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Only a fifth of the season has been played and it’s too early to start planning for a reprise of the 2000 Subway Series between New York’s Mets and Yankees but both teams have been among the biggest surprises of the season’s first five weeks.

Through Sunday the Yankees led the AL East by three games over another pleasantly surprising team, Tampa Bay. And the Bronx Bombers are just a half game behind defending AL Champion Kansas City for the best record in the American League, tied with yet another surprise team, the AL West leading Houston Astros.

The Mets start the week atop the NL East, leading second place Washington by three and a half games. The Mets are just a half game behind the LA Dodgers for the second best record in the National League.

The team with the best record in all of baseball is no surprise at all. For more than a half century the St. Louis Cardinals have been a model franchise, one of the most highly regarded ones in all of North American sports. The Redbirds started this week having won more than 70 percent of their games, standing 22-9 (.710) and leading the second place Chicago Cubs in the NL Central by six and a half games.

The first milepost of the season is just two weeks away as Memorial Day has traditionally been about the point of the season when a third of the long schedule has been played and teams can assess where they stand in terms of planning for mid season acquisition or disposition of personnel.

Another early season surprise is Minnesota. The Twins have been pounding the baseball over the past two weeks and getting good enough pitching to stand 18-14 through Sunday and in third place in the AL Central, just 2.5 games behind division leading Kansas City.

Houston remains atop the AL West with a 5 game lead over the second place Angels. The Astros, although they have cooled a bit over the past week or so, remain the only team above .500 in the Division. Oakland started the season playing better than expected but their play has declined and the last place Athletics have the worst record in the American League.

Sometimes a managerial change provides a short term boost for the team that makes a mid season change. Last week Milwaukee fired Ron Roenicke and replaced him with Craig Counsell. The Brewers responded with a win in Counsell’s first game at the helm, defeating the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw and have gone 4-3 in his first week. But that modicum of success still leaves the Brew Crew tied with Philadelphia with the worst record in baseball, 11-21.

Colorado starts the week with the longest current losing streak, 9 games, which has the Rockies last in the NL West and manager Walt Wiess perhaps the next manager to feel the heat. The Rockies have a pair of tough series this week, at the Angels and at the Dodgers, and Weiss may not be on the bench when the Rockies return home next Monday to face the Phillies in a four game series that should provide opportunity for several wins.

Washington starts the week having won 4 games in a row and finally getting above the .500 mark (17-15). Another disappointing team, Seattle, swept its weekend home series against Oakland and may be about to play the winning baseball expected by many although the Mariners start the week still below break even (14-17).

Here’s a look at three series this weekend.

Washington at San Diego – This is a four game series that starts on Thursday. Both teams were expected to be Playoff contenders with Washington having the highest projected Total Wins (94) in all of baseball. But the Nationals struggled early and only recently have started to play the kind of baseball expected of them, starting this week having won 10 of their last 12 games. Las Vegas product Bryce Harper has been explosive over the past week and could have been honored by the time you read this as NL Player of the Week. San Diego started quickly, slumped a bit, but has recovered to start this week on a 6-4 run. Both teams rely on solid starting pitching rotations and less on offense although the Padres are much stronger at the plate this season than in recent years due to major offseason acquisitions. And the early season results show the Padres having the more productive offense both at home and on the road but the edge is less than a quarter of a run per game. RECOMMENDED PLAYS – San Diego as underdogs of plus 150 or more in any matchup; San Diego as favorites of minus 120 or less in starts by James Shields or Andrew Cashner against other than Max Scherzer or Doug Fister; UNDER Totals of 7.5 or higher in any matchup; OVER Totals of 6.5 or lower in starts not involving Shields, Cashner, Tyson Ross, Scherzer, Fister or Jordan Zimmermann.

N Y Yankees at Kansas City – Through Sunday the Yankees and Royals had the best records in the American League. Despite coming within one game of winning last season’s World Series the Royals were expected to regress this season but, if anything, they appear even stronger, especially at the plate. The Yankees, due to age and injury concerns, were expected to be a .500 teams. Its still early and those spring training prognostications may ultimately prove correct over the remaining four fifths of the season. But as they meet for the first time this season both team are brimming with confidence. The Yankees are already dealing with a key injury as expected staff ace Masahiro Tanaka is sidelined. But oft injured and now healthy Michael Pineda has filled that role better than expected with his 2.72 ERA and 1.01 WHIP through 7 starts, the latest of which featured 16 strikeouts in 7 innings last Sunday against Baltimore. The offense has been above average and the Yankees are actually averaging more runs per game on the road (4.8) than at home (4.5). Kansas City still relies more on ‘small ball’ for its offense although there has been more power this season. In fact, the Royals are outperforming the Yankees at the plate with a similar profile, averaging more runs on the road (5.3) than at home (4.8). Veteran Edinson Volquez has been the Royals’ most effective starter to date although another veteran castoff, Chris Young, has pitched well in his pair of starts, yet to allow an earned run over 11 innings. RECOMMENDED PLAYS – Either team as underdogs of plus 125 or more in any matchup; Yankees as favorites of minus 125 or less in a start by Pineda against other than Volquez; KC as favorites of minus 125 or less in a start by Volquez against other than Pineda; OVER Totals of 8 or lower in starts not involving Pineda or Volquez.

Detroit at St. Louis – Two of baseball’s most storied franchises meet in the weekend’s lone interleague series although Bob Gibson won’t be taking the mound for the Cardinals nor will Denny McClain toe the rubber for the Tigers as both did in the 1968 World Series. The names may have changed in the 45 seasons since that memorable Series but the high standards set by both organizations remain in place and both have been perennial contenders for the past decade with each winning a World Series over this period. St. Louis started this week with the best record in baseball (22-9) while the Tigers were a solid 19-13. St. Louis has fashioned its outstanding record despite the loss of ace Adam Wainwright for the season after just 4 starts. John Lackey, Lance Lynn and Michael Wacha have all pitched well through their combined 18 starts and young Carlos Martinez is coming around nicely. Detroit’s rotation is anchored by David Price and the outstanding lefty has been inconsistent in his first 7 starts. The rest of the rotation has been decent but not outstanding with veteran Anibal Sanchez struggling the most. Yet all 5 starters are averaging 6 or more innings per start and none has a WHIP above 1.30. This has enabled the bullpen to perform better than expected and what a weakness, along with defense, in recent seasons is now being close to being a strength. St. Louis has shown the more productive offense thus far although Detroit has been above average overall but will not have the DH in this series. RECOMMENDED PLAYS – St. Louis as favorites of minus 140 or less in starts by Lackey, Lynn or Wacha against other than Price or as underdogs of any price with any starter against Price; Detroit as underdogs of plus 150 or more with any starter against Lackey, Lynn or Wacha; OVER Totals of 7.5 or lower in games not involving Price, Wacha, Lynn or Lackey.

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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