are ripe for the taking after the All-Star break. I don't mean just the first week after the break, but the full two and a half months!

The reason is simple. The oddsmakers and general public base their decisions on what's happened so far in the season. They know what everyone's done so far and they assume it's all going to continue. The good teams will keep winning, the bad teams will keep losing. No reason to make life more complicated than it is.

Well, baseball IS more complicated than that. And some of the biggest edges you'll find during a baseball season come after the All-Star break when everyone's just kind of paying "half" attention.

Here's why:

*In many cases, if a team catches fire in the second half of the season, it takes forever for the standings to show this. It stays under the radar, so to speak. Every year a few teams really pick up the pace coming down the stretch. You can ride these teams very cheaply for weeks!

*If a team falls off the map, it also takes forever for this to show up in the standings. Think about how few people noticed Arizona's recent slide. They still had a decent record in the newspaper standings even though they were only winning about one game a week for a month! Every year, a few teams who played over their heads in the first half of the season suffer some awful slumps in the dog days of summer. It takes seemingly forever for the lines to catch up.

*Both possibilities are in place for pitchers as well. Guys who were great in the first three months may run out of gas, or may endure minor nagging injuries. Their full season stats will look great even though they're not pitching great any more. On the other side of the coin, some guys who struggled early fix something in their mechanics and become very productive. The oddsmakers and handicappers rate them on their crummy stats even though they're now productive innings munchers.

With all of this in mind, one may want to put together some second half "watch lists". Grab the newspaper standings, then ask yourself these questions:

*Which teams with great records might cool off in the second half of the season?

*Which teams around .500 still have a real shot to get hot and make a run at the playoffs? Houston seems to do this every year. Oakland also has a history of playing better in the second half of the season than in the first.

*Which teams around .500 are probably playing over their heads, and may fall back down to preseason expectations the rest of the way? Milwaukee has done this in the past, as have other mid-market teams. They don't have the resources to compile talent AND depth, so six months of solid baseball is more difficult.

*Which teams who have awful records now, are capable of playing .500 ball the rest of the way, offering great value at dog prices? It might be somebody like Kansas City or Pittsburgh, or the teams a rung above that. But you can count on at least one or two teams that nobody would touch with a 10-foot pole becoming moneymakers in the second half of the season.

Keep those lists handy every day…and monitor the results to see if any of the teams are offering value. It's extremely likely that a couple of teams are going to get red hot in the coming weeks. It's our job to see it as it starts to happen. Some mid-market teams are going to fizzle after a decent start. Always have, always will.

These developments are actually high percentage likelihoods. I'm not saying look for miracles just in case they happen. I'm saying, look for great value spots that always happen so you can take advantage!

What about pitchers? Well, with 150 rotation starters it's not really helpful to make lists. Just monitor recent form closely for everyone as you do your daily handicapping. Knowing ahead of time that many starters will regress to the mean in the coming weeks will help you stay in synch with what's happening lately rather than being overly influenced by what happened in April, May, and June.

If you're looking for these kinds of things now, you'll beat the oddsmakers to the punch. After all, that's what winning handicapping is all about!

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