American League had decisive edge versus National League

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The mathematical midpoint of the season is just over a week away as teams approach game 81. That milepost will occur right around July 4 with the All Star break taking place a week later.

Interleague play for the 2012 regular season has ended and the final results show the American League once again enjoyed a decisive edge versus their National League brethren. The edge was almost identical both home and away.

AL teams won 70 of 126 home games (55.6 percent) but fared even better on the road, winning 72 of 126 games (57.1 percent).

But on a profit/loss basis the road performance was much more impressive. Backing AL teams at home actually showed a net loss of just under three units despite the record of being 14 games above .500. Yet on the road, while being 18 games above .500 the small home loss turned into a healthy road profit of plus 23.2 units.

In general, this results from most teams being more heavily favored (or less of an underdog) at home than they are on the road.

The 256 Interleague games produced an average of 8.7 runs. The average total runs scored at AL venues was about a quarter of a run per game higher than in NL parks.

The trade deadline is a month away, but the first big name to change teams is Kevin Youkilis, the aging and oft injured basemen. Boston traded Youkilis to the Chicago White Sox for Zach Stewart, a middle to back of the rotation starter, and Brent Lillibridge, a utility infielder. The White Sox need an every day third baseman while for Boston the trade opens the way for the up and coming Will Middlebrooks to become the full time third sacker.

Here’s a look at four series to be played this weekend as the calendar turns from June to July and the Independence Day milepost approaches.

Nationals at Braves: Washington swept a three game series in Atlanta in late May before the teams split a pair of games in Washington a week later. The three games in Atlanta each stayed UNDER the total while the pair played in the nation’s capital both went OVER. Washington has the second best record in the NL and leads the Eastern Division by 3½ games over the Mets. Atlanta starts the week in third, just a half game behind the Mets.

The Braves were dealt a severe blow with the season ending injury to righty starting pitcher Brandon Beachy who was having an outstanding season. Yet despite Beachy’s stats, which were by far the best of any Atlanta starter, the Braves were just 7-6 in his 13 starts. But both Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson have been having decent seasons while Jair Jurrjens was very sharp in his recall from the minors after being absolutely terrible in his 4 April starts that caused his demotion. 

Pitching has been the reason Washington has had such a strong season as their bats have struggled. Through this past Sunday the Nationals had scored three runs or less in 37 of their 70 games while scoring six or more just 17 times. With the recent demotion of CM Wang to the bullpen, each of the current five starters has an ERA below 3.55 with four under 3.00. The Nats have won 23 of the 28 combined starts made by Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez but are just 17-21 behind the other three (Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler). Atlanta’s offense is only slightly better than Washington’s but does have better depth and balance.

Potential plays:

• Nats +120 or greater against Hanson or Hudson.

• Nats as underdogs of any price against other Atlanta starter.

• UNDER 8 or higher in any matchup.

Reds at Giants: In the teams’ lone prior meeting this season the Reds took two of three home games in late May with the OVER going 2-1. These teams start the week with virtually identical records. Cincinnati has a slim one game lead in the NL Central while the Giants sit second in the West, three behind the Dodgers. 

The Giants’ strength is pitching, especially their top three starters of Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong. Two time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum continues to struggle. Cincinnati’s ace has been Johnny Cueto and he’s been far and away the best of any Reds’ starter this season. 

Cincinnati’s strength is at the plate and the Reds are averaging more runs per game on the road (4.0) than the Giants are averaging at home (3.3). The stats suggest this could be a low scoring series as the Giants have played 11 OVERS and 22 UNDERS at home (with 2 pushes) and the Reds 14 OVERS, 21 UNDERS on the road.

Potential plays:

• Reds as underdogs of any price in a start by Cueto.

• Reds +150 or more against Bumgarner, Cain or Vogelsong.

• Reds -125 or less in a start by Cueto against other Giants starters.

• Reds as underdogs of any price with any other starter against Lincecum or Barry Zito.

• UNDER 7 or higher if Cueto or Bronson Arroyo face Bumgarner, Cain or Zito.

• UNDER 8 or higher in starts not involving Lincecum or Zito.

Indians at Orioles: Both teams are surprise contenders in their respective divisions. They meet for the first time this season. Baltimore starts the week 2½ games behind the Yankees in the AL East but with the third best record in the league. Cleveland awoke Monday morning a half game behind the first place White Sox in the AL Central The Indians have stayed in contention despite the lack of quality starting pitching with only Justin Masterson putting up average stats. 

However Ubaldo Jimenez has recently regained the form that he displayed a few years ago in Colorado and has had three outstanding performances in his last 3 road starts. Baltimore’s starting staff has been slightly more effective with Jason Hammel being the second most profitable starter in all of MLB thus far this season. The Orioles have won 11 of Hammel’s 14 starts, rewarding backers to the tune of plus 10.2 units. Hammel’s stats are solid with a 2.61 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 3.0 strikeout to walk ratio. 

Lefty rookie W Y Chen has also been decent and his stats are fairly similar to those of Cleveland’s Masterson. This has the makings of a high scoring series with Baltimore scoring a run more per game at home (4.8) than on the road (3.8) and Cleveland doing nearly the reverse, averaging 4.9 runs per game on the road but just 4.0 per game at home. 

Baltimore has been baseball’s most profitable teams overall at the betting windows, netting just under 17 units of profit to date. The Indians have also been profitable with all of their 3.6 units of profit coming on the road. The Tribe has been exactly break even at home. Oddly, the Orioles have been involved in just 2 OVERS and 12 UNDERS when lefty Brian Matusz starts. His key stats (4.99 ERA. 1.61 WHIP) suggest the opposite would be more likely to occur. Note that both bullpens have excellent closers, Baltimore’s Jim Johnson and Cleveland’s Chris Perez.

Potential plays:

• Orioles as underdogs of any price in any matchup.

• Orioles -150 or less in a start by Hammel.

• Indians +140 or higher not facing Hammel.

• Indians as underdogs of any price in a start by Jimenez.

• OVER 9 or lower in any matchup not involving Jimenez, Hammel or Matusz.

• UNDER 9 or higher in a starts by Jimenez or Hammel.

• UNDER 9½ or higher in a start by Matusz.

Tigers at Rays: Detroit took 2 of 3 at home from the Rays in the teams’ lone prior meeting back in mid-April. Detroit has been a major disappointment this season. Expected to easily win the AL Central title, the Tigers start the week in third place, three games behind leading Chicago and two games below .500. Other than ace Justin Verlander and the crafty, but injury prone, Doug Fister the Tigers rotation has been weak. The poor defense has been a concern for several seasons.

Tampa Bay’s pitching is solid but below the levels of the past few seasons. Lefty David Price is acknowledged as the staff ace while young lefty Matt Moore appears to have overcome a shaky start and has pitched much better of late. James Shields has been steady, but has not been as reliable as he was last season. 

Despite the addition of powerful Prince Fielder to the lineup the Tigers have been average at the plate, scoring just 4.3 runs per game — the same average as the supposedly weaker Rays. Playing in the highly competitive AL East, where all five teams have winning records, the Rays are eight games above .500.

Potential plays:

• Rays +125 or more against Verlander.

• Rays -140 or less against other Tiger starters.

• Tigers -130 or less in a start by Verlander.

• Tigers +150 or more against any Tampa starter.

• UNDER 7 or higher if Verlander or Fister faces Price.

• OVER 8 or lower if Price, Fister and Verlander are not involved.

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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