MLB Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 7/24/2012
On 5Dimes, the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers are the co-+450 favorites to win the World Series, but a few things have gone down that could lift the Yanks ahead of Texas.
The first was Monday’s stunning trade between the Mariners and Yankees, with Seattle sending Ichiro Suzuki to the Bombers for two minor-league pitchers. Ichiro is easily the best-ever player to play in MLB from Japan. He was MLB’s first Japanese-born position player and the 2001 American League MVP and Rookie of the Year when he helped lead Seattle to the best regular season in history. The 38-year-old also has won two batting titles, set the single-season MLB hits record and won 10 Gold Glove awards in his 11-plus seasons with the Mariners.
This deal is a no-brainer for the Yankees after learning that Brett Gardner, one of their few players with speed, was done for the year. And I believe playing in a pennant race will energize Ichiro. Since the start of last season, the likely future Hall of Famer has hit just.268 with a .302 on-base percentage. Plus, Ichiro won’t feel the burden of carrying the offense like he had to do with the M’s. He led off for most of his career with the Mariners but moved down in the order this year and is certainly not going to supplant Derek Jeter as the Yankees’ leadoff hitter.
For the Mariners, it’s the end of an era but a smart move. Seattle isn’t going anywhere for a few years at least with the big-budget Rangers and Angels in the AL West. Plus, Ichiro clearly is showing his age and will be a free agent at the end of the season. Ironically, the Yankees, who were just swept four games in Oakland, started a three-game series Monday night in Seattle.
The news isn’t so positive in Texas. Pitcher Colby Lewis (6-6, 3.43) has a torn ligament in his pitching arm and is expected to have surgery and miss the rest of the season. Lewis has been a workhorse in Texas. He pitched 201 innings in 2010 and 200 1/3 innings in 2011 and was the team's top postseason pitcher as the Rangers won back-to-back AL pennants. Youngster Martin Perez will take Lewis’ start on Tuesday. He’s one of the team’s top prospects but probably isn’t ready for a pennant race yet. In addition, pitcher Roy Oswalt was scratched from Monday’s start vs. the Red Sox with tightness in his lower back – a back issue sidelined Oswalt on multiple occasions with the Phillies a year ago, so that’s an ominous sign
Look for Texas to now be extremely aggressive in landing an arm before the July 31 trade deadline. Milwaukee’s Zack Greinke has been mentioned as a target along with the Cubs’ Matt Garza, although Garza has been closely linked with the Dodgers.
Speaking of the Cubs, they also may have helped shape the NL East race on Monday when they agreed to trade Ryan Dempster to the Braves for pitching prospect Randall Delgado. Dempster leads the majors with a 2.11 ERA and recently reeled off a streak of 33 consecutive scoreless innings. He was scheduled to start Wednesday for the Cubs. Dempster will help bolster a Braves rotation that has struggled to replace Brandon Beachy, who suffered a season-ending elbow injury last month.
Currently on 5Dimes, the Nationals are -160 favorites to win the NL East with the “field” at +140, but I would lean toward Atlanta now. That’s because of Dempster and the fact the Nationals just lost star shortstop Ian Desmond (.286, 17 HRs, 53 RBI) for likely at least a month with an oblique tear. The Nats were a middling offensive team even with a healthy Desmond. Danny Espinosa will move from second base to his natural position at shortstop, and Steve Lombardozzi from the outfield to his natural position at second. Also, remember the Nats still claim to be planning to shut down Stephen Strasburg at around 160-170 innings – he’s at 110.1.
Finally, there was one other trade Monday that is likely to shape a division race. The Tigers, fresh off taking the AL Central lead from the White Sox thanks to a weekend sweep, got second baseman Omar Infante and pitcher Anibal Sanchez from the Marlins for a package built around top pitching prospect Jacob Turner.
Infante, who played in Detroit from 2002-07, is hitting .287 and has a .312 on-base percentage this season, with eight home runs, 33 RBI and 12 steals. He fills easily the most glaring hole on the Tigers. Sanchez is 5-7 with a 3.94 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP.
On Tuesday, Detroit , which has won 16 of 21,begins a nine-game road trip against Cleveland, Toronto and Boston. The Tigers are now -150 favorites on 5Dimes to win the Central, with the White Sox at +145. This trade clearly makes Detroit the team to beat.
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