Baseball is a game of stats and streaks. The Orioles started 7-7 and 23-21
before getting it together, now battling Boston for first place. Cleveland got
off to a 5-10 start before playing some impressive baseball, while the Dodgers
started 7-4 with their “super payroll team” before falling apart and settling
into last place.
Last year the Yankees started 0-3 and 21-21 with all
kinds of problems with pitching, before turning things around and winning the
division. Five years ago the Tigers started the season losing 7 straight games,
despite being favored in the first five. The Angels went 14-1 under the total
that May when their offense was banged up. In 2009 the Florida Marlins started
11-1 before going in a massive funk, not even coming close to the postseason.
There will be all kinds of streaks over the course of a 162-game season:
Consecutive shutout innings thrown by pitchers, a batter hitting safely in X
number of games, or consecutive saves by a closer. Last year at this time R.A.
Dickey of the Mets was dazzling NL hitters with his 37-year old knuckler,
including back-to-back one-hitters. This year? Let’s just say things haven’t
been the same in the AL East for him.
You will see 10-game win streaks,
10-game losing streaks, pitchers ripping off 7-straight wins, teams losing
4-straight one-run games. All these add to the excitement and interest in the
From a betting perspective, streaks need to be approached with a
careful eye and a cautious head. Playing against “the law of averages” is no way
to wager. For example, some bettors think, “This team has won nine in a row,
therefore it is time to bet against them, as they are due for a losing streak.”
This doesn’t work in the world of eleven-to-ten.
A little perspective:
one year ago the Giants were 46-40, losing7 of 9 heading into the All-Star
break. Do you need to be reminded how they did in October? Two years ago this
week the Cardinals were 41-38 after dropping their third in a row. They won the
whole thing in October. Three years ago at this time the Giants lost 7 straight
games and 13 of 18. They didn’t look like postseason material while sitting at
40-39, but put it all together down the stretch for a World Series title.
In 2004, the Boston Red Sox played close to .500 baseball much of the
season from May through mid-August. Starting on August 16, the Sox won six in a
row. If you supported the law of averages, you might conclude that the Sox would
be due for several losses and bet against them. In fact, they did lose, 3-0 to
Toronto ending that streak – only to then go on a ten-game win streak. When that
streak ended, they won nine of the next 12 games. The “anticipated” losing
streak never arrived. Simply put, the law of averages can’t predict what is
going to happen the next game, or the next ten games.
This year’s LA
Angels have talent, but have been huge underachievers. Some teams can slip out
of a funk that had gone on for months, as the 2004 Red Sox did, and begin to
play very well, while others do not. In fact, that is the point — there are
almost always tangible reasons why a team goes on hot or cold streaks, more so
than the law of averages.
The Angels have had pitching problems and note
that the over is 25-10-2 when they face the AL West. Washington has offensive
problems, though the Nationals are 14-6 over the total as a favorite. Chicago
has also had offensive troubles and the White Sox are 19-39 in their last 58
road games, 36-16-1 under the total against a right-handed starter.
Sometimes injuries can play a role, especially if an ace pitcher is out,
and other times teams go into a collective hitting or pitching slump, like the
2011 Red Sox in September.
Think about the talented 2007 NY Mets. They
ended the year 5-12, blowing the division lead to the Phillies. If you had bet
on them the last week with the reasoning, “They’re too good to keep playing this
bad,” you would have lost your shirt when they went 1-6 against the Nationals
and Marlins, two of the worst teams in baseball.
Remember the start of
the 1988 season when the Baltimore Orioles lost their first 21 games? Sports
bettors playing the law of averages hoping the Orioles “were due to win” blew
out their betting bankrolls before May 1st. Overall, it is better to ride a hot
team or continue to bet against a cold team, than to rely on the law of averages
and bet the other way.