A lot has changed in Major League Baseball in the last month. Several teams made huge moves at the trade deadline, some teams got key players back from the injured list while others lost contributors for one reason or another, and some teams have seen their performance level change dramatically since the All-Star break.
All of this tends to occur at varying levels every year, making life difficult for bettors who are trying to stay up to speed. One thing is crystal clear though — bettors who remain invested in the daily MLB grind need to start thinking about the here and now, not about our perceptions before the All-Star break.
It’s obvious that teams made definitive strategical decisions at the trade deadline. Teams including the Tigers, Pirates and Nationals have seemingly packed it in, unloading many of the key players that they had worked hard to develop over the past several years. Others like the Mariners, Cardinals and Phillies sought to take advantage of what could be a rare opportunity to accomplish something special this year by adding, among other things, pitching help. And then, of course, there are the Padres, who went all-in on 2022 by adding a plethora of All-Stars, most notably Juan Soto and Josh Hader, in hopes that they can help make a deep playoff run out of an expected wild-card spot.
As usual, many of the moves made in late July and early August came as a result of how the teams played going into and out of the All-Star break. However, for those of you not really analyzing the situation closely and still going about your daily MLB handicapping in the same way, hopefully the stats below will be a wake-up call. They indicate several situations that should be immediately taken advantage of, as there seems to be little reason to think the momentum will change anytime between now and October. For instance, the NL East contenders have really shored up their weaknesses and are playing very well now. The prices the rest of the way might finally reflect the changing tides, but that doesn’t mean the results will shift.
Let’s take a look at some key statistical indicators since the All-Star break that have led to dynamic changes in performance levels by teams in the last few weeks. All of these stats are through games of Monday, Aug. 15. If you’ve noticed, there have been much longer streaks — winning and losing — lately, mostly a result of weakened or strengthened rosters. I’ll share my thoughts about the teams and their future prospects along the way.
1. L.A. Dodgers: 20-4 (83.3%)
2. N.Y. Mets: 17-6 (73.9%)
3. Atlanta: 15-8 (65.2%)
3. Philadelphia: 15-8 (65.2%)
5. St. Louis: 13-7 (65%)
26. Colorado: 8-16 (33.3%)
26. N.Y. Yankees: 8-16 (33.3%)
28. Miami: 8-17 (32%)
29. Pittsburgh: 6-16 (27.3%)
30. Detroit: 7-19 (26.9%)
The Dodgers have been on fire over the last two months despite a starting rotation that has been in flux nearly all season. Since their last three-game losing streak that concluded on June 12, they are 43-11 and winning almost every game by enough to make run-line bettors happy. In fact, in only four of those wins did L.A. not beat the opponent by two runs or more. This list illustrates just how well the top three teams in the NL East are playing overall, despite having to go head-to-head with each other. All three teams have advanced themselves into comfortable playoff position, with the Mets maintaining some cushion in the chase for the division title, important this year in that the division winner is likely to get a first-round bye into the divisional round. The Cardinals, my pick at the break to overtake the Brewers for the NL Central, have also played well since mid-July and lead the division by two games entering Tuesday.
Most of the bottom feeders, like the Marlins, Pirates and Tigers, were expected to be there, particularly after the latter two jettisoned players at the trade deadline and the Marlins suffered some key injuries. The Rockies have also been floundering, but that could be more the result of what has been an unusually difficult schedule over the past few weeks. The real surprise here is, of course, the Yankees, whose 8-16 record since the break is causing great concern in New York, and for bettors, who have chosen too late to back a team that was on a torrid win pace earlier. As usual, the Yankees are playing to extremely high prices and backers are hemorrhaging money. One other team to keep an eye on here are the Giants, who are 10-14 since the break. Interestingly, at this time last year, I called out the Yankees and Giants from the group of top performing teams out of the break and both went on to conclude strong regular seasons.
Return on Investment
1. L.A. Dodgers: 20-4, + 10.25 units - ROI: 42.7%
2. Baltimore: 14-9, + 8.15 units - ROI: 35.4%
3. Cleveland: 16-10, + 8.55 units - ROI: 32.9%
4. Philadelphia: 15-8, + 7.3 units - ROI: 31.7%
5. St. Louis: 13-7, + 6.2 units - ROI: 31.0%
26. Detroit: 7-19, -6.95 units - ROI: -26.7%
27. Toronto: 11-10, -5.85 units - ROI: -27.9%
28. Milwaukee: 11-10, -6.85 units - ROI: -32.6%
29. Miami: 8-17, -8.95 units - ROI: -35.8%
30. N.Y. Yankees: 8-16, -14.95 units - ROI: -62.3%
It’s unusual to see a team like the Dodgers on top of any “return on investment” list, as they are typically so overpriced by oddsmakers that any loss usually dooms a bankroll. However, Los Angeles has been playing so well that it rarely ever loses anymore. The Dodgers have scored eight runs or more in eight of their first 13 games in August, talk about an offensive roll. Baltimore and Cleveland have been extremely pleasant surprises since the break, each putting themselves into contention, the Orioles for a wild-card spot, and the Indians atop the AL Central. The Phillies and Cardinals are finally getting the performances they’ve expected all year long, and at the right time to make a postseason push. You’ll notice I have yet to mention the Padres, as despite their huge investment at the trade deadline, they are just 13-11 for -3.45 units of return since the break.
Interestingly, three of the worst ROI teams since the break are franchises that figured they were in good position to be title contenders in 2022. The Yankees remain comfortably ahead in the AL East over the Blue Rays and Rays, but mostly because neither of those teams is playing particularly well. The primary concern for Yankees backers right now is that they’ve scored three runs or fewer in eight of their last 11 games after putting up video-game-like numbers earlier in the season. MVP favorite Aaron Judge has been on fire, but he’s about the only one. The team desperately awaits the return of Giancarlo Stanton from the IL. The Blue Jays and Brewers aren’t playing horribly, but they’ll need to get it going quickly to avoid a late-season swoon that can snowball. The Marlins have endured injuries to several starting positional players and since nearly reaching .500 at 39-40 have gone on a 12-25 dive.
1. Cleveland: ERA 2.48 (#1), WHIP 1.046 (#2), K/9 9.9 (#5), Saves 9 (#5)
2. L.A. Dodgers: ERA 2.66 (#4), WHIP 0.98 (#1), K/9 9.7 (#7), Saves 6 (#7)
3. Baltimore: ERA 2.71 (#5), WHIP 1.158 (#7), K/9 9.8 (#6), Saves 7 (#6)
4. Chicago White Sox: ERA 4.24 (#21), WHIP 1.382 (#23), K/9 10.1 (#3), Saves 10 (#3)
5. Seattle: ERA 3.17 (#9), WHIP 1.057 (#3), K/9 8.7 (#20), Saves 7 (#20)
26. Detroit: ERA 4.16 (#20), WHIP 1.397 (#24), K/9 8.5 (#21), Saves 3 (#21)
27. Kansas City: ERA 4.83 (#26), WHIP 1.451 (#27), K/9 8.2 (#25), Saves 5 (#25)
28. San Francisco: ERA 5.59 (#29), WHIP 1.527 (#29), K/9 8.9 (#18), Saves 6 (#18)
29. Colorado: ERA 4.78 (#25), WHIP 1.512 (#28), K/9 7.9 (#28), Saves 5 (#28)
30. Boston: ERA 6.28 (#30), WHIP 1.561 (#30), K/9 9.2 (#15), Saves 6 (#15)
Readers that follow my baseball work know how much I value bullpen performance. Many of the teams making strong surges at this time of the season are getting great work from their bullpens. Cleveland’s push to the top of the AL Central has been highlighted by a top-ranked bullpen ERA since the break. When you don’t get consistent offense, as the Guardians don’t, it helps a lot to be able to get hitters out late. The Dodgers’ bullpen has emerged as one of the league’s best and should play a vital role down the stretch, particularly with the continued health problems among the starting staff. The White Sox bullpen was supposed to be good and is finally living up to it. They’ll need to continue to be so in hopes of catching the Guardians.
On the other end of the spectrum, Boston’s bullpen has just never hit its stride, and the Red Sox have a league-worst 6.28 ERA since the break. Interestingly, the Giants were in the hunt for much of the season, but their recent bullpen struggles have been just one part of the overall problems. The Tigers’ relief corps was solid in the first half of the season but has since cratered.
1. L.A. Dodgers: ERA 2.51 (#1), WHIP 1.067 (#2), K/9 7.6 (#23)
2. N.Y. Mets: ERA 2.54 (#2), WHIP 1.091 (#3), K/9 9 (#8)
3. Houston: ERA 2.95 (#3), WHIP 1.008 (#1), K/9 8.1 (#16)
4. Philadelphia: ERA 3.33 (#7), WHIP 1.104 (#4), K/9 8 (#17)
5. Milwaukee: ERA 3.34 (#8), WHIP 1.172 (#7), K/9 9 (#9)
26. Seattle: ERA 4.9 (#25), WHIP 1.381 (#25), K/9 8.3 (#14)
27. Boston: ERA 5.11 (#27), WHIP 1.435 (#27), K/9 6.6 (#27)
28. Washington: ERA 7.63 (#30), WHIP 1.734 (#30), K/9 7.6 (#24)
29. Pittsburgh: ERA 5.2 (#28), WHIP 1.477 (#28), K/9 6.3 (#29)
30. Colorado: ERA 6.18 (#29), WHIP 1.61 (#29), K/9 6.6 (#28)
The announcement on Monday that Walker Buehler would miss the rest of the season was a blow to the Dodgers’ rotation, but even without him, the staff continues to flourish. Their numbers since the All-Star break have even exceeded those of the star-studded Mets. With Jacob deGrom now back in the fold, the Mets’ rotation is the best in the league and capable of carrying New York past L.A. and to a title. The Astros’ rotation has been thriving and they just got Lance McCullers back from the IL. He was sharp in his first start back this past weekend and will give the Astros' already strong crew a huge boost if he stays healthy. The Phillies’ recent trade-deadline addition of Noah Syndergard seems to be working out well, while the Brewers are getting sold starting pitching from their big three. Unfortunately, their bullpen, down Josh Hader via trade, is not what it once was.
The surprise team on the struggling starting pitchers’ list is Seattle, which bolstered its staff with the addition of Luis Castillo at the trade deadline. Collectively this group has not been good lately, however, and Robbie Ray, Logan Gilbert and Marco Gonzales are going to have to be better if the Mariners are going to stay in the wild-card race. The teams listed 27-30 have had bad starting pitching numbers all season long.
1. L.A. Dodgers: RPG 6.3 (#1), BAvg 0.278 (#2), OPS 0.844 (#1), HR/G 1.46 (#3)
2. Atlanta: RPG 5.4 (#2), BAvg 0.268 (#4), OPS 0.787 (#4), HR/G 1.43 (#5)
3. N.Y. Mets: RPG 5 (#5), BAvg 0.284 (#1), OPS 0.799 (#3), HR/G 1.04 (#13)
4. St. Louis: RPG 5.3 (#3), BAvg 0.262 (#9), OPS 0.822 (#2), HR/G 1.75 (#1)
5. Toronto: RPG 5.1 (#4), BAvg 0.268 (#5), OPS 0.763 (#6), HR/G 1.29 (#6)
26. L.A. Angels: RPG 3.5 (#26), BAvg 0.219 (#27), OPS 0.642 (#26), HR/G 1 (#17)
27. Tampa Bay: RPG 3.6 (#24), BAvg 0.227 (#25), OPS 0.651 (#25), HR/G 0.73 (#28)
28. Pittsburgh: RPG 3.4 (#28), BAvg 0.215 (#28), OPS 0.607 (#29), HR/G 0.77 (#27)
29. Detroit: RPG 3.4 (#29), BAvg 0.215 (#29), OPS 0.585 (#30), HR/G 0.62 (#29)
30. Miami: RPG 2.5 (#30), BAvg 0.225 (#26), OPS 0.614 (#28), HR/G 0.6 (#30)
The Dodgers are scoring nearly a full run per game more than any other team since the break. Next up are the Braves, who are coming on strong, ranking at or near the top in almost all key offensive stats. The Mets’ lineup has been producing great all year and has only been overshadowed by their incredible pitching staff. The Cardinals are finding their groove and have hit the most home runs in the league since break.
Finding a lineup as talented as that of the Angels on a bottom-five list for offensive production is embarrassing. However, with Mike Trout out of the lineup, again, they are scoring just 3.5 runs per game since the break. Tampa Bay is a surprise find here, too, as at this time last year, the Rays were raking, and I had them at No. 1 on my offensive production list. Quite frankly, their pitching staff isn’t good enough to sustain this woeful offensive production and their playoff hopes are in jeopardy if this continues. The Pirates and Tigers have nearly identical numbers. The Marlins are scoring a paltry 2.5 runs per game over their last 25.