With summer in full effect and the baseball season approaching the midway mark, it is time to delve a little deeper into the standings. The Orioles’ records says they’re a .500-caliber team. The reality is that they are far worse. Baltimore started the year 22-10 and have been sinking like a stone ever since. Their -65 run differential is a more accurate reflection of their true strength.
That said, their poor recent record and run differential is partly a product of playing a hard schedule; the Birds have played the second-toughest slate in the majors so far, and bettors shouldn’t write them off in upcoming games against softer foes.
The same — or the exact opposite — can be said about a few other teams.
Oakland Athletics: youth will be served (cake)
Based on record and run differential, the A’s are among the worst teams in baseball. But don’t don’t call be a hypocrite for favoring Oakland (403 runs-against) over Baltimore just yet. There are two significant reasons to look beyond the A’s bad first half.
First, the A’s have played the toughest schedule in MLB. Starting Friday, Oakland plays three straight and six out of seven series against middling or worse opponents.
Second, this is not the same roster that was brutal for most of April, May, and June. The A’s became the first team in more than 100 years to have three players hit their first big-league home run in the same game on Saturday. That was part of an Oakland sweep on the road against the White Sox. One of the three dingers came from infielder Franklin Barreto, Oakland’s best position prospect since Miguel Tejada, in his first ever major league game. Oakland has gone with a youth movement, and they have youngsters who can play.
Don’t get me wrong, the A’s will trade players for prospects at the end of July, but they should be seriously considered right now with the opponents lightening up and the young talent having infused the offense.
Washington Nationals: the pitch is increasing
On the opposite end of the spectrum from Oakland are the playoff bound Nats. They are running away in the N.L. East and are likely to make a trade or two to fix a leaky bullpen. However, it will be much harder to change the schedule. Washington has played the easiest slate in the majors, which has been a big help in navigating the inconsistent relief pitching. They recently completed a four-series stretch against exclusively sub-.500 teams.
However, come mid-July, the Nats will be tested often, facing mostly road games against solid competition. It will be an opportunity for bettors to fade the Nats. They’re all but a playoff lock at this point, but don’t expect their nearly 60-percent win rate to continue over back end of the year, especially if the ninth-inning issues continue.
Atlanta Braves: about to be overmatched
Though the Braves are hovering around .500, their run differential (-34) suggests they are worse than their record. Like division foe Washington, the Braves have played an easy schedule, the second-easiest in the MLB to be exact. The chance to fade the Braves is coming up fast, closing the first half with series at Oakland, vs. the Astros, and at Washington. The first 14 games of the second half is even tougher, with two series against the Diamondbacks, plus tussles with the Dodgers and Cubs. Get off the Atlanta bandwagon now, and bet against them until the value is gone.