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This weekend concludes play for the figurative first half of the season as Major League Baseball enjoys its All Star Break with the 2013 All Star Game to be played next Tuesday, July 16, in New York at Citi Field, home of the Mets.

In the next few days we should know if Dodgers rookie sensation Yasiel Puig is voted to the National League roster as a final Wild Card selection by the fans.

As for now, all teams will have played at least 90 games when they take a four day hiatus for the All Star break, the time at which trade talks start to intensify with the non-waiver trade deadline approaching at month’s end.

The first two significant trades involving contenders looking to strengthen their rosters for the second half run were pulled off by Baltimore and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Orioles traded for starting pitcher Scott Feldman who was having a fine season in the National League with the Chicago Cubs. Feldman returns to the American League where he did not distinguish himself while pitching for Texas for his first eight seasons in the bigs.

The Dodgers acquired starter Ricky Nolasco from Miami. Nolasco toiled for the Marlins since his debut in 2006. Neither Feldman nor Nolasco could be considered more than, at best, a third starter but each provides depth which could become a factor come September.

We can expect some bigger names which will have greater impact on the pennant races, to change teams, and perhaps leagues, over the next three weeks.

It’s become clear that as of the midpoint of the season there are no truly great teams in 2013 and it’s hard to suggest which is the one to beat.

Pittsburgh and St. Louis are tied atop the NL Central with the best record in baseball. The Pirates and Cardinals are the only teams that started this week playing better than .600 baseball and their .609 winning percentage barely tops the “winning three out of five” standard. Boston is at exactly .600 with its 54-36 record that has the Red Sox atop the AL East.

Much can change in the span of a week and we need look no further than what has happened in the NL West since June ended. On the morning of July 1 Arizona had a two game lead over Colorado. All five teams were separated by just 4 games with the Dodgers in last place.

A week later shows Arizona still in first but their lead has grown to 4.5 games but the team in second is no longer Colorado but the formerly last place Dodgers. Puig and his mates have gone 7-3 over the last 10 games.

Arizona’s edge over the fifth place team has grown from 4 to 7.5 games and the cellar dweller is now San Diego. The Padres start the week having lost 9 of its last 10 games. Defending World Champion San Francisco has lost 8 of its last 10 games to sit in fourth place, just a game ahead of San Diego.

The division, as a whole, is weak. Arizona (47-41) is the only team above .500.

A few weeks ago a case was presented for both of Los Angeles’ teams, the Dodgers and Angels. At the time both teams were double digit games below .500 with managers on the hot seat. With more than 100 games remaining it was suggested that if either team could make it to .500 by the All Star break there would be reason to be optimistic about their second half chances.

With one week to go that .500 goal remains very much viable for both as the Dodgers stand 42-45 through Sunday and the Angels are 43-45.

Baseball’s best division remains the AL East where fourth place New York is 8 games above .500 and fifth place Toronto just 2 below.

More than 1,300 games have been played this season and the OVER/UNDER results are remarkably close. Using the closing totals from the LVH there have been 633 OVERS and 627 UNDERS in addition to 47 pushes. There were 7 other games that had no totals result due to being suspended or shortened by rain.

Home teams are winning 55 percent of all games and the average total runs per game is right at 8.5.

Next week’s column will review some of the extreme performers through the All Star break (possibly Puig) along with a look at what might occur over the season’s final two and a half months.

Here’s a look at four interesting series to be played this weekend.

Reds at Braves: In their only prior series this season Atlanta took 2 of 3 from the Reds when they met in Cincinnati in early May. All 3 games went OVER as both teams averaged a combined 9.7 runs.

Each has balanced and deep starting rotations. Although neither team has a starter with dominating statistics neither do they have a starter who is below average. Based on their 2013 stats it can be argued that both rotations are completely comprised of No. 2 3 starters. Both offenses have struggled at times with consistency.

The teams are separated by just 2 runs scored for the season and start the week with identical 50-38 records. In many ways, they are mirror images. That often is a good recipe for playing attractively priced underdogs when teams of equal ability meet. We should see a well-pitched, competitively played series. Unlike the first series, when both offenses were clicking, this forecasts as much lower scoring.

Recommended plays: UNDER 8 or higher in any matchup except in a start by Atlanta‘s Paul Maholm (12-4 to the OVER this season); Either team as an underdog of +120 or more in any matchup;

Rockies at Dodgers: Colorado has won 5 of 9 meetings this season with 7 of the games going OVER and just 2 UNDER. The teams averaged a combined 11.8 runs per game this season. As with many teams Colorado plays winning ball at home, but is well below .500 (16-26) on the road.

The Dodgers have gotten back into some semblance of contention with their recent success, starting the week on a 12-3 run. They bolstered their rotation with a weekend trade for veteran Nolasco and have one of the pitchers in all of baseball in Clayton Kershaw. Colorado pitchers rarely have solid stats due to the high altitude of their home games.

Only Jhoulys Chacin has been able to average 6 innings per start (6.2) although both Jorge de la Rosa and Tyler Chatwood have been above average. In addition to Kershaw (7.3) rookie lefty HJ Ryu is averaging more than 6 innings per start for the Dodgers (6.6). Though long noted as a pitchers’ park, Dodger Stadium has been host to 29 OVERS and just 17 UNDERS this season.

Recommended plays: Dodgers as -130 favorites or less in any matchup; OVER 6.5 or less in any matchup; OVER 7 or less in starts not involving Kershaw or Ryu; Colorado as +140 underdogs or more in starts by Chacin or de la Rosa not facing Kershaw.

Rangers at Tigers: Both teams are contending for division leads. Texas has the better record (51-37 vs. 48-39) despite the fact that Detroit has a huge edge in runs differential (plus 90 vs. plus 27). The difference is that Detroit’s huge edge in runs scored is offset by weak relief pitching and defense.

Texas took 3 of 4 games at home from Detroit when they played in mid May. The totals split with 2 OVERS and 2 UNDERS. Yu Darvish has been Texas’ best pitcher although both Alexi Ogando and Derek Holland have been steady. Justin Verlander remains Detroit’s ace but both Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez are having clearly better statistical seasons.

Note: Verlander believes he has found the reason for his uncharacteristically sub-par efforts and has pitched well in his last couple of starts. The Tigers lead MLB with their average of 5.5 runs per game at home. Texas has one of baseball’s best road records, 24-18.

Recommended plays: Texas as +120 underdogs or more not facing Scherzer, Sanchez or Verlander. Texas +150 or more against that trio; Detroit -120 favorites or less against any Texas starter; UNDER 8.5 or higher if Ogando, Holland or Darvish oppose Scherzer, Sanchez or Verlander; OVER 9 or lower if none of those six pitchers are involved.

Red Sox at A’s: Boston took 2 of 3 from Oakland at home back in April with both wins going OVER the total. The lone loss would also have gone OVER but for the game being called after 7 innings with Oakland up 13-0. The teams scored 39 total runs in the three games.

Each team leads its division and has almost identical records. Oakland has baseball’s second best home record (28-14) while Boston is barely over .500 on the road (23-20). Oakland’s offense is above average although it’s been more productive on the road than at home. Boston is averaging at least 5 runs per game both at home and on the road.

Clay Buchholz has been Boston’s best starter but is on the DL. However, veteran John Lackey has been putting up ace-like stats for the Sox. Bartolo Colon has been the best of Oakland’s starters by a pretty significant margin although the rest of the rotation has been serviceable.

Recommended plays: Boston -140 or less in a start by Lackey or +125 underdog or more against any Oakland starter; Oakland -115 favorite or less (or as underdogs) not facing Lackey; OVER 7 or lower in any matchup not involving Lackey (who is 12-2-1 to the UNDER); UNDER 7.5 or higher in a start by Lackey against any Oakland starter.

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]

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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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