Sample sizes over the first half of the baseball season can tell us a lot, but they can be a little bit misleading as well. There are some teams that undoubtedly overachieved and others that fell well short of expectation for one reason or another. Isolating those teams as play resumes and goes throughout the second half can be extremely profitable.
Here are two teams to play on and two teams to play against in the second half:
Chicago White Sox
According to FanGraphs, the White Sox play the worst schedule in baseball in the second half. Their opponents have a collective win percentage of .470, which is the lowest in the league by a pretty wide margin. Tony La Russa remains a handicap for the team, but this group is getting healthier, with Yasmani Grandal the last remaining impact player on the IL.
My guess is that Chicago runs down the Twins and ultimately wins the Central Division, which is a good plus-money bet to make for the second half.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays started out the season as one of the worst offenses in baseball with runners in scoring position. They’re just shy of league average per wRC +, but have gotten significantly better and made some huge strides in that department as the season has gone along.
Toronto made manager Charlie Montoyo the scapegoat of mediocre showings in June and July, but the Jays only had three off days from May 30 through July 17, so this was just a tired team, especially on the relief pitcher side. They should secure some trade reinforcements, but this is way too talented of an offense to be 23rd in wOBA with men in scoring position. Toronto also happens to play the fourth-weakest schedule by win percentage.
The Rockies have played nine more home games than road games to this point in the campaign. Colorado is 28-23 at home, but just 15-27 on the road. The Rockies have also scored 5.88 runs per game at home and just 3.02 RPG on the road. Colorado’s road offense against lefties has been respectable all season long, but any road game against a right-handed pitcher looks like a problem.
With a record of 19-18 against left-handed starters and 24-32 against righties, it’ll be a better strategy to try and fade Colorado against RHP than LHP, but the surplus of road games will make this team struggle.
It pains me to say this about my favorite team, but the Guardians are fortunate to be .500 right now. Cleveland goes into the second half ranked fifth in wOBA with men in scoring position. For an offense that grades below average in several categories, including contact quality, that looks like a very unsustainable trend.
The Guardians rank 20th in wOBA with the bases empty, so they’ll continue to have limited chances with men in scoring position. Furthermore, they’ve been at or near the top of the league in OPS with two outs and RISP. They currently rank fifth in that department as well; that, too, seems unsustainable.
On the pitching side, the Guardians are down Aaron Civale once again and have had rocky seasons from Zach Plesac and Cal Quantrill. Their bullpen is made up of converted starters that haven’t been through the full-season relief grind. It’s hard to find positives except for the fact that the division is rather poor.