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Padres top list of over-achievers

The midpoint of the 2010 baseball season has been reached as teams have played 81 of their 162 game schedules. There has not been a truly outstanding team thus far. The New York Yankees are the only team on a pace to win 100 games. They are 50-31 through last Sunday – the best in baseball – and are the only team winning 60 percent of their games.

Baseball’s biggest surprise team of this season, San Diego, has the best record in the National League (49-33) and a three and a half game lead in the NL West. Their overall ERA of 3.05 is the best in baseball by nearly a quarter of a run and their WHIP of 1.20 is also tops. Their offense is one of the weakest in the game and Adrian Gonzalez’ team leading 16 home runs is double that of his next closest teammate. With several outstanding candidates the Padres’ Bud Black would seemingly be the current leader for Manager of the Year.

Were the Playoffs to start today all four teams in the National League would be teams that did not make the post season last year. In addition to the Padres, Cincinnati and Atlanta lead their Divisions and the New York Mets currently control the Wild Card.

While it is extremely unlikely that come October these four teams will all make the Playoff the current standings suggest an exciting second half of the season will unfold. Five other NL teams are playing winning baseball, including three of the other four teams in the NL West. The four teams that made the 2009 Playoffs are in this group as Philadelphia, St. Louis, the L.A. Dodgers and Colorado are all within 5 games of their Division leads with half a season to play.

The American League has also set the stage for an exciting second half with three team races developing in both the East and Central Divisions. And in the AL West Texas is holding a three and a half game lead over the experience laden L.A. Angels. Interestingly ex-Angel Vladimir Guerrero has been a key part of Texas’ rise to the Division lead. It remains to be seen how the oppressive Texas heat of July and August will affect the Rangers but if this is still a race come Labor Day, the Rangers have an excellent chance to end the Angels’ reign.

Has there ever been less fanfare surrounding or attention paid to a premier home run hitter than to Minnesota’s Jim Thome? Since breaking into the Bigs with Cleveland in 1991, Thome has been overshadowed by teammate Albert Belle and on a much grander scale by sluggers Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Ken Griffey Jr. Yet this past weekend saw Thome enter the list of top 10 home run hitters of all time as he passed Minnesota legend Harmon Killebrew by hitting career homer 574. He has a chance with a decent second half to pass both McGwire and Frank Robinson and end 2010 as the eighth leading homer hitter of all time.

Thome has not been linked to steroids and thus it will be interesting to see how his career is evaluated when it comes to Hall of Fame credentials. Clearly the power numbers make it a no-brainer but his career batting average of .277 is modest at best. Of the great power hitters of his era seemingly only Griffey and Frank Thomas’ accomplishments, along with Thome’s, have not been tainted by that cloud.

Further accentuating the dominant pitching that has been the story of the season’s first half is the overall decline in scoring. For the first time in many years the total average runs scored per game is below 9. Through this past Sunday (1,126 games) an average of 8.9 runs are being scored per game.

The linesmaker has been on top of these developments as despite this drop in offense the number of UNDERs exceeds OVERs by just 30 games with 565 games going OVER, 595 staying UNDER and 59 games PUSHing.

Home teams are enjoying solid success, winning 56 percent of all games.

Anaheim will host this season’s All Star festivities that will be highlighted by the Home Run Derby next Monday and the All Star Game on Tuesday.

Here’s a look at four series this weekend.

Cincinnati at Philadelphia: This four game series begins Thursday and pit’s the two time defending NL Champion Phillies against the surprising leaders of the Central Division. Cincy took 2 of 3 at home from the Phillies early last week with two of the three going OVER the Total. Both teams have above average offenses although the Phillies are being hampered by a couple of key injuries to the middle of their lineup. The Reds have hit 20 more homers than the Phils and have been more reliant on the big bop. Aside from Philly ace Roy Halladay the starting pitching on both staffs has been mediocre although the Phils’ ageless lefty, Jamie Moyer, deserves special recognition for his outstanding 1.06 WHIP in over 100 innings pitched. Reds’ rookie Mike Leake and Johnny Cueto have posted the best stats but they are, at best, ordinary. Philadelphia’s bullpen rates higher but this series is likely to be decided by the bats.

RECOMMENDED PLAYS: OVER Totals of 9 or lower in any matchup not involving Halladay; OVER Totals of 9½ or lower in a start by the Phils’ Joe Blanton; UNDER Totals of 8 or higher if Halladay opposes Leake; Phillies if favored by -140 or less in any matchup not involving Blanton; Reds as underdogs of any price against Blanton

Atlanta at New York Mets: The top two teams in the NL East meet for three games at Citi Field as the Mets seek to close in on the Braves who start the week with a two game lead. The home team has won 4 of 5 games this season with the Mets sweeping a three game series here in late April. All 5 games stayed UNDER the Total with 4 UNDERs and a “no action” in a rain shortened 1-0 5 inning win. The teams have scored a total of just 22 runs in the 5 games. The Mets have had solid starting pitching all season but have been victimized by their bullpen. Atlanta’s starting pitching has been mostly ordinary but their bullpen has been strong. Both offenses have been more productive since the teams last met in mid May. Both teams have won at least 70 percent of their home games but start the week with identical 18-24 road records. Tim Hudson has been the ace of the Braves staff with rookie Kris Medlen also posting solid stats. The Mets have not had a dominant starter although Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Jon Niese and knuckleball R A Dickey have all pitched will with each having an ERA below 3.75.

RECOMMENDED PLAYS: UNDER Totals of 8 or higher in any matchup; either team as an Underdog of +140 or more; Mets as favorites of -125 or less against other than Hudson or Medlen; Braves as Underdogs of any price in starts by Hudson or Medlen.

Minnesota at Detroit: The Twins and Tigers start the week tied atop the AL Central with the fast charging White Sox lurking just a game behind. These rivals have had three series already this season and the home team has won 7 of 9 games. Totals have been balanced with 4 OVERs and 5 UNDERs as the teams have averaged 9.4 total runs per game. Detroit has the best starter in Justin Verlander but the Twins have the next two most effective hurlers, Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano. Minnesota’s Scott Baker has also shown signs of being an emerging ace with his 5.8 strikeout to walk ratio although he was hit hard in his last two road starts at Milwaukee and the Mets and has been much more effective at home all season. Both offenses show dramatic contrasts between home and road performance, averaging nearly a run more per game in their friendly confines. Both teams have above average bullpens even though Detroit’s was dealt a blow by an injury to Joel Zumaya.

RECOMMENDED PLAYS: Minnesota as underdogs or if favored by -120 or less in starts by Baker, Liriano or Pavano against other than Verlander; Detroit as favorites of -140 or less against other than Baker, Liriano or Pavano; UNDER Totals of 8 or higher if Verlander faces those three Twins starters; OVER Totals of 9 or lower if Minnesota’s Nick Blackburn faces other than Verlander.

New York Yankees at Seattle: The Yanks and Mariners meet for four games starting Thursday. Seattle has been a disappointment over the first half of the season despite the presence of two of the best pitchers in the AL, Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez, both of whom should start in this series. Seattle took two of three games at Yankee Stadium last week and both were started by the M’s two aces. Lee has been the subject of trade rumors over the past month with the Yankees very much in the picture. And barring a major turnaround by Seattle in the coming weeks Lee is likely to be dealt by the end of the month. Seattle’s woes have been at the plate. They average just 3.6 runs per game at home, second worst in baseball. The Yankees are perhaps the best balanced team in baseball and average 5.3 runs per game on the road, second best in the game.

RECOMMENDED PLAYS: Seattle as favorites of -125 or less in starts by Lee or Hernandez against any Yankees starter, Yankees as favorites of -150 or less against other Seattle starters; UNDER Totals of 7 or higher if Lee or Hernandez oppose C C Sabathia or Andy Pettitte; UNDER Totals of 8 or higher in any matchup in which either one or none of those pitchers start.


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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