Memorial Day marks 1/3 of total season
Memorial Day is observed next Monday and that is the day that traditionally marks the completion of the first third of the season, a sort of milepost at which point teams take stock of their positions in the standings and make plans to address their needs in the weeks leading up to the All Star break in mid July.
And as we approach that first milepost the leaders in at least three, and perhaps four, of baseball’s six Divisions are not surprising. Minnesota, Philadelphia and St. Louis were each expected to contend again in 2010 after winning their Divisions last season.
That Tampa leads the AL East may be considered a mild surprise as that Division historically has belonged to the Yankees and Red Sox. But the Rays are just two seasons removed from their remarkable ascension to baseball’s elite and were expected to contend again with New York and Boston this season. But their record of 20 games over .500 is a surprise – much as such a record would be surprising were it fashioned by the Yankees or Red Sox.
The two Division leaders that are surprising are in the Western Division of each league. San Diego continues to combine outstanding starting pitching and timely hitting to lead the NL West by a game over the Dodgers. And they do so with a not so shabby 26-18 mark – a pace that would give the Padres 95 wins for the season.
Texas has benefited from some surprisingly strong efforts from their starting pitchers who are learning well under the tutelage of pitching coach Mike Maddux. The brother of certain hall of famer Greg did well during his stay in Milwaukee and is providing similar positive results with the Rangers. Colby Lewis and C.J. Wilson have both enjoyed strong starts to their seasons. And after missing the first month of the season Derek Holland has looked sharp in his first few starts.
The managerial watch also heats up at this time of season and thus far we’ve had just one change as Ned Yost replaced Trey Hillman in Kansas City a couple of weeks ago following a 12-23 start. As is often the case there is a short term surge after such a change and the Royals have gone 6-4 since the change, pleasing backers of the “play the new manager” theory. Other managerial changes may be on the way with situations in Milwaukee and Baltimore the most tenuous and the situation with the New York Mets also in a constant state of flux.
Dave Trembley has guided the Orioles to a 14-31 start. For a franchise that has not won more than 70 games in a season since 2005, winning fewer than 1 in 3 games does not do much for job security. Granted, Trembley does not have much to work with in his third full season on the bench and the O’s play in baseball’s toughest Division, the AL East, but managers often pay the price for front office mismanagement.
Here’s a look at four series of interest to be played this weekend.
St. Louis at Chicago Cubs: These long time rivals meet for the first time this season. St. Louis will have a new starter in the rotation temporarily with Brad Penny now on the DL. The Cubs have started to play better of late but still are below .500. Their pitching has been just average while the offense has been below average. Combined, the Cubs and Cards have played 30 OVERs and 53 UNDERs, with 7 PUSHes to date.
RECOMMENDED PLAYS: St. Louis as favorites of -140 or less in starts by Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter or Jaime Garcia or as underdogs in any matchup; Cubs as underdogs of +140 or more in a start by Ryan Dempster; UNDER Totals of 9 or higher if Wainwright, Carpenter or Garcia oppose Dempster or Ted Lilly.
Philadelphia at Florida: These Division rivals meet for a second series this season after Florida took two of three in Philly back in mid April. The Marlins start the week four games behind the Phillies. Both teams have solid aces who could hook up on Saturday although the Phils’ Roy Halladay is off of one of his poorest starts in years after being rocked by Boston this past Sunday. Florida’s Josh Johnson is at the top of his game. Interestingly, however, 8 of Johnson’s 10 starts have produced OVERs despite an ERA of 2.43 and WHIP of 1.03. There is a considerable drop off after the two aces although the Phillies have gotten solid seasons from a pair of lefties, Cole Hamels and the ageless Jamie Moyer.
RECOMMENDED PLAYS: Phillies as underdogs of any price in any matchup except against Johnson or if favored by -125 or less against other than Johnson; Florida as Underdogs of +140 or more against Halladay or if favored by -150 or less against other than Johnson; UNDER a Total of 7 or higher if Johnson faces Halladay; OVER Totals of 8 or lower in any matchup not involving either Halladay or Johnson
Oakland at Detroit: This is a four game series that ends Monday as the teams meet barely a week after Detroit swept a two game series in Oakland last week in a pair of games that each stayed UNDER the Total.
RECOMMENDED PLAYS: Detroit as favorites of -150 or less in starts by Justin Verlander or Jeremy Bonderman against any Oakland starter; Oakland as underdogs of +150 or more in a start by Dallas Braden or as underdogs of any price against other than Verlander or Bonderman; UNDER Totals of 8 or higher if Braden opposes Verlander or Bonderman; OVER Totals of 8 or lower in any matchup not involving Braden, Verlander or Bonderman.
Texas at Minnesota: These teams meet for the first time this season and both start the week with slim leads in their Divisions. C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis have been Texas’ most effective starters while Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano have been Minnesota’s best starters. But the Twins’ most profitable starter has been Nick Blackburn. Despite allowing fewer than 3 runs in just 1 of his 8 starts Minnesota has gone 7-1 in his starts to reward his nervous backers 6½ units of profit to date.
RECOMMENDED PLAYS: Texas as underdogs of any price in starts by Wilson or Lewis or if at least +125 in a start by Derek Holland; Minnesota as favorites of -140 or less against other than Wilson, Lewis or Holland; UNDER Totals of 8 or higher if Wilson or Lewis opposes Pavano or Liriano; UNDER Totals or 9 or higher in any other matchup.