MLB Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 7/1/2013
I have never really understood why a manager makes such a difference in Major League Baseball. It's not like they call plays as in the NBA or NFL or dictate line changes as in the NHL. You pretty much set your lineup and rotation and perhaps call a few pitches or determine when to steal or bunt. N.L. managers certainly do more with pinch-hitters and double switches, something AL managers don't have to worry about with the designated hitter.
All that said, it's pretty clear that the Baltimore Orioles are a totally different club under manager Buck Showalter. And I think the Birds might just win the American League East for the first time since 1997. They are +300 to do so on Sportsbook.ag, behind only first-place Boston (-120).
I have a few reasons for thinking this.
For one, the Red Sox are pretty flawed, especially with Clay Buchholz's injury problems now. He has been great this year, 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA and among the A.L. Cy Young favorites. Well, he was. Buchholz has pitched twice since May 22 for a total of 11 2/3 innings because of arm/shoulder troubles. An MRI showed nothing serious, but if something is bothersome in your pitching arm or shoulder that usually leads to worse things. In addition, fellow ace Jon Lester has not been good of late. He started off terrific but has allowed at least four runs in seven of his past eight starts to see his ERA rise from 2.72 to 4.61. The Sox don't have anyone you can trust in the rotation behind Buchholz and Lester.
Second, I believe the New York Yankees (+600) are not a threat. It's almost as if this is a throwaway season as ownership looks to get the payroll to around $180 million for 2014 to avoid luxury tax penalties. With Mark Teixeira now out for the season, New York just doesn't have enough to win the division or, likely, even make the playoffs.
The Tampa Bay Rays (+550) will get back ace David Price for Tuesday's start in Houston. The reigning Cy Young winner has been on the disabled list for the first time in his career. Price was 20-5 with a 2.58 ERA in winning the first Cy Young award in franchise history a year ago but is 1-4 with a 5.24 ERA this year. So unless he finds the 2012 form, the Rays aren't going to win the division and they can't afford to make any big trade acquisitions. And now star Evan Longoria is having foot trouble. He hasn't proven able to stay healthy for a full season.
As for the Orioles themselves, Chris Davis is an absolute stud and I think he has surpassed Miguel Cabrera as the A.L. MVP favorite. Davis was the eighth player in MLB history and third in the A.L. to have 30 homers before the end of June. He is the only one of those eight players to also have at least 25 doubles before the end of June. But if you like doubles, then young Orioles third baseman Manny Machado is your guy. He leads the majors by a wide margin in doubles (38 as of Monday) and is on pace to break the major-league record of 67 set by Earl Webb in 1931. No one has ever had 60 since 1936. I suppose I would rather have Mike Trout over Machado among second-year players but I'd take Machado over Bryce Harper.
I do worry about the Orioles' pitching staff as it lacks a true ace. However, owner Peter Angelos is ready to spend as the team is finally drawing well again and not just a distraction for Baltimore fans until the Ravens start playing. The Orioles have a good farm system – although the loss of future potential ace Dylan Bundy to Tommy John surgery hurts – and thus will be very active in landing a pitcher. They are definitely in on the Cubs' Matt Garza and Marlins' Ricky Nolasco, among others. Take Baltimore at that division price now before it gets shorter.
Must-See TV On Tuesday
The MLB season can be a drag at times; 162 games will do that. Thus there aren't many absolute must-watch games during the schedule. Tuesday is one of them. Colorado opens a series at the Los Angeles Dodgers and it's a chance to see the two hottest hitters in the National League, L.A. Cuban rookie sensation Yasiel Puig and Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer.
The Dodgers are surging thanks to Puig, who has probably overtaken the Cardinals' Shelby Miller as the NL Rookie of the Year favorite. Puig had a career-best four hits along with two steals in Sunday's win over Philadelphia, which pushed L.A. to within four games of the NL West lead. A little over a week ago, the Dodgers were 9 1/2 games out of first place. Puig had 44 hits in June, the second-most in major league history for a rookie, behind Joe DiMaggio's 48 in 1936. Puig and DiMaggio are the only players in league history with at least 40 hits and four home runs in their first calendar month in the majors. Puig is hitting a cool .436. L.A. is down to +300 to win the West.
Cuddyer, meanwhile, has always been a solid player. Now he's on a different level as he extended his hitting streak to 27 games with an RBI single in the eighth inning Sunday. It's the longest streak in Colorado history and Cuddyer has reached base safely in a franchise-record 46 straight games. It's the longest streak of that type in the majors since the Orioles' Kevin Millar reached in 52 straight from June 20-Aug. 25, 2007. Cuddyer is second in the NL in average at .344. He will definitely have his work cut out for him to reach 30 with Clayton Kershaw on the mound on Tuesday for L.A. and then Zack Greinke on Wednesday. Cuddyer is 2-for-6 in his career off Kershaw and 9-for-35 against Greinke.
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