Consider this. Despite being swept at home this past weekend by Pittsburgh, the New York Mets actually extended their lead in the NL East over the Washington Nationals by a half game.
Well, while the Mets were losing three games to the Buccos, two of which were in extra innings, the Nationals were swept in a four game series in San Francisco.
Washington was considered by many observers as the preseason favorite to win the World Series. With a talented roster that had post season experience the past few seasons, the starting rotation was bolstered with the offseason season signing of Max Scherzer who had been brilliant during his time with Detroit that included an AL Cy Young Award.
The Nationals may be considered the most underachieving team in baseball this season and their current six game losing streak has them a game below .500 for the first time since early May. Actually, one measure suggests the Nats are just the second most underachiever to date.
Prior the season Washington was projected to win 94 games based on their total wins as made available for wagering at most sports books. As of Monday morning Washington is on pace to win just 80 games, a shortfall of 14 games from their projection.
One team is underperforming by a whopping 18.5 games. Projected to win 83.5 games and be a potential Wild Card contender the Miami Marlins are on pace to win just 65 games.
Of course the midseason loss of slugger Giancarlo Stanton is a major part of the explanation. And all teams suffer injuries that sideline players, many for extended periods of time.
Boston, Oakland and Seattle are also on pace to fall short of their season win projections by more than 10 games with Cleveland and Milwaukee just shy of double digits, on pace to fall 9.5 games short.
At the other extreme is St. Louis. The Cardinals were projected to win 87.5 games and capture the NL Central title. The Cards have had the best record in baseball virtually all season and their current pace projects out to 104 wins, 16.5 games better than projected.
Kansas City, Houston, Pittsburgh and the Chicago Cubs are also on pace to exceed their projected win totals by double digits.
With Washington sitting at 58-59 after Sunday, the remaining schedule for the Mets puts them in great position to win the NL East. Consider that of their remaining 44 games, 39 of them are against teams that started this week with losing records (including 6 games remaining with the Nats).
Their only games against teams that started this week with winning records are their two game series this week in Baltimore and a three game home series in mid September against the Yankees.
It is quite possible that the Mets could win the NL East with a record which is weaker than the two likely Wild Card teams, Chicago and Pittsburgh. In fact, entering this week, were the Mets not atop the NL East they would be 7.5 game behind the Pirates for the first NL Wild Card and 5 games behind the Cubs for the second Wild Card.
Yet, as a Division winner, the Mets would have automatic entry into the Divisional round of the Playoffs while the Cubs and Pirates would have their seasons decided by a one game Wild Card playoff.
That is blatantly unfair, especially considering the Cubs won all 7 games against the Mets this season and the Pirates won all 6 of their games vs the Mets!
MLB should take a look at the NBA which is likely to change its determination of Playoff seedings by ignoring whether a team wins a Division and just seeding the teams in each conference based on records.
MLB should consider using a similar process such and seed the teams in each league based on records. If such were the case this season the Cardinals, Pirates and Cubs would have Byes into the Divisional round and the Mets and Dodgers would be in the Wild Card play-in game.
More on this topic next week including a rather simple solution to those who raise the issue of unbalanced schedules.
Here’s a preview of three weekend series.
San Francisco at Pittsburgh: This is a four game series that starts on Thursday. In their only previous meetings this season Pittsburgh swept a three game series in San Francisco during the first week of June. The Pirates outscored the Giants 16 to 9 with 1 game going Over the Total and the other two games pushing Totals of 7.
Pittsburgh has the overall edge in starting pitching although the Giants may have the best starter on either staff, World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner, although the Pirates’ Gerrit Cole is narrowing any gap that may exist.
PLAYS: Pittsburgh -130 or less in starts by Cole or Francisco Liriano against other than Bumgarner or as underdogs of any price with Cole or Liriano against Bumgarner; San Francisco -135 or less with Bumgarner not facing Cole or Liriano; UNDER 7 or higher if Bumgarner opposes Cole or Liriano (or UNDER 3.5 for the first 5 innings if the Total is less than 7); OVER 7 or lower if Bumgarner, Cole and Liriano are not involved.
Toronto at L A Angels: In their only prior series this season the teams split 4 games in Toronto in mid May. The Totals were also split with 2 OVER and 2 UNDERs as the Angels and Blue Jays averaged 10.0 runs per game. These teams are at opposite ends of the momentum spectrum. Over their last 30 game Toronto is 21-9 whereas the Halos are 13-17. The trades for David Price and Troy Tulowitzki have strengthened both the Blue Jays’ pitching and defense.
Toronto’s pitching overall has excelled with the starting rotation producing among the best result in all of baseball over the past three weeks. The Angels did little at the deadline aside from some minor deals. Pitching remains a concern and the offense has been more hit or miss over the past month or so than when it was very productive over the first half of the season.
PLAYS: Toronto +110 or more in any matchup except in a start by Drew Hutchison; Jays -125 or less in a start by Price against any Angels starter; OVER 7.5 or lower in any matchup not involving Price or the LA Angels’ Andrew Heaney.
LA Dodgers at Houston: The sustained success achieved by Houston over the first three quarters of the season makes this a key interleague series between a pair of teams contending for both a Division title and a Wild Card. The Astros started this week with a 3.5 game lead over the LA Angels in the AL West while the Dodgers held a 2.5 game lead over the San Francisco Giants in the NL West. The Dodgers may have the best one-two starting pitchers in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.
The gap between that duo and Houston’s duo of Dallas Keuchel and recently acquired Scott Kazmir is a top five tandem. The Astros have much pop in their lineup but also strike out a lot. The Dodgers have the deeper lineup but one that has been inconsistent and underproductive over extended stretches.
PLAYS: Dodgers -140 or less with Kershaw or Greinke not facing Keuchel or Kazmir; Astros as underdogs or favorites of -125 or less with any starter against other than Kershaw or Greinke; UNDER 7 or higher (or UNDER First 5 inning Totals of 3 or higher with full game totals or less than 7) in matchups of Kershaw or Greinke against Keuchel or Kazmir; OVER 7.5 or lower if Kershaw, Greinke, Keuchel or Kazmir are not 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]