Just over one fifth of the regular season has been played. It’s just a matter of time until we see the first managerial change of the season as already a number of managers are on the “hot seat.”
Last weekend’s three-game series sweep at Seattle may have temporarily reduced the heat on the LA Angels’ Mike Scioscia but the veteran skipper has been under fire from Angels fans for the past few seasons. It’s been nearly a decade and a half since he led the Angels to the 2002 World Series title.
The starting pitching is in terrible shape and the Angels are still on pace to fall way short of their projected 79 wins. Another stretch of poor play that propels the club to a dozen or so games below .500 (they started this week 16-21) could cause the flames to intensify.
Given little to work with in a season expected to be a poor one, Atlanta’s Fredi Gonzalez might be the first skipper to depart. At 9-27 the Braves are on a pace to win just 40 games, well below their projected 67.
That projection is tied with Philadelphia for the lowest total and some critics might point to the Phillies’ 22-16 start as showing a stark difference between a pair of teams considered equal starting the season. Although the Phillies have clearly played above what their talent level suggests, it’s hard to find an explanation for the Braves winning just nine games this far into the season.
Only Minnesota is close to Atlanta in futility with 10 wins. No other team had fewer than 15 through Sunday.
However the Twins’ Paul Molitor should be in no danger of losing his job despite the 10-26 start. Last season as a rookie skipper, Molitor had his team in Wild Card contention well into September, ending with 83 wins, an increase of a baker’s dozen from 2014’s 70-92 mark.
After losing from 92 to 99 games between 2011 and 2014 some regression from last season could be expected in 2016. Molitor is highly thought of in baseball circles and the Twins will be patient as the young team matures.
Through the first month-and-a-half of the season home teams and road teams have nearly identical records. Home teams have 279 wins, compared to 281 for those on the road. Totals results are only slightly disparate with 270 OVER, 257 UNDER and 32 ending in pushes. There is one game with no Totals result due to being called prior to going the required distance.
The average game has produced 8.6 runs, up slightly from 8.5 last season.
Here’s a preview of three series for this weekend.
Cubs at Giants
These teams are meeting for the first time. Each is considered a solid contender to both make the Playoffs and win the World Series. The Cubs are off to one of the best starts of the past half century, standing 27-9 through Sunday and outscoring the opposition 214 to 105. That runs differential of plus 109 is 50 better than second best Boston.
The Giants were a .500 team before their four-game sweep at Arizona over the weekend. Both teams have been able to use the same five-man rotation thus far. Overall the Cubs starters have performed better with John Lackey having the only ERA above 2.80 (3.53). But his 0.97 WHIP ranks only behind ace Jake Arrieta’s 0.84. The laggard in the WHIP department has been Jason Hammel whose 1.20 WHIP would be in the top two of most staffs.
The Giants have more of a gap in the quality of their starters with Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija off to strong starts. Each has an ERA below 3.00 and WHIPs below 1.30. But Matt Cain and Jake Peavy have been awful and their starts can be considered for OVER plays in what otherwise projects as a low scoring series. The Giants are 17-6 in starts by those top three starters but just 5-11 in starts by Cain and Peavy.
The Cubs are 8-0 in Arrieta’s starts, 6-1 in Hammel’s starts and 6-2 when Jon Lester starts. The starting pitching dynamics suggest the Total might offer the best opportunities throughout this series. Matchups involving San Francisco’s Bumgarner, Cueto or Samardzija against the Cubs’ Arrieta, Hammel or Lester can be looked to play UNDER Totals of 6 or higher, especially with none of the games scheduled to start before 4:15 p.m. local time. Over Totals of 7 or lower can be considered if Cain or Peavy start for the Giants and face other than Arrieta or Lester.
Depending on the matchups the Cubs could be favored in all three games, especially if MadBum is matched against Arrieta (or perhaps even Lester). The Cubs have the better overall roster by a decent margin and can be played as favorites of up to -125 in starts by Arrieta or Lester against MadBum, Cueto or Samardzija or up to -150 against Cain or Peavy. San Francisco can be played in starts by Bumgarner, Cueto or Samardzija against other than Arrieta or Lester up to -120.
Royals at White Sox
These AL Central Division rivals meet for the first time in 2016. As surprising as the White Sox have been in starting 24-14 the defending World Series champion Royals have been equally as disappointing in starting 18-19, and with a runs differential of -18. Starting pitching has been the major explanation for the starts of both teams. The White Sox are a combined 14-2 in starts by Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, each of whom has an ERA below 1.75 and a WHIP below 1.00. The Sox are also 6-1 behind journeyman Mat Latos who has more modest stats but still ones that are above average.
The Royals’ best starters have been Edinson Volquez and newcomer Ian Kennedy. Kennedy has been the better of the two with his 3.25 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. Volquez’ stats are more along the lines of Latos’. Chicago’s offense has been more productive by about a run per game. KC has one of the better bullpens in MLB but one that has been less productive than last season, partly because the starters have not gone as deep into games and partly because the Royals have not had as many late leads.
The best way to approach this series would be to back the White Sox in starts by Sale or Quintana when laying -150 or less and looking to back the Royals when other White Sox hurlers take the bump, provided KC is the underdog. The Totals preference is for the UNDER, especially in matchups involving the aforementioned Sale or Quintana for the Sox and KC’s Kennedy or Volquez. In such matchups Totals of 7 or higher can be played UNDER. If only one of those starters is involved the Total should be 8 or higher before considering the UNDER. And if none of those four are involved go OVER 8.5.
Mariners at Reds
Cincinnati is completing a full week of interleague playing after playing a pair of home and away games against state foe Cleveland. Seattle is considered a contender in the AL West whereas little is expected of the Reds. And sure enough both teams have gotten off to those expected starts a fifth of the way into the season. The Reds have started 15-22 whereas the Mariners are almost exactly the reverse, 21-16.
Seattle’s offense has been slightly better than average and Cincinnati’s slightly below. The big difference has been on the mound and in the field. Only Milwaukee (205) has allowed more runs than the Reds (203). The Mariners have allowed 139. The MLB average in runs scored-allowed is 161.
Cincinnati has been beset by injuries to their starting pitching as already nine different pitchers have started games. But its their bullpen that has been historically poor (and carries one of my worst ratings of the past 20 seasons). The Mariners have used just five starters thus far with veteran Felix Hernandez and young Taijuan Walker posting the best stats.
Hernandez’ velocity is down from recent seasons but, interestingly, so are more than a handful of “elite” starters. Which begs the question of whether their velocity truly is down or perhaps there has been a recalibrattion of the measuring devices that has not been disclosed or detected. Cincinnati’s starters cannot be considered, which makes Seattle or OVER the preferred way to look depending matchups.
Hernandez and Walker have combined for 11 UNDERS, 2 OVERS and 2 pushes in their combined 15 starts. Thus, the OVER can be considered in games started by other than that duo, provided the Total is 9 or less. Seattle is playable in starts by Hernandez or Walker against any Cincinnati starter if the M’s are priced no higher than -150.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to GamingToday readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Email: [email protected]