We’re basically two months into the 2021 Major League Baseball season. Here are some observations, followed by an analysis of who has been the best (and worst) teams and pitchers to bet on so far.
I think the White Sox and Astros run away with their respective divisions. Just look at their run differentials compared to the rest of their division foes. It’s not even close. Run differential has long proven to be a strong predictive measure of future outcomes. If that’s the case with these two teams, then both will win their respective pennants. Chicago has the AL’s best run differential heading into Sunday. Houston has a +45 run differential, so it’s odd to see them trailing Oakland (-8) in the standings.
The AL East is a strong division that may produce both Wild Cards. Four of the American League’s top six run differentials belong to teams from the East. Tampa Bay had a fantastic May (20-6 entering Sunday) to seize first place from Boston.
Honestly, the only team outside the East that looks “Wild Card worthy” in the AL is Oakland and that’s just because of their overall record.
Detroit and Baltimore look like the worst teams in the AL, but everyone figured that would be the case coming into the season. You want to talk about some “bad luck?” Minnesota is 1-8 in extra inning games so far. Seattle has the most one-run wins (12) in baseball, a sign they’ve been a bit fortunate.
Over in the National League, the West - clearly - looks like the strongest division. Unlike the East in the American League, this is a three (not a four) horse race, but the three horses here (Padres, Dodgers, Giants) have the three top run differentials in the Senior Circuit. San Diego (entering Sunday) is the only undefeated team in Interleague Play. They’ve allowed the fewest runs per game and are currently #1 in my power ratings. The Dodgers are right behind them at #2. The Giants are a surprise, but their run suppression is right on par with the two heavyweights. How do you think it feels to be Colorado or Arizona this year?
The NL East and Central both look wide open, particularly the former. I think the Mets, who have played the fewest games in baseball, and the Marlins are the two best teams in the East right now. Miami has been hurt by a 4-10 record in one-run games.
The only thing I can say for sure about the Central is that Pittsburgh is going to finish in last place. Did you see this play
from earlier in the week? Put that on the season highlight film. At the top, the Cubs have a superior run differential to the Cardinals, but are still a half game back entering Sunday.
Best Teams To Bet On (entering 5/30)
San Francisco (+13.8 units)
Tampa Bay (+11.5 units)
The Giants have won 16 times as an underdog already. They’ve made money in basically all situations, but day games (14-5, +11.9 units) have been particularly profitable. The Rays have actually been money losers in home games, but are +13.9 units on the road. They have been a great road team the last three seasons.
Worst Teams To Bet On (entering 5/30)
Minnesota (-17.7 units)
You expect to see some bad teams on this list and we’ve got three, but the Twins and Braves are surprises here. Both were division winners in 2020. Keep an eye on how they are priced on a game by game basis over the next month. Minnesota has been priced as a 35-16 team, but their record is 21-30. Atlanta has been priced as a 39-11 team, but is 24-26. The three bad teams on this list have little chance of upward mobility in the standings by virtue of being in tough divisions. But keep in mind they will probably all win at least 55-60 games.
Best Pitchers To Bet On
Darvish (SD) - 10-1 team start record (+9.4 units)
Pivetta (BOS) - 9-1 TSR (+8.9 units)
Flaherty (STL) - 9-1 TSR (+8.3 units)
Team start record refers to a team’s record with that particular pitcher on the mound. Darvish took the overall lead, thanks to the Padres coming from behind to defeat the Astros on Saturday. He has fewer individual wins (5) than either Pivetta (6) or Flaherty (8), however. Pivetta, despite being 6-0, has the highest ERA and WHIP of the trio.
Worst Pitchers To Bet On
Castillo (CIN) - 1-10 TSR (-10.8 units)
Burnes (MIL) - 2-6 TSR (-6.8 units)
Dunning (TEX) - 2-8 TSR (-6.3 units)
Castillo is running away with this after being a money-loser last season as well. It is a shame to see Burnes on this list as he’s among the league leaders in ERA, WHIP and strikeout to walk ratio. But, hey, you would have lost money betting on Jacob deGrom every time out as well. Dunning just gave up seven runs in his last start, but has actually pitched pretty well at home (2.33 ERA, 1.074 WHIP).