MLB Betting and Handicapping: Scouting The Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 6/4/2012
So when are the books finally going to get off the Detroit Tigers bandwagon?
Here we are a third of the way through the baseball season and the Tigers are huge disappointments at 25-29 (12-14 at home) and in third place in the American League Central, six games behind the division-leading and red-hot Chicago White Sox. Yet Detroit remains the -125 favorite on Sportsbook.ag to win the division and +600 to win the AL pennant (Chicago is +140 to win the division).
When Tigers ace Justin Verlander can’t even get a win, you know things aren’t looking good. The reigning AL Cy Young and MVP was beaten by the New York Yankees on Sunday for his third straight loss. The last time Verlander lost three consecutive starts, he ended up leading the American League in losses in 2008.
Verlander lasted 6 1/3 innings Sunday, stretching his streak of consecutive starts with at least six innings to 54. In his previous outing at Boston, he allowed five runs and 10 hits in six innings and, thus, gave up five runs in back-to-back outings for the first time since September 2009. (Quick stat from Sunday’s game: Derek Jeter's leadoff homer was the first home run this season to occur on the first pitch of a game. There were three last season.)
Since the start of May, the Tigers have won consecutive games just once, coming when they swept the awful Minnesota Twins from May 25-27. Detroit could be in line for a good run, however. The Tigers host the coming-back-to-earth Cleveland Indians for three games starting Tuesday before heading to NL Central leading Cincinnati for three over the weekend as interleague play resumes. Then the Tigers should be able to beat up on the Chicago Cubs and Colorado Rockies.
Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals, who the Tigers face June 19-21, are starting to fade. Since getting off to a 20-11 start, the Cardinals have gone just 7-16 entering Monday. Of course, they were the victims of the first no-hitter in Mets history on Friday night and have scored one total run in the first three games of that series (ended Monday afternoon).
The Cards might have to trade for pitching as Jake Westbrook, after starting 4-2 with a 1.76 ERA, is 0-3 with an 8.28 ERA in five starts since. In his last three starts, Westbrook has allowed 16 runs in 13 2/3 innings. Guys like Kyle Lohse, Jamie Garcia and Lance Lynn are all starting to get hit more as well. And the bullpen hasn’t been much better, with a 5.36 ERA since the start of May.
Another team that likely will be active in trade talks for pitching is the Boston Red Sox. It’s now pretty evident that the move of Daniel Bard from reliever to starter isn’t working. In Sunday’s 5-1 loss at Toronto, Bard (5-6, 5.24) allowed five runs, walked six, struck out two and hit two batters in 1 2/3 innings, his shortest career start. He is the first Sox pitcher to walk five or more in two innings or less of work.
Bard's strikeout-to-walk ratio is now 0.92 compared to 3.08 out of the bullpen last year. He is averaging six-plus walks per nine innings pitched and has more free passes (37) than strikeouts (34). Only five pitchers in baseball have allowed more walks than Bard this season, and only Cleveland's Ubaldo Jimenez has a worse K/BB ratio. His average fastball velocity is down to 93.3 mph this season from over 97 mph in his previous three seasons.
Look for the Sox to move him back a set-up role, especially with Daisuke Matsuzaka’s return imminent. Dice-K has had two solid rehab starts and could be well-rested when Bard’s next turn comes around on Saturday against the Nationals, if the Red Sox choose to go that way.
“I’ll think about it awhile,” Manager Bobby Valentine said of Bard making his next start. “I have some time. Regretfully, it’s going to have to take up an off day (Monday), but I’ll think about it awhile.”
Despite all their pitching troubles, the Sox are still just three games out of first in the packed AL East and +400 on Sportsbook.ag to win the division.
Monday could be an important day for Boston as Valentine said he and the training staff would "probably talk" about whether or not second baseman Dustin Pedroia would have to go on the 15-day disabled list. Pedroia missed his sixth consecutive game Sunday since suffering the torn adductor muscle in the thumb of his throwing hand. He is hoping to play through the injury and even hopes to play Tuesday against Baltimore but I’d be shocked if he’s not on the DL sooner rather than later. The former AL MVP is hitting .295 with five homers and 21 RBI. He is second on the team in both hits (59) and runs scored (30).
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