Interesting developments in MLB Division and Wild Card races

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Shame on Major League Baseball! One has to wonder if the folks who run America’s former national pastime even realize that they have a problem in not just attracting new fans but in retaining the old ones.

It’s hard to believe that on Labor Day – the third major holiday that dots the 162 game regular season schedule (Memorial Day and July Fourth are the others) six teams had the day off!

In a sport that markets itself on tradition and in playing to family values the fact that the last major holiday of the summer season could find only 24 of the 30 teams in action is deplorable.

Perhaps the incoming Commissioner, Rob Manfred, with make it a point to help promote the game by not scheduling off days for teams on those three major holidays and rather encourage teams to market those holidays to families.

And while we’re at it, Mister Commish, why not throw the fans a bone by encouraging, if not mandating, that each team have at least one single admission double header – a promotion that was very popular in the “golden age of baseball” – an era that ended almost a half century ago but was still around when the television was invented and baby boomer generation took to the sport in huge numbers.

On the field, as the attention of much of the sporting public turns towards college and pro football, die hard baseball fans are gearing up for a tense September in which the 10 teams to make the playoffs will be determined.

Much can happen in the span of a week and this past week has seen some very interesting developments in both Division and Wild Card races.

Baltimore has all but wrapped up the AL East with a commanding 9 game lead over second place New York. The Angels’ weekend sweep of a four game series from Oakland has the Halos up by 5 in the AL West. The AL Central remains contentious with Kansas City up by just a half game over Detroit.

Oakland has a 4 game lead over Detroit for the first AL Wild Card and the Tigers have a half game lead over Seattle for the second. Only Cleveland, the Yankees and Toronto have any realistic chances of passing Seattle and catching the Tigers for that second Wild Card although they trail the Mariners by 2.5, 3 and 4.5 games respectively.

Washington has opened up a comfortable 6 game lead over Atlanta in the NL East but the Dodgers’ lead over San Francisco in the NL West has been trimmed to just 2.5 games. As with the AL, the Central is providing most of the Divisional drama in the National League with St. Louis having caught and tied Milwaukee. Both teams start the week 73-63 records, with Pittsburgh just 2 games behind.

San Francisco starts the week with just a one game lead for the first NL Wild Card with Brewers/Cardinals holding the second. Realistically only Atlanta and Pittsburgh are in the race for the Wild Card, trailing the Brewers/Cardinals by 1.5 and 2 games respectively. No other NL team is within 6.5 games of the second Wild Card.

Here’s a preview of four interesting weekend series.

Cardinals at Brewers

These NL Central rivals began Labor Day tied atop the division with just 26 games remaining for each. St. Louis holds a 7-5 lead in the season series and has won 4 of the 6 games played between the teams since the start of July, taking 2 of 3 games each in Milwaukee and St. Louis. After their first series in mid April produced 3 UNDER, the Cards and Brewers played 8 straight OVERs before their most recent meeting stayed UNDER.

The 12 games have produced an average of 9.7 runs per game. St. Louis now has catcher Yadia Molina back and his value to the teams is as great behind the plate handling the pitching staff as it is at the plate. Milwaukee has the better overall offense but St. Louis’ late season experience over the years cannot be discounted.

Plays: St. Louis as underdogs of any price with any starter against other than Yovani Gallardo; Milwaukee -130 or less with Gallardo against any St. Louis pitcher; Milwaukee -120 or less against Adam Wainwright; UNDER 7 or higher in matchups of St. Louis’ Wainwright or Lance Lynn against Milwaukee’s Gallardo or Mike Fiers.

Royals at Yankees

The teams have met just four times this season, all in Kansas City, with each team winning twice. The teams have played 2 OVERS and 2 UNDERS while averaging a combined 7.5 runs per game. The Yankees have much more experience in Playoff chases but this season’s team seems to lack the knockout punch of seasons past. The offense has been inconsistent and the team, as a whole, has tended to follow winning stretches with losing stretches, rather than building upon those short term winning streaks.

The pitching has been better than expected considering the three fifths of the opening day rotation is on the DL with Michael Pineda only recently returning from a lengthy DL stint. The Royals have the better rotation with James Shields, Jason Vargas, Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura each posting ERAs south of 3.50. The Royals have averaged nearly a run per game more on the road than at home.

Plays: Kansas City +120 or more in starts by Duffy, Shields, Vargas or Ventura against any Yankees starter; UNDER 8 or higher in starts by any member of that KC quartet against the Yankees’ Brandon McCarthy, Hiroki Kuroda or Pineda.

Orioles at Rays

Although Baltimore has a comfortable lead in the AL East and is battling the Angels for baseball’s best record and Tampa is merely looking to achieve a winning record this series still holds interest because two of the best managers in the game will be battling wits. Baltimore has won 11 of 16 games against the Rays this season with 6 of the games going OVER, 9 staying UNDER and 1 push.

The teams have combined to average 7.6 runs per game. Injuries have reduced Tampa Bay to playing the role of spoiler although the decision by ownership to trade ace David Price when the Rays had made a strong move over the prior month ended any realistic hopes of that run to continue. Baltimore has combined a strong lineup, average starting pitching and a solid bullpen to break away from the rest of the AL East.

Plays: Tampa Bay +120 or more in a start by Alex Cobb; Tampa Bay +130 or more in starts by Drew Smyly or Chris Archer not facing Chris Tillman or Bud Norris; Baltimore -150 or less with any starter against other than Cobb, Smyly or Archer; OVER 8.5 or lower in games not started by Baltimore’s WY Chen or Tampa’s Cobb.

Giants at Tigers

This is a critical series for both teams as both are battling for both a Division title and a Wild Card. Both teams have led their respective Divisions at times throughout the season but both start this week with ownership of a Wild Card berth.

 Both teams have relied on solid starting pitching although the Tigers have had the more potent offense. Yet star Miguel Cabrera is showing signs of wear and tear over the past month and that has been reflected in the Detroit offense having its struggles.

The Giants also have a solid edge on defense and in the bullpen but their starting rotation, anchored by Madison Bumgarner, is not as deep as Detroit’s. Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello and David Price form a top trio with former ace Justin Verlander down considerably from his efforts of the past few seasons. Veteran righty Tim Hudson has also been a reliable starter for the Giants.

Plays: San Francisco as underdogs of any price in starts by Bumgarner or Hudson against any Detroit starter; Detroit -140 or less in starts by Scherzer, Price or Porcello not facing Bumgarner or Hudson; UNDER 7.5 or higher if Scherzer, Price or Porcello oppose Bumgarner or Hudson; OVER 8.5 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]

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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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