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The 2016 season is three weeks old and teams have played just over 10 percent of their 162 game schedule. It’s still way too early to draw any definitive conclusions but with teams having played six series we can begin to look for signs as to teams that may perform better or worse than expected, at least in the short term.

In the AL East only one team starts this week with a winning record and it is the team many expected would finish last. Not only is Baltimore in first place but their 11-6 record has them two and a half games ahead of second place Boston. The last place New York Yankees are 7-10 and just four games behind the Orioles but there are questions about the starting rotation that, if not addressed successfully, would dilute the effectiveness of what is considered one of baseball’s best bullpens.

Defending World Series Champion Kansas City has not shown any effects of a letdown as attested to by their 12-6 start. Normally that would be the record of a first place team but perhaps the biggest surprise to date has been the performance of the Chicago White Sox. Their outstanding pitching combined with timely hitting have the Sox in first place in the AL Central, a half game ahead of the Royals at 13-6. Cleveland is off a weekend three games series sweep in Detroit that has the Indians above .500 at 9-7 and Detroit now at 8-9. Minnesota, despite being swept over the weekend at powerful Washington, has at least shown some bounce back from its 0-9 start by splitting its next 10 games.

Houston has been perhaps the biggest disappointment of the season’s first three weeks and their 6-13 start has the Astros in last place in the AL West. The ‘Stros are yet to win back to back games. 

Texas is tied with Oakland atop the Division with modest 10-9 records. The A’s have been an early season surprise as well and their start has been very odd, going 2-7 at home but winning 7 of 9 on the road.

After being baseball’s greatest disappointment in 2015, the Washington Nationals are showing that last year may have indeed been a fluke. The Nats have started 14-4 and have a 3.5 game lead over the Mets in the NL East. 

After struggling early the Mets have improved to 10-7 and return home following a 7-2 road trip and their outstanding starting rotation appears to be rounding into form. 

Philadelphia starts the week 9-10 and while that would normally not be worth of mention that record is much better than would be expected of a team whose season win Total was just 67, tied for the lowest Total with another NL East rival, Atlanta (which has started 4-14). Miami, expected to be a .500 team, has started just 6-11.

The Chicago Cubs’ season win Total led all of MLB at 93, has not disappointed in the least with 14-5 start. Their 3.5 game lead over second place St. Louis is tied with Washington for the largest lead through Sunday. The Cubs lead baseball with 119 runs scored and are third in fewest runs allowed (51). Their net runs differential of plus 68 is a whopping 28 runs better than second best St. Louis. Pittsburgh’s 10-9 start is disappointing and can largely be attributed to poor starting pitching with only ‘ace’ Gerrit Cole pitching close to his expected level of performance.

The Dodgers have to be pleased with their 12-7 start that has them atop the NL West by 2.5 games over surprising Colorado. The Rockies’ season win Total was just 70.5 hence their 9-9 start is encouraging. San Francisco starts the week 9-11 which is disappointing considering they were tied for the third highest season wins Total of 89.5.

Again, it is still early – very early. But the above observations can be taken in one of two ways. Either they are signals of teams that will continue to play above or below their spring training projections. Or there will be a reversal from current results that will lead to performing much closer to those expectations than is currently the case. 

The next month leading up to Memorial Day – traditionally the first “take stock” point of the season – will give us clues that should be useful in attacking the “Golden 90 days” of the baseball season – the months of June, July and August when teams will generally play to their true talent level.

Here’s a preview of three series this weekend.

San Francisco Giants at N Y Mets: Based on their season win Totals both teams are expected to make the Playoffs. Neither team has started the season on pace to match their win Totals but both have the rosters built for success over the six month season. 

The Mets have outstanding starting pitching that is expected to show continued improvement over last season when the Mets won the NL pennant. 

The Giants are largely a veteran team that has won 3 World Series over the past six seasons (in even numbered years). The Giants have displayed better early season offense than has New York but the Mets rank fourth in allowing just 52 runs to date. 

The Giants have gotten decent early season starting pitching from Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija but both Jake Peavy and Matt Cain appear to be at the end of their careers and could be gone from the rotation within the next month.

The Mets’ Noah Syndergaard has been one of the best in all of baseball in his first 3 starts and but for Jake Arrieta and Clayton Kershaw would be a favorite for the Cy Young Award. Both Matt Harvey and Steven Matz seem to be rounding into form following shaky beginnings to their seasons.

New York would be the preferred play throughout this series behind any starter (except against Bumgarner or in a start by the Mets’ Bartolo Colon) provided the Mets are no higher than minus 130.

Bumgarner can be played as an underdog against any Mets starter. At plus 125 or more the Giants can be played in starts by Cueto or Samardzija. OVER Totals of 6 or 6.5 can also be considered but if we happen to see a Total of 7.5 or higher we can play that game UNDER (a possible but unlikely scenario).

NY Yankees at Boston Red Sox: These long time rivals entered 2016 as contenders more likely to contend for a Wild Card rather than the AL East Title with Toronto considered the Division favorite. Boston has started 9-9 and the Yankees 7-10 as they meet for the first time this season. 

Both teams are expected to rely more on offense than pitching although the Red Sox have the best starter on either team, David Price, with the Yankees having the decided edge in the bullpen. Masahiro Tanaka has been the Yanks’ best starter with his 2.91 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. No other starter has an ERA below 4.85 or WHIP below 1.36 although the stats are based on a very small sample size. 

The best plays throughout this series should be on the OVER and because the Yanks have not been banging the baseball thus far we may get to play OVER Totals of 9 or even 8.5. 

The Yankees would be playable as Underdogs in a start by Tanaka if getting plus 115 or more. Boston’s most effective starter has been Steven Wright and he can be backed as a favorite of up to minus 140 if not facing Tanaka.

Cleveland Indians at Philadelphia Phillies: The lone interleague series has an underachieving Cleveland at overachieving Philadelphia. Of course those descriptions should be applied very loosely given the early stage of the season but often an unexpected start to a season can have short term effects on confidence and swagger. 

The Phillies have played better than expected as a result of giving playing time to many of their younger players who are expected to be the core of their return to contender status a few years down the road.

The best situations for play in this series should be UNDER Totals of 8 or higher and on the Phillies as Underdogs of plus 125 or more when facing the Tribe’s Kluber, Salazar or Josh Tomlin. 

The Indians can be played as favorites up to minus 130 if they face Philly’s Jeremy Hellickson.

Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to GamingToday readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Email: [email protected]

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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