Nearly three quarters of the season is complete as most teams will have played game 120 of the 162-game schedule by the end of the coming weekend.
With so much baseball behind us we can take a look at this season’s biggest overachievers and underachievers to date.
Perhaps the best way to analyze which teams fall into which category would be season win totals established prior to Opening Day. By looking at the pace each team is on for the full 162-game schedule we can see which teams are likely to exceed expectations and which will likely fall short.
These teams should not come as much of a surprise but the magnitude of the excess or shortfall might be surprising.
Only one team is playing better than .600 baseball – the Atlanta Braves. They are on a pace to win 99 games, which would have them finish 11.5 games above their projected total of 87.5. But that surplus ranks just fourth.
Baltimore, Boston and Pittsburgh are all on pace to do even better.
It will not come as a surprise to learn the Pittsburgh Pirates, seeking to end 20 straight losing seasons, is on a pace to exceed their projected win total by, ironically, 20 games. Despite flirting with a winning record for most of the past two seasons before swooning over the final month and a half, the oddsmakers expected the Pirates’ streak of futility to continue in 2013, posting an over/under wins total of 77.
Yet, based on their record through Sunday of 70-47, Pittsburgh is on a pace that would have them win 97 games. Of course, we are now at the start of the season’s final six weeks. Let’s see if the Pirates cannot only close the deal for a winning record, but maintain their pace to make the playoffs, and as a Division winner.
After making the playoffs following more than a decade’s absence in 2012, the Baltimore Orioles were “expected” to decline to 77.5 wins in 2013. Yet Buck Showalter has managed the O’s to a 65-52 record through Sunday, a pace that would see them win 90 games and exceed expectations by 12.5 games.
Boston is on a similar pace. Following 2012’s debacle the bar for the 2013 Red Sox was set at just 82.5 wins – still an acknowledgement that 2013’s 69-93 record was an aberration of monstrous proportions. The Sox start the week leading the AL East by 3 games with a 71-49 record. At that pace Boston would finish with 96 wins, exceeding projections by 13.5 games.
Now we get to the “jeers” side of the story.
A total of seven teams are currently on pace to fall short of their projected wins total by double digits.
The largest offender appears to be the Chicago White Sox. Following their surprise 2012 season in which they contended for the playoffs well into September, the Sox were projected to win 80.5 games. Yet at 44-72 the Pale Hose are projected to win just 61, falling 19.5 games short of the modest expectations that didn’t even call for them to finish .500!
On a pace to fall short almost as badly as the White Sox are San Francisco and the Los Angeles Angels. The Angels were projected to win 91.5 games but are on a pace to win just 74, a shortfall of 17.5. The Giants, projected to win 88.5, are on a pace to win 72 for a shortfall of 16.5.
Toronto and Washington are each on a pace to fall 13 games short of their spring season expectations while both Milwaukee and Philadelphia are on pace to fall about 11 games shy of expectations.
Considering the Angels (91.5), San Francisco (88.5), Toronto (87.5) and Washington (91.5) were all projected to make the playoffs based on their expected win totals, each may make for attractive “play against” teams throughout September if they don’t show signs of going on a streak over the final two and a half weeks of August.
Here’s a look at four series of interest this weekend.
D’BACKS/PIRATES: Pittsburgh starts the week in first place in the NL Central, 3 games ahead of second place St. Louis. Arizona is second in the NL West behind the Dodgers but the gap between the two continues to grow. But the Diamondbacks are first team out in the NL Wild Card chase, trailing only Cincinnati for the second Wild Card but needing to make up 5.5 games on the Reds. That makes this a compelling series for both teams as the Pirates continue to try to hang on and erase the failures of the past two seasons while Arizona is desperate to inch closer to the playoffs.
Pittsburgh has relied on outstanding pitching – both starting and relief – for its success. Only Atlanta (2.9) is allowing fewer runs per game at home than the Pirates’ 3.1. The offense is averaging just 3.8 rpg. Arizona is about as balanced as a team can be with a record hovering at .500. The Snakes are averaging 4.2 rpg both at home and on the road while allowing 4.1 rpg almost evenly split between home and road.
Recommended plays: Pittsburgh -130 or less not facing Patrick Corbin or Wade Miley; Arizona +110 or more in starts by Corbin or Miley against any Pittsburgh starter except Francisco Liriano, against whom Corbin/Miley must be +125 or more; UNDER 8 or higher in any matchup.
ROYALS/TIGERS: This is a five game series beginning Thursday that includes a day/night doubleheader on Friday. KC has won 5 of the 8 meetings this season with 5 games staying UNDER the total and 3 going OVER. The teams have averaged a total of just 6.9 combined runs per game. The Royals have been hot over the past month and a half, going 25-15 in the last 40 games. But they’ve lost 2 games on the Tigers who are 27-13 over the same stretch! Yet the surge has made the Royals a factor in the Wild Card chase although they trail co-holders Oakland and Tampa Bay by 4.5 games with Baltimore and Cleveland in between.
KC is still below average offensively although showing improvement over the past couple of months. Detroit has baseball’s most potent home offense, averaging 5.5 runs per game as hosts. The Tigers also have perhaps the deepest starting rotation in the American League while the Royals’ has been above average with Bruce Chen joining James Shields and Ervin Santana to form a solid starting trio.
Recommended plays: Kansas City +140 or more in starts by Shields, Santana or Chen not facing Max Scherzer. KC +160 or more against Scherzer; Detroit -150 or less not opposing Chen, Santana or Shields; UNDER 8 or higher if Chen, Santana or Shields pitch for Kansas City against any Detroit starter;
YANKS/RED SOX: Boston has won 6 of 9 meetings this season, taking 2 of 3 in each of their three prior series. Four games have gone OVER, 4 have stayed UNDER and one game was shortened by rain. The Red Sox and Yankees have averaged a combined 8.3 runs per game in their 9 contests. The lack of offensive depth created by injuries is finally taking its toll on the Yankees who start the week just 2 games above .500 after having spent considerable time double digits above break even. Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez are now in the lineup but their contributions could come too late to push the Yanks to a Wild Card as the starting pitching has struggled.
Only Hiroki Kuroda has been consistently solid by CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes have each been more bad than good over the past couple of months. Boston has one of baseball’s best offenses but has started to have major concerns with its starting pitching. Clay Buchholz remains sidelined but John Lackey appears to be suffering from fatigue after a brilliant first half of the season. They did pick up Jake Peavy at the trade deadline, but Peavy does remain an injury risk. The Sox have now had 11 different pitchers start at least once.
Recommended plays: OVER 8.5 or lower in any matchup not involving Lackey or Kuroda (who have seen 33 of their combined 44 starts stay UNDER with just 7 OVERs, 1 PUSH and 1 “no action“); UNDER 8 or higher if Lackey or Kuroda starts (UNDER 7.5 or less if they oppose each other; Yankees +115 or more in a start by Kuroda against any Boston starter; Boston -135 or less against any Yankees starter other than Kuroda.
INDIANS/A’S: In their only prior meeting this season, Cleveland swept a four game home series from the A’s in early May. The Indians have been a bit of feast or famine this season and they start the week having ended a 6 game losing streak with a win on Sunday. Both teams are similar in that neither has what can be considered a true ace although Oakland’s Bartolo Colon and the Tribe’s Justin Masterson have posted the best stats and their teams are a combined 33-15 in their starts.
Overall, Oakland has gotten the better pitching but not by a huge margin although they do have an edge in the bullpen. The Indians do have the better offense but Oakland’s has been surprisingly good and significantly better than last season. This should be an extremely competitive series between a pair of teams that remain “under the radar.”
Recommended plays: Either team as +125 or more underdogs in any matchup; Oakland -120 or less in a start by Colon; Cleveland -125 or less in a start by Masterson; OVER 8 or lower in any matchup.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]