Posturing?

August 13, 2002 12:40 PM
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The threat of a work stoppage in major league baseball looms at least publicly as the Players’ Union was expected to set a strike date this past Monday.

There are many observers close to the scene, however, who believe that this may just be a posturing angle taken to show solidarity among the players. The belief is that the major differences between the players and owners are not that great and that a resolution will be found before a strike takes place.

Atlanta and Arizona continue to separate themselves from the rest of the National League. The Braves have baseball’s best record and lead the East by almost 20 games. Arizona is seven games ahead of second place Los Angeles in NL West.

The only competitive divisional race remains the Central where St. Louis begins the week with a two game lead over Cincinnati. Houston is a game further back. In the Wild Card race Los Angeles currently leads San Francisco by a slim one half game. Cincinnati trails the Dodgers by four and Houston is five behind.

The New York Yankees have the best record in the American League but again begin the week just four games ahead of Boston. Minnesota is running away with the Central with a healthy 14- game lead over Chicago, one of two second place teams below .500. The tightest race remains in the AL West where Seattle leads Anaheim by just two and a half games. Oakland is just four out.

The Wild Card is controlled by Anaheim, leaders over Boston by just a half game and 1 ½ over Oakland. It appears that just six of the 14 AL teams will finish with winning records.

Here’s a look at several of the more interesting series to be played this weekend, each of which involves a pair of playoff contenders.

Dodgers at Mets: The Mets have all but played themselves out of Wild Card contention with their poor efforts over the past two weeks. The lack of timely hitting combined with subpar efforts by the top of their rotation have the New Yorkers below .500 and 7 1/2 games behind the Dodgers.

Pedro Astacio and veteran lefty Al Leiter are the two best starting pitchers in this series and can be backed if made underdogs. Their starts can also be played UNDER a total of 8 or higher. Dodger rookie left-hander Kaz Ishii has been less than effective over the past month and can be played against if favored. Against other than Leiter or Astacio his start can also be played over a total of 9 or less.

Astros at Reds: The second and third place teams in the NL Central square off in this key series. Houston is the better team fundamentally, especially in the starting rotation. If Houston is an underdog with either Wade Miller or Roy Oswalt on the mound the Astros are clearly worth a look. In fact, at a price of up to -120 either Astros starter may be backed.

Cincinnati’s best starter, Elmer Dessens, is on the DL and no other Reds starter can be comfortably backed. In fact, the better play might be the OVER in any game that does not feature Oswalt or Miller starting for the Astros, provided the total is no higher than 9 1/2.

BoSox at Twins: Boston took two of three games at home last weekend from the Twins in what was a very well pitched series. All three went UNDER the total as Boston outscored Minnesota 9-6. This series should be higher scoring but it will still be hard to play the OVER in starts by Boston’s Pedro Martinez or Derek Lowe. Their starts can be played UNDER a total of 8 or higher. Otherwise the OVER may be considered at a total of 9 or lower when any other starter takes the mound for Boston. Minnesota is worth playing as an underdog against pitchers other than Martinez or Lowe. The Twins’ starting rotation is better, especially Rick Reed and Johan Santana as attractive underdogs.

Yankees at M’s: This could be a potential playoff preview although neither team is assured of making postseason play. The Yankees are fighting place teams below .500. The tightest race remains in the AL West where Seattle leads Anaheim by just two and a half games. Oakland is just four out.

The Wild Card is controlled by Anaheim, leaders over Boston by just a half game and 1½ over Oakland. It appears that just six of the 14 AL teams will finish with winning records.

Here’s a look at several of the more interesting series to be played this weekend, each of which involves a pair of playoff contenders.

Dodgers at Mets: The Mets have all but played themselves out of Wild Card contention with their poor efforts over the past two weeks. The lack of timely hitting combined with subpar efforts by the top of their rotation have the New Yorkers below .500 and 7½ games behind the Dodgers.

Pedro Astacio and veteran lefty Al Leiter are the two best starting pitchers in this series and can be backed if made underdogs. Their starts can also be played UNDER a total of 8 or higher. Dodger rookie left-hander Kaz Ishii has been less than effective over the past month and can be played against if favored. Against other than Leiter or Astacio his start can also be played over a total of 9 or less.

Astros at Reds: The second and third place teams in the NL Central square off in this key series. Houston is the better team fundamentally, especially in the starting rotation. If Houston is an underdog with either Wade Miller or Roy Oswalt on the mound the Astros are clearly worth a look. In fact, at a price of up to —120 either Astros starter may be backed.

Cincinnati’s best starter, Elmer Dessens, is on the DL and no other Reds starter can be comfortably backed. In fact, the better play might be the OVER in any game that does not feature Oswalt or Miller starting for the Astros, provided the total is no higher than 9½.

BoSox at Twins: Boston took two of three games at home last weekend from the Twins in what was a very well pitched series. All three went UNDER the total as Boston outscored Minnesota 9-6. This series should be higher scoring but it will still be hard to play the OVER in starts by Boston’s Pedro Martinez or Derek Lowe. Their starts can be played UNDER a total of 8 or higher. Otherwise the OVER may be considered at a total of 9 or lower when any other starter takes the mound for Boston. Minnesota is worth playing as an underdog against pitchers other than Martinez or Lowe. The Twins’ starting rotation is better, especially Rick Reed and Johan Santana as attractive underdogs.

Yankees at M’s: This could be a potential playoff preview although neither team is assured of making postseason play. The Yankees are fighting off a challenge from Boston while Seattle is trying to hold off both Oakland and Anaheim. Both the Yankees and Mariners are down noticeably from last season with each team having major questions surrounding their starting pitching. The underdog may be worth a play throughout this series with one possible exception.

Neither team has a bona fide "ace" or "stopper" worthy of being favored by more than —125. The lone exception might be New York’s Andy Pettitte who has been their most consistent starter over the past six weeks. Pettitte can be played as a favorite of up to —120. Both teams are well managed, have strong starting pitching and generally reliable bullpens. Games with totals of 9 or higher may be played UNDER.