The first significant milepost of the 2013 season is just one week away. Memorial Day is often looked upon as a date when teams can get a pretty good assessment of what they have in terms of strengths, weaknesses and prospects going forward.
Teams will have played more than a quarter of the season with most teams around the 50 game mark.
Division races are taking shape, although only one Division leader is up by more than two and a half games. Texas leads Oakland by 6½ in the AL West.
Despite losing the bat of former MVP Josh Hamilton in the off season and having ace Matt Harrison making just two starts prior to being injured and also without another key starter, Colby Lewis, all season, the Rangers have the best record in all of baseball – 29-15.
The Rangers also lead the majors in run differential at plus 54.
Cleveland is the surprise leader of the AL Central, leading favored Detroit by two games.
Given the number of injuries and the key personnel affected, the New York Yankees’ lead in the AL East is a surprise. At 27-16 only Texas has a better record in the league. Boston also has to be considered a major surprise and starts this week just a half game behind the Yanks.
Pittsburgh has not had a winning season since 1992, though having flirted with ending that streak in each of the past two seasons. They are doing so again this season as the Pirates are 26-18 more than a quarter of the way into the 2013 campaign.
St. Louis leads that NL Central Division by 2½ games over both the Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds. Atlanta continues to lead the NL East and has emerged from a recent slump with a three game weekend sweep of Los Angeles.
The Dodgers remain a huge disappointment and the future of manager Don Mattingly remains tenuous. Not only are the Dodgers languishing at 17-25 but they are in last place in the NL West, trailing fourth place San Diego by 2½ games starting the week.
Arizona is the surprise leader of the NL West, a game ahead of both San Francisco and another surprise team, Colorado.
The other Los Angeles team, the Angels, also continues to struggle and starts the week 10 games below .500 at 17-27. They are already 12 games out of first place.
As expected, Miami and Houston are proving to be the worst teams in baseball. The Marlins and Astros have identical 12-32 records. Each team has gotten some fine pitching efforts but both lack offensive punch and are as likely to lose games 3-1 as they are to get pounded 8-2 when the pitching falters.
In the past few issues the subject of run lines has been discussed and more historical data will be presented in the coming weeks. But it is worth noting nine teams have shown strong abilities to win their games by more than a run.
These results cover all roles and sites (home, road, favorite, underdog) but at least 75 percent of these teams’ wins have been by at least two runs.
Heading the list is Atlanta with 21 of the 25 wins having been by 2 runs or more (84 percent). Detroit, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Colorado, Pittsburgh, the L.A. Dodgers, Milwaukee and St. Louis are the others.
Collectively, those nine teams have won a total of 204 games. From that 204 total, 162 have been by 2 or more runs (79.4 percent) with just 42 (20.6 percent) being by exactly 1.
Here’s a look at four interesting series to be played this weekend.
Phillies at Nationals: Both teams are flirting with .500 records with Washington a couple of games above break-even and the Phillies a couple below. The starting pitching has not been as strong as expected for each team. Cliff Lee has been brilliant for Philadelphia but Cole Hamels has been more bad than good and Roy Halladay was awful prior to being placed on the DL.
The other bright spot for Philly has been Kyle Kendrick. Stephen Strasburg has been solid for the Nats but Jordan Zimmermann has been their best starter with a 1.62 ERA and 0.87 WHIP through nine starts. Lefty Gio Gonzalez’s performance is down from last season.
A major part of both team’s struggles can be attributed to punchless offenses. Both teams are averaging an identical 3.5 runs per game, nearly three quarters of a run per game below the MLB average.
Recommended plays: UNDER 8 or higher in any matchup; UNDER 7 or higher if Lee or Kendrick opposes Strasburg or Zimmermann; Phillies as underdogs of any price in a start by Lee against any Washington starter; Kendrick at +120 or more not facing Strasburg or Zimmermann; Washington -130 or less not facing Lee or Kendrick.
Cardinals at Dodgers: These teams are having sharply contrasting seasons with the Cardinals sporting the best record in the National League, 28-15, with the best runs differential (plus 51) in the league. The Dodgers have one of the weakest offenses in all of baseball and their -38 runs differential is better than only Miami in the senior circuit.
The Dodgers do have decent pitching with Clayton Kershaw putting up Cy Young Award stats (1.40 ERA and 0.87 WHIP) through 9 starts. Zack Greinke returned from injury and looked sharp. St. Louis has also gotten strong starting pitching to compliment a solid offense. Young Shelby Miller has been outstanding with stats rivaling Kershaw’s with both Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn also off to fine starts.
Recommended plays: UNDER 8 or higher in any matchup; UNDER 7 or higher if Kershaw or Greinke oppose Wainwright or Miller; Cardinals +140 or more against Kershaw or at -120 or less against any other Dodgers starter.
Yankees at Rays: The Yanks rank near the top in allowing just 3.7 runs per game with solid starting pitching, a solid bullpen and the great Mariano Rivera a perfect 16 for 16 in converting save opportunities. CC Sabathia is having a decent season but both David Phelps and Hiroki Kuroda have been just as good.
Tampa Bay’s pitching was considered a strength but it has been less than average thus far. Ace David Price struggled before going on the DL and former ace James Shields is now in Kansas City. Matt Moore and Alex Cobb are been the only starters off to strong starts.
Recommended plays: UNDER 8 or higher in matchups of Sabathia, Kuroda or Phelps against Cobb or Moore; OVER 8.5 or lower if none of these starters is involved; Yanks +125 or more against Cobb or Moore; Rays +120 or more against Sabathia; Yankees -135 or less in a start by Kuroda against other than Cobb or Moore.
Rangers at Mariners: These teams have already met seven times this season with the Rangers winning five including a 3-game home sweep in mid April. In Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma Seattle has as potent a one-two punch at the top of the rotation as any team in baseball.
Yu Darvish and Alexi Ogando have been Texas’ most effective starters and the Rangers have won 14 of their combined 18 starts. Texas has the much better offense, averaging 4.8 runs per game.
Recommended plays: Mariners -140 or less in starts by Hernandez or Iwakuma not facing Darvish or Ogando or as -125 favorites or less with Hernandez/Iwakuma against other Texas starters; Texas -125 or less in starts by Darvish or Ogando not facing Hernandez or Iwakuma; UNDER 7 or higher if Hernandez/Iwakuma oppose Darvish/Ogando; UNDER 8 or higher if only one, or none, of those pitchers 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]