The 2008 baseball season has developed into one of great parity.
Only one team, the Los Angeles Angels, is playing better than .600 baseball, as they lead the AL West by nine games over Oakland. No other division has more than a two-game gap between the first and second place teams.
Realistically, nine of the 14 AL teams and 10 of 16 in the NL are within seven games of a playoff berth with 10 weeks and roughly 60 games remaining in the regular season.
Perhaps that explains why there have been some major trades several weeks before the trading deadline.
Hours after Milwaukee acquired CC Sabathia from Cleveland, the NL Central leading Chicago Cubs traded for Oakland starter Rich Harden. Oakland all but officially conceded the end of its 2008 season by trading a second member of their starting rotation, Joe Blanton, to Philadelphia last week.
Over the next week and a half we should see quite a number of minor trades as those teams in contention seek to shore up depth, adding an experienced arm or bat to the roster.
Every season there are a handful of pitchers with "extreme" records both in terms of profit and loss when they start and in their distribution of overs and unders. In some instances the extreme results make sense when looking at the pitcher’s statistics and results. In many cases there is no logical way to explain the disparity.
There are two starting pitchers in whose starts there have been at least eight more overs than unders. Minnesota’s Livan Hernandez (15-6) and Pittsburgh’s Tom Gorzelanny (13-4 and currently working on his mechanics in the minors) are the two extreme over pitchers.
The list of extreme under pitchers is much longer. Starting the week, there are 14 whose starts have produced at least eight more unders than overs. Interestingly, only Seattle’s Felix Hernandez has an ERA below 3 at 2.95. Adam Eaton and Luke Hochevar, have ERAs above 5.
There seems to be no rhyme or reason for this phenomenon. Moving on, here is the list of the 14 extreme under pitchers:
Andy Pettitte 16-4-1, Greg Smith 14-3-2, Adam Eaton 14-4-1, Brian Moehler 11-1-1, Ubaldo Jimenez 15-6, Odalis Perez 13-5, Felix Hernandez 12-4-2, Mike Mussina 14-6, Randy Wolf 14-6-1, John Danks 14-6, Dustin McGowan 13-5-1, Scott Feldman 11-3, Luke Hochevar 12-4 and Jo Jo Reyes 11-3-1.
Here’s a look at four series to be played this weekend:
Marlins at Cubs: This four-game series is the first meeting between the teams. Both possess plenty of offense. Chicago has the more experienced and proven pitching but the Marlins’ staff has come along nicely. Recent additions Josh Johnson and Chuck Volstead have pitched well, though starting a combined three times. Lefty Scott Olsen and righty Ricky Nolasco have been the most effective starters.
The Cubs have relied upon ace Carlos Zambrano. The performance of Ryan Dempster as a starter has been a very pleasant surprise. The recent trade for former Oakland ace Rich Harden strengthens a solid pitching staff that has also gotten good bullpen pitching. Closer Kerry Wood is expected to be placed on the DL early this week.
• Cubs as underdogs in any matchup.
• Cubs -130 or less in starts by Dempster, Harden or Zambrano.
• Marlins as +150 underdogs or more against Dempster, Harden or Zambrano;
• Under 9 or higher if Dempster, Harden or Zambrano oppose Nolasco or Olsen.
Cardinals at Mets: Also, the first meeting. The Mets have only recently begun to play to their tremendous potential on offense, while the pitching has started to come around. St Louis has been a major surprise.
Las Vegan Ryan Ludwick is having a career season, providing much needed support for star Albert Pujols. Veteran Kyle Lohse has been the star of the pitching rotation.
• Either team as +120 underdogs or more.
• Cards +150 or more against Johan Santana.
• Mets as -125 favorites or less in starts by Mike Pelfrey or Oliver Perez.
• Over 8 or lower in any matchup
White Sox at Tigers: Chicago leads the season series 5-4, but in something of an oddity the road team won the first four and the home team the last five. Detroit’s pitching has started to improve, but the defense remains a major flaw.
Chicago has gotten better than expected pitching although starters Gavin Floyd and John Danks have labored following a strong first three months. Still, the Sox rate a huge edge on the mound.
• White Sox as underdogs in most cases.
• White Sox +125 against Justin Verlander.
• White Sox -120 tops in starts by Danks or Mark Buehrle.
• Under 9 or higher if Verlander or Armando Galarraga opposes Danks or Buehrle.
• Over 9 or less not involving Galarraga, Verlander, Buehrle or Danks.
Yankees at Red Sox: Boston leads this season’s edition of "The Rivalry," 5-4. The Yankees have played their best baseball of the season over the last month as their pitching has actually been their strength. Starters Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte and Joba Chamberlain have each been effective while the bullpen trio of Jose Veras, Kyle Farnsworth and Mariano Rivera have pretty much shortened the game to six innings.
Boston has been struggling more of late with its rotation, which has been inconsistent beyond ace Josh Beckett and the ageless Tim Wakefield. Jon Lester continues to have a solid upside but Clay Buchholz has struggled greatly. Both teams have plenty of offense although the Red Sox have overcome injuries better. The Yanks have scored two runs or less in 34 of 98 games.
• Yankees +115 underdogs or more in starts by Chamberlain, Mussina or Pettitte.
• Yankees +140 against Beckett.
• Red Sox -150 tops against any other New York starter.
• Under 9 or higher if any of the three Yankees starters opposes Beckett, Wakefield or Lester.
• Over 10 or lower if none of these six listed pitchers start.