Dodgers position themselves for future seasons

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The big news this past weekend was the huge trade between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox. 

The Dodgers assumed a quarter billion dollars of contract obligations by acquiring Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto while sending James Loney and four prospects, including a pair “to be named later” to Boston.

While it seems a high price to pay the Dodgers are positioning themselves nicely on the ball field not just for this season but for seasons to come.

And, off the field, the Dodgers have increased their attractiveness for when they negotiate a huge new television contract within the next couple of years.

For Boston this represents a virtual tearing down of the existing personnel structure and marks a virtual end to the Terry Francona/Theo Epstein era that led to a pair of World Series titles in the past decade.

It’s too early to tell but it looks like both franchises have benefited from one of the biggest trades in decades.

The Divisional and Wild Card races remain the focus of contenders as the games remaining dwindle to less than 35.

Division leaders at the start of the week are the New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox and Texas Rangers in the American League and the Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants in the National League.

Only two teams are less than four games behind their Division leaders as Detroit trails the White Sox by just 2½ games in the AL Central and the Los Angeles Dodgers are just 2 behind San Francisco in the NL West.

Tampa Bay controls the first AL Wild Card but both Baltimore and Oakland are just a half game back, tied for the second Wild Card. Detroit is another half game back and only the LA Angels, at 4 back, are the only other team less than 9 games out of the Wild Card.

In the National League, Atlanta and St Louis control the two Wild Cards with the Dodgers 1½ games back and Pittsburgh 2 behind. Only Arizona (6½) and Philadelphia (9½) are less than 10 games out of the Wild Card chase.

Here’s a look at four key series this weekend.

Cardinals at Nationals: These teams are meeting for the first time this season and will play again at the end of September. Washington has led the NL East for much of the season but starts the week having lost four in a row. St. Louis has been lurking in the NL Central and has finally overtaken Pittsburgh for second place behind Cincinnati.

Washington’s success has been largely due to their outstanding starting pitching. The Cardinals have gotten decent starting pitching all season but it’s been their offense that has them in contention. The Cards lead all of baseball with a plus 126 runs differential.

Veterans Kyle Lohse and Adam Wainwright have been the mainstays of the St. Louis rotation while the Nationals have been led by the trio of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann. Note that Lohse’s starts have shown a pronounced tendency towards the UNDER, going 17-8-1.

Potential plays:

• Cardinals +140 or more in any matchup.

• Nationals -125 or less in starts by Strasburg, Gonzalez or Zimmermann against any Cardinals starter.

• UNDER 7 or higher if Lohse or Wainwright oppose Strasburg, Gonzalez or Zimmermann.

• OVER 8 or lower if St. Louis’ Jaime Garcia or Lance Lynn oppose the Nats’ Edwin Jackson or Ross Detwiler.

D’backs at Dodgers: Arizona has won 8 of 12 meetings this season including each of their last 6. The UNDER holds a 7-5 edge with the teams averaging 8.3 total runs per contest. The Dodgers are a much stronger team now with several key additions both at the trade deadline and over the past weekend.

Arizona remains in Wild Card contention albeit with a .500 record. Arizona’s most consistent starter has been Wade Miley although highly touted prospect Tyler Skaggs, impressive in his debut, has been added to the rotation. The Dodgers have been led by Clayton Kershaw. 

Chad Billingsley had been red hot since the All Star break but is currently on the DL and it remains to be seen in Josh Beckett can regain his old form now that he is out of Boston.

Potential plays:

• Dodgers -125 in any matchup except against Miley.

• D’backs as underdogs of any price in a start by Miley.

• D’backs +150 or more against Kershaw.

• UNDER 8 or higher in any matchup.

• UNDER 7 or higher if Miley opposes Kershaw.

• OVER 7 or lower if Miley, Skaggs or Kershaw are not involved.

Orioles at Yankees: Baltimore refuses to fade, starting the week just 4½ games behind the Yankees in the AL East and tied with Oakland for the second AL Wild Card. New York holds a slim 6-5 edge in the season series. The UNDER holds a 7-4 edge with the teams averaging 9.4 runs per game in 11 meetings.

Both teams have more offense than pitching. Statistically Hiroki Kuroda has been New York’s best starter although CC Sabathia remains the staff ace. David Phelps has been decent since joining the rotation.

The Orioles really do not have an ace although they could benefit from their recent trade with Arizona for lefty Joe Saunders who has been in the National League the past few seasons.

Potential plays:

• OVER 9 or lower in any pitching matchup.

• Yankees -150 or less in any matchup.

• Orioles +160 or more in any matchup.

White Sox at Tigers: Detroit has won 7 of 11 meetings this season including a 3-game home sweep in late July. The UNDER is 7-3-1 with the teams averaging 8.2 total runs per game. Detroit’s Justin Verlander is the best pitcher in this series although Chicago’s Chris Sale is enjoying a season that is not that far off statistically from Verlander.

Max Scherzer has also had a fine season for the Tigers while Jake Peavy has been consistently good for the Pale Hose. Surprisingly, the White Sox have a significant edge in runs differential (plus 75 versus plus 32) as the White Sox have an underrated offense.

This is a chance for the Tigers to close the gap on Chicago in the AL Central. Starting the week the Tigers trail the Sox by 2½ games for the Division lead.

Potential plays:

• White Sox as underdogs of any price in a start by Sale.

• White Sox +120 or more in a start by Peavy against Verlander or Scherzer.

• Tigers -150 or less in a start by Verlander not facing Peavy or Sale.

• OVER 9 or lower in starts not involving Scherzer, Verlander, Peavy or Sale.

• UNDER 8 or higher if Scherzer or Verlander oppose Sale or Peavy.

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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