Trades could still shape MLB playoff picture

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Now that the dust has settled following the trade deadline the focus can be fully placed on the games on the field and the developing races to make the playoffs.

Two thirds of the season has been played, which means there’s still plenty of ball yet to be played – roughly 50 games per team. Fatigue and nagging injuries continue to take their toll as teams in contention just a few weeks ago are starting to fall farther down the standings.

Although the trade deadline passed at the end of last month it was really just the non-waiver trade deadline. Deals can still be made but teams lower in the standings can put in a claim to block those trades.

More often than not these potential deals would involve highly priced players that might fill a certain role over the final few weeks of the season and thus those attempts may be successful. So we could still see a small number of transactions taking place with the most prominently mentioned player who could be on the move being Colorado slugger Carlos Gonzalez.

With seven weeks remaining in the regular season the field of true Playoff contenders has narrowed with realistically just seven teams vying for the five spots in the National League. In addition to the three Division leaders only four teams are less than 8 games from a Playoff berth with Washington the fourth team on that list, 5 games out of the second Wild Card spot.

Although a myriad of factors are involved in handicapping a baseball game, the most significant factors relate to the relative quality of the two starting pitchers. The weights attached to those factors have decreased over the years as bullpens have become a much greater part of how games are played out.

Starting pitchers still account for more than three fifths of the number of pitches thrown in a typical game. In fact, through the first 1,664 games this season just over 60 percent of all starts (2,019 of 3,328) have seen a starting pitcher last 6 or more innings.

That’s why it is generally recommended to list starting pitchers when you make a side wager on a baseball game since a late pitching change may often have you change your level of enthusiasm for making that bet.

The linesmakers have done a great job of seeing results balance out over the course of the season. By this time most starters who have been in their team’s rotations since the season began and have not missed more than a handful of games will have started at least 20 games. Nearly 90 pitchers are in that group of starters.

Only one starter has rewarded his backers with more than 10 units of profit this season and only one starter has cost his backers more than 10 units in losses.

St. Louis’ young Carlos Martinez has provided 13.4 units of profit in his 20 starts as the Cards have gone 17-3 in those games. Martinez has pitched well but has not been as dominant as that record would suggest, with a solid 2.61 ERA and a modest 1.26 WHIP while averaging 6.2 innings per start.

The most costly pitcher may come as a surprise to many as he is the defending AL Cy Young Award winner. Cleveland’s Corey Kluber has made 24 starts and the Tribe is just 8-16 in those starts, costing backers 13.9 units. While not pitching at the level of last season Kluber’s 3.46 ERA is decent and his 1.08 and 7.2 innings per start are much better than average.

Only six starting pitchers have produced profits of at least 7 units – and two of them play for St. Louis (Martinez and Michael Wacha). Nine starters have produced losses of 7 units or more, including Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers are just 12-10 in Kershaw’s 22 starts but because Kershaw is so highly priced in the majority of his starts those 10 losses more than outweigh the 12 wins.

Here’s a look at three series for this weekend.

Pittsburgh at NY Mets: Both teams have solid starting pitching. The Mets, despite their youth, rate the edge with Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey all capable of being aces on most staffs. The Pirates are led by Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano but are without the injured A.J. Burnett who was very effective in his 21 starts. PLAYS: Mets -120 or less in starts by DeGrom, Syndergaard or Harvey against a Pittsburgh starter other than Cole; Pirates as underdogs of any price in a start by Cole against any Mets starter; Pirates +120 or more in a start by Liriano against any Mets starter; Pirates -120 or less in a start by Cole or Liriano not facing the Mets’ “Big Three;” UNDER 7 or higher in starts involving two of the aforementioned 5 starters; UNDER First 5 Inning Totals of 3 or 3.5 if the full game total is less than 7.

NY Yankees at Toronto: The Yankees get a chance for quick payback after dropping all home games to the Blue Jays this past weekend. Expect higher scoring games this weekend although it is worth noting that prior to the start of last weekend’s series the Yankees had been limited to just 1 and 2 runs in their prior two games against Boston. PLAYS: OVER 9 or less in any matchup not involving Toronto’s David Price; Yankees +125 or more with any starter against other than Price or R.A. Dickey; Toronto -125 or less with Price or Dickey against any Yankees starter.

Cubs at White Sox: These teams played last month just before the All Star break with the White Sox taking 2 of 3 games played at Wrigley Field. The Cubs are the better managed team and that could make a difference in games that figure to feature solid starting pitching by both teams.

PLAYS: Cubs as underdogs of any price or as -120 favorites or less in starts by Jon Lester or Jake Arrieta against any White Sox starter; Cubs +125 or more in starts by Jason Hammel or Dan Haren not facing Jose Quintana or Chris Sale; White Sox as underdogs of any price not facing Lester, Hamels or Arrieta or -120 favorites or less in starts by Sale or Quintana not opposing Lester or Arrieta, UNDER 8 or higher in any matchup; UNDER 7 or higher in matchups of Arrieta or Lester against Sale or Quintana.

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]

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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