The first half of the Major League Baseball season can sometimes be a bit of a roller coaster for gamblers who place future divisional bets on favorites. Often, teams come along and have big first halves, making it appear as though the favorite is going to come up short.
Usually by the All-Star Game, however, the teams that will be around to the end start playing better baseball. That form has held true in 2013, with some heavy division favorites getting a big scare in the season’s first half.
Coming out of Spring Training, there were two teams, the Detroit Tigers and the Los Angeles Dodgers, that became the darlings of the betting world. The Tigers and Dodgers were both favored heavily to win their divisions, yet both started the season mired in a slump.
The Tigers remained in better position than the Dodgers throughout the first half, and will head to the mid-season classic with the American league Central lead. Detroit came close to relinquishing the top spot a few weeks ago, but was able to withstand the push made by the Cleveland Indians. Cleveland remains only a few games behind Detroit, with many analysts believing the Indians are in the race for the long haul.
Out West, the Dodgers played so poorly at times in the first half, that it became widely assumed that Manager Don Mattingly would be replaced. Not only has Mattingly retained his job, but the Dodgers have gone on a run to end the first half, and sit only two games behind division-leading Arizona.
In the National League Central, the three teams that were expected to be at the top of the division, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati, are all within 5.5 games of the lead. The Cardinals lead the division by one game over the Pirates.
Atlanta, a playoff team a year ago, is leading the NL East by 6.5 games over last year’s division champs, the Washington Nationals. Washington has played better of late, and is expected to make a run at the division crown in the second half.
The biggest shock so far this season comes in the AL West, where the Oakland A’s lead the division by one game over Texas. Although the A’s were a playoff team last year, not many predicted that Oakland could hang with the Angels. Los Angeles signed the biggest free agent of the winter, Josh Hamilton, but has been unable to mesh together so far.
In the East, the Red Sox remade their lineup in the off-season, and it has paid off with Boston holding a four game lead over Tampa Bay. The Orioles and Yankees are also within striking distance of the division lead.