In comparison to most trade deadlines over the past decade or so this season qualifies as a blockbuster, although not necessarily a game changer.
Last Thursday west coasters awoke to the news Oakland had traded away star slugger Yoenis Cespedes as part of a deal to acquire Boston lefty starter Jon Lester.
Combined with the earlier trade for Jeff Samardzija and the fine performances all season of Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir the Athletics were thought to be the clear favorites to win the American League pennant. Those moves were clearly made in anticipation of the team that knocked them out of the playoffs the past couple of seasons, the Detroit Tigers.
But not so fast.
The Tigers delivered an equal and certainly more surprising counter punch when they acquired lefty David Price from Tampa Bay right at the deadline. Detroit’s playoff rotation will now consist of three Cy Young Award winners with Price joining Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.
Two other solid starters, Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello, could well be used in the bullpen, which has been an area of concern for the Tigers all season.
Despite the bolstering of Oakland’s starting rotation to compete with that of the Tigers, teams still need to score runs to win, especially in the playoffs where pitching dominates and runs are at a premium. The loss of Cespedes’ bat could be a major come playoff time.
Although it was just one series, immediately following the trade deadline Oakland lost two of three games at home to Kansas City – shut out in one loss and scoring just two runs in the other setback.
Sometimes a trade involving a key player from a team that had already fashioned the best record in baseball could have a negative effect in the clubhouse, even if equal or greater value is received in return.
There is one line of thinking that holds that after making the Samardzija trade the Athletics were already well positioned to defeat all comers, including Detroit. By adding Lester they clearly strengthened an already strong rotation but did they give up too much in terms of offense? The addition of Jonny Gomes, who came over with Lester, likely will not be able to offset the loss of a capable slugger.
After things had settled by noon on Friday at the LVH, Detroit and Oakland were co-favorites to win the World Series at odds of 7-to-2. Only the Dodgers at 4-1 and Washington at 8-1 were at odds of less than 10-1.
Here’s a look at four key series this weekend, including a pair of Interleague series involving teams contending for the postseason.
Nationals at Braves
Atlanta had won 5 of the first 6 times these teams met this season but the teams split their most recent series, each winning twice in Washington in mid June. In their 10 games this season the Totals have been evenly split at 5-5. Both teams have solid starting rotations with the only weak link in either’s being Atlanta lefty Mike Minor who has struggled for much of the season.
The Nats have a nicely balanced rotation with ace Stephen Strasburg being bested statistically by both Tanner Roark and Doug Fister. Atlanta’s most consistent starter has been Julio Teheran but veteran Aaron Harang and up-and-coming lefty Alex Wood also posting solid stats.
Plays: UNDER 7.5 or higher in any matchup not involving Atlanta’s Minor; Washington -120 or more in most matchups; Washington -140 against Minor; Atlanta +125 or more in starts by Teheran, Wood or Ervin Santana.
Dodgers at Brewers
The Dodgers and Brewers are meeting for the first time this season. LA has one of the top starting quartets in baseball with Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Josh Beckett and HJ Ryu. Milwaukee’s top starters have been Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse and Wily Peralta but none of that trio might challenge for the number three or four spot on the Dodgers.
Plays: Dodgers -150 or less against any Milwaukee starter in a start by Kershaw; Dodgers -140 or less in a start by Greinke; Dodgers -120 or less in starts by Ryu or Beckett; Milwaukee -130 or less with any starter against Dan Haren; UNDER 7.5 or higher in any start without Haren against Gallardo, Lohse or Peralta; OVER 8 or lower if Haren doesn’t face Gallardo.
Cardinals at Orioles
The Orioles have averaged more than a run per game more on the road (4.9) than at home (3.5). The Cardinals have the edge in starting pitching with Adam Wainwright the best starter, by far, on either start. Baltimore is familiar with both of the Cards’ new starters, John Lackey and Justin Masterson, and both of those starters have pitched many times in Baltimore.
Of the two, Lackey is the more trustworthy. Baltimore’s rotation is a collection of starters with very similar, and very average, statistics. Chris Tillman and Bud Norris are the best of the lot although there’s really not much difference among the entire group.
Plays: UNDER 8.5 or higher in any matchup; UNDER 7.5 or higher if St Louis’ Wainwright or Lance Lynn opposes Norris; Baltimore +130 or more against Wainwright; Baltimore +110 or more against any other starter; St. Louis +120 or more against any Baltimore starter.
Giants at Royals
Both have averaged more runs per game on the road than at home. San Francisco’s rotation was dealt a blow with the likely season-ending injury to Matt Cain, although Cain had been struggling through a disappointing campaign. Madison Bumgarner and Tim Hudson have been the clear cut leaders of the rotation.
The Royals have gotten solid seasons from veteran starters James Shields and Jason Vargas but the emerging star has been lefty Danny Duffy. Rookie Yordano Ventura seems to have hit a wall after a strong first two months and may be on an innings limit.
Plays: San Francisco -125 or less in starts by Bumgarner or Hudson against any Kansas City starter; Kansas City -120 or less with any starter against other than Bumgarner or Hudson; UNDER 8 or higher in any matchup; UNDER 7.5 or higher if San Francisco’s Ryan Vogelsong (15-7 to the UNDER) faces the Royals’ Duffy (11-4-1 to the UNDER).
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]