Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, July 19, 2012 at 9:59 PM
It took longer than expected for the Los Angeles Angels to play at a championship level. But, once they got things figured out after an early slump…they’ve been running roughshod through the American League. Texas has been doing that all season, which is why the Rangers still enjoy a lead in the AL West standings. The New York Yankees have been playing the best ball of anyone in the sport the past few months…which has created a very obvious “big three” at the top of the American League. (Though, Chicago White Sox fans have a case for making it a big four!)
Last weekend, two of the big three played each other in the Bronx when the Angels visited the Yankees. This weekend, the Halos are at home hosting the third wheel in a series that will get prominent national TV coverage.
If you’re going to watch…we know you want to win! That’s why Rangers/Angels is the obvious choice for our showcase series this weekend.
Let’s look at the American League standings since the Angels bottomed out at 18-25 back on May 21st. You’ll see what we mean about certain teams rising to the top since then.
AL SINCE MAY 21 (thru Wednesday’s action)
NY Yankees: 36-13
LA Angels: 32-17
Chicago White Sox: 29-20
We used a Wednesday Night cut-off because of publication deadlines. In your morning newspaper, the Rangers would seem to have a comfortable edge over the Angels. But, since Los Angeles got its act together, they actually have an edge of 2.5 games in the standings. They’ve been better the past couple of months than Texas has. You have to decide for yourself which set of games is more relevant for this weekend. Some analysts prefer “recent form,” and would use a cutoff that is even less further back than late May. Others prefer big sample sizes figuring that will allow for time to let everything come out in the wash.
You regulars know we prefer recent form as a general rule, which means we’ll be looking for spots to back the Angels at affordable prices with the right pitching advantages. Texas will have to earn its looks from us.
Since we posted those numbers, we might as well give you some quick context for the full league since there are so many big games this weekend. Actually the last two teams on the above list play each other! Be sure you’re giving the proper respect to the White Sox and Tigers moving forward.
Near .500 since May 21: Oakland 25-23, Boston 26-24, Cleveland 24-26, Minnesota 24-26
The A’s have been great in July, but that only got them just past the .500 mark during this larger sampling. Note that Minnesota has basically been a .500 type team the past two months after that disastrous start. Those of you mindless fading the Twins because of their bad full season record probably have some horror stories to tell. As tdo those of you backing the Red Sox every game because you keep expecting them to catch fire!
Struggling since May 21: Kansas City 22-27, Tampa Bay 22-27, Toronto 21-28, Baltimore 20-28, Seattle 19-30
One of the most underreported stories in baseball right now is the slide of the AL East teams other than New York and Boston. Three of the four worst teams in the AL since May 21st are in that division. Did you realize Tampa Bay had turned into Kansas City? And that Baltimore had dropped back to be one of the worst teams in the league again?
Okay, let’s get to the probable pitching matchups for Texas and the LA Angels…
Texas: Holland (6-4, 4.57 ERA, 1.28 WHIP)
Angels: Weaver (11-1, 2.26 ERA, 0.95 WHIP)
Clear edge to Weaver of course. But, Holland’s WHIP is far from embarrassing. There are more big blows in Arlington because of the game conditions (which is how a decent WHIP turns into a mediocre ERA). This series isn’t in Arlington…so Holland is likely to pitch better than that 4.57 ERA would suggest at first glance. Let’s also note that Texas is in the rare position of being the better rested team as the visitor. The Rangers were off yesterday after playing in Oakland Wednesday (same state). The Angels had to finish a four-game set in Detroit Thursday afternoon.
SATURDAY (on FOX)
Texas: Darvish (10-6, 3.96 ERA, 1.39 WHIP)
Angels: Santana (4-9, 5.60 ERA, 1.39 WHIP)
We’ll be thinking about the Over in this day game because of those WHIPS and the fact that Darvish hasn’t become the dominant force many were expecting. Run support helped him make the All-Star team. Expect a large Japanese contingent in the LA crowd for this one. This game could really blow up in either direction given the bats and the pitchers involved. The American League playoffs could provide some real slugfests this year given the lack of Cy Young type dominance across the top contenders. October weather should be nice in LA and Arlington too. Then you have that short right field porch at Yankee Stadium. File that away for now. It’s easy to lose track of baseball edges once football starts. It’s never too early to plan for your MLB postseason handicapping!
SUNDAY NIGHT (on ESPN)
Texas: Harrison (12-4, 2.87 ERA, 1.23 WHIP)
Angels: Haren (6-8, 4.86 ERA, 1.41 WHIP)
The best pitching advantage of the series for the Rangers, as Harrison continues to impress while Haren has been a big disappointment. It’s pretty amazing how well the Angels have played since May 21st given the disappointing seasons by Santana and Haren. This is a twilight start, which might make it tougher for the hitters. We’ll learn what we can in the first two games before making any final decisions here. Any team in an “avoid the sweep” spot will get extra consideration. If Texas has any reasons to be flat, we may fade them in a look-ahead spot because they have a plane to catch after the game for a Monday Nighter vs. Boston in Arlington.
We’re certainly looking forward to watching these games as fans, and betting any edges that come up in Las Vegas. JIM HURLEY and his TEAM HANDICAPPING APPROACH will alert you to any advantages that makes themselves known. It’s a huge weekend in baseball. We’re also looking very carefully at these other marquee matchups.
Atlanta at Washington (huge matchup in the NL East)
LA Dodgers at NY Mets (gut check in Gotham)
Chicago White Sox at Detroit Tigers (Wow, what a weekend!)
NY Yankees at Oakland (the two hottest July teams)
In any given week, ANY of those four could have qualified for showcase series status. We’ll truly have a pennant race feel across those matchups and Rangers/Angels. We know you’re excited about football coming up. Be sure you’re making the most of great baseball opportunities in the big games until then.
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We’re very confident in saying that the next World Champion in baseball is playing in a big series this weekend. Don’t you dare make a move until you hear what the World Champion of Handicapping JIM HURLEY has to say!