MLB's most-costly bets: Time to abandon ship?

Apr 14, 2011 |
By: Jeff Rake
MLB's most-costly bets: Time to abandon ship?
The Red Sox are already down over 11 units on the season.
The Red Sox are already down over 11 units on the season.
While it’s still early in the baseball season, a number of teams predicted to contend for a World Series title have gotten off to slow starts.

Underdogs have been the story so far, winning 54 percent of games through the first two weeks. Home underdogs, in particular, have been especially dominant, posting a 30-18 (62.5 percent) record overall.

The rise of the underdog has come at the expense of teams like the Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, St. Louis Cardinals, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves and San Francisco Giants. Bettors that have been backing these teams consistently have likely lost a decent chunk of their bankroll.

But, should you stay the course with these teams or abandon ship?:

Money rankings as of Thursday, April 14. Find full MLB money statistics.

Boston Red Sox (-11.07 units)
Even though the Red Sox (2-9) are capable of turning around their season, there isn’t any value in continuing to ride them out.

Boston has been favored in 10 of its 11 games so far and in five of those games it was a -150 favorite or more. Because the Red Sox are a public team, oddsmakers aren’t likely to reduce their lines anytime soon. If that’s the case, why pay a premium?

The Red Sox have won 93-plus games and lost money three times since 2000, and in 2004, they went 98-64 and still lost 3.8 units. It might take 100 wins for this year’s team to turn a profit. That seems highly unlikely given what we’ve seen from them so far. 

Pick: Abandon ship

Tampa Bay Rays (-5.52 units)
The Rays (3-8) have suffered a bit of bad luck early in the season. First, they lost their best player and No. 3 hitter, Evan Longoria, to an oblique injury that will keep him out at least until next week. 

Then, last Friday, No. 4 hitter Manny Ramirez announced his retirement after testing positive for steroids.

Much like the Rex Sox, the Rays have too much talent to stay below .500 for long. But playing in the AL East, which appears to be as strong as ever, especially with the Baltimore Orioles masquerading as a big-league club, and it will certainly be a tough climb toward profitability.

Pick: Abandon ship

St. Louis Cardinals (-4.45 units)
Tony La Russa is baseball’s best tactician, but he’s proving early this season why he is also one of the better clubhouse managers, too.

Four days after publicly defending the Cards’ anemic offense, La Russa gave a vote of confidence to his closer, Ryan Franklin, who blew his third save in four tries against the Giants last Saturday.

The Cardinals (5-7) have some major weaknesses, particularly in the bullpen, where they recently lost two relievers to injury. But the starting rotation, despite losing Adam Wainwright to a season-ending injury, is strong enough and the offense is above average.

The guess here is that La Russa finds a way to get the Cards back on track.

Pick: Stay the course

Minnesota Twins (-3.18 units)
No team in recent memory has been as consistently profitable as Minnesota.

If you bet every Twins game since 2002‚ the year Ron Gardenhire took over as manager, you would be up 70.5 units. The Twins have finished .500 or better every year but one and have profited every year but two.

Not only that, but the Twins have finished Top 5 in the league in earnings five times and 14th or better seven times during the stretch.

Minnesota has earned our trust and there’s no need to stop backing it just because they’ve started slow.

Pick: Stay the course

Atlanta Braves (-2.93 units)
Much has been made of Atlanta’s early-season struggles offensively. With 38 runs in 12 games, the Braves’ offense has scored the third-fewest runs in the league - a major reason for their 5-7 start.

But what people are forgetting is that the Braves have faced Yovani Gallardo, Roy Oswalt and Josh Johnson, three of the NL’s best pitchers, and put up a combined three runs in those games. Those three efforts alone are enough to contaminate what is already a small sample size.

On paper, the Braves are one of the most balanced teams in the league. Their starting rotation has a 3.02 ERA - second best in the NL.

It’s too early to give up on a team that has the potential to win the NL East.

Pick: Stay the course

San Francisco Giants (-0.53 units)
Since 2000, the defending World Series champion has profited on the year after six out of 11 times, so there isn’t much in the way of recent history that will help us predict how the Giants might perform in 2011.

Nothing we’ve seen so far this season will help us either. The Giants are 6-6 and have scored just two more runs, 47, than they’ve allowed, 45.

But as long as the Giants are holding the “ defending champions” designation, it’s hard to imagine you will be getting strong value by taking them. While it wouldn’t be shocking if the Giants turned a profit this season, there’s better value elsewhere.

Pick: Abandon ship

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