Baltimore is the early season surprise in the American League.
Picked to finish last by many spring training prognosticators the Orioles have gotten off to an 8-3 start and only Boston, at 6-5, joins the O’s with a winning record in the AL East. Baltimore’s strength was considered to be its offense with a major weakness being its overall lack of quality pitching.
Indeed Baltimore has gotten poor pitching in its six road games, allowing 5.8 runs per game. But in their five home games the Orioles have allowed just 2.0 runs per game.
The two best records in baseball are held by 9-2 Washington and the 9-3 Chicago Cubs. Neither team’s early season success is a surprise. The Cubs are the solid 9-4 favorites to win the National League pennant at the Westgate. Washington is currently the fifth choice at 7-1 with the Mets, Dodgers and San Francisco all priced between the Cubs and Nats. Of those three teams only the 5-6 Mets sit below .500.
Through the first three series of the season both Minnesota and Atlanta were winless, each standing 0-9 prior to last weekend.
Minnesota hosted the LA Angels for a three game series while Atlanta was in Miami for also a three game series. Despite their combined 0-18 record the Twins and Braves both swept their weekend series. As the late Joe Garagiola was noted for saying, “Baseball is a funny game.” Indeed.
The Chicago White Sox are off to a surprising 9-4 start, with quality pitching and enough offense the primary reasons. AL Central Division rivals Kansas City and Detroit have also started strongly at 8-4 and 7-4 respectively. This is considered by many to be the best balanced Division in baseball with just 6.5 games separating the five teams according to projected season win Totals, the lowest difference between projected Division winner and cellar dweller of any Division.
Two teams have started with extreme OVER/UNDER results. Both are in the AL Central. Kansas City and Minnesota have each played a dozen games with 10 staying UNDER and just 2 going OVER. Included in these results are the three games played between the Royals and Twins over the season’s first weekend, a series swept by KC.
All three games of the series stayed UNDER the Total but if we eliminate those games the Twins and Royals have played a combined 14 UNDERs and just two OVERs against the rest of MLB. Such results will not hold up over the course of the season but are worth monitoring in the short term.
Oakland has started the season playing 9 UNDERs and just 3 OVERs and Tampa Bay has played 8 UNDERs and 2 OVERs with 2 pushes. The strongest early OVER performers have been Detroit (8-3 to the OVER), Atlanta (8-3-1) and Miami (7-3).
Here’s a preview of three weekend series.
Pittsburgh at Arizona: Pittsburgh has an above average lineup and a pitching staff that has not performed as well early as it should later in the season. The preferred plays throughout this series will be on the OVER when priced at 8.5 or lower. Pittsburgh is also playable as an underdog in starts by Francisco Liriano or Jon Niese. The Pirates can also be backed in a start by Gerrit Cole as either an underdog or if favored by no more than minus 120.
Texas at Chicago White Sox: The Sox are worth backing in this series as favorites of -130 or less in starts by other than John Danks. The Rangers are playable if getting +150 or more in any matchup. Let’s also look UNDER Totals of 7.5 or higher in starts not involving Danks.
Minnesota at Washington: The Nats figure to be heavily favored throughout this series and the combination of their potent lineup and quality pitching makes the best plays throughout this series Washington on the run line, laying a run and a half with the exception of a start by Tanner Roark. He is the lone starter with a WHIP in excess of 1.10 and is also the lone Washington starter to average less than 6.5 innings per start. Minnesota’s best chance for a win might be against Roark if the Twins counter with veteran starter Ervin Santana.
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]