Interleague play has become a daily staple of the baseball season now that the Houston Astros are in the AL, but there are still small windows (including early this week) when interleague games comprise most of the schedule. This is great news for bettors because it increases the uncertainty about how teams match-up which, in turn, increases the chances for faulty lines.
The interleague schedule changes each year; this season, the two western divisions, two central divisions, and two eastern divisions square off. There is little advantage to be had with Milwaukee facing Kansas City or the Astros taking on the Rockies because it’s obvious which team is better. Any bias that may exist between leagues is nullified by superior talent. However, two series provide opportunities that are worth examining more closely.
Toronto Blue Jays vs. New York Mets
While the Red Sox have had a very bad season, and nobody is running away with the AL East, as a whole, the division features four squads with a positive run differential. Among those four, the Blue Jays are the standout. They have posted the top run margin in the American League against a very solid slate thus far.
On the flip side, the NL East has struggled. Their bottom team, the Phillies, are worse than the Red Sox, and the division has nobody who has scored significantly more runs than they’ve allowed. At this point, the Mets appear to be the best of a mediocre group. They have a similar record to the Blue Jays, but have played an easier schedule and simply aren’t as good a team.
Chicago White Sox vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
While both of these teams are close to .500, one is a legitimate World Series contender while the other should be selling at the trade deadline. Chicago plays in a division with only one good team, yet has among the worst run differentials in the American League. Against the one good team, Kansas City, the White Sox are 2-4 and have been outscored 29-17. ESPN’s expected winning percentage indicates Chicago is one of the worst teams in baseball. From a record standpoint, no team in the AL Central reaches the futility of the Brewers in the NL Central; however, advanced metrics indicate the White Sox really are Milwaukee’s equal – in crappiness, that is.
Pittsburgh, on the other hand, is a top-five team when accounting for run differential and expected win percentage. The Bucs have been among the best teams in baseball by any measurement since the second week of May, and have a great chance of beating the White Sox three or four times.
So, in sum, track the lines for the Pirates and Jays closely. If you see an opportunity, pounce early before other savvy bettors do the same.
(Photo credit: Keith Allison from Owings Mills, USA (Aaron Loup Uploaded by Muboshgu) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)