Mets off to fast start in MLB season

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It’s early. Very early.

Most of baseball’s 30 teams are about to play their 20th game of the season as this week begins.

But there are reasons for glee and causes for concern in several big league cities, including a pair of cities in the NL East.

Expected to improve this season the New York Mets are off to a 14-5 start, the best in baseball. Despite losing 2 of 3 games this past weekend in the Subway Series to the Yankees, the Mets have already set a franchise record by sweeping a 10 game homestand and tied a franchise record with 11 straight wins overall.

The last time a team swept a 10 game homestand was 1991. That was accomplished by the Minnesota Twins who went on to win the World Series and did so at very long odds.

A couple of hundred miles south, in the nation’s capital, the Washington Nationals, projected to win the most games of any team, have gotten off to a disappointing 7-12 start that has them tied with Philadelphia for last place in the NL East. The Phillies were expected to occupy the cellar all alone, and by a wide margin.

Washington is expected to be a contender. Part of the slow start is due to an offense that has been missing some key bats for much of the season’s first three weeks.

The Nats’ starting rotation was considered to be the best in baseball and perhaps among the best of the past half century with the addition of Max Scherzer during the off season.

Mighty Max has been as advertised with impressive efforts in all 4 of his early season starts. Doug Fister, another former starter for the Detroit Tigers, has pitched well for Washington and is also off to a fine start this season.

But the other three starters have struggled. The trio of Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez each have ERAs above 4.75, WHIPs north of 1.40 and none is averaging more than 6.0 innings per start.

Although there is cause for concern in Nats’ Nation it was just two seasons ago, in 2013, when another highly touted team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, got off to a struggling start.

On June 21 the Dodgers were 31-42 and in last place, 9.5 games out of first place in the NL West. Manager Don Mattingly was under fire and there were reports that his dismissal was imminent. The Dodgers then proceeded to win 46 of their next 56 games to vault into first place. They clinched the NL West title in mid September.

A good part of that surge was keyed by the arrival and emergence of Yasiel Puig and although there is nobody remotely being compared to Puig in the Nationals’ farm system on the horizon Las Vegan Bryce Harper is just 22 years old and capable of having that kind of impact.

When fully healthy the Washington offense is better than average and will lessen the pressure on those three struggling starters to feel as though they need to toss a shutout each time they toe the rubber.

The future is not as bright in Milwaukee where the Brewers are off to a 4-15 start. They are in last place in the NL Central and their 9 game gap behind first place St. Louis is the largest such gap in any of the six divisions.

In fact, their 4.5 game gap behind fourth place Cincinnati is larger than the gap between the first place and last place teams in three other Divisions.

Manager Ron Roenicke could be the season’s first casualty and it could come rather quickly. Barring signs of a turnaround Milwaukee could make a change before Memorial Day, less than a month away.

The major news over the weekend was the Achilles injury suffered by St. Louis Cardinal ace Adam Wainwright that is expected to sideline him for the balance of the season. The Cards are off to a strong 12-5 start and will miss both the on field performance and lockerroom leadership of Wainwright.

But the Cardinals are one of the top organizations in all of sports and are as capable of any team of overcoming such a loss. Don’t write off St. Louis’ chances just yet.

The Cubs are in position to challenge the Cardinals and have recently promoted another highly touted prospect, Addison Russell, to join Kris Bryant as the youth movement is in full force at Wrigley Field.

After his well-publicized three strikeout MLB debut Bryant has adjusted well to the big leagues and has been mashing the baseball and delivering key hits. The Las Vegas product starts this week hitting .333 with 7 RBI in 9 games.

He’s just 23 and may well hit his first major league home run this week. The 21 year old Russell is off to a slower start but did have a key hit in Sunday’s win over Cincinnati that may signal the start of his promising career.

Detroit and Kansas City are off to fine starts as well, 13-6 and 12-6 respectively and atop the AL Central.

Both teams were thought to be candidates to take some backward steps this season but there have been no signs of a regression just yet.

The weakest division unfolding in 2015 is the AL West. Four of the five teams have losing records through Sunday with the surprise being the team currently in first place.

Picked by many to improve this season but to still finish either last or next to last in the division, the Houston Astros are 11-7 in the early going and just completed a sweep of their 3 game road series in Oakland.

Much as many baseball observers have been keen on the Cubs as an up and coming team in the National League, those same observers are very high on the Astros’ prospects in the near future.

Again, it’s early, but there is hope for the meek making progress.

There’s a lot of baseball to be played and the first traditional milepost of the season is Memorial Day when teams will have played about a third of their schedule.

Here’s a look at three series this weekend.

Washington at NY Mets: Both teams’ success is predicated on their starting pitching and in the early going the Mets have outperformed the Nats on the mound. In that opening series 2 of the 3 games stayed UNDER the Total with the Mets winning 3-1 and the Nats winning 2-1.

This series should play out in a similar low scoring manner with the UNDER and the Underdog making for the most attractive plays throughout with plays on the first 5 innings also worthy of your consideration.

PLAYS: Either team +120 in any matchup; UNDER 7 or higher in any matchup; UNDER 3.5 or higher for the First 5 Innings in any matchup.

Detroit at KC: Detroit won 13 of 19 meetings with the Royals last season but 5 of those wins came in their first 5 meetings, before KC started to gel. Detroit’s bullpen has performed better than in recent seasons and their defense also appears improved.

This handicaps as a series in which the hitters have the edge over the pitchers. KC starters Volquez and Yordano Ventura may miss this series due to suspensions pending the timing of their appeals, if any.

PLAYS: Detroit -140 or less in a start by Price against any KC starter or if favored by -120 or less in a start by Greene against any KC starter; Royals as underdogs of any price against Sanchez or Lobstein; OVER 8.5 or lower in any matchup; OVER 9 or lower if Sanchez or Lobstien face KC’s Vargas or Guthrie.

LA Angels at SF: Both teams lost more than they gained during the offseason with the Giants losing Pablo Sandoval and the Angels losing Howie Kendrick and the rumored soon-to-be-traded Josh Hamilton suspended.

After bouncing back last season the Angels’ Albert Pujols is again showing his age and is off to a poor start, hitting just .200 through Sunday. Considered two of the game’s top managers San Francisco’s Bruce Bochy may actually be underrated whereas the Angels’ Mike Scioscia may be overrated.

PLAYS: Giants as underdogs of any price in any matchup or as -140 favorites or less in a start by Madison Bumgarner against any Angels starter; Angels +125 or more in starts by Hector Santiago or Garrett Richards not facing Bumgarner; UNDER 7.5 or higher in any matchup.

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]

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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