Underdogs (home and road) have won in 63% of games this year. It’s not unusual for underdogs to get off to a hot start, but I could see the streak continue well into July.
Minnesota, Houston and the New York Mets all currently have at least a share of their respective divisions. All three teams weren’t expected to contend for their divisions this year (although I predicted a possible Wild-Card spot for the Mets), so they have all helped the underdog winning percentage.
Will these teams hit a wall when they begin to be consistently favored against the spread?
Before we look at Houston, Minnesota and New York, let’s first look at a few teams that haven’t lived up to the preseason hype.
At the start of the season, teams like Toronto, Boston, San Diego and the Chicago White Sox were all expected to be division contenders. They currently sit at a combined record of 93-112 so far.
Toronto was supposed to have the best offense in the Majors…and they do, but they have also given up the most runs in the Majors. Also, Chicago’s acquisition of Jeff Samardzija hasn’t paid off, Boston’s bats haven’t gotten going yet and San Diego might have buyer’s remorse after trading for Matt Kemp. I expect them all to finish the season stronger than they started. This will should eventually help out the end-of-season underdog win percentage, since they aren’t being favored in too many games right now.
Let’s now look at the surprise teams so far this season.
– Houston has a boom or bust offense, but their strong starting pitching has been why they are currently atop the AL West. Their hitters may lead the league in strikeouts (they are currently second behind the Chicago Cubs), but with guys like Evan Gattis, Chris Carter and George Springer, their slugging percentage will be near the top of the Majors. If Dallas Keuchel continues to dominate as the ace of the staff, he will get Cy Young consideration. I also expect Houston to start calling up some of their blue-chip prospects like Carlos Correa soon.
– I knew Minnesota would be better than their preseason over/under win total of 71.5, but didn’t expect such a hot start. They are taking care of business at home (19-7) and sometimes that’s a team needs to do to win a division. Also, the 39-year-old Torii Hunter is playing like he’s 28 years old. I don’t expect Minnesota to keep playing this great all year. Their starting rotation has been getting rocked, but their bullpen has been bailing them out. Phil Hughes and Ricky Nolasco has pitched below replacement level so far.
– The New York Mets was my sleeper pick to do some damage in the National League. I predicted this before Zack Wheeler was lost for the season. I knew they had some minor league arms that could eventually fill his spot in the rotation, but Noah Syndergaard has been better than advertised (his ERA currently sits at 1.82). They are currently using a six-man starting rotation, which is perfect for this staff. You don’t want the 42-year-old Bartolo Colon to breakdown by year’s end and Matt Harvey is coming off Tommy John surgery. I would rarely recommend this strategy, but the Mets are doing what best fits their goals.
I expect the end-of-the-year underdog winning percentage to stay high all year. I would keep hitting them hard through the All-Star Break. Teams out of contention will begin to deal players and then it would be wise to possibly flip your betting strategy.
About the Author… Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks, Guyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.