MLB Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 8/27/2012
The big news in Major League Baseball last week was the absolutely shocking trade between Boston and the L.A. Dodgers that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett to the West Coast for essentially two top pitching prospects. It was the biggest salary dump in MLB history and it’s the Red Sox doing a reboot.
For the Dodgers, it’s a win-now move as they absorb some $260 million in guaranteed contracts. Crawford won’t help this year as he recently had Tommy John Surgery. His contract might be the worst in baseball right now. Beckett, meanwhile, isn’t the same pitcher and has been called by some a “clubhouse cancer”. Really, this trade was all about Gonzalez, who is a huge upgrade at first over James Loney (also sent to Boston) and helps on the marketing side as he is a Mexican-American. The Dodgers felt they had to make another huge splash to retain market share not just from the Angels but also the Stanley Cup champion Kings and the Lakers, the No. 1 show in town. Plus, L.A. didn’t love any potential free agents this offseason.
Gonzalez already has paid dividends, going 3-for-9 with a home run and four RBI in his first two games. He became the fifth Dodger to homer in his first at-bat with the team in the past 25 years. At Bovada, for example, the Dodgers’ odds to win the World Series jumped from 16/1 to 8/1 after the trade. Yet on Sportsbook.ag, L.A. is still not even the NL West favorite. The Dodgers are now at even-money to win the division with the Giants at -140. L.A. starts a series in Colorado on Monday night to begin a stretch of 15 straight games inside the division. Beckett pitches the opener against the Rockies, and pitchers often do see their numbers improve by moving from the AL to the NL.
As for the Red Sox, think of this team about a year ago today. Boston had the best record in the league, had what was considered the brightest GM in the game in Theo Epstein and one of the best managers in Terry Francona. Gonzalez was putting up MVP numbers and Beckett was among the league leaders in ERA. Now? Boston dropped to 100/1 to win the World Series and it’s hard to picture this club battling for the AL East title again until 2014.
It might be a good time to bet against the Red Sox because management obviously told the players that this season was over with this deal – reportedly DH David Ortiz might be shut down for the rest of the year as well (he was just placed back on the DL). Boston finished a series Monday with Kansas City before heading on a nine-game trip out West against the Angels, A’s and Mariners. A 3-6 mark wouldn’t surprise me, especially as the Angels have their Big 3 of Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Zack Greinke lined up for the series and the A’s have arguably their best three of Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson and Tommy Milone set to face Boston.
Staying in the AL East, the Baltimore Orioles also made a trade over the weekend, acquiring starter Joe Saunders from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Saunders was 6-10 with a 4.22 ERA in 21 starts with Arizona this season and will make his Orioles debut Wednesday vs. the White Sox. It’s a great move the Orioles, who currently have three rookies in their rotation. Saunders seems to pitch better later in the season with a 16-9 record and 3.98 ERA in 35 starts in September and October in his career. Baltimore’s rotation also is soon to get back ace Jason Hammel. He hasn’t pitched since July 13 because of knee surgery but could be back Sept. 6. Hammel (8-6, 3.54) led the team in wins and strikeouts before landing on the DL.
The team to watch in the National League this week is the St. Louis Cardinals. They just took two of three over the weekend from the Reds. It was only Cincinnati’s second series loss since the all-star break. Cards pitcher Adam Wainwright is starting to resemble his pre-Tommy John Surgery form. He was the winner Sunday and has won five straight starts for the first time in his career. Allen Craig had three RBI Sunday and is raking, hitting .370 with five homers and 17 RBI this month.
St. Louis isn’t going to catch the Reds, who are likely to get back Joey Votto this weekend, in the NL Central. But the Cards currently hold down the second wild-card spot in the NL as they enter a big week: three games at Pittsburgh and four at Washington. It’s easily the toughest week remaining on St. Louis’ regular-season schedule. Come through that with a winning mark, and the Cards are in great postseason shape.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is going the wrong way. Last season, the Pirates went into a tailspin after a 19-inning game. And since beating the Cards last weekend in a 19-inning affair, Pittsburgh is 1-5. It is 5-12 in the past 17 games overall and 6-11 at PNC Park since Aug. 7 after being the best home team in baseball for much of the season. Over the last five seasons, Pittsburgh's .295 (41-98) winning percentage during August is by far the lowest for any major-league team. The Pirates have won just one of their past seven series and are -105 home series dogs vs. St. Louis (-125).
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