There were a few significant trades as the deadline approached and went. Certainly none can truly be described as a “blockbuster” despite media standards having been lowered over the decades in an effort to fabricate and hype such trades as having a much greater potential impact than history would suggest.
Of the trades completed, the New York Yankees were involved in a pair that reshaped their bullpen, parting ways with two of their three stellar relievers in exchange for prospects, sending Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs and Andrew Miller to Cleveland. Those trades provide a pair of teams that could meet in the World Series with elite closers.
Washington also acquired a closer in a trade with Pittsburgh for Mark Melancon, likely signaling the end of Jonathan Papelbon having a major role for the Nationals.
Perhaps the biggest news of the weekend involved the non-trade of Milwaukee’s highly sought after catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who vetoed a trade from the non-contending Brewers to Cleveland, then agreed to go to Texas.
If there are questions about whether money or winning a title is more important to a player, Lucroy opted for the former as his veto was reportedly predicated on Cleveland’s unwillingness to void a club option for 2017 that would have paid Lucroy less money than he would likely have been able to attain on the open market. Yet he agreed on the Rangers.
Normally players jump at the chance to play for a contender with a realistic chance of winning a World Series rather than continue to play out the season with a non-contender. Lucroy was traded just before the deadline and the Rangers also picked up Carlos Beltran from the Yanks.
Another trade involving a contender was Miami’s acquisition of starting pitcher Andrew Cashner from San Diego. The Marlins are very much in the Playoff race, starting the week four games behind Washington in the NL East but currently in control of the second NL Wild Card.
The Padres were also involved in one of the more head scratching trades, sending Matt Kemp to Atlanta in a trade involving a pair of teams well out of any Playoff contention. With a new stadium set to open next season the Braves may be trying to create reasons to attract fans as their rebuilding process is expected to take a few more seasons.
By the time next week’s column is penned I will be better able to assess the likely impact of trades, and the prospects for the contending teams going forward will be addressed.
In looking at statistics in handicapping baseball games, or other sports for that matter, it is vitally important to keep things in context. It often sounds impressive when certain statistics are cited but without knowing the other parameters involved those statistics can be misleading, often very misleading.
Over the next few weeks I will be reviewing some of the key statistics both handicappers and bettors use in evaluating starting pitchers with an eye toward looking for the extremes – the numbers that correlate with either extreme success or extreme failure.
Being a numbers nerd my baseball data base goes back over a quarter century so there is a huge volume of data from which to draw.
Here’s a preview of three weekend series.
Giants at Nationals
These teams split their four game series in San Francisco this past weekend. The Giants struggled coming out of the All Star break, losing 11 of 13 games before winning the final two against the Nationals to earn that split. All four games of that series stayed UNDER the Total as Washington outscored the Giants 12 runs to 11.
Pitching again should be the theme of this series as both teams have multiple quality starters. The Giants are led by Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto and the Nats are anchored by Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer. The Nats have the edge in the balance of the rotation. Neither Bumgarner nor Strasburg pitched in last weekend’s series. Both offenses are very close to average with neither having an edge.
Plays: At 7 or higher the UNDER would be the preferred way to play this series; also consider UNDER for the first 5 innings. In a matchup of Bumgarner or Cueto for the Giants against Strasburg, Scherzer or Tanner Roark for the Nationals, look to play the underdog if priced at +115 or higher. If other than Bumgarner or Cueto start for the Giants the Nationals can be played as -150 favorites or lower.
Indians at Yankees
Andrew Miller returns to Yankee Stadium as the new closer for the Indians after Sunday’s big trade. With his departure and that of Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances takes over the closer role for the Yankees whose bullpen is considerably weaker than it was a week ago. That could be a problem in this series as New York’s starting rotation is average at best, although only Masahiro Tanaka is pitching to an ERA below 3.95 (3.15) and a WHIP below 1.34 (1.11).
Cleveland has perhaps baseball’s best rotation one through five. Neither team has much of an edge at the plate although the Yankees’ aging roster figures to have more trouble showing consistency as the dog days of summer wear on. It may be easy to support the UNDER in this series due to the performance of both offenses. The Yankees have been below average in scoring just 4.2 runs per game at home (only 3.8 on the road).
Plays: UNDER 8 or higher would be the most attractive option but we may be confronted with 7.5 in some matchups. If Tanaka starts in such a game for the Yankees the UNDER is still in play. Cleveland would be an attractive play as an underdog in any matchup. The Indians can also be backed as -125 favorites or less in starts by Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber or Danny Salazar against other than Tanaka. The Yankees can be backed as -125 favorites or less in a start by Tanaka against any Cleveland starter or as +150 underdogs or more in a start by any other Yankee starter against any Cleveland starter.
Red Sox at Dodgers
This is the most attractive of the three interleague series of the weekend and both teams are in the thick of contending both for a Division title and a Wild Card. The Dodgers have played well over the past month even with ace Clayton Kershaw sidelined and whose return later in the season remains a major question. Kenta Maeda has emerged as the best starter beyond Kershaw, although Brandon McCarthy has pitched very well in his five starts after missing most of the season due to injury.
Boston has gotten decent if not spectacular starting pitching from David Price, Rick Porcello and knuckleballer Steven Wright. Porcello has been steady all season whereas Wright pitched better earlier in the season and Price has started to return to past form after early season struggles. Boston has one of baseball’s best lineups that has averaged 5.9 runs per game at home and 5.1 rpg on the road
Plays: If the Totals overcompensate for the Boston offense there may be value in playing UNDER Totals of 7.5 or higher. Only 15 of their 53 home games have produced more than 7 total runs. The Red Sox are best played as +120 underdogs or more against any Dodgers starter other than Maeda. The Dodgers can be backed as favorites of up to -140 in a start by Maeda or as favorites of -120 or less in all other matchups.