Needless to say, the 2011 MLB betting campaign has not gotten off to the start that the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox had hoped for. Coming into Friday, both teams are 0-6 out of the chute, and both teams could really be in a heck of a lot of trouble. There are only two teams in the history of baseball to start 0-4 and make the playoffs, but both of these teams are going to have to buck that trend to take part in World Series betting action this year.
Unfortunately for the Rays, it isn't going to happen, and Manager Joe Maddon knows it. At the outset of the season, we knew that this was a team that was going to be in flat out rebuilding mode. Matt Garza and Carlos Pena are now Chicago Cubs. Rafael Soriano is a New York Yankee. Carl Crawford and Dan Wheeler are now Boston Red Sox. Grant Balfour was snared by the Oakland Athletics. Jason Bartlett took his trade to the San Diego Padres.
Now, Evan Longoria, one of the seemingly few pieces to the puzzle that actually stayed put, is out of the lineup and on the DL, and he is probably going to miss at least a dozen games, if not more.
The truth of the matter is that this team is nothing but mediocre now... and that might be stretching the truth quite a bit. Maddon and the Rays look a lot like the team from 2008 that cut in line, took the Yankees out of the playoffs all together and then blasted Red Sox Nation in seven games in the ALCS. However, that '08 team wasn't supposed to win 90 games. It was supposed to win 80. It was supposed to be the year that the team got out of the gutter in the AL East and would have been appreciative to just have that.
Sure, Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon came into the bunch, and we know that there are high expectations for Jeremy Hellickson and one of the starting pitchers in this bunch had to be moved, but let's be realistic. This team stinks. The offense has yet to score more than three runs in a game this year; in fact, it only has exactly one run scored in six of its last seven games dating back to Game 5 of the ALDS against Cliff Lee and the Texas Rangers last year. Tampa Bay is batting just .145 as a team and has a team OPS of .469, both marks of which are worst in the league.
The worst news for the Rays? The bullpen really hasn't had a chance to be horrible yet. Of the starters though, only James Shields has less than a 4.50 ERA through one (or in the case of David Price, two) start.
Now, what about "The Nation?" This wouldn't be the first time that there was a team that went on a six game skid and still won the World Series, but there are definitely signs out there that Boston just isn't all that great either. Just like Tampa Bay, the boys from Beantown have struggled offensively, batting just .181 as a team with an OPS of .543, numbers that are only better than those of the Rays. Sure, there are a couple of games in there with more than three runs scored, but 2.67 runs per game just won't cut it.
The pitching staff has been the truly brutal unit on this team though, as this unit collectively has a 7.12 ERA, the worst in the bigs. There is only one quality start to speak of, and opponents have been taking pot shots at the fences and have been blasting homers all over the place. In fact, the Sox have conceded 14 home runs already in just six games this season, something that will obviously improve.
Here's the thing with Boston, though. We know that this is a team that is talented. Jon Lester isn't going winless for the year, and neither is Clay Buchholz. Sure, Josh Beckett might be done, and who knows what we're going to see out of Daisuke Matsuzaka. John Lackey won't be getting rocked for nine runs in every outing. At worst, Jonathan Papelbon might be finished, but Daniel Bard's ERA won't be hovering above two TDs all season long, and it is clear that having Dan Wheeler and Bobby Jenks around still makes this a great bullpen.
Offensively, JD Drew won't hit .231, and Kevin Youkilis certainly won't hit .105. Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford will probably both be batting somewhere nearer to .351 than they are now... after all, that's what their batting averages are if you combine them... Adrian Gonzalez is going to average more than one home run per six games. Contrary to popular belief, a catcher will indeed get a hit at some point in this lineup.
The bad news for Boston is that a date with the New York Yankees is on tap this weekend, a series which could be absolutely brutal. The good news is that an early hot start by David Ortiz (two homers, four RBIs) could yield a tremendous summer.
The Rays are finished. There's just no coming back from this. Red Sox Nation, though? Don't count your chickens. Boston will get it together at some point, and when it does, you can bet that this team will be challenging to become the third in MLB history to make the postseason after starting off at 0-4.