A lot of teams are hovering around the .500 mark right now in Major League Baseball and only a select few are well out in front of the pack. The Oakland Athletics have rattled off nine wins in their last 10 games to open up 3.5-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and have the league’s best record at 28-16 and their Pythagorean Win-Loss record suggest that they have underachieved. By win percentage, the Tigers are the best team in baseball at 27-12 and hold a 10-2 mark against left-handed starters.
In the Senior Circuit, the San Francisco Giants are continuing to play at a high level with a 28-17 record. The Milwaukee Brewers have cooled off, going 9-11 over their last 20 games. Thirty-two of the Brewers 44 games have come against teams below .500. In the National League East, first and worst are separated by just 3.5 games as the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals have had their struggles.
The Year of Tommy John surgeries continued this past week as it was announced that wunderkind Jose Fernandez would need the procedure. It’s a devastating blow to the Miami Marlins, but more than that, it’s a devastating blow to the game of baseball. Fernandez is one of the most exciting young arms in the game. He, and fellow NL East mate Matt Harvey, are two in a long list of promising players to have their careers derailed by ulnar collateral ligament troubles. Texas Rangers southpaw Martin Perez also underwent Tommy John surgery.
In non-Tommy John injuries, Gio Gonzalez of the Nationals is on the DL with some shoulder inflammation. Things couldn’t have started much worse for the San Diego Padres, but staff ace Andrew Cashner is experiencing elbow discomfort and has been placed on the DL. Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters’s elbow prognosis is not very promising and he could miss significant time, if not the rest of the season. Jose Abreu, a huge contributor to the Chicago White Sox surprising start, is on the disabled list with ankle tendinitis. Prince Fielder has a herniated disc in his neck and could miss time if treatment doesn’t work.
You could field an All-Star lineup and pitching rotation with the guys that are on the shelf. It’s been a disastrous year for injuries and it’s only mid-May.
There are a few teams to keep an eye on over the next couple weeks and some stats that bettors should be aware of when looking at the MLB card. Here are those teams:
1. Oakland Athletics
The A’s are 28-16 with a Pythagorean Win-Loss of 32-12. They’ve also played the easiest schedule in baseball with just nine games against teams .500 or better. Ironically, they are 8-1 in those games and just 20-15 in the other 35. In a league-high 837 plate appearances with men on base, the A’s have posted an .846 OPS. In 2013, only one team was above .810, the St. Louis Cardinals. In 2012, .806 was the high mark. In 2011, the Boston Red Sox posted an .839 OPS with men on base. The Athletics should see some regression that number.
That regression could be coupled with some regression from their pitching staff. The A’s pitching staff has posted a 2.92 ERA this month despite a 4.02 FIP. Their team BABIP against this month is just .240. There’s no question that the A’s are a solid team, but there are some guys in the rotation pitching over their heads and the torrid hitting with men on base should drop off to a more reasonable level.
2. Kansas City Royals
The Royals are poised to get hot. The Royals have only hit nine home runs and have the lowest strikeout rate in baseball this month, yet they are 28th in BABIP at .267. Danny Duffy is in the starting rotation where he belongs and the Royals are surprisingly lacking in defense runs saved. This is a much better defensive team than the metrics are showing.
Even though the Royals have one of the strongest bullpens in baseball, they are just 4-9 in one-run games. The Royals have already won seven of their last 11, but they should keep that pace up over the next little while as some of their statistics normalize. With home series against the White Sox and Astros coming up, the Royals could start to make a charge in the AL Central.
3. Chicago White Sox
Without Jose Abreu, the White Sox should fall farther off the pace in the AL Central. As it is, the pitching staff is overperforming their advanced metrics this month and Chris Sale remains on the disabled list. Only the White Sox and Mets are walking over 10 percent of opposing batters. The White Sox team ERA this month is 4.66, but they have the league’s highest FIP at 5.13.
Not only that, but the offense is due to regress. The team’s BABIP is .320 while being tied for seventh in home runs. They also have the fourth-highest strikeout percentage. Their nice start was surprising, but not sustainable and it’s starting to show now. The next three weeks feature games against the Royals, Yankees, Indians, and Padres, but after that, the White Sox go from June 2 to June 18 against teams well above .500.
4. Chicago Cubs
The other team in Chicago could be on an upswing. The Cubs are 15-27, but have a Pythagorean Win-Loss record of 21-21, which suggests that they have gotten a bit unlucky in the early going. Cubs pitchers have actually been great in the month of May with a 3.34 ERA, a 2.83 FIP, and the second-highest strikeout rate in all of baseball.
The bullpen has some stability now with Hector Rondon in the closer’s role and the starting rotation has seen normalization in some of their numbers. After a brutal road trip, where unders should be looked at by all bettors with games against San Diego, San Francisco, and Milwaukee, the Cubs have a nice homestand with some winnable games. If their record continues to sag, there could be some value in the Cubs if you hold out long enough.