Los Angeles Angels’ Albert Pujols struggles started April

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With more than a fifth of the schedule having been played it’s about the time at which concern must be shown when discussing the slow starts by many of the game’s top players.

Most noteworthy whose struggles started in early April and have continued into mid May is Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels. But take a look at the early season numbers being posted by proven veterans such as Mark Teixiera, Kevin Youkilis and a host of others.

The first six weeks of the season have produced fairly even results with home teams winning slightly over 51 percent (a 265-250 record). Totals have also been fairly evenly distributed with UNDERS holding a 256-241 edge against OVERS with 17 games pushing.

What’s worth noting is that the average total line thus far has been rather low at 7.85, down from 8.10 in 2011 when we saw pitchers dominate hitters.

In 2012 we’ve already seen quite a few totals of 6 or 6.5, especially in the National League while 7 and 7.5 have become more commonplace in the AL. Interleague play begins with a single series of games this weekend before continuing in full force with consecutive series next month.

With Houston moving to the AL in 2013, requiring an interleague series to be played throughout the season, this will be the final season of isolated interleague play prior to the World Series.

In 2011 the AL won 131 of the 252 regular season interleague games (52 percent). The AL has had the better regular season interleague mark for eight straight seasons with the NL’s last edge coming in 2003. However the gap has narrowed in each of the last 3 seasons.

In 2011, 106 interleague games went OVER the total with 125 staying UNDER. That’s slightly more than 54 percent UNDER ignoring the 20 pushes and single non-result due to a rain shortened game.

Here’s a look at three of the more attractive interleague series that will be played this weekend along with the lone series going on between National League teams.

Cards at Dodgers

St. Louis and L.A. play the lone non-interleague series this week and both teams have gotten off to very strong starts a month and a half into the season. The Dodgers have the best record in baseball at 23-11. The Cardinals are 20-14 and lead the NL Central.

Both teams have gotten excellent starting pitching with only Aaron Harang of the Dodgers and the duo of Jaime Garcia and Adam Wainwright of the Cards posting below average statistics. St. Louis has been more productive on offense although the Dodgers have been above average at the plate.

Dodgers star outfielder Matt Kemp was injured on Sunday and his status for this series remains questionable pending some tests on Monday. Still this handicaps as a series dominated by pitching which often makes the underdog an attractive play in matchups between a pair of top flight pitchers.

Potential plays:

• LA as underdogs of any price in a start by Clayton Kershaw.

• LA +125 or more in starts by lefties Chris Capuano or Ted Lilly.

•St. Louis as underdogs of any price against Kershaw in starts by Kyle Lohse, Lance Lynn or Jake Westbrook.

• St. Louis – 120 or less against Capuano or Lilly.

• St. Louis – 150 or less not facing Kershaw, Capuano or Lilly.

• UNDER 8 or higher in any matchup.

• UNDER 7 or higher if Kershaw opposes Lohse, Lynn or Westbrook.

Red Sox at Phillies

Both franchises have been in baseball’s elite class for at least the past half decade, but both are showing signs of decline in 2012. Boston has yet to recover from its 2011 collapse although the hitting has started to come around.

Philly’s struggles are related more to a lack of an offense that has been hindered by injuries to a pair of key players, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, neither of whom has yet to play a game this season. The Phillies have a decided edge on the mound with deeper starting pitching that is supported by former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon.

Potential plays:

• Philly – 160 or less in starts by Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee or Vance Worley against any Boston starter.

• Boston as underdogs of any price not facing Halladay, Hamels, Lee or Worley.

• Boston +160 or more against that quartet.

• UNDER 8 or higher in starts by that Philly quartet.

• OVER 8 or lower if Kyle Kendrick or Joe Blanton start for the Phillies

Reds at Yankees

This has the potential to be the most entertaining series of the weekend as both teams bring potent lineups and, for the most part, questionable starting pitching, into this matchup. There is a significant drop off from both teams’ aces, Johnny Cueto of Cincinnati and CC Sabathia of the Yankees, although New York’s Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova have been respectable.

Cueto has been brilliant thus far with a 1.12 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in his seven starts which have averaged 6.9 innings. Sabathia has been a workhorse for New York, averaging 7.3 innings per start and although his ERA is a mediocre 3.51 his WHIP of 1.07 shows his ability to limit baserunners.

Both offenses have been slow in delivering on their huge potentials but the conditions at Yankee Stadium should be conducive for a trio of high scoring games.

Potential plays:

• Cincinnati as underdogs of any price in a start by Cueto.

• Cincinnati +140 or more in any matchup.

• New York – 140 in any matchup.

• New York at least +120 against Cueto.

• OVER 9 or lower in any matchup not involving Cueto or Sabathia.

• UNDER 7½ or higher if Cueto matches up against Sabathia.

Braves at Rays:

Both teams have gotten off to solid starts in 2012, winning at least 60 percent of their games and justifying the expectations that each would be contenders. Atlanta has been the better offensive team to date, averaging 5½ runs per game, a full run per game more than the Rays.

Tampa has had the deeper starting pitching with Jeremy Hellickson, David Price and James Shields enjoying solid starts to the season while only Brandon Beachy and, to a lesser extent Tommy Hanson, can make the same claims for Atlanta.

Tampa’s offense is currently hampered by an injury that has sidelined star Evan Longoria. Atlanta arguably has the better bullpen although Tampa manager Joe Maddon has done an excellent job in handling his staff.

Potential plays:

• Atlanta up to – 125 in a start by Beachy.

• Atlanta as underdogs of any price in a start by Hanson against any Tampa starter.

• Atlanta +130 or more against Hellickson, Price or Shields.

• Tampa Bay – 130 or less not facing Beachy or Hanson.

• UNDER 9 or higher in any matchup.

• OVER 8 or lower in any matchup not involving Beachy.


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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