MLB Betting and Handicapping: Scouting The Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 4/30/2012
Do you still think the Los Angeles Angels are a playoff team?
Certainly no club has been more disappointing than the Halos so far as they enter this week tied for the most losses in the American League with 15 and they are already a whopping nine games out of first place in the AL West. L.A. opened as the division favorite there but is now at +450 to catch the Texas Rangers, who are huge -1500 division favorites.
But the addition of a second wild card could be exactly what the Angels need. Here are a few interesting numbers courtesy of the Chicago Tribune: In the first 24 seasons of divisional play, from 1969 through 1993 (not counting the strike-shortened 1981 season), there were 163 teams that were more than five games back after April 30. Only three of those (the 1969 Mets, 1979 Pirates and 1987 Tigers) recovered to win their divisions. So, overall, teams that were at least five games back on that date had a 1.8 percent chance of making the playoffs. But then from 1996 until last year, there were 131 teams more than five out of first at the end of play on April 30. Thirteen of those made the playoffs, meaning the odds had increased to 9.9 percent thanks to the wild card (which was officially added in 1994). It’s obviously realistic to think those odds will take a similar jump this year with that second playoff spot available in each league.
The Angels could be set up to have a good week. They open a three-game home series tonight against the Minnesota Twins, one of the few clubs worse than L.A. Then the Angels get so-so Toronto in Anaheim for four games. The Halos have won just one series so far this year and are 1-12 when scoring three runs or less. If they get swept by the Twins, it could be time for Mike Scioscia to worry about his job.
Perhaps this will even be the week Albert Pujols starts to earn his money. He has now gone a career-long 117 regular-season at bats since his last homer and is down to .216 with four RBI. Pujols, who in 2006 set an April record with 14, hit five homers during the 2011 postseason for the Cardinals, but he has not connected in the regular season since Sept. 22. He might be this year’s Carl Crawford from 2011. Bovada revised Pujols’ ‘over/under’ homer total to 30 and his RBI to 94.5; last year Pujols had a 105 at-bat homerless streak and still finished with 37.
I think he hits one Tuesday night vs. struggling Twins lefty Francisco Liriano. Pujols is +300 to homer in Game 1 (-400 not to), so I presume he will have a similar number on Tuesday. The three-time NL MVP is now +2000 at Sportsbook.com to lead the majors in homers this season. Scorching-hot Matt Kemp is the +140 favorite.
Elsewhere, keep a close eye on the New York Yankees this week as it could determine whether or not they aggressively look to trade for a starting pitcher. The Yanks already have moved struggling Freddy Garcia (0-1, 9.75) to the bullpen. David Phelps will start in Garcia’s spot Thursday against the Royals. Phelps has been terrific out of the bullpen this season, posting a 3.57 ERA and 1.08 WHIP over 17 2/3 innings.
But if Phelps isn’t the answer then there could be big trouble because Phil Hughes has been nothing short of awful as well in the rotation, going 1-2 with a 7.87 ERA. He didn’t even make it out of the third inning last time out and teams are hitting .329 off him. Hughes, who has lasted five innings just once this year, takes the mound Tuesday night vs. Baltimore. (The Yanks likely won’t have one of their hottest bats, Nick Swisher, for that series due to a hamstring injury; New York is a -280 series favorite vs. the first-place O’s that starts Monday night).
New York has just six quality starts this year, which is the second-lowest number in baseball. The Yankees’ rotation ERA entering Monday is 6.08. Only once before in franchise history have the Yankees finished the month of April with a starters ERA above 6.00: in 1950, they had a 6.22 ERA in 10 games. Ivan Nova is the only starter with an ERA under 4.00. Michael Pineda, who was supposed to be the team’s No. 2 behind CC Sabathia, is out until at least next June after surgery to repair a torn labrum. The Bombers are putting an awful lot of faith in soon-to-be 40-year-old Andy Pettitte, but the veteran lefty is still not quite ready and is likely at least three minor-league starts away.
Hard as it is to believe, the Yanks actually miss A.J. Burnett right now! Look for names like Houston’s Wandy Rodriguez or Kansas City’s Jonathan Sanchez to be rumored to be headed to the Yankees if the pitching continues to be an issue.
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