MLB team tendencies can pay off after All-Star break

July 19, 2022 07:05 PM
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A lot of bettors refuse to handicap trends in any sport in fear they will always be chasing information that has maxed itself out. However, I am of the belief that certain trends reveal strengths and weaknesses of teams that aren’t likely to change until an out-of-the-norm situation changes. 

In baseball, this can come from injuries, lineup changes, coaching changes, etc. In the absence of any such volatility, it makes sense to give good consideration to team tendencies, especially when they are derived from a significant sample size. Now at the All-Star break, we have reached the point of being able to trust them.

Let’s take a look at some of the more definitive team tendencies that have formed in 2022. I’ll reveal the angles and stats leading to the huge variations, plus looking ahead to some spots after the break in which we can take advantage of these angles.

Note that these numbers are taken right from the “MLB Team Reports,” published in each issue of Point Spread Weekly. You can also find these numbers updated daily on the MLB stats pages at VSiN.com. 

I’ve always believed baseball is a great sport for data handicapping. This exercise is a great place to start and includes analysis for 15 of the league’s 30 teams.

Arizona

Trend: Arizona is 14-14 (+ 2.98 units) versus left-handed starting pitchers but just 26-38 (-9.29 units) versus right-handers.

Explanation: The Diamondbacks have produced 0.8 more runs per game and are hitting .036 better against left-handed starting pitchers. Unfortunately, the opportunities for Arizona to thrive have been limited as they have only faced 28 lefties in 92 games.

Out of the break: Arizona has a chance to see at least one lefty in each of its first three series versus Washington, San Francisco and Atlanta.

Atlanta

Trends: Atlanta is 41-21 (+ 12.67 units) at night but just 15-17 (-9.57 units) in day games. The Braves have also been far more effective versus left-handed starters (23-9, + 9.47 units) than versus righties (33-29, -6.37 units).

Explanation: You would think the Braves would be better in the heat of day games, being more acclimated to hot weather than most opponents, but that hasn’t been the case. They score 0.7 runs fewer per game during the day. In terms of the pitching opponent, their lineup is loaded with right-handed sluggers, a sound explanation for their ability to beat up on left-handed starters to the tune of 5.7 runs per game.

Out of the break: The Braves will probably see the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani in a night game and will be on a two-night, one-day rotation for much of the second half. Their first shot at getting to some lefties could come against the Diamondbacks in their third series.

Boston

Trend: The Red Sox have struggled versus divisional foes (12-26, -15.6 units) but have thrived against other AL opposition (31-14, + 14.9 units).

Explanation: It’s fair to say the AL East is baseball’s most dominant division. However, that doesn’t excuse the Red Sox’s inability to gain any ground when facing their biggest rivals. They are scoring almost 2.0 runs per game fewer in divisional contests.

Out of the break: Boston starts the second half with a huge divisional series at home against the Blue Jays. After that, they won’t see another AL East foe until Aug. 11, perhaps giving the Red Sox a chance to make a run up the standings.

Chicago Cubs

Trends: The Cubs are 20-21 (+ 0.5 units) versus NL Central teams but just 15-36 (-17.4 units) in all other games. They have also been far more competitive in day games (16-19, + 1.2 units) than at night (19-38, -18.9 units).

Explanation: These are unfortunate trends for the Cubs because the spots in which they are most competitive pale in quantity of games compared to spots in which they’ve struggled. Against divisional foes, the Cubs’ lineup produces 5.3 runs per game. In all other games, they score shy of 3.5. The numbers aren’t quite as dramatic in the day/night splits but a noteworthy production drop still exists.

Out of the break: Wouldn’t you know it, just two of the Cubs’ first 13 games out of the break are day games and just five of their first 18 are against divisional foes. Unless something changes dramatically, the Cubs will be a team to fade regularly in the next few weeks.

Chicago White Sox

Trend: The White Sox are 19-25 (-15.8 units) at home compared to 27-21 (+ 8.7 units) on the road.

Explanation: The White Sox have been among the league’s biggest disappointments in the first half and much of it comes down to their pitching at home. Not only are they giving up 2.0 runs per game more at home compared to away, but their bullpen ERA difference is 4.10 compared to 2.51. This has to change in the second half for the White Sox to make a run in the AL Central.

Out of the break: The White Sox start the second half by playing 10 of their first 12 games in Chicago. If things don’t turn around quickly at home, they could spend all of the second half looking up at the Twins and Indians.

Cincinnati

Trend: The Reds are 9-6 (+ 7.88 units) in interleague play but just 25-51 (-21.5 units) versus NL foes.

Explanation: The Reds have received tremendous pitching in interleague games, allowing just 4.3 RPG, and enjoyed two recent series in which it took a combined five out of six games from the Rays and Yankees, winning all five times as an underdog. Unfortunately, the rest of the schedule has been a disaster. The pitching staff has allowed 5.7 RPG in those 76 games.

Out of the break: If backing the Reds in interleague play is the only opportunity that makes sense, there are only two series left to take advantage: July 29-31 versus Baltimore and Sept. 20-21 against Boston. It would seem safe to fade the Reds for much of the second half.

Colorado

Trend: Colorado is 28-23 (+ 8.32 units) at home but just 15-27 (-6.92 units) on the road.

Explanation: This is very typical of the Rockies, as they tend to build their roster around the potential to smack the ball around Coors Field. It doesn’t usually bode well in the standings, but it does make things a lot easier for us bettors. This season, the Rockies are scoring 5.9 RPG at home and just 3.0 RPG on the road.

Out of the break: Having played 51 home games already, just 30 (out of 69) remain, meaning the majority of the second half should be spent going against the Rockies, starting with a four-game set this weekend in Milwaukee.

Miami

Trend: Miami is 24-19 (+ 4.85 units) in divisional games but just 19-29 (-13.2 units) in all others.

Explanation: Despite sitting fourth in the NL East behind three teams well above .500, the Marlins boast a respectable record against their biggest rivals. They are getting very good pitching in those games, allowing just 3.9 RPG, about a half-run fewer than all other games. 

Out of the break: Only one of the Marlins’ first six series after the break is against a divisional foe, the front-running Mets from July 29-31. The next few weeks could be a real challenge, and if the tendencies remain, I wouldn’t expect Miami in the playoff hunt come mid-August.

Milwaukee 

Trend: The Brewers have struggled against non-divisional NL foes, going 15-21 (-11.5 units) versus 35-22 (+ 1.7 units) in all other games.

Explanation: Milwaukee’s performance versus the other two divisions in the NL goes a long way in describing the disappointing performance of the NL Central as a whole. Only the Brewers and Cardinals have even competed respectably, and it doesn’t provide a whole lot of optimism for success in the playoffs.

Out of the break: If the trends hold, the Brewers have a great opportunity to go on a run out of the break, as they only have one non-divisional series through Aug. 15, against the Rockies — a bad road team — this weekend.

New York Yankees

Trend: The Yankees are 37-12 (+ 14.8 units) at home compared to 27-16 (+ 1.94 units) on the road.

Explanation: Much has been made about the Yankees this season, in particular their prowess at home, so I don’t think I’m awakening any savvy bettors with this trend. However, it is noteworthy that their pitching staff is allowing just 3.0 RPG at Yankee Stadium, not the most pitching-friendly park in the league. This team has played well everywhere but has been almost untouchable in the Bronx.

Out of the break: We’ll have to wait a bit to jump on the Yankees’ dominant pitching staff at home, but the first opportunity looks fantastic, as the Royals and their 3.9 RPG of offense visit for a four-game set July 28.

Oakland

Trend: Oakland has gone just 11-32 (-20.06 units) at home compared to 21-29 (+ 3.8 units) on the road.

Explanation: The A’s have been historically bad at home, getting doubled up in scoring margin (4.8-2.4) in Oakland. The + 23.86-unit disparity between home and road return is the biggest of any angle on this list.

Out of the break: Fittingly, the second half for Oakland starts with an eight-game homestand. In the first five games, bettors will be able to take advantage of reasonable pricing, as Detroit and Texas wouldn’t figure to be a major threat.

San Francisco

Trend: San Francisco has beaten left-handed starters consistently, going 19-10 for + 5.7 units. Against right-handers, the Giants are just 29-33 for -17.2 units.

Explanation: Wrapping up the first half with a 9-5 win over left-hander Aaron Ashby and the Brewers on Sunday, the Giants have demonstrated a consistent ability to produce against left-handed starters. They are scoring 5.5 RPG in such situations, a full run better than against right-handed starters.

Out of the break: The Giants start a big four-game series with the Dodgers on Thursday night and are almost certain to face left-handers Julio Urias, Tyler Anderson and Clayton Kershaw. In the following series versus Arizona, left-hander Madison Bumgarner figures to be on the docket. That’s four ripe opportunities right out of the gate to back a team that closed the first half well.

Seattle

Trend: Seattle has excelled against right-handed starting pitchers, going 43-29 for + 15.2 units compared to 8-13 for -5.5 units versus left-handers.

Explanation: Much of Seattle’s 14-game winning streak to close the first half came against right-handed starting pitching. This is an important area for success, as right-handed starters typically account for at least 70% of games.

Out of the break: Seattle puts its winning streak on the line Friday in a huge series with Houston. The Astros have just one left-hander on their entire pitching staff in Framber Valdez. Even if he goes in one of the three games, there are still two great opportunities in which the Mariners will have solid value in the set.

Tampa Bay

Trend: Tampa Bay is 31-18 (+ 6.6 units) at home compared to 20-23 (-7.5 units) on the road.

Explanation: Like the Yankees, the Rays are enjoying better production out of their pitching staff at home, allowing a half-run per game fewer compared to on the road. Tampa Bay closed the first half by going on a 6-1 run at home versus the Red Sox and Orioles, a surge that propelled them to second in the AL East.

Out of the break: If this trend continues, it could cause some problems for the Rays in the second half, as they will be playing six more games away than at home. In fact, the first seven games are on the road at Kansas City and Baltimore. A month or two ago, I would have felt better about this road trip, but with both teams playing better baseball of late, the trip could prove treacherous.

Texas

Trends: Texas has shown two definitive tendencies in the first half, playing much better at night (29-27, + 4.56 units) compared to during the day (12-22, -10.48 units), and being far more productive against left-handed pitching (17-13, + 6.18 units) than against right-handed starters (24-36, -12.1 units).

Explanation: These are the exact same tendencies demonstrated by the Braves, only the Rangers are worse overall. The run-production difference for the lefty/righty split is 1.2 RPG, so it is significant and something to watch going forward.

Out of the break: Texas starts the second half with an ominous 11-game road trip, and while the Rangers haven’t demonstrated any major home/road variance, it still figures to be a challenge. On a good note, four of the games are scheduled for daytime starts, and it’s easy to project at least four left-handed opposing starters for the stretch, including two versus the Mariners.

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