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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 7:00 PM

The American League playoffs look to be a true battle royale of great teams and great storylines that will send a survivor to the World Series later this month. Just a few games separated the three division winners after 162 games were in the books. And, if you weed out the back ends of the rotation (who tend not to see much action in the postseason), you could argue that things equalize even more.

And, whoever wins Wednesday Night’s Wildcard game between Tampa Bay and Cleveland is going to bring something to the table as well:

*Tampa Bay: great pitching, creative managing, big game mojo after winning three survival games

*Cleveland: very hot play of late, chemistry, and manager Terry Francona with a chip on his shoulder!

Wouldn’t that be something if Cleveland wins Wednesday and Francona gets to face his former team? But, even Tampa Bay/Boston would be electric because it’s an established rivalry that’s very intense even on a Tuesday Night in May.

The legal betting markets have made Boston the favorite to survive the battle royal because they earned home field throughout the brackets with the best regular season record in the league. That and facing the weakest of the “final four” gives them a slight percentage edge.

 

FINAL RECORDS FOR AL PLAYOFF TEAMS

Boston 97-65

Oakland 96-66

Detroit 93-69

Cleveland 92-70

Tampa Bay 92-71 (after winning tie-breaker vs. Texas)

Notice we said “slight” percentage edge. Anything can happen over the course of a short series sprint. That’s been the story for years in this sport. Boston becomes a bigger favorite in the ALCS if they can coast through their first round while Oakland and Detroit go the distance in an epic battle. It will be fascinating to see how everything plays out.

Yesterday in our preview of the NL brackets, we looked at records vs. teams at .500 or better to add some extra context for handicappers. Let’s do the same thing today for the Americans…

 

2013 RECORDS VS. 500 OR BETTER

Boston 53-43 (.552)

Detroit 48-40 (.545)

Oakland 40-34 (.541)

Tampa Bay 48-49

Cleveland 36-52

The big news there is Cleveland. They were HORRIBLE against quality opposition this season, earning their playoff berth by absolutely bludgeoning bad teams. History in all sports shows that it’s very difficult for this kind of team to thrive in the postseason. Beating up on lousy teams gets you nowhere in a sampling where there aren’t any lousy teams. Keep this in mind if the Indians are able to make it to Fenway by dispatching of travel weary Tampa Bay Wednesday Night.

Also of note in those records, the big difference in schedule strength. Let’s run the data again, this time looking only at total games played vs. quality…

 

GAMES PLAYED VS. QUALITY

Boston 106

Tampa Bay 97

Detroit 88

Cleveland 88

Oakland 74

Oakland was in a very easy division, which gave them a bunch of games vs. losers. Boston played 32 more games vs. good teams…AND had a better record vs. those good teams! That makes Oakland a bit of a question mark. They’re not as battle tested as the Detroit team they’re facing in the Divisional Round, and are way less battle tested this year than Boston.

The current AL schedule for the next few days…

 

Wednesday Night’s Wildcard Play-in Game

Tampa Bay (Cobb) at Cleveland (Salazar)

Wow…Cleveland is going with a 23-year old kid on the mound in their most important home game in years?! Danny Salazar isn’t just any kid though. In 10 starts this year, he has an ERA of 3.12, and a K/BB ratio of 65/15 in only 52 innings. Again…that’s 65 strikeouts in 52 innings! Maybe inexperience will get the best of him…but this is a good gamble from a team that has no clear super-ace.

The Rays used David Price in the tie-breaker game in Texas. He came through. Now it’s Alex Cobb’s turn. He’s been brilliant in recent weeks since returning from the Disabled List. Could be a classic!

 

Friday’s Divisional Round Openers

Detroit (Verlander) at Oakland (Colon)

TB/Cleveland Winner at Boston (Lackey)

Several weeks ago, people were wondering if Justin Verlander would make the playoff rotation. For much of the year he was the least consistent of the Tigers starters. He certainly got things geared up at the right time, as you saw with a dominating effort in his final regular season start last Sunday. Bartolo Colon continues to be a magician on the mound. Does he have a few more tricks up his sleeve for the postseason?

It’s great to have important baseball games to use for bankroll building for the big football weekend. You can purchase game day BEST BETS from JIM HURLEY right here at the website with your credit card.

If you have any questions about baseball/football combination packages, talk to a NETWORK representative in the Vegas-Sports-Masters office at 1-888-777-4155. Take care of business on a relatively quiet day like Wednesday before the schedule gets frantic later in the week!

We resume the big game football preview schedule Thursday here in the NOTEBOOK. The current schedule…

Thursday: Buffalo at Cleveland on the NFL Network

Friday: an early look at Maryland/Florida State for Saturday (early TV kickoff)

Saturday: Ohio State/Northwestern in the ABC prime time game

Sunday: Houston at San Francisco in the NFL on NBC

Monday: NY Jets at Atlanta on ESPN

A huge football weekend AND the opening salvo in the MLB Playoffs! The perfect time to experience the sports betting JUGGERNAUT that is JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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