By Memorial Day start rating MLB teams

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Just over a quarter of the 2016 baseball season has been played with the first significant milepost of the season – Memorial Day – less than a week away. It is at this point of the season that reasonable assessments can be made about teams.

Each season there are teams that get off to surprisingly strong or weak starts relative to spring training expectations. Some teams continue along that path for the remainder of the season. Others start to reverse direction and play as had been expected.

As we hit that milestone next week’s column will take a division by division look with an eye toward finding teams worth backing or fading in the short term and highlighting some teams that might be able to carry their starts to potential playoff appearances.

As we approach the Memorial Day weekend it is worth noting none of the current American League divisional leaders made the playoffs last season. Baltimore and Boston started this week tied atop the AL East with the Chicago White Sox leading the AL Central and Seattle holding the lead in the AL West.

In the National League only the Central Division leading Chicago Cubs were in last season’s playoffs. The NL East leading Washington Nationals and the San Francisco Giants, leaders of the NL West, were also on the sidelines after the 2015 regular season ended.

Several playoff teams from last season have struggled through the first quarter of 2016, most notably Houston. After making great strides in 2015 and earning an AL Wild Card the ‘Stros started this week with the second worst record in the league, 17-28.

From the AL East both Toronto and the New York Yankees had losing records through Sunday. Defending World Series champion Kansas City started the week just 22-21. Only defending AL West champ Texas has started strongly, standing 25-19 and a game and a half behind Seattle.

The defending NL Champion New York Mets are 25-18 and just a game and a half behind Washington in the NL East. Pittsburgh and St Louis trail the Cubs in the NL Central but both have winning records. The Dodgers are the only NL playoff team from last season with a current losing record, 22-23.

With nearly 120 games left to be played much can, and will, change in the coming months and, as noted above, possible ways of profiting from the changes will be discussed next week.

Here’s a look at three weekend series.

Dodgers at Mets: These teams split their four game series in LA played in early May. Three of the games stayed UNDER the Total and the fourth went OVER by a half run with the Total 6.5 in the Mets’ 4-3 win. A total of just 23 runs were scored in a series heavy on pitching and light on hitting. Two of the game’s top pitchers should see action with the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard having outstanding seasons to date.

Kershaw’s numbers are astounding with Syndergaard’s not far behind. Look to play the UNDER when either gets the start as either is capable of tossing a shutout each time he toes the rubber. The Mets’ Steven Matz has also been brilliant with 6 strong outings following his rough 2016 debut. His start can also be looked at for an UNDER play. The two “go against” starters in this series should be the Mets’ Matt Harvey and the Dodgers’ Scott Kazmir as both have struggled in the vast majority of their 2016 starts.

Also struggling have been the Mets’ Bartolo Colon and Dodgers’ rookie Ross Stripling (who has been unable to match his initial start in which he was taken out in the eight inning while tossing a no hitter). In matchups involving two of the four go against starters, look either OVER a Total of 7.5 or lower or play the Underdog if getting plus 120 or more.

Red Sox at Jays: The AL East rivals are playing their third series of the young season. During an 11 day stretch in April, Boston took 2 of 3 in Toronto followed by a split of a four game series in Boston. After their first 2 games went OVER the Total the last 5 have all stayed UNDER. That is a surprise considering the potent lineups and the average, at best, overall pitching.

In their 7 games the teams have averaged 8.4 total runs per contest. Despite those results this still handicaps as a high scoring series and the OVER would be playable, in most matchups, provided the Total is no higher than 9 and preferably at 8.5 or lower. 7 of Boston ace (and ex-Blue Jay) David Price’s 9 starts have gone OVER the Total, with 1 UNDER and 1 push.

The two starters involved in more UNDERs than OVERs have been Toronto’s Marco Estrada (7 UNDERs and 1 OVER) and Boston knuckleballer Stephen Wright (6 UNDERs, 2 OVERs). There starts can be played UNDER but only if we get a Total of 9 or higher.

Pirates at Rangers: Both teams were expected to reprise their playoff appearances of last season. Both teams have modest winning records through the first quarter of the season with Pittsburgh standing 23-19 through Sunday and Texas 25-19. The big news for Texas is the return of former ace Yu Darvish who returns from missing all of 2015 due to injury and is scheduled to start Saturday.

Current ace Cole Hamels has been very strong and veteran Colby Lewis has also pitched well. Hamels can be played against any Pittsburgh starter, laying up to minus 140. Lewis can be played against other than Gerrit Cole but only if favored by minus 120 or less. The Pirates can be backed in a start by Cole against other than Hamels as an underdog or if favored by no more than minus 125.

Pittsburgh can be played as an underdog of plus 125 or more against Darvish but you might wish to consider a First Five Innings play if other than Cole gets the start due to the dropoff in quality between Cole and the other Pirate starters. The OVER can be considered in starts not made by Cole or Hamels provided the Total is no higher than 9. Texas lefty Derek Holland remains on the ‘go against’ list and the Pirates may be played as underdogs against him with the OVER also a consideration provided Cole does not start for the Pirates.

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]

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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