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Baseball’s All Star break is underway and during these four days general managers and scouts will be meeting and assessing their team’s chances for making the Playoffs and deciding whether they should buy, sell or stay put.

One rule of thumb suggests if you are more games out of the Playoffs than there are weeks remaining in the season your chances of making the postseason are not very realistic. As such, teams that are more than a dozen games out of either their Division lead or the second Wild Card spot in their league are likely to be sellers.

Although only a handful of teams meet the guidelines just noted one such team is a surprise and could provide a pair of established starting pitchers to contenders as this team rebuilds.

The San Francisco Giants have had a horrible season, entering the All Star break 34-56, an astonishing 27 games behind the Division leading Dodgers in the NL West and 17.5 games out of the second Wild Card. The Giants, winners of three World Series titles since 2010, had one of the top starting pitcher rotations coming out of spring training. Even when they lost ace Madison Bumgarner to a dirt bike injury in April the rotation still was one that could at least have the Giants respectable.

But the starters have had trouble with a lack of offensive support and only Philadelphia has a worse record. As such, starters Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija could be dealt prior to the trading deadline at the end of this month.

There are also strong rumors Detroit’s Justin Verlander could be on the move with the defending World Series Champion Chicago Cubs having shown great interest.

The 2017 MLB season is looking much like the past few NBA seasons with two teams clearly establishing themselves as the team to beat, one in each league. One measure of success at this point in the season is to look at those teams that are winning at least 60 percent of its games. A 60 percent winning pace translates to 97 wins over a full 162 game schedule.

At the All Star break just two teams are on such a pace, although both Arizona (53-36, .596) and Washington (52-36, .591) are on the threshold of that 60 percent.

The Los Angeles Dodgers lead all of baseball with their 61-29 record at the All Star break, a winning percentage of .678. Just a half game off of that pace are the Houston Astros at 60-29 (.674). It certainly appears as though the Dodgers and Astros are on a course to meet in the World Series.

If the Dodgers and Astros maintain their current pace over the balance of the season, or even drop just a bit and finish the regular season winning exactly two thirds of their games, that would mean 108 regular season wins, which would be quite an accomplishment and set the stage for what would be a highly anticipated month of October.

Whereas Houston has an astonishing 16.5 game lead over the second place Angels in the AL West, the lead in the other five Divisions are all single digits, including the Dodgers’ 7.5 game lead over second place Arizona in the NL West. Washington has the second best lead of any first place team with a 9.5 game edge over second place Atlanta in the NL East.

Milwaukee is the surprise leader in the NL Central with a 5.5 game bulge over St. Louis and the Cubs who are tied for second.

The smallest leads are in the AL Central and the AL East. Cleveland leads Minnesota by 2.5 games in the Central and Boston has a 3.5 game lead in the East over both the Yankees and Tampa Bay who are tied for second.

Incredibly, in three of baseball’s six Divisions only the Division leader has a winning record. In the NL East, the NL Central and the AL West the four trailing teams all have losing records!

In fact, in the National League the only non-Division leaders with winning records are the two teams currently in control of the Wild Cards – Arizona and Colorado. The teams currently sitting third in the Wild Card race are the Cubs and St. Louis, tied with 43-45 records.

In the American League the Yankees and Tampa Bay are tied for the two Wild Cards with Minnesota (1 game back) and Kansas City (1.5 games back) the only other AL teams entering the All Star break with winning records in addition to the three Division leaders.

In all, of baseball’s 30 teams only 12 have winning records, and with no teams at exactly .500, 19 enter recess with losing records.

One player who will be staying where he is, and potentially for the bulk of his burgeoning young career, is Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge. Arguably the clear front runner for American League MVP in his first full season in the majors, Judge has just erased the name of Joe DiMaggio from the record books. Any full season record you can take from the Yankee Clipper represents quite an achievement. And doing it in basically one half of a season makes it all the more remarkable.

That is exactly what happened last Friday night when, in a loss to Milwaukee, Judge hit his MLB-leading 30th home run, setting the record for most home runs by a Yankees rookie, surpassing the 29 dingers Joe D. hit back in 1936!

The Texas Rangers, on a percentage basis, have been the best team in winning games by 2 runs or more. Of their 43 wins this season, 37 of them have been by 2 runs or more. That translates to 86 percent of the Rangers’ wins being by at least 2 runs. The other seven teams whose wins have been by 2 runs or more at least 80 percent of the time include Houston (50 of 60), Cincinnati (32 of 39), Cleveland (38 of 47), Miami (33 of 41), the Dodgers (49 of 61), Milwaukee (40 of 50) and the Yankees (36 of 45).

Six other teams have had between 75 and 80 percent of their wins be by 2 runs or more (Kansas City, Colorado, Tampa Bay, Boston, Minnesota and Washington).

In looking at games in which teams were favored by at least -110 or more Texas also is the leader with 19 of their 20 wins by 2 or more runs. As a favorite of -110 or more, 18 of Miami’s 19 wins have been by 2 runs or more 94.7 percent. Thirty-three of Boston’s 38 wins in that role have been by at least 2 runs (86.8 percent) as have 18 of Colorado’s 21 wins (85.7 percent), 25 of the Yankees’ 30 wins (83.3 percent), 44 of Houston’s 53 wins (83.0 percent) and 45 of the Dodgers’ 57 wins in that role (79.0 percent).

In all, 16 teams have at least 75 percent of their wins by 2 or more runs when favored by -110 or more. Much more meaningful are the results being put up by the two teams currently favored to meet in the World Series. Of the combined 110 wins accumulated by the Dodgers and Astros when favored by -110 or more, 89 have been by at least 2 runs, or 80.9 percent.

Play resumes on Friday following four days of rest and here are previews of three weekend series.

Cards at Pirates

These teams meet for their third series this season and the first in Pittsburgh. The Cardinals won 4 of the 6 in St. Louis. The UNDER is 4-2. Look to play either team as an underdog of +120 or more in any matchup or favor St. Louis in a start by Martinez at -140 or less against any Pittsburgh starter. Look to play UNDER 7.5 or less in any matchup except in starts by the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright or Michael Wacha or the Pirates’ Chad Kuhl or Trevor Williams. Should there be a matchup of Wainwright or Wacha against Kuhl or Williams the OVER may be played at 8.5 or less.

Yankees at Red Sox

The Yankees have won 4 of the 5 games against the Red Sox. With the exception of a start by Sale, look to play OVER 10.5 or lower. Boston can be backed at -160 or less in a start by Sale against any Yankees starter. In all other matchups, look to play either side as an underdog of +125 or more. That likely means a play on the Yankees against Price and possibly on Boston against Tanaka, Severino or Montgomery, depending on the matchup.

Cubs at Orioles

The lone interleague series of the weekend features a pair of teams that have had disappointing first halves. Eddie Butler is the only Cubs starter with an ERA below 4 (3.85) and the currently injured Kyle Hendricks is the only starter with a WHIP below 1.30 (1.20). Compare that to last season when of the five regular starters (who accounted for 152 starts) only the now departed Jason Hammel had a WHIP above 1.08 (1.21) and also had the only ERA above 3.34 (3.83). That is what is known as a dramatic reversal! The only Baltimore regular starter with an ERA below 4.97 is Dylan Bundy (4.34).

Those numbers suggest the OVER is the preferred play in this series, especially at Totals of 9.5 or lower. The only exception would be in a start by the Cubs’ Butler whose 11 starts have produced 9-2 UNDER. Also, either team as an underdog of +125 or more is worthy of consideration. Baltimore is 25-16 at home and 17-30 on the road. The Cubs are just 19-25 on the road. Thus you might consider playing Baltimore at -120 or less.

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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