Baseball’s D-Day, Deadline Day, is next Thursday, July 31. Teams have barely a week to make final decisions on being buyers or sellers.
There have only been a few trades of significance to date and those have involved pitchers. Oakland greatly bolstered its starting rotation by acquiring both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the non-contending Chicago Cubs. The New York Yankees added Brandon McCarthy to its depleted rotation in a trade with Arizona.
One other major trade could affect the outcome in the AL West where Oakland is trying to hold off the fast charging Los Angeles Angels. In a move to strengthen a weak bullpen the Angels acquired closer Huston Street from San Diego. Street, ironically, began his career with Oakland.
On the fence as perhaps being buyers but now more realistically sellers are Philadelphia and the New York Mets, who each dropped 2 of 3 in their first post-All Star break series while NL East leaders Atlanta and Washington each won 2 of 3.
Realistically there are eight vying for five playoff spots in the NL. In addition to the Nationals and Braves, the top two teams in the AL West, the Giants and Dodgers, also start the week tied for their division lead.
The NL Central is a four way race with St. Louis and Milwaukee tied but both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are only three back.
This may be the latest point in the season to find all three divisions in either league having a pair of teams tied for the lead. Just over 60 games are left for things to be sorted out. The six tied for division leads are separated by just a half game!
The leaders of the NL East and West start the week 10 games above .500 while the two NL Central front runners are 9 above that mark.
The next week should be very interesting as the NL contenders attempt to gain an edge over one another.
The AL races are a bit more spread out with the closest the West where Oakland starts the week just 1½ games ahead of the Angels. These rivals have the top two records in all of baseball and are the only teams winning at least 60 percent of its games.
This race has all the signs of going deep into September and there is a huge difference between winning the division versus earning the top Wild Card.
Recall that baseball added a second Wild Card in each league last season with the two facing off in a one-game playoff to determine who would fill out the field of four that would play in the League Divisional Series.
Baseball might need to reconsider that decision – or at least a seeding of the teams by record rather than by division affiliation. It would be a shame if the team with the second best record in baseball had its chances for a championship hinge on just a single game playoff.
Baltimore leads the AL East by 3 over the New York Yankees and Toronto while Detroit has a 5½ game cushion over Cleveland in the Central.
The Angels control the first AL Wild Card by a whopping 7½ games over current second WC team, Seattle. But seven are within a half dozen games of Seattle with the Mariners still having to face both Oakland and the Angels – the two best teams in baseball.
Management of those other seven teams might well assess their situations with thoughts that such a gap can be made up over the next 60 games.
There is strong sentiment that the Angels will ultimately represent the AL in the World Series but the relatively low 8-1 odds make them a risky bet. There is that real chance they could finish behind Oakland and be forced to play the second WC in a single winner-take-all game.
Even though the Angels would be hosting that game the incredibly small margin for error that comes with a “one-game season” makes less than 12-to-1 odds too risky to recommend.
Contrast the Angels’ situation to that of the Giants and Dodgers. Currently the Dodgers are 4-1 to win the World Series whereas the Giants are 16-1. Just a half-game separates the top 6 in the NL, but the World Series odds vary from 4-1 on the Dodgers to Milwaukee’s 20-1.
Those long odds on the Brewers must be considered within the context of the NL Central really being a four team race with St. Louis (10-1), Cincinnati (20-1) and Pittsburgh (30-1) all bunched within 2½ games.
The NL East might present an opportunity similar to that in the NL West as the co-leaders have widely disparate odds. Washington, considered by many the favorite to ultimately emerge as division champion, is 8-1 while Atlanta’s World Series odds are 18-1.
Although both the Giants and Nationals might make the playoffs as Wild Cards their respective odds of 16-1 and 18-1 allow for some flexibility should either, or both, teams’ seasons come down to that one-game playoff.
It promises to be an interesting next 10 days as well as an exciting next two months. We can only hope the reality lives up to expectations.
Here is a preview of four weekend series.
Nationals at Reds: In their only prior series Cincinnati won two of three games in Washington in mid-May. The teams scored just 23 combined runs but 13 of them came in one game as the two other games stayed UNDER.
Washington has the deeper starting rotation although Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto is having the best season on either staff with Alfredo Simon not too far behind. And despite starting the season on the DL, Mat Latos has also excelled in his 9 starts.
Plays: UNDER 7 or higher in any matchup; UNDER 3.5 for the first 5 innings in any matchup; Washington +125 or more with any starter against Cueto, Latos or Simon; Washington -120 or less against other Cincinnati starters.
Dodgers at Giants: The Giants have won 7 of 10 games against LA including 5 of 7 on the road. In averaging a combined 6.7 runs per game the totals have been evenly split although the teams played 5 straight UNDERS after all three games of their opening series went OVER.
The Dodgers have the stronger starting rotation with Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, HJ Ryu and Josh Beckett as good as any quartet in baseball. The Giants’ Madison Bumgarner and Tim Hudson have been their best starters.
Plays: Dodgers +120 or more in a start by other than Dan Haren not facing Bumgarner or Hudson; Giants -140 or less against Haren; Giants +120 or more with any starter not facing Haren; UNDER 7 or higher in any matchup.
Blue Jays at Yankees: New York has defeated Toronto in six of nine games this season but the starting pitchers in four of the six wins are either sidelined or no longer in the rotation. The Yanks and Blue Jays have averaged a combined 8.9 runs per game with 6 OVERs and 3 UNDERs.
Currently the only proven Yankees starter is Hiroki Kuroda, who has been average at best dating back to the middle of last season. Toronto’s best starter has been young Marcus Stroman albeit through just 9 starts.
Plays: OVER 8.5 or lower in games not involving Kuroda or Stroman; Yankees -120 or less not facing Stroman; Blue Jays +120 or more in any matchup; Blue Jays as underdogs of any price in a start by Stroman.
Tigers at Angels: This four-game series begins Thursday. Detroit won 2 of 3 at home from LA in mid-April. The UNDER is 2-1. Justin Verlander is down considerably this season and the trio of Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello have been solid but far from dominant.
The Angels have a pretty similar situation with ace Jered Weaver still effective but not at past levels. The de facto ace has been Garrett Richards whose 2.47 ERA and 1.03 WHIP lead the staff by a solid margin.
Plays: Angels as underdogs of any price in any matchup; Angels -125 or less not facing Scherzer; Tigers +125 or more against Weaver or +130 or more against Richards; OVER 7.5 or lower in games not involving Richards, Scherzer or Porcello; OVER 8 or lower in a start by Tyler Skaggs not facing Scherzer; UNDER 7.5 or higher in starts by Richards or Scherzer.
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]