MLB Betting and Handicapping: Scouting The Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 5/8/2012
Are the Baltimore Orioles for real?
The Birds entered this week atop the ultra-tough American League East and with the best winning percentage in all of baseball – Buck Showalter is easily the early AL Manager of the Year. And it seems that perhaps the fates are smiling on the Orioles, who are still +1500 long shots at Sportsbook.com to win the AL East.
The second-place Tampa Bay Rays (+125 second favorites to win the division) will have to do without their best player, third baseman Evan Longoria, for up to the next two months with a hamstring injury. Longoria, a three-time all-star, was hitting .329 with four homers and 19 RBI when he went down trying to steal second last week in a game against the Mariners.
The Rays don’t really have the payroll flexibility to replace Longoria via a trade so they will have to make due with what they have. The good news for the Rays is that they are used to playing without the injury-plagued Longoria, winning about 63 percent of their games when he has been on the DL. But still, it’s a huge loss and certainly benefits Baltimore.
And an even bigger loss inside the AL East came when the New York Yankees lost closer and future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera to a torn ACL suffered while shagging fly balls in the outfield before a game last week. The all-time saves leader was expected to retire after this season but now says he won’t go out like that and hopes to return late this season, although that’s considered highly unlikely – manager Joe Girardi called it “doubtful.”
The Yankee pitching staff is already in shambles as the rotation has been terrible outside of CC Sabathia. And now the Yankees might have to get both a starter and a closer. Don’t be surprised if they call the Chicago Cubs, where current Yanks Pitching Coach Larry Rothschild held the same position. Pretty much everyone on the Cubs is available and Carlos Marmol had his best success as a closer under Rothschild – a struggling Marmol was recently demoted from that gig by new Manager Dale Sveum.
Perhaps the Yanks (+120 favorites to win the division) can survive the regular season with David Robertson as the closer. He hasn’t allowed a run in 12 innings pitched this season, but he also has all of three saves in his career. Rivera will be hugely missed in the postseason, where he has a 0.70 ERA in 96 playoff appearances. The books haven’t altered Yankees World Series futures because of Rivera’s injury -- yet.
With the Rays and Yankees severely wounded, the Blue Jays solid but nothing spectacular and the Red Sox continuing to struggle, those +1500 Orioles odds are starting to look pretty good – better jump on them now before they drop.
Meanwhile, the Orioles’ neighbors to the south, the NL East-leading Washington Nationals, suffered a huge blow over the weekend when outfielder Jayson Werth (.276, three homers, 12 RBI) broke his left wrist in Sunday’s game against the Phillies and will miss 12 weeks. Already the Nats were having some offensive problems, ranking No. 27 in baseball in runs scored.
In addition, Michael Morse, slated to be the team's cleanup hitter, hasn't played because of an injured back muscle. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has been on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, and fill-in cleanup hitter Adam LaRoche has missed the past four games because of a sore right side muscle. The good news is that Zimmerman and LaRoche are expected to return Tuesday night when the Nats open a series at Pittsburgh (Washington is a -110 favorite for Game 1 behind Edwin Jackson).
Frankly, the Werth injury probably won’t hurt Washington too much because of the emergence of super-prospect Bryce Harper. With Werth out, Manager Davey Johnson plans to platoon Xavier Nady and Roger Bernadina in left field, while Harper will be the every-day right fielder. But I’m not a big fan of the Nationals’ futures (+200 to win the division) because they insist they will shut down ace Stephen Strasburg when he reaches 160 innings pitched, no matter if the Nats are still in first place by then. Strasburg is already about 25 percent there, having thrown 38 innings.
The odds to jump on to win the NL East right now are the Miami Marlins at +500. They finally got to .500 with their sixth straight win, all on the road, on Sunday. The Fish could be in first place by this time next week as they play three in Houston (starting Monday night), then get five straight at home vs. the Mets and Pirates.
Remember, too, that the Marlins are rolling along despite ace Josh Johnson being 0-3 with a 6.61 ERA this season and with closer Heath Bell also being terrible thus far with an 11.42 ERA and four blown saves. He has been demoted temporarily from the closer’s role but history would seem to indicate he will bounce back. Look for Johnson to start to turn the corner on Wednesday night in the series finale in Houston.
Offensively, Miami also has gotten very little from Jose Reyes, but now that Giancarlo Stanton has found his swing I expect the Marlins to take off.
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