Two weeks into the new season and the early season surprise team has been the Milwaukee Brewers.
Expected by many to be improved but considered to not be strong enough to challenge for the NL Central Division title the Brew Crew has started the season 10-2 and entered this week riding a 9 game winning streak as they got set to host division rival St Louis for a three game series.
More acclaimed for the power potential of the offense, especially with slugger Ryan Braun returning from his PED-related suspension, the Brewers have been winning on the strength of some outstanding pitching. Their bullpen was a major weakness last season but the relievers have been a major positive through the season’s first two weeks.
It’s a limited sample but the five Milwaukee starters each have ERAs below 2.60 and WHIPs of 1.20 or lower, anchored by Yovani Gallardo. The very talented right hander has made three quality starts already.
The Brewers have allowed just 1.8 runs per game at home and 3.0 runs per game on the road.
The Milwaukee offense has performed well on the road (7.0 runs per game) but has struggled to score at home (2.5 rpg). As a result the Brewers have started their home season by playing 6 straight UNDERS.
Arizona continues to struggle and at 4-11 manager Kirk Gibson may be the first managerial casualty of 2014 if the Diamondbacks don’t start to improve over the next few weeks.
Kansas City is another early season disappointment with their 4-7 start after many observers picked the Royals to be this season’s version of last season’s Pittsburgh Pirates.
It’s still very early but teams with limited experience can often fall prey to early season stumbles in the face of high expectations. Many teams in this situation find it tough to recover from a disappointing start. But it’s way too early to write off the chances of the Royals to indeed contend come late summer.
Through last Sunday a total of 185 games have been played and road teams have fared fairly well, winning just under 50 percent of all games (90).
Totals results have been more pronounced with 99 OVER, 80 UNDER and 6 pushes. After a low scoring opening week run production increased this past week and for the season the average total runs per game is now 8.44 which is in line with the past couple of seasons.
As is the case in all sports early season handicapping presents some very unique challenges. You have a limited amount of current season date with which to work which combines with historical data and the performances from the most recent season from which to make wagering determinations.
Often there will be a major contrast between established performance and efforts at the start of a new season.
Yet as is also the case in all sports whereas you do not want to overreact to what you have seen most recently you also do not want to fail to react. Early season performance should be taken within the contest of it being a new season but the possibility exists that players can show improvement or decline over established levels as well.
In other words, be open minded and do not be hasty in forming perceptions and conclusions that could come back to haunt you if you are too stubborn.
Here’s a look at four series to be played this weekend.
Cardinals at Nationals: St Louis has started slower than expected at the plate. Although they’ve played just two road series the Cardinals have struggled to score away from home, averaging just 2.8 runs per game in splitting their first six road games. Yet even without those struggles this still handicaps as a low scoring series as both starting staffs are capable of pitching deep into the game, giving six or more quality innings per start.
Recommended plays: UNDER 7.5 or higher in any matchup; St Louis as underdogs of any price in starts by Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha or Joe Kelly against any Washington starter; Washington -125 or less against other than Wainwright, Wacha or Kelly
Brewers at Pirates: Last season’s surprise team hosts this season’s early surprise. Brewers have gotten outstanding starting pitching, which has lessened the burden on a bullpen that was a weakness in 2013. Pirates are expected to show regression from the team that won 94 games last season after finishing below .500 for the prior 20 seasons.
Recommended plays: Milwaukee +120 or more in any matchup or at -120 or less in starts by Yovani Gallardo, Matt Garza or Kyle Lohse not facing Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole or Francisco Liriano; Pirates -125 or less in starts by Cole or Liriano against any Milwaukee starter; UNDER 7.5 or higher in matchups of Gallardo, Garza or Lohse against Cole or Liriano; OVER 8 or lower if none of those starters is involved.
Angels at Tigers: The top two hitters in baseball meet as the Angels’ Mike Trout and the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera put their offensive prowess on display. Detroit has a pair of Cy Young winners anchoring its starting rotation with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.
Recommended plays: Angels +140 or more against Verlander or Scherzer; Tigers -130 or less in starts by other than Verlander or Scherzer against any Angels starter; OVER Totals of 8 or lower in any matchup not involving Scherzer.
Yankees at Rays: Both teams have started modestly with 7-6 records entering this week and are an identical 4-3 at home and 3-3 on the road. Considered the best manager in baseball,
Tampa Bay skipper Joe Maddon will be challenged over the next few weeks with a starting rotation that started the season without Jeremy Hellickson and is now without two more starters as Matt Moore and Alex Cobb are both on the DL and Moore’s absence could be lengthy. The Yankees have gotten solid starting pitching from a couple of new faces, Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda, in addition to Hiroki Kuroda.
Recommended plays: Tampa Bay -140 or less in starts by Price or Archer against any Yankees starter; Yankees as underdogs of any price not facing Price or Archer; Yanks -120 or less if Kuroda, Pineda or Tanaka start against pitchers other than Price or Archer; UNDER 7 or higher in matchups of Price or Archer against Kuroda, Pineda or Tanaka; OVER 8 or lower if none of those five starters is involved.
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]