Among the big stories of this past weekend were the release of Alex Rodriguez by the New York Yankees and the loss of one of baseball’s most productive hitters for the balance of the season for a second straight season, Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton.
A-Rod’s departure opened up a roster spot for some of the young talent the Yankees have been stockpiling and the earlier announcement that Mark Teixeira will retire at the end of the season will open up another roster spot for 2017.
Yankees fans may have been given a preview of the future this past Saturday when Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge hit back-to-back homers in their first major league at bats. Add to that the strong early start for catcher of the future Gary Sanchez and the rebuilding process may indeed be a quick one for a franchise that has not had a losing season since 1992 and start this week three games above break even at 60-57.
The loss of Stanton for the Marlins greatly hurts their chances for a Wild Card. They start this week a half game out of the second Wild Card with a 61-56 record and 45 games remaining. There has been some talk the Marlins might sign A-Rod for the balance of the season but the question will be how to use him since Rodriguez was exclusively used as a DH this season but for his token appearance at third base for one batter in his Yankees finale last Friday.
Only two teams are playing at a pace to exceed their projected wins total by double digits. At 66-51 Baltimore is on pace to win 91 games, 13 more than their projection for just 78 wins. Texas is on pace to win 94 games with a 69-50 record through Sunday. Despite last season’s AL West title the Rangers were projected to win just 83.5 games this season.
Two other teams are on a pace to exceed their projected wins total by nine games. One is a World Series contender. The other was considered by many to be the worst team in baseball this season.
The Chicago Cubs are on pace to win 102 games with their 73-43 record starting this week. They had the highest wins total of any team, 93.
The Philadelphia Phillies were tied with Atlanta for the fewest projected wins of all 32 teams, 67. Yet with just 43 games remaining the Phillies are within seven games of .500 at 56-63, a pace that has them finishing with 76 wins. The future may be bright for the Phillies, who have been in transition for the past few seasons.
At the other end of the spectrum are four teams currently on pace to fall short of expectations by double digits. The biggest disappointment has been Arizona. Starting the week at 48-69 the Diamondbacks are on pace to win just 66 games, a shortfall of 17 games from their projected wins total of 83.
Almost on a similar pace are Tampa Bay and Minnesota. The Rays are on pace to win just 66 games, 16 short of their projection of 82 wins. The Twins are on pace for just 65 wins, 15 short of their projection of 80. The LA Angels are on pace to win 68 games, 11 fewer than the projection of 79.
Last season’s National League Champion New York Mets, projected at 90 season wins, are on pace to win just 82 games as they start this week barely above .500 at 59-58. Yet that mediocre record still has the Mets within 2.5 games of the second NL Wild Card.
Only Miami and Pittsburgh are between the Mets and St. Louis, the current holder of that second Wild Card. The first Wild Card is currently controlled by the Dodgers, 2.5 games ahead of St. Louis.
Here’s a preview of three weekend series.
Mets at Giants: This four game series starts Thursday. In their lone prior series this season the Mets took two of three from the Giants at home at the end of April. The Giants have gone 9-18 since the break. The Mets have gone 12-17 and their wins over Arizona this past Saturday and Sunday marked the first time they had won back-to-back games since July 6 and 7.
Both teams rely more on pitching than on hitting and should be considered for play throughout this series, provided the games involve matchups of the Mets’ Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard or Steven Matz against the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto or Jeff Samardzija.
Totals of 7 or higher can be played UNDER in such matchups. Any of those six pitchers can be backed as underdogs of any price whether matched against another member of the sextet or a starter I have not mentioned. The Mets are replacing Logan Verrett in the rotation with the recently re-acquired Jon Niese. If Niese gets a start the Giants are playable up to -150.
Astros at Orioles: This four game series also begins Thursday and is only the second series between the Orioles and Astros this season. In late May the Astros swept a three game home series that was both low scoring and very competitive. The best starters for each team lately have been Dylan Bundy for the Orioles and Doug Fister for the ‘Stros.
In a Bundy start the Orioles can be played as favorites of -150 or less against any Houston starter. Baltimore can also be backed behind Chris Tillman at -130 or less against any Houston starter. Houston can be backed at +120 or more behind any starter against other than Bundy or Tillman. Look to play OVER 8.5 or lower except in starts by Baltimore’s Kevin Gausman or Houston’s Lance McCullers. You might consider playing their starts UNDER 9 or higher.
Brewers at Mariners: The weekend’s lone interleague series features the contending Seattle Mariners hosting the rebuilding Milwaukee Brewers. Seattle’s strength has been its pitching and the Mariners will be favored throughout this series, quite possibly by -150 or more. Seattle can be played when laying -140 or less against all Milwaukee starters.
To back Milwaukee the Brewers, with one exception, would have to be +160 or more and be starting either Zach Davies or Jeff Nelson. Junior Guerra can be played at +125 or more against any Seattle starter if he does get a start in this series. Look to play OVER 7 or lower or UNDER 9.5 or higher in any matchup.