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A few early surprises

Jul 29, 2020 3:00 AM

I think we can all agree that there is nothing about 2020 that seems normal. If the first week of the baseball campaign is any indication to what the shortened 60-game regular season will be like, baseball isn’t normal either.

It only took a few days into the season to have no undefeated and no winless teams. I went back several years and couldn’t find the last time, with just three games played, that this has happened. Rumor has it the last time this occurred was the 1953 season.

What is also a surprise is that there are only a few preseason favorites that are leading their divisions, the Twins (tied with the Indians) and the Astros. Minnesota is absolutely hitting the cover off the ball, accounting for a Major League-best 9.35 RPG. The Astros rank second in scoring, averaging over 7.25 RPG.

Many thought without their best closer available, the Yankees would have an uphill battle to start the season. But let’s face it, it doesn’t appear to be an issue, as their lineup is one of the best they have had in decades.

The National League has the East’s prognosticated cellar dweller, the Marlins, actually atop the division at 2-1. After winning their opener with authority, the Reds, which were expected to be the NL Central’s top team, has now dropped three straight. I wouldn’t count them out just yet as they have three potential Cy Young Award candidates.

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The Dodgers sit at 2-2. But have no fear, they are still the cream of the NL crop. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention last year’s World Series champions, the Nationals, which are at the moment, in last place in the NL East at 1-3. Like L.A.,Washington is a team loaded with talent and will be a contender for sure.

There are two more items that have astonished me thus far and they both have to deal with pitching. First, like many, I put a lot of stock into starting pitchers. Due to the fact that pitchers can be yanked at any moment, we are now unable to list pitchers when making our wagers. This certainly will affect our profits, so tread lightly.

Next, a pleasant surprise. I was concerned with the new rule that each new pitcher must pitch to three batters. I felt that it takes away from the science aspect of the game where a manager and his pitching staff does their due diligence. But, so far, this hasn’t been a factor. I’m sure as the season progresses we are going to see some more startling developments. But one thing for sure, it’s going to be a fun and exciting ride.

Talking about fun and exciting, here are this week’s best bets (all records, stats, and trends are as of print and may change as can starting pitchers):

Thursday

Cubs at Reds: In what many feel will be the two teams slugging it out for the NL Central crown, Chicago visits Cincinnati here. At 1-3 (as of Tuesday morning), this will be a good opportunity to grab a good line on the Reds at home. Yes, after a dominant season opener in which they trounced Detroit, 7-1, Cincy has now dropped three in a row, including Game 1 of this series. The Cubs, at 3-1 are playing good ball. The problem is, they are just 4-10 the last 14 meetings at Great American Ball Park.

They give Yu Darvish the nod here. While Darvish can fan batters, he still hasn’t donned a winning record since 2016, when he went 7-5. The right-hander only lasted four innings in his first outing, a loss to the Brewers on Saturday in which his ERA was a whopping 6.75.

Luis Castillo takes the mound at home. He comes off his best year yet, going 15-8 with an ERA of 3.40, striking out 226 batters in 190.2 IP. The RH had a ND in his first appearance, Saturday against Detroit, in which he went six innings, whiffed 11 batters and left with a 1.50 ERA.

The Cubs are 4-9 the last 13 games played on the road and 4-11 the last 15 games played vs. RH starters. REDS

Mariners at Angels: In a contest that can easily be overlooked for lack of flair, the Mariners take it on the road to meet the Angels. These teams are a combined 2-6 (as of Tuesday). Neither team is crushing it at the plate, particularly, Los Angeles, which despite some dangerous hitters, ranks 26th, averaging a mere, 2.88 RPG.

However, Seattle has had difficulties in this series, going 1-4 the last five games played at Los Angeles and 1-5 the last six overall games played vs. Los Angeles.

Marco Gonzales takes the hill for the M’s. The left-hander (16-13, 3.99 ERA in 2019) was shelled in his first start, allowing three earned runs on five hits, in just 4.1 IP, taking a loss against the Astros on Friday.

Dylan Bundy seems to have turned it around from last season’s 7-14, 4.79 ERA performance. The Halos’ righty kicked off the campaign with a big win against Oakland on Saturday, yielding just one earned run on three hits, striking out seven batters, in 6.2 IP.

Seattle is 3-8 the last 11 games played overall. Los Angeles is 5-0 the last five games played vs. lefty starters. ANGELS

Last week: 2-1

Season: 2-1