About a month ago I put together my first MLB Power Rankings for the 2017 season. I took a lot of different things into account, including wins and losses, stats, the luck factor, but I mostly relied on my instincts and the "eye" test. I am a firm believer that what you see is what you get and that the numbers can be skewed or manipulated in one way or another to make a case (good or bad) for how or why any particular team is playing the way they are. In my last power rankings, I had the Houston Astros on top, followed by the Washington Nationals, Colorado Rockies, Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks.
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In some sense, a lot has changed since I released that Top 5. For example, the Rangers were in the midst of a 10-game winning streak, which got them right back into the division hunt. They are now one game under .500 (32-33) and 12 games back of the first-place Astros. However, some things have stayed the same. The Astros are still the best team in baseball and it's not even close. If they maintain their current pace, they could have the division officially wrapped up by August - I feel like they've already won the division, but let's not get too ahead of ourselves.
This month's power rankings has two newcomers inside the Top 5, with the New York Yankees slotting into the two-hole, just behind the Astros. The Yankees lead the AL East by two games and have won six of their last eight games. They demolished the Orioles in a three-game set, outscoring them 38-8. They are now off to Oakland for a four-game set, so it'll be interesting to see how the offense fares in a big park. The second newcomer to this list is the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers have overtaken the Rockies for first in the NL West thanks to their current six-game winning streak. They will be looking to sweep the Indians today before heading into Cincinnati, where they have had no problem winning in the past. The Rockies drop down a spot to the four-hole after losing three of their last four games. Prior to that, the Rockies had won seven straight, including two against Cleveland and three versus Chicago -- two of the better teams in the Majors. And lastly, the Diamondbacks hold serve at the No. 5 spot thanks in large part to their home record (26-9) and their unbelievable hitting. They have won four straight games and seven out of their last eight, putting up 61 runs in the process.
Thursday's MLB card features 10 games to choose from, including three matinees happening in Cleveland, Minnesota and the south side of Chicago. The remaining seven games on the card offer up some intriguing options in terms of full-game betting or what I love to do, which is prop bets. There is only one heavy favorite on tonight's card, and that is the Boston Red Sox ( -240 ) against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Sox will send out Chris Sale to the bump to oppose Nick Pivetta. The total currently sits at 8.5 (-110). Another game I will be watching close is happening at Busch Stadium, where the St. Louis Cardinals host the Milwaukee Brewers. This is the last game of a four-game set, and the Cards have lost the last two. They are currently -146 favorites with Michael Wacha on the mound. Zach Davies gets the assignment for the Brewers, who own a two-game lead in the NL Central.
All odds are courtesy of 5Dimes.
Milwaukee Brewers vs St. Louis Cardinals
I want everyone to stop what they are doing and hear me out. The Milwaukee Brewers are a very good baseball team. They have an underrated pitching staff that is anchored by tonight's starter, Zach Davies. Davies has put together a solid year-to-date by posting a 7-3 record with a 4.74 ERA. Yes, the ERA might be a little high for some people to stomach, but the results are all that matters. Davis is coming off an admittingly shaky outing against the Diamondbacks, where he gave up four runs in five innings despite getting the win in an 8-6 game. There are two things I want you to know about that result - Arizona makes most starting pitchers look terrible, and the Brewers have enough offense in their lineup to win games that are seemingly unwinnable. I expect Davies to bounce back tonight in a big way. He has pitched the Cardinals tough in his career, posting a 2-0 record with a 2.81 ERA. I expect him to turn in a quality start and hand the ball over to arguably the best reliever in the game right now, Corey Knebel. Knebel leads all big-league relievers in strikeouts and is coming off his second four-out save. He is holding opponents to a .148 batting average and has a 1.07 ERA.
On the flip side of things, the Cardinals are has-beens in my opinion. They don't exactly have a lineup that strikes fear into opposing pitchers and their rotation is vastly overrated. Tonight's starter, Wacha, owns a 3-3 record with a 4.50 ERA. Wacha is coming off a solid outing against the Phillies last time out. However, as many people are quick to point out, the Phillies are a Triple-A team at best. I expect Wacha to struggle with this potent Brewers offense, which means a play on the Brewers at plus-money is the best bet of the night.
Trends: Brewers are 4-1 in last five road games versus teams with a losing record. Brewers are 8-2 in Davies' last 10 starts - 4-1 in Davies' last five road starts.
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