Baseball’s MLB second half push

In the American League it appears it was all but wrapped up with the Yankees, Red Sox, Indians, Astros and Mariners making the playoffs, however Oakland has made a push just 3.5 games back of Seattle for that second wildcard. That race out West should be an enjoyment to watch in the second half with more pressure as one gets in and one goes home. The other race to watch is the AL East to see if Boston or New York will take the division and who will settle for the wildcard. The third thing to keep an eye on is who will be the top team to secure home field between the Yankees, Red Sox and Astros. Look for a great race, with the Yankees taking the division by a game, Boston to be the top wildcard, Cleveland taking the Central, Houston winning the AL West and Seattle holding on over Oakland to make the playoffs. These teams will set up for a strong month of playoff baseball in the American League.

The National League is wide open with all three divisions up for grabs and the wild card very busy with multiple teams vying for the last two spots. The East is a three-team race with Philadelphia in first, Atlanta ½ game back and Washington 5.5 games back. In the Central the Cubs are in first place by 2.5 games over Milwaukee and St. Louis is 7.5 games back. Out West its crazy with the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Giants within four games of first place. The Dodgers are first, ½ game back is Arizona, Colorado is 2 games back and San Francisco four games back. Milwaukee is the first wildcard by a game with Atlanta currently holding the second wildcard by a half game. All five playoff spots will make for exciting races as no one is a lock. With a week and half left before the trade deadline what moves will be made to push a team over the top? The Dodgers made their move picking up Manny Machado to fill their hole at shortstop and that will push them over the top to win the NL West by a couple of games. The Cubs are hitting their stride and will be pushed by Milwaukee, but beat them out as the Cubs win the division by a few games. The East will be the closest race with the young Phillies and Braves playing strong in September, but will fall short to Washington who will capture the division crown by a game. The wildcard will be the best race with Arizona, Colorado, Milwaukee, St. Louis, San Francisco, Atlanta and Philadelphia fighting for the two wildcards. Look for Milwaukee and Arizona to advance into the playoffs and one game do or die on the strength of their pitching both starting and relieving coming up big down the stretch. The National League five playoff teams will be Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, Milwaukee and Arizona with any team to advance and represent the National League.

Written by Frank Jordan of VegasTopDogs.

Wagering on the World Series: Pitching and Defense

October memories glare the brightest in baseball lore. Bobby Thompson’s 1951
home run, Don Larsen’s perfect game in Game 5 of the ’56 Series, Bob Gibson’s
17-strikeouts in Game 1 ’68, Carlton Fisk’s home run in ’75, Kirk Gibson’s blast
in ’88, Joe Carter’s Series ending three-run homer in 1993. While home runs
mostly dot the top of the memorial landscape, October baseball can also feature
memorable defensive plays and great pitching performances from starters and
relievers.

The Big Four who reached the League Champion Series were no
flukes during the regular season. The Red Sox, Tigers, Cardinals and Dodgers all
have star power on offense and some dominant aces on the mound to help anchor
the pitching staffs and end losing skids.

The Cardinals opened the
playoffs with a scoring games (9-1 win) against Pittsburgh, but that’s not the
norm this time of the year. Don’t forget that they won the final two games of
that series, 2-1 and 6-1, then topped the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLCS, 3-2, in
13 innings. Pitching and defense shine in October. You need both to get here and
managers are more inclined to go with their best arms, which isn’t always the
case during the long regular season.

The Giants won the World Series
last year and the final scores of the last three games against Detroit: 2-0, 2-0
and 4-3 in ten innings. The Cardinals stunned the Texas Rangers in October of
2012 with a miracle comeback in Game 6, a 10-9 thriller. But 5 of those 7 World
Series games went under the total with scores of 3-2, 2-1, 4-0 and 6-2.

That is what led the surge of the Tampa Bay Rays this season and their
remarkable run to the World Series five years ago, great defense and a deep
young pitching staff. The 2010 Giants were a poor hitting team all season,
ranked 17th in runs and 19th in on base percentage, yet won it all.

This
is important from a betting perspective, too, and was a key factor the Colorado
Rockies surprised the oddsmakers in 2007. They were 100-to-1 to win the World
Series before the season started. The Rockies’ pitching improved from 13th to in
2006 to 8th in 2007 in the NL, the same year they were tops in the majors in
team defense with the fewest errors allowed. The 2007 ALCS between Boston and
Cleveland matched the No. 1 and No. 3 pitching staffs in the AL.

Taking a
content analysis of the last 15 years of the World Series, you’ll notice that
pitching and defense shine a bit more on the October stage than offense. Over
that time there have been 52 unders, 38 overs and 2 pushes in World Series play.
Is this a fluke? Or are there reasons for more low scoring games?

Since
the World Series is the last battle of the season, managers aren’t going to go
with their worst pitchers, but the best of their best. This is why you see three
and four man rotations in the World Series, whereas in the regular season teams
employ a five and sometimes six-man rotation. Simply put, the No. 4, 5 and 6
starters during the regular season aren’t going to see much (if any) important
action in late October. The same is true for relief pitchers: A team generally
has two or three quality relievers and three or four marginal/below average
arms. Naturally, a manager is going to use his best often and go to his weakest
arms only if necessary.

Teams constructed solely around offense are
built for the regular season. Teams stocked with a balanced lineups and excess
pitching, both starting and in the bullpen, are built for October.

In
addition, defense is a subtle, often overlooked aspect of baseball. There’s an
old adage that teams win with pitching, hitting and defense, and that’s true.
This is why you often see teams with outstanding center fielders, shortstops and
catchers in the World Series because a team needs to be strong up the middle.
Good defense helps your pitchers, turning double plays and keeping the other
team from scoring.

Finally, the weather is far colder in October than in
July and August, and it’s tougher to hit a baseball when it’s cold. When the
World Series takes place in northern cities (Boston, New York, Cleveland,
Detroit) it can be very cold in late October and early November. In 2006 the A’s
and Tigers hooked up for Game 3 in Detroit. It was 42 degrees at game time, the
lowest for a postseason game since it was 38 in Cleveland at the 1997 World
Series. The final score? 3-0 Tigers, way under the total. Fans were bundled in
parkas and blankets in Philly at Citizens Bank Park during the World Series in
recent years. So don’t be surprised if pitching and defense shines a bit more
than offense as temperatures dip along with batting averages.

Written by Jim Feist for VegasTopDogs.com