The long marathon that is the 162 game regular season has come to an end.
Detroit’s win over Minnesota gave the Tigers the AL Central Title last Sunday with second place Kansas City settling for the top AL Wild Card. When Oakland won at Texas the Athletics took the second Wild Card and eliminated Seattle. When Pittsburgh lost at Cincinnati the St. Louis Cardinals won the NL Central title with Pittsburgh securing the top Wild Card.
Kansas City hosts Oakland on Tuesday followed by Pittsburgh entertaining San Francisco one night later. Awaiting the winners of the Wild Card games are the teams with the best records in each league, the Los Angeles Angels and Washington Nationals.
Baltimore faces Detroit in the best-of-five ALDS while the Dodgers meet St. Louis in the NLDS.
Sunday also marked the final game in the Hall of Fame career of the Yankees’ Derek Jeter and Washington’s Jordan Zimmermann pitching a no hitter – one procured with a sensational catch for the final out by Steven Souza – who entered the game as a defensive replacement.
With the Orioles and Angels being the top two seeds in the AL and the Nationals and Dodgers being the top two in the NL, the “yes” for “any” such matchup might be close to pick ‘em or even a slight underdog.
A’s at Royals: KC starts James Shields against Oakland’s Jon Lester who was acquired in what is considered now to have been a controversial trade with Boston with power hitter Yoenis Cespedes going back to Fenway.
That trade at the end of July seems to have been the catalyst for Oakland’s downward spiral that saw the Athletics drop from having the best record in baseball to needing a win on the season’s final day just to make the Playoffs. Kansas City is in the postseason for the first time since winning the World Series in 1985, a drought of 29 seasons.
Surprisingly, given Oakland’s woes of the past two months (19-31 in its last 50 games) Kansas City with Shields is just a slight 110 favorite. The Total is 6.5 and shaded slightly to the UNDER.
Over the past 4 seasons, with both Tampa Bay and Kansas City, Shields has started only 5 games against Oakland and his team is 3-2 in those starts although Shields’ ERA vs. the Athletics is 4.37 with a WHIP of 1.03 covering 35 innings. The Royals won both of his 2014 starts against Oakland but Shields pitched much better in the win at Oakland than in the win at home.
With both Boston and Oakland Lester has made 8 starts against Kansas City since 2011 and his teams are 5-3 in them. In those 8 starts Lester has posted 2.29 ERA over 51 innings with a WHIP of 1.24.
Forecast: KC advancing to face LA Angels. But if Oakland wins they would make for a very attractive underdog as they will have a significant advantage in starting pitching over the Angels.
Giants at Pirates: It’s Edinson Volquez opposing San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner. Both teams had hot streaks and slumps over the season but each played better than .600 baseball over the final month of the season.
With San Francisco having much more post season experience than Pittsburgh and a solid edge in the respective starting pitchers, the Giants and Bumgarner opened as 110 favorites. The Total is 6 with the OVER at -120.
Since 2011 Bumgarner has made just 4 starts against Pittsburgh and the Giants are just 1-3 in those outings. MadBum pitched a total of 25 innings in those starts with a 3.24 ERA and WHIP of 1.20. Volquez has made 8 starts against the Giants and his teams are 1-7.
Forecast: It’s hard to overlook the experience edge with the Giants who have two World Series titles in the past four seasons. The Giants should do enough to escape with a win and face Washington in the NLDS.
Tigers at Orioles: Starts Thursday. Detroit took 4 of 6 games from Baltimore this season and should be slight underdogs. Baltimore has had a magical season, relying on a solid lineup and better-than-perceived bullpen to support a rather ordinary starting rotation, an area in which Detroit has a clear advantage.
Detroit also has a very solid lineup, anchored by Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers’ glaring weakness is its bullpen but it could be bolstered by the use of some starters such as Rick Porcello and Anibal Sanchez, who might not get starts due to the presence of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and David Price.
Forecast: The Tigers would be playable to win the series at +125 or more while Baltimore would be playable laying -125 or less.
Cards at Dodgers: In the NL the Dodgers won 3 of 4 home games against St. Louis in late June and the Cardinals took 2 of 3 from the Dodgers at home in mid-July.
The Dodgers have the best starting pitcher on the planet, Clayton Kershaw, with a pair of nice starters behind him in Zach Greinke and H J Ryu. The Cardinals have an ace of their own in Adam Wainwright with Lance Lynn and Michael Wacha next in line.
Forecast: The Dodgers should be solid favorites to get by the Cardinals and advance to the NLCS but can only be recommended if not priced higher than -140. Should the Cardinals be priced at +140 or higher, the value would be with them.
Nationals vs. WC winner: Washington has one of the deepest rotations in the Playoffs with Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and even young Tanner Roark all worthy of backing, especially as underdogs. The Nationals should be solid favorites over either Pittsburgh or San Francisco and can be played as favorites to win at -150 or less.
Angels vs. WC winner: Considering the recent failures of the A’s and their late season swoon it would take a price of at least +150 to be interested in backing them to defeat their Division rivals. The Royals would be playable at a price of +160 or higher. Otherwise, the Angels, if laying no more than -150, would be playable to get by either Kansas City or Oakland.
The expectation is Baltimore meeting the Angels and Washington facing the Dodgers for the NL pennant.
Of the other possibilities Detroit is the most likely AL team to get by one of the favorites. In the NL it is much harder to see either the Dodgers or Nationals being upset although considering their recent postseason success St. Louis would have to be given the best chance of pulling an upset.
Next week: Once the Divisional Series are underway, this column will focus on how those series may play out based on where they stand after the weekend. Enjoy the action!
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]