The Los Angeles Dodgers have the best record in Major League Baseball and the biggest cushion of any division leader. In addition, NL MVP candidate Matt Kemp is set to come off the disabled list on Tuesday, presumably making L.A. that much better again. It’s easy to understand why Los Angeles is the huge -1200 favorite on Sportsbook.ag to win the NL West and the +300 favorite to win the National League pennant.
But I would caution you about putting all your eggs in that Dodgers basket and forgetting all about the San Francisco Giants, who are at +600 to win the division. Here’s why: On Monday, the Giants began a stretch of 20 games in their next 32 at home, with all 12 road games on the West Coast, including three in Oakland.
Meanwhile, on Friday the Dodgers start a run of 20 games in 34 on the road, including a cross-country trek and back to Colorado, Philadelphia and Seattle. In addition, they have only two days off before the all-star break begins July 9, and those are four days apart (June 14 and 18).
And what has gotten into San Francisco’s Melky Cabrera? Some experts panned the Giants for trading young pitcher Jonathan Sanchez to Kansas City this offseason for Cabrera. Our boy Melky was 4-for-4 in Sunday’s win at Miami and leads the major leagues with 73 hits this season. Over the past 75 years (1937-2011) the only other Giants player to record as many as 73 hits over the team's first 48 games of a season was Willie Mays in 1958. Cabrera is hitting .426 this month. Sanchez, meanwhile, is on the disabled list and is 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA this season.
The big news in MLB this week is likely to come on Tuesday when it’s expected to be revealed how seriously injured preseason co-NL Cy Young favorite Roy Halladay is. Mr. Durable will have his sore pitching shoulder examined Tuesday and the signs don’t look good. Halladay’s velocity is down and this month Doc has allowed 44 hits and 24 runs in 35.1 innings, including five homers in his last three starts. Halladay allowed only 10 homers for the entire 2010 season when he won his second Cy Young award.
Because the Phillies do not play Thursday, they do not need a fifth starter until June 6 and it’s still not expected that Halladay will be back in the rotation by then. The Phils are hoping the injured Vance Worley will return by that date, but the rotation is looking awfully shaky now. The team might have to consider bringing back free agent Roy Oswalt, but he could be headed to Texas.
Finally, the books have replaced Philly, still last in the NL East, as the pennant favorite as the Phils are now at +500 along with Atlanta (behind Dodgers and Cardinals). The Phils and Braves are both +250 to win the NL East behind Washington (+200). But if Halladay is done for the season, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Phillies be a seller come the trading deadline.
By the way, pay close attention to the standings here on Memorial Day. You know the old axiom that teams leading their division on Memorial Day usually make the playoffs? Well, it’s pretty accurate.
Entering last season since the start of three-divisional play in 1995 nearly 60 percent of the teams leading their divisions or their league's wild-card race on Memorial Day made it into the postseason. Last year of the six division leaders (Yankees and Red Sox were tied in AL East but calling the Yankees the leaders as they had a slightly better winning percentage) on Memorial Day, five of them made the postseason. The one that didn’t? Cleveland. Four of the six division leaders went on to win their division, with the Tribe and Cardinals not holding on. Of course, St. Louis went on to claim the NL wild card and win the World Series.
I would call Cleveland the shakiest division leader again this season. The Indians (+250 on Sportsbook to win the Central) are just a half-game ahead of the surprising White Sox (+500) entering this week and no team in the majors is hotter than the Sox, who have won eight of their last nine and 12 of their last 17. Detroit is three games back and has largely disappointed but remains the big -275 division favorite.
I’m starting to jump on the White Sox bandwagon as they are second only to Texas in the AL in run differential at plus-30 and guys like Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn and Dayan Viciedo are raking. In his last 10 games, Konerko is hitting .639 with five home runs and 14 RBI. The Pale Hose have a tough three-game set to start the week at Tampa Bay, which is a -175 series favorite, but then have nine straight at home, all against beatable foes in Seattle, Toronto and Houston.
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