The big baseball news this past week was the owners’ election of Rob Manfred to succeed Bud Selig as Commissioner when the former owner of the Milwaukee Brewers retires next January after more than 20 years as first acting Commissioner and then as the official baseball chief.
The new Commish will face many challenges in the years ahead, including more collective bargaining talks with the players, an area of his expertise that resulted in labor peace the last go round. His election as the new Commissioner was generally well received but it remains to be seen how long the “honeymoon” lasts.
Will he do what Selig failed to do and end the lifetime ban on baseball’s all time hits king, Pete Rose? Such a move would seemingly make Rose eligible for the Hall of Fame, and while his election by the writers is questionable at best, at least he would be given that opportunity.
This, of course, leads to how the history of the steroids era will be viewed as more and more players from that era are eligible for the Hall. The early results for those players are not encouraging.
Another issue receiving much attention this season is the slow pace of play. Much of the fault has been placed on the umpires’ unwillingness to speed up the pace by requiring the pitchers to deliver their pitches in a timely manner as specified in the rules. Of course, batters continually stepping out of the batter’s box between pitchers also contributes.
There’s been talk of instituting a pitch clock (and/or batter’s clock) to speed up the pace of play. Another solution that could lop off about 15 to 20 minutes per game would be to cut the time between innings from 2 to 2½ minutes down to one minute.
That won’t happen because too much revenue from commercials would be lost.
After being swept in Atlanta this past weekend Oakland finds itself in a virtual tie with the Angels atop the AL West. Both teams are tied for the best records in baseball, 22 games above .500.
But their winning percentages are below .600 which, if this continues over the next six weeks, the team with baseball’s best record will wind up with less than 97 wins, which could make this season’s playoffs wide open.
Here’s a look at four interesting series this weekend.
Giants at Nationals: These team have met for one series earlier this season. When the Giants were going through their June Swoon they hosted the Nationals for a four game series and Washington won 3 of those 4 road games.
The Nats and Giants averaged 7.5 combined runs per game with 3 of the 4 going OVER the Total. Yet of the eight team scores in the series five of them were 2 runs or less. As is the case in 2014 with most contenders, especially in the National League, most of the Giants’ and Nationals’ success results from their pitching rather than their hitting.
The best starters for the Giants have been Madison Bumgarner and Tim Hudson while the Nats have a solid quintet of starters with only lefty Gio Gonzalez putting up below average stats (4.03 ERA and 1.33 WHIP).
The quartet of Doug Fister, Tanner Roark, Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg all have solid campaigns with Strasburg having the weakest stats of the four – but stats that are still very solid. The Nats have an above average offense but only two teams in all of baseball allow fewer runs at home than the Nats’ average of 3.3 rpg.
Plays: UNDER 7 or higher in any matchup; San Francisco as underdogs of any price in starts by Bumgarner or Hudson; Washington -130 or less with any starter against other than Bumgarner or Hudson.
Braves at Reds: In their only prior meeting this season, in late April, the Braves swept that 3 game home series, outscoring the Reds 10-5 with 2 games staying UNDER and 1 going OVER the Total. Both teams are more realistically battling for Wild Cards rather than Division titles as each team has slumped since the All Star break.
Atlanta starts the week tied with Pittsburgh a game and a half out of the second Wild Card with Cincy two games further back, making this a critical series. Neither team, especially the Reds, can afford to be swept.
Both teams have relied more on pitching than on offense this season and right now the Reds are shorthanded at the plate with starts Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips sidelined. The Reds have the deeper starting rotation but one starter, Homer Bailey, is also sidelined.
Despite their meltdown in Sunday’s doubleheader loss at Colorado the Cincinnati bullpen is one of baseball’s best. Atlanta also has a reliable bullpen. On the surface this forecasts as a series dominated by pitching.
Plays: Reds with Johnny Cueto -150 or less not facing Julio Teheran or Alex Wood; Reds -125 or less against Teheran or Wood; Atlanta +140 or more not opposing Cueto, Alfredo Simon, Mike Leake or Mat Latos; UNDER 7.5 or higher in any matchup; UNDER 6.5 or higher in matchups of Cueto, Latos or Simon against Teheran or Wood with half of the play on UNDER 3.5 for the first 5 innings.
Pirates at Brewers: These NL Central Division rivals have already met 13 times this season. Milwaukee has won 10 of those games which have produced 7 UNDERs, 5 OVERs and 1 push. The Brewers and Pirates have averaged a combined 8.4 runs per game in those games.
Milwaukee has been balanced offensively, averaging 4.2 runs per game at home and 4.2 rpg on the road. Pittsburgh has been above average offensively at home (4.5 rpg) but below average on the road (3.9 rpg). Each team’s starts this week having had the same number of OVERS as UNDERS for the season although Milwaukee has been more of an UNDER team at home and more of an OVER team on the road.
The Brewers have had the much better starting pitching, an edge that has grown over the past couple of weeks with the addition of Mike Fiers to the rotation. Mike has been brilliant in his first two starts while Charlie Morton, who had pitched very well for the Pirates, was place on the DL over the weekend.
Milwaukee is battling to hold onto the top spot in the Division while Pittsburgh is looking to make up ground both within the Division and in the Wild Card race.
Plays: Milwaukee -130 or less in any matchup; Pittsburgh +150 or more in any matchup; UNDER 7.5 or higher if Fiers, Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse or Wily Peralta oppose Pittsburgh’s Francisco Liriano or Vance Worley.
Angels at A’s: The home team has won 6 of 9 games between these AL West rivals with Oakland holding a similar 6 games to 3 edge. The teams have played 5 OVERS, 3 UNDERS and 1 push while averaging a combined 9.6 runs per game.
Oakland has had the best record in baseball for most of the season but the Angels’ run over the past month or so has these teams tied atop the Division after last Sunday.
Despite their recent offensive slump that began with the trading away of slugger Yoenis Cespedes at the end of July, Oakland still has the best run differential in baseball at plus 161. Next best is Washington at plus 99. The Angels are fourth at plus 87.
Oakland has the deeper rotation with Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija pitching well since being acquired in July trades, joining Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir. The Angels have gotten a very strong season from Garrett Richards and decent seasons from ace Jered Weaver, Hector Santiago and Matt Shoemaker but veteran lefty C J Wilson has struggled more often than not.
This series is important as although both teams are all but certain to make the playoffs there’s a huge difference between winning the Division versus hosting a one-game Wild Card elimination.
Plays: Angels with any starter as +150 underdogs or more against Gray, Kazmir, Lester or Samardzija; Angels +125 or more if Richards or Weaver starts against any Oakland starter; Oakland -130 or less with any of their four aforementioned starters against any Angels starter; UNDER 7 or higher with any of that Oakland quartet facing Richards or Weaver.
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]