Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 12:12 PM
As great as the New York Yankees have been playing during their recent tear…and as strong as the Texas Rangers have been all season (though an easy IL schedule may be hiding some weaknesses)…you can make a pretty good case right now that the Los Angeles Angels are the best team in baseball.
As the Angels head into Game Two of their series in Baltimore Wednesday Night…
*They’re 23-8 over their last 31 games, which corresponds very closely to when Albert Pujols found his hitting rhythm. You have to assume that a longtime veteran will be fine from this point forward after that bump in the road caused by an unthinking new hitting coach.
*That 23-8 record came against a TOUGH schedule. They didn’t enjoy a gift Interleague slate by any means. LAA went 4-2 against the NL power Dodgers, 2-1 against clear contender San Francisco, and 2-1 against a surging Arizona team that’s been playing its best ball of the season lately. LAA missed San Diego, a proven doormat.
*That 23-8 record includes a 2-1 record against the New York Yankees, the other team in position to make a “best in baseball” claim at the moment (focusing on recent form vs. quality).
*That 23-8 record includes a 2-1 record against Texas.
And, you can’t ignore Tuesday Night’s win in Baltimore. The Orioles are a playoff contender this year despite themselves having to face a tough 2012 schedule. That 7-3 margin was a blowout too.
Normally the market makes the dominant teams in Major League Baseball very expensive to take. Even if they’re winning, the value is minimal because the prices are so high. But, that long slow start by the Halos helped create impressions that oddsmakers couldn’t shake. The team has been very affordable since Pujols started hitting. It was only recently that they started being priced like a Wildcard contender…when, at the time…they were playing like a World Championship contender.
LA is on a nice tester of a road trip. A short two-game set in Baltimore ends tonight. Then, it’s off to Toronto for four games Thursday through Sunday, and Cleveland for a three-game series that wraps up the road trip. Road games vs. “decent” teams who aren’t just going to roll over and take their beatings. If the Angels can manage 6-3 or better on this trip…then you can be fairly comfortable predicting a strong second half run into the playoffs. But, should we start to see the wind come out of their sails…then it’s time to back off a bit because the market will have overshot the mark after taking too long to react initially.
The Angels are one of about a dozen teams who are playing differently over the past month than they had been earlier this season (particularly if you’re focusing on certain key indicators). One reason baseball is so easy to beat is that oddsmakers generally trail the ebb and flow of a season by several days…sometimes by several weeks for outlier teams or surprising developments on Over/Unders (they trailed the steroid boom by YEARS way back when…then trailed the scoring decline by months once the game was cleaned up).
If you’re having trouble staying on top of developments, link up with your favorite VegasSportsMasters handicappers. Wednesday highlights:
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