MLB Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 6/10/2013
Is this the year the Pittsburgh Pirates have their first winning season since 1992? It's sure looking that way, and if you took the “over” 77 wins that 5Dimes posted back in the spring on the Pirates, you might as well start thinking of ways to spend those winnings.
Pittsburgh enters this week at 37-26, four games behind St. Louis in the NL Central but atop the wild-card standings with Cincinnati. Three teams from one division in the playoffs? That'd be interesting. I do think the Pirates will have staying power unlike last year when they collapsed down the stretch after looking like a wild-card team much of the season.
Yes, the Pirates could use another big bat (who couldn't?). They rank just 25th in the league in runs and are No. 28 in batting average. Not a player on the roster is currently hitting better than Andrew McCutchen's .285. I'd guess that Pittsburgh will be a buyer for a hitter before the July 31 trade deadline.
But what the Pirates do have is a shockingly good pitching staff. That group leads the majors in opponents' batting average (.223) and is No. 3 in ERA at 3.24. The lowest batting average allowed all-time was.224 by the 1965 Dodgers of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. The trade a year ago with the Yankees in which Pittsburgh got A.J. Burnett has been thievery as Burnett leads the NL in strikeouts and has a good 3.12 ERA. Jeff Locke had 14 career starts to his name entering this year and is among the NL ERA leaders at 2.39. Closer Jason Grilli has been outstanding, converting 23 straight saves to open the season, three shy of the club record.
However, possibly the most talented potential Pirates pitcher arrives for Tuesday's start against visiting San Francisco. That would be right-hander Gerrit Cole, the top overall pick in the 2011 draft out of UCLA. He's considered a Top 10 overall prospect by pretty much any ranking service you can find. The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder hadn't allowed a run in his past two Triple-A starts and is 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA overall. Cole is actually a +100 dog to Tim Lincecum and the Giants on Tuesday (jump on Pittsburgh). The Pirates are -125 series favorite on 5Dimes as they have won 11 of their past 14 home games. If Cole can be that good in the majors, the Pirates could be dangerous come October. They are +850 to win the NL Central, +1200 to win the pennant and +2000 to win the World Series.
Cole, by the way, would then be scheduled to pitch again Sunday opposite Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. That could be must-see TV to watch how Dodgers rookie sensation Yasiel Puig fares against Cole. Puig is generating serious Rookie of the Year buzz despite having played only a week in the majors -- he's still got a ways to go to catch the likely ROY favorite right now, Cardinals pitcher Shelby Miller.
Marlins May Be Watchable
The Miami Marlins are wretched, with an 18-44 mark entering this week. They are last or nearly so in nearly every significant offensive category. But Miami actually might become somewhat competitive with the return of young slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who was activated off the disabled list on Monday. He had been on the disabled list since April 30 with a strained right hamstring.
Stanton wasn't that good in the first month, hitting just .227 with three homers and nine RBI, but he has probably more power than any other hitter in the game. On Sunday, the Marlins also welcomed back first baseman Logan Morrison, who opened the season on the 60-day disabled list after undergoing right knee surgery.
Now that Miami lineup doesn't look as feeble. In fact, Stanton's injury had a very nice benefit. That would be outfielder Marcell Ozuna, who started the year on the minor-league DL with a fractured left wrist. Despite not playing in the big leagues for the first month, he is among the NL rookie leaders in hits (47) and batting average (.331). He might be the team's all-star representative. Ozuna has played well enough to stay in the majors and will move to center field with Stanton returning to right field.
Suspension Would Hurt A's
The big story last week was ESPN reporting that MLB wants to suspend perhaps more than 20 players for their ties to that Biogenesis clinic in Miami now that the former owner of that is ready to spill the beans about selling PEDs to major leaguers like Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun.
Frankly, the Yankees would be thrilled if Rodriguez got a 100-game suspension as it would save them something like $15 million. The Brewers aren't going anywhere with Braun this season, regardless. The team that might be hurt the most by this mess would be Oakland because of pitcher Bartolo Colon. Of course, Colon was suspended 50 games last year for a positive PED test, so he'd be guaranteed 100 games if all this comes down. Colon (7-2, 3.14) has become Oakland's best starter, allowing a total of three runs over his past four starts. He is the first Oakland pitcher to go 4-0 with at least 30 innings pitched and an ERA under 1.00 over a four-start span in a decade. Colon has walked just six batters all year. Six! He starts Tuesday against the visiting Yankees, who beat Colon earlier this year.
If Colon is suspended, I don't see Oakland winning the AL West over Texas, although the Rangers could be dinged as well because outfielder Nelson Cruz is on that supposed list (.261, 15 homers, 42 RBI). The Rangers are -195 on 5Dimes to win the division with Oakland at +195.
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