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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Monday, June 25, 2018 at 1:00 PM

Sometimes your homework assignment here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping involves big picture themes that cross the full Major Leagues. Sometimes it involves a specific team that’s performing at surprisingly good or bad levels.

Today, it’s the latter. Your job is to figure out what the heck is wrong with the Washington Nationals, and whether or not it’s going to continue.

The Nats are an important team in the markets because they still get so much respect. I’m seeing some stores still list them as favorites to win the NL in futures prices even though they’re in third place in their own division here in late June. They can’t beat out the Braves and Phillies for first place in the NL East over three months…but they’re going to beat out the Cubs, Dodgers, or a hot surprise team in October?

Washington was rolling along well enough with a 33-22 record a few weeks ago. That’s a pace for 97 wins, a likely divisional crown, and possibly the #1 seed in the NL brackets. Since then, this has happened…

1-3 at Atlanta

2-0 vs. Tampa Bay

1-2 vs. San Francisco

1-2 vs. the Yankees

0-3 vs. Toronto

2-1 vs. Baltimore

1-2 vs. Philadelphia

That adds up to 8-13, with a 4-1 record against losing teams from the American League Tampa Bay and Baltimore, but 4-12 against everyone else. And, that everyone else included confidence building series wins for key OPPONENTS Atlanta and Philadelphia. The Phils now know they can compete heads-up with the Nats after taking two of three in the nation’s capital this past weekend. Atlanta continues to impress, and is clearly NOT afraid of Washington at the moment.

Any team can have slumps. But, this was flunking a test When messages needed to be sent to the Braves and Phillies, Washington let them know that the NL East race was wide open. And, how can you get swept in a home series by Toronto?!

Washington enters the new week sitting at 41-35, which is only on pace for 87 wins. That probably won’t be enough for the division, but would put the Nats in the Wildcard hunt without half the NL. Of course, they just lost two of three at home to San Francisco, who’s only on the fringe of the Wildcard race right now.

Study those last 21 games to get a read on what is and isn’t working for Washington. I can tell you up front that offense is an issue. The team is 30-44-2 to the Under this season, which almost always means good pitching and bad offense at this level. Are key players slumping? Or, are there not enough serious threats any more? Does the starting rotation have enough power to build a winning streak on its own? What about the bullpen?

Washington is down about eight-and-a-half betting units this season depending on the lines you got on game day. That tells you how high its prices have been. Washington is six games over .500 straight up, but the equivalent of a little more than eight games under .500 against the money line. That means…

*If Washington is going to keep underachieving, you can grind out some serious cash fading them. And, you can consider other alternatives in futures pricing because the Nats have a big red X through them. Possibly the best way to make money in current MLB is to fade inconsistent teams that the public loves to bet.

*If Washington can easily fix what’s been temporary ailing them, then backing them will pay off as they rally back to an equilibrium. The Cleveland Indians went 6-0 last week in a similar situation…getting things together after a sluggish few months. If Washington can re-find its best form, the Nats could still finish in the black for the full season.

A few weeks ago, I asked you to figure out what was going right for Seattle. Today, what’s going wrong for Washington. I’ll continue to scout out teams for study this summer because that’s such an important part of baseball handicapping. Spot the teams in surprising form, figure out what’s right or wrong, then take advantage until the market catches up. Doesn’t hurt that Las Vegas oddsmakers might take their eyes off the baseball with so much World Cup soccer betting going on daily right now at sports books.

Hopefully you’ve completed other recent home work assignments involving recent form. Maybe that work will help you focus on teams in this vein before we even get to future coursework.

If you’d like additional assistance, 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. Ask about packages that take you through the All-Star Break (which will be here soon) or the full baseball season. Feel free to call with your questions about 2018 football. July is about to arrive, which means the NFL exhibition season is just around the corner. 

The Dean of Sports Handicapping greatly appreciates your attendance and hard work. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to make a living in this field for so many decades. And, I’m happy to pass along what I’ve learned to hard workers like you. There are no free lunches in sports betting. Work is rewarded. Thinking is rewarded. Laziness (or stubbornness) is punished. See you again Friday for our next class get-together.

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