Strong Starts

Strong Starts

Strong Starts
By Josh Jacobs

The onslaught of baseball information continues to roll through the website as we prepare for the 2009 season. While we can take an educated guess and say that a team like the Boston Red Sox are repeat offenders for running through the month of April with positive results, who else can we group up in this category? The main point is which teams can we begin betting on in April as we attempt to scratch together a strategy for building up a bankroll in the infancy of the MLB season?

L.A. Angels (100-62, +2325)


We can all surmise that without stats and rosters in-front of us, the Angels are a threat to make the playoffs year-in-and-year-out. Since 2002, L.A. has accumulated a 95-84 (53%) record in April. Throughout the seven seasons, the Halos have dished out three years of playing under .500 ball. Digging deeper reveals that the three losing April records had the club’s pitching staff buying the farm for a 4.32 ERA with a not so telling, .258 BAA.

At the plate, the Angels have busted up the ball for a .272 BA with an average of 114 RBIs in the four winning seasons in April. The flipside to that coin is L.A. still hitting a solid, .270 BA with an average of 119.7 RBIs in under .500 April’s. So the defense is where the difference between “W’s” and “L’s” originates from.

And in the last two years, L.A. has finished the regular season by recording a total of 104 home wins (50 and 54 wins in ’08 and ’07 respectively). Naturally, you would think that playing the Angels to win at home to begin the season would be a good thing but not so fast. Despite smothering opponents at home in April of 2007 (11-3 record), L.A. has yet to repeat that same success (the team is just above the .500 mark at 22-17 in April games during the ’08, ’06 and ’05 seasons).

Notes: The first seven games will be played at home versus Oakland (four-game series) and Boston (three-game series). While going 10-9 against Oakland last season, the Angels dominated the Red Sox, winning eight of the nine total meetings (tossing a team, 3.60 ERA).
   
Arizona (82-80, -1426)

Up until the 2007 campaign, the Diamondbacks were 63-62 in April dating back to 2002. But then something happened; pitching. Between knockout starter Brandon Webb and the rest of the starting rotation, Arizona accounted for a 19-8 record, 3.29 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP during April of last year. And while not as fire hot as ’08, the pitching staff was able to shine again in ’07 as a 3.57 ERA with 13 holds and 11 saves translated into a 16-11 performance.

Following suit in 2008 was an offense which fell flat on its face. But April was the exception as Arizona ranked 8th best in the NL with a .272 BA, bringing in 155 RBIs. Too bad we get an incomplete look at the D-Backs offense as April of ’07 witnessed the usual slow start, batting an NL worst, .248. Putting the icing on the cake was a club that, again, ranked in last place in the RBI department, bringing in a bottom low, 76 runners across home plate (in '07).

Since the defensive unit, more specifically the arms in the rotation and pen, is the key focus it’s worth bringing up one player that has served as a microcosm to the last two years in April. Starting slinger Dan Haren is that example. Since 2006, the right hander has started off the season tossing a 2.85 ERA. But then came the All-Star break which brought Haren back down to earth with a 4.42 ERA. If we use Haren’s numbers and the pitchers that follow, Doug Davis, Jon Garland (pushing Yusmeiro Petit out of the rotation) and Max Scherzer, we begin to see what might transpire this season.

Notes: The hope is Arizona can garner some early home wins against Colorado, the L.A. Dodgers and St. Louis to begin the season off on the right foot. As was the case in 2008, bettors could once again capitalize on April wagering.

Chicago White Sox (89-74, +704)

The last seven seasons in April have witnessed the White Sox logging in not one-year below the .500 mark. From 2004 to 2006, Chicago was able to put together an unstoppable, 47-22 record. You can make an argument for actions made on both sides of the ball. During this same, three-year time frame, the bats in the lineup have managed to remain relatively strong by making contact for a .275 BA. This has trickled down to bringing in 113 RBIs per season. On the mound, both starters and relievers have put together a 3.83 ERA with a 1.27 WHIP.

But the past is the past and White Sox backers will be relying on starters Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, John Danks and an in shape, Jose Contreras (don’t take that word-for-word however as ups and downs with his Achilles tendon injury has surfaced towards the end of Spring Training) to get April off to a strong start.

Around the diamond, Chicago will take on a new look. Losing Joe Crede and Juan Uribe to free agency, the Sox will lift off with Chris Getz (25), Josh Fields (26) and Alexei Ramirez (27) as the new faces of the infield.

Notes: Be careful about early home wagering as Chicago has struggled since 2004, going 14-20 to begin the season in April. A young Kansas City team will meet the Sox in Chicago to begin the season (three-game series) as Minnesota will make the trip into the “Windy City” for another three-game series.

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