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The 2017 season is barely two weeks old and teams have played about a dozen games so it is still way too early to form meaningful opinions as to how the season will play out.

But it is worth noting some signs may point to certain teams that could exceed expectations or fall short of them. Aside from contending for Division Titles or Wild Cards, Season Win Totals continue to provide a tangible measure of a team’s expectations entering the season.

Of course the long 162-game season is marked by multiple winning and losing streaks, with some of them lengthy in nature. Even by the end of this week barely 10 percent of the season will have been played. We’ve long been told you cannot win a pennant in April but you can lose it.

While the first half of that bromide is clearly true the latter part is technically not, but the inference is clear. A poor start means a team will have much more ground to make up than teams that are off to middling or strong starts. Thus, to whatever extent possible, avoiding a poor start is a primary goal of every team at the beginning of the season.

The team off to the worst start has been Toronto. Picked by many to either win the AL East or at least make the Playoffs as a Wild Card, the Blue Jays have begun 2-10 – worst in franchise history. It’s also the worst record among MLB’s 30 teams entering the week.

What was thought to be a still potent offense despite the departure of slugger Edwin Encarnacion, the Toronto bats have been silent. And now Josh Donaldson is on the DL. The pitching staff has not picked up the slack and now a couple of their starters are dealing with injury issues (JA Happ and Aaron Sanchez).

Might John Gibbons be the first managerial casualty of the 2017 season? Just a month ago Gibbons was rewarded with a two-year contract extension so that possibility is unlikely. But strange things have been known to happen over the years and a continued free fall might cause ownership to make a tough decision. The Blue Jays’ Season Wins Total was 85.5.

The New York Yankees started this week with baseball’s longest current winning streak, seven games, which has the Bronx Bombers off to an 8-4 start. Sunday night’s win over St. Louis may be a sign of how the Yankees plan to contend in coming seasons with the youth movement undertaken in the middle of last season. Homers by Aaron Hicks and Greg Bird, and contributions from Aaron Judge, keyed the offense.

And that’s with another of the young studs, catcher Gary Sanchez, on the DL perhaps till mid-May. The starting pitching, considered a major question mark entering the season, has been much better than expected. Again, it’s early and the last six of those seven straight wins have been at home. The Yanks’ Wins Total was 83.5 but the early season start has to be, at least, considered encouraging.

James Paxton of Seattle is showing signs of being this season’s breakout starting pitcher. Through his first three starts, the 28-year-old lefty has tossed 21 scoreless innings, allowing just eight hits and four walks while striking out 22. And he’s faced a pair of pretty good offenses – Houston twice and Texas once. The Mariners were expected to contend in the AL West with a projected Wins Total of 86.5.

If Paxton continues to pitch well the M’s have a solid trio at the top of the rotation along with Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma (although King Felix has shown signs of being in the start of a slow but steady career decline at the age of 31).

Cleveland’s 5-7 start has been an early disappointment as has been the 4-8 beginning by Texas, the 5-9 opening by San Francisco and the woeful 3-9 posted by St. Louis. Of this quartet the Cardinals have the most to be concerned.

Kansas City is on a 4-game win streak starting the week with a big rematch set with San Francisco.

All four of these teams are projected to finish the season with winning records so we might wait for a signal – perhaps a two- or three- game winning streak – to begin to play on these teams, especially if they are priced with too much emphasis being placed on their poor early season current form.

Here’s a look at three series this weekend.

Washington at NY Mets: The Mets and Nationals are projected to be far and away the best teams in the NL East, with Miami projected third in the Division with 76 wins whereas the Nats and Mets are projected to win 91 and 89 games respectively. Both, however, are off to average starts (7-5 and 7-6) while Miami has started 7-5 and tied with the Nats for the Division lead (another sign that it’s very, very early). Both the Mets and Nats have outstanding starting pitching.

The Mets’ top trio of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob DeGrom and Matt Harvey have been outstanding. Eight of their combined nine starts have been Quality Starts using my definition of pitching at least six innings while allowing two earned runs or less. But Washington’s rotation has been even better with their top four starters (Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark) combining for nine Quality Starts in 11 outings.

That starting pitching will set the tone for this series with UNDER the play when any of those seven starters match up, including a play on the First 5 Innings UNDER at Totals of 3.5 or higher. Similarly, consider playing either team as underdogs of +120 or more in such a matchup. If any of the three games features one of the above starters against one not mentioned, consider laying up to -150 with whichever of the seven starts the game. If neither of the starters is from this list consider playing both the UNDERDOG and the OVER.

Boston at Baltimore: The Orioles, projected to win just 80.5 games, are off to an 8-3 start whereas Boston, projected at 92 wins, has started 8-5 following Monday morning’s Patriots Day win over Tampa Bay. Newly acquired lefty starter Chris Sale has been brilliant for Boston through his first three starts but the rest of the rotation has struggled.

Baltimore’s rotation has been average at best although Dylan Bundy has pitched well through three starts. Both teams are more noted for offense rather than pitching although both have outstanding closers. But Baltimore’s Zach Britton will be sidelined for this series as he was just put on the 10 day DL.

Look for this to be a predictably high scoring series and consider playing the OVER, especially at Totals of 9 or lower in all games not started by Sale. If Sale gets a start and the Total is higher than 8 consider the UNDER against any Baltimore starter. Also look to play the Underdog in any game not involving Sale. The ace lefty can be backed up to -140, which might be possible considering the Red Sox are on the road for this series.

NY Yankees at Pittsburgh: This weekend’s lone Interleague series involves two teams projected to finish the season within a few games of .500 with neither likely to challenge for even a Wild Card. Yet the first two weeks have given early signs that those expectations might be more likely to be exceeded than to have been set too high. After winning just once at Wrigley Field in 2016 the Pirates just swept a three-game series against the Cubs this past weekend.

The Yankees started the week off back-to-back home sweeps of Tampa Bay and St. Louis. The Yankees have the better balanced lineup that blends both established veterans and youth starting to mature. Neither team has outstanding pitching although both staffs’ starters have performed better than expected. The Pirates’ Jameson Taillion has been outstanding, fashioning a 0.90 ERA and 1.15 WHIP over nearly 21 innings in his three starts. Veteran lefty C C Sabathia has pitched almost equally as well for the Yankees.

Use a Total of 8 as a guideline for this series. Look to play OVER Totals of less than 8 and UNDER Totals higher than 8. As is often the case in these previews, look first to the Underdog before going to the Favorite. If either team is priced at +130 or more regardless of the matchup, look to play that side. These teams are similar in many respects although the Yankees do have the greater upside, both in the short term and going forward.

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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