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MLB Bet against teams

BET AGAINST = Teams that are overvalued in the betting market and should underachieve this season.  Usually a profitable investment to fade these teams.
@TopFlightSI Bet Against Teams (7/29/2020)

Boston Red Sox – On Monday we outlined three teams that should be profitable teams to back consistently this season.   Today we are going to look at three teams that should be profitable fades and I’m going to start with one that should be somewhat obvious at this point but will continue to be overpriced this season and that’s the mighty Boston Red Sox. 

This team is horrible, not only did their lineup get worse when they traded Mookie Betts to the Dodgers but they very well might have the worst pitching staff in the league top to bottom.  Just look at some of these names, Martin Perez, Ryan Weber, Zach Godley, this is who the Red Sox are trotting out there this season to start games and I don’t think any of those guys would make it into the rotation on most major league teams right now.  The one starter of the bunch that’s respectable is Nathan Eovaldi but THAT’S THEIR ACE and this is a guy that had a 5.99 ERA in 23 starts last season and turned 30 earlier this year so not exactly someone I want to be relying on as my “stopper” every fifth day.  Eduardo Rodriguez is currently out battling COVID-19 and he will give this rotation a boost when he gets back but even he’s a guy with a career ERA of 4.03 and a 1.30 career WHIP which is just not the caliber of “front end” guy you expect out of an organization like the Boston Red Sox.  It’s also possible Rodriguez is dealing with complications from this virus and misses the entire shortened season so we could be seeing a number of “bullpen games” from the Red Sox and their relief unit is just as bad as the starters. 

Boston has played four games so far, three against the Orioles and one against a questionable Mets team and Red Sox pitching has a combined 5.50 ERA.  Multiple relivers have entered games and gotten absolutely obliterated already and I think what you will see this season is a Red Sox team that is going to really have to overachieve offensively to come anywhere near their season win total projection of 31.5.  Another huge issue I see regarding this Red Sox team is they are the fourth best team in their division.  The Yankees and Rays are unquestionably better and, if you read my BET ON preview yesterday you will know I think the Blue Jays are also better, so the Sox will play a bunch of games against teams they are inferior to that (this is the most important part) are very familiar with their pitching.  With the new schedule alignment it also means they are going to have to deal with teams like the Braves, Phillies and defending champion Nationals more than they normally would have to and I think that’s going to be way too much for Boston’s terrible pitching to overcome. 

Finally, they are still the Red Sox, they still have a monster fan base (virtually everyone in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine are Red Sox fans as well as most of Rhode Island, most of Vermont and some of Connecticut.  I even know quite a few Sox fans in New York so this is a team that people have bet on like clockwork for years and are accustomed to betting on which means the Red Sox will still take money no matter what and should present an excellent fade opportunity at some very nice prices.  Finally, this team is usually very tough at home due to Fenway having one of the best atmospheres you will find in baseball but no fans might be a disadvantage for them more than any other team.  Everything is stacked against a Red Sox team that had better pitching and a better lineup last season and still only went 84-78 and missed the playoffs.  There’s also an arrogance about the Red Sox at this point where, once they realize they have no shot, they could give up and I think if you consistently bet against this bunch you would cash some tickets and some at some far better prices than deserved.

Chicago Cubs – Next is the Cubs and I almost see them as the National League version of the Red Sox.  I do think the Cubs have a better lineup and will play an easier schedule so they aren’t in quite as bad of a situation as Boston but I still think there’s going to be a ton of value betting against this team this season.  The Cubs bullpen is a complete disaster and, while we have learned a bunch of things from watching a weekend of “pandemic baseball”, one of the things that sticks out is the importance of relievers that can come in and record outs. 

The new rule this year is a pitcher needs to face three consecutive batters or finish an inning which means managers won’t be able to “matchup” their way out of tight spots late in games like they could in the past.  I’m also seeing managers really struggle with how to exactly play these situations and I expect this to be one of a handful of growing pains for first year Cubs manager David Ross.  In addition to having to deal with the struggles any first year manager would have to deal with I think Ross has an even more difficult job because he really doesn’t have a single guy in his bullpen that he can confidently put out there to get out of a big spot.   Just look at the names in the Cubs bullpen, you have a bunch of no names with little relevant big league experience or little big league experience at all and the guys that are the big names are a closer that lost it over a year ago in Craig Kimbrel and a guy that wasn’t good enough to be a closer so he got shipped out of Milwaukee in Jeremy Jeffress.  I can’t believe the Cubs didn’t nix the Craig Kimbrel experiment after last year when he posted a 6.53 ERA over 23 appearances.  Kimbrel made his first appearance of the season on Monday night against the Reds in the final inning of a game the Cubs led comfortably and managed to walk four guys while recording one out in what was one of the more disastrous relief outings you will ever see.  The contingency play is Jeremy Jeffress who will be 33 later this season and is coming off one of the worst seasons of his career where he posted a 5.02 ERA in 48 appearances for the Brewers.  I definitely don’t want Kimbrel in a 9th inning situation at this point but I wouldn’t want Jeffress either and I just think we are going to see a number of games where the Cubs go into the 8th or 9th inning tied or with a lead and lose the game. 

The Cubs starting pitching isn’t as bad, I do really like Kyle Hendricks and think Alec Mills is better than people think but they still have a 36 year old Jon Lester, a total headcase in Yu Darvish and the ever inconsistent Tyler Chatwood filling out the rotation.  Even if the Cubs do get a strong start, which is by no means a given with this group, the ball still ends up in the hands of that horrible bullpen and I think that’s a massive issue given the new rules with bullpens and extra innings in 2020.  Finally, the Cubs are a massive market team as well, there are Cubs fans all over the country and they are the team of choice across much of the Midwest so you have another scenario where a lot of people are going to bet on the Cubs because they are iconic or they are a fan.  That is going to create solid value to oppose the Cubs, you should be able to do so on the +1.5 or at a juicy price and I think it will net you a profit if you do it consistently this season. 

 Chicago White Sox – Full disclosure I thought about having both the White Sox and the Reds on this list since they were both literally everyone’s “sleeper pick” in the respective divisions but I’m going to leave the Reds in the honorable mention category because I really like their pitching.  That means the Chicago White Sox get the dubious honor of being the third and final “fade” team here and I’m actually a little upset I didn’t get this piece out earlier since they validated that by losing a double header to the Indians yesterday.  That being said, the bad start is part of what puts them over the edge for me because I would have felt differently about having the White Sox on this list had they come out and started 4-1 instead of 1-4.  The White Sox roster is loaded with talent and A TON of potential but this is a young team that has never won together before and there has been a “winning” culture on the Windy City’s South Side in over a decade. 

There’s a lot to like about some of the young bats in this White Sox lineup but they will be will be without Eloy Jiminez at least in the short term as he hurt himself running into the wall on Sunday and now it looks like Edwin Encarnacion might miss a couple games as well.  Again, there’s some offense here, Tim Anderson won a batting title last season and the aforementioned Jiminez has superstar potential when healthy but once you get past the fact this team will score some runs I’m not seeing much that I like here.  Where I get hung up on the White Sox is the starting pitching, on paper there’s some nice names and I think if one were to do a once over it looks like a serviceable rotation but when I look at almost every guy the White Sox will send out to the bump I see more hype than substance.  Lucas Giolito is the ace, he finally pitched like one last season going 14-9 with a 3.41 ERA and 1.06 WHIP but he logged a good amount of innings against some really bad teams and I wouldn’t be surprised if he took a small step back this season.  Dylan Cease always profiled well as a prospect but this guy just isn’t ready to pitch in the majors and Carlos Rodon has been the definition of “overhyped” since coming into the league in 2015.  Rodon is one of those guys where if you saw one of his best starts you would think this guy was a Cy Young contender but he has no command and it leads to the inconsistencies that have led to a career 4.08 ERA and 1.38 WHIP.  Rodon also regressed last posting a career worst 5.19 ERA and 1.44 WHIP and I’m at least making it a point to fade pitchers who lack command early in this “sprint” season. 

Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez round out this rotation, Keuchel is 32 and Gio is about to be 35 and I see both on the downward slope of their respective careers at this point.  Any of those guys could have a fine season but my guess is most won’t but I think the name recognition there combined with the hype this team had coming into the season is going to have the White Sox overpriced all year and make for excellent value if you are willing to fade. 

On my “BET ON” list I talked about a couple teams that play great defense and the White Sox are definitely at the opposite end of that spectrum.  This lineup was built to hit bombs, not make stellar plays in the field, and when you have inconsistent pitching and don’t have the defense to bail those guys out it leads to the big inning that I see being the “Achilles Heel” for this Sox team.  If this team ever figures it out they could be really dangerous but, unfortunately, they don’t have 162 games to do that this year and head coach Rick Renteria just isn’t the guy that’s going to get this talented crew to the next level.  I’m going to fade this White Sox team as I think they implode and just tank at some point, it probably results in Renteria getting fired which would be the biggest win of the season because with the right leader I think this team could eventually be pretty good.