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Late Season MLB Wagering

   by Scott Spreitzer - 08/22/2006

Have you been having bad luck of late trying to get teams who look good in the standings to win for you?

I've been hearing a lot of that amongst public wagerers here in Las Vegas. Boston's supposed to be fighting for their lives but they're playing poorly. The White Sox had the Wildcard all but wrapped up, but now they're in a big fight with a few other teams. The St. Louis Cardinals? They don't look at all like the team that was supposed to run away with the NL Central.

Many fans and casual handicappers make the mistake of thinking that the standings tell you who the best teams are. That's true in a general way. But in a sport like baseball, what happened before the All-Star break represents a large chunk of the full season mark. What's been happening SINCE the break tells you a lot more about how the teams are playing right now.

If you're like most people, you've been trying to jam teams like the Red Sox, White Sox, and Cardinals through a square hole. You've also missed some great runs from teams who you don't trust because they don't have big payrolls.

Do you know who the hottest team in baseball is since the break? Nope, it only seems like the New York Yankees. Heading into this past weekend's action, two different AL teams had a better record than the Yanks (though by the time you read this it may be a dead heat because the Yanks are on quite a tear as I write this).

The Minnesota Twins were 24-11 heading into Saturday's action. The Oakland A's were 23-11. Both of those guys were a shade ahead of the Yankees 22-12 mark.

Let's run the numbers for all the AL playoff contenders so you can get some context. See how many teams are currently out of alignment with the way you may be wagering.

AMERICAN LEAGUE
Minnesota: 24-11
Oakland: 23-11
NY Yankees: 22-12
LA Angels: 21-14
Detroit: 20-14
Texas: 18-17
Chicago White Sox: 15-18
Boston: 16-19

We already talked about the top of the order here. The Angels have also been playing well, like they typically do in the second half of the season. Detroit's winning, but they're so expensive that they may not be winning enough to make you money.

Two playoff teams from last year are bringing up the rear. You'd figure that the last two World Champions would know how to lift their games during crunch time. Instead, we're seeing those guys get left in the dust by teams who are surging at the right time.

In Las Vegas terms, Boston and Chicago are being priced like they're 95-win teams. But they're playing like 75-80 win teams right now. If you hadn't adjusted your strategy, you've been getting spanked with them. I know a lot of players who have been trying to take these teams after a loss figuring they're too good to lose two in a row.

Let's do the same thing with the National League. The senior circuit (mis-named for now) is interesting for different reasons. Here, hardly anyone is playing well since the Break. And the Wildcard race is largely a competition amongst .500 caliber teams.

NATIONAL LEAGUE
NY Mets: 20-12
Philadelphia: 19-15
Atlanta: 17-15
Arizona: 18-16
LA Dodgers: 18-16
Cincinnati: 17-16
St. Louis: 17-17
Houston: 15-18
Milwaukee: 14-18
San Francisco: 14-19
Colorado: 15-20
San Diego: 13-21

You know it's a weak bunch when playing two games over .500 for more than a month puts you near the head of the class. The Mets are still dominant even though Pedro Martinez has been hurt. Most everyone else has been alternating good runs with bad runs. Well, at least the teams in the middle have been doing that. The teams at the bottom have had mostly bad runs.

Note that San Diego brings up the rear here among teams in the pennant race. That's another division winner from last year that's not getting any boost from experience.

Houston's also got a ton of experience. But I apparently jinxed them with last week's article! I still wouldn't be surprised to see them make a late run. Strong frontline pitching has a way of getting the job done in the final weeks of the season.

What are the lessons for handicappers?

1) Don't handicap based on the full season records. Focus on what's been happening lately. Or, better yet, focus on the lineups on the field NOW rather than the lineups that used to be on the field. Injuries have hurt some teams, while acquisitions have helped others. How teams performed before those developments occurred doesn't really matter.

2) Don't assume that experience means anything. The struggles of Boston, Chicago, and San Diego makes that clear.

3) Make sure that the moneylines reflect the true win potential of the teams you're considering. Laying odds with NL contenders doesn't make much sense when most of them have been playing .500 ball lately and all year. It doesn’t matter that they need to win.

4) Remember that the public gets scared away from smaller payroll teams like Minnesota and Oakland every year. You'd think by now they would have learned not to do that! You can get those teams at very affordable prices. In fact, it's ridiculous NOT to take those teams at affordable prices when they're playing this well.

Be sure you're making the proper adjustments so you can add baseball profits to your football profits between now and the MLB playoffs!

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