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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Monday, April 23, 2018 at 1:00 PM

Though many handicappers and professional bettors were bracing for this, it’s still amazing how quickly bad teams have sunk to the bottom of the standings just a few weeks into the 2018 season.

Through the weekend…

Cincinnati 3-18

Miami 5-16

Baltimore 6-16

Kansas City 6-15

Chicago White Sox 4-14

Texas 8-15

San Diego 8-15

There has been some talk of “tanking” in baseball. That’s not the right word in terms of the players. It’s not like they’re going out trying to lose. Pitchers want to get outs. Hitters want to post good numbers so they can stay in the league and make big money. But, at the team level…franchises are putting collections of talent on the field that don’t have much hope of winning.

That worked so well for the Houston Astros a few years ago…being horrible in a way that helped them stockpile draft picks and other resources…that it’s an obvious model to copy. The problem is, it might not work so well when a half-dozen teams try to do it! (Same story with the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA…what’s been called “the process” has worked, but might not for the others tanking in the aftermath.)

Cincinnati is down 13.5 units already. The White Sox are down 10 units. A season lasts 162 games and we’ve barely gotten started.

Too many casual fans would see those numbers and think that means they should only bet on the very best teams. The problem with that is that many of the powers expected to run away with their divisions are also losing money so far this season.

After the past weekend… Washington is down seven units, the Los Angeles Dodgers are down six units, the Cubs and Yankees are down just over four units. Cleveland is down juice.

It’s not as simple as betting the top teams and assuming they’ll get the job done for you. Their money line prices are so high on a daily basis that they must dominate to earn a profit. Houston is 16-7, but Astros backers are only up two units on the season.

The key thus far has been recognizing which “best of the rest” or “dark horse” teams might come out of the gate strong. This is where the locus of profit has been.

Arizona 15-6 (up more than 10 units)

NY Mets 14-6 (up more than 8 units)

Philadelphia 14-7 (up more than 8 units)

LA Angels 14-8 (up more than 4 units)

Milwaukee 14-9 (up more than 5 units)

Toronto 13-8 (up more than 4 units)

Atlanta 12-8 (up more than 7 units)

Nobody has the kind of crystal ball that could see ALL of those coming. But, expecting good things from Arizona, the LA Angels, or a healthy NY Mets squad hardly needed miracles on grass. The market was so focused on last year’s divisional winners that it lost sight of teams who might be ready to contend.

What does this mean for students here in my Advanced College of Sports Betting and Handicapping? Is the cat out of the bag for those seven teams I just listed?

While the pace of those records is unlikely to sustain (Arizona isn’t going to finish the season 116-46, Atlanta’s not going to win 97 games), there’s still a good chance many of those teams will offer value for in the coming days and weeks. Baseball markets can be stubborn when teams improve. That brings us to this week’s homework assignment.

*Study each of those seven teams to determine the key factors leading to early success. Have there been unsustainable performances from certain players performing way over their heads? Or, are the teams just legitimately better than oddsmakers and prominent bettors have realized?

*Focus on the bullpens of those teams. We’ve seen in past seasons that teams who get consistent performances in well-defined roles can “arrive” in a way the market misses. Since baseball betting began, the emphasis has always been on starting pitchers. The modern game has evolved to the point where relief pitchers who see action in the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth innings can sway a team’s fortunes. Instead of ignoring this element, FOCUS on it.

*Evaluate strength of schedules thus far. In a league where there are several bad teams, pretenders can create the illusion of being good just by running into a bunch of matchups against the dregs. It’s one thing to go 14-8 against a balanced schedule. It’s another to go 14-8 when all you’ve played is 6-16 type teams. Be sure you’re accounting for the challenges that have been faced so far. 

Complete those assignments, and you’ll likely have discovered the best value team in baseball this season.

If you’d like some help finding baseball (and basketball) winners this week, KELSO STURGEON’S BEST BETS can be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the Vegas Sports Masters office by calling office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours. I do have great rates for extended packages that go through the NBA Playoffs, the MLB all-star break, or the full baseball season.

The Dean of Sports Handicapping greatly appreciates your continuing attendance, and your spreading the word about our new twice-a-week schedule this spring. I’ll return on Friday to talk about the NBA Playoffs as we wrap up the first round and get ready for the second round. I look forward to seeing you then.

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