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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 9:57 PM

Baseball is back! That extra day off is grueling. In the old days, everyone would be back in action on Thursday. Then, for awhile, most teams would play Thursday and then everyone else would pick up on Friday. Making all of us wait until Friday to watch any baseball is torture, particularly when you have edges you want to exploit in Las Vegas!

The marquee matchup this weekend is obviously the Los Angeles Angels visiting the New York Yankees in what could be a preview of the American League Championship series. When you adjust for strength of schedule, it’s hard to make the case that anybody has been better in the major leagues over the past couple of months than these two squads. Yes, Texas has a great record too…but the Rangers had a gift schedule in Interleague Play this year, and has played very few games against quality teams. The Angels had to play six games against the Dodgers in Interleague. The Yankees had a tough Interleague draw and plays in the toughest division in baseball. RIGHT NOW…these are probably the two best teams in baseball.

A key reason behind the Angels hot run is obviously Albert Pujols…who struggled when he first came over to the American League but has since found his form. But, much of the credit also goes to Mike Trout. His batting line of .341, .397, .562 at the break represents consistency and potency that you don’t normally see in somebody so young. The Angels are 42-24 since Trout was put in the starting lineup on April 28th against Cleveland. That projects to 103 wins over a 162 game schedule. In other words, the Angels have been a championship caliber team since Trout joined the lineup.

We’ve talked about the Yankees a lot already in our showcase coverage. They’re still posting great results even though Mariano Rivera was lost for the season, and even though Alex Rodriguez looks to have lost much of his power and his ability to drive in runs. We haven’t delved much into AROD on these pages, so let’s look at that.

 

YANKEES SLUGGERS

Cano: .578 slugging pct., 51 RBI’s

Granderson: .502 slugging pct., 48 RBI’s

Swisher: .477 slugging pct., 51 RBI’s

Teixera: .473 slugging pct., 54 RBI’s

Rodriguez: .436 slugging pct., 38 RBI’s

Guess which one of those bats clean-up! At least his teammates are picking him up. The team is still scoring runs because everyone else is doing such a good job of driving in runs when needed. Note also that Eric Chavez, Andrew Jones, and Raul Ibanez all have higher slugging percentages than AROD in part-time action.

Right now, the Yankees are zooming though the league even though the engine has some old parts, some used parts and isn’t running on all cylinders.

Normally in our showcase series previews, we outline the pitching matchups for all three games. As we go to press, the Angels have yet to announce their scheduled starters for Friday, Saturday or Sunday. They’re dealing with some injuries in the rotation. And, there might be some tactical reasons for delaying too. We’ll run the numbers for all the Angels starting pitchers so you can refer to the list once the names are announced. Then, we’ll go day-by-day through the Yankees’ probable pitchers.

 

ANGELS STARTING PITCHERS (W-L, ERA, WHIP)

Weaver (10-1, 1.96 ERA, 0.90 WHIP)

Wilson (9-5, 2.43 ERA, 1.16 WHIP)

Richards (2-1, 4.21 ERA, 1.65 WHIP) (only 6 starts)

Williams (4-6, 4.46 ERA, 1.38 WHIP)

Haren (6-8, 4.86 ERA, 1.41 WHIP)

Santana (4-9, 5.75 ERA, 1.37 WHIP)

Note that Brad Mills picked up a spot start this past Sunday against Baltimore, holding the Orioles scoreless over five innings. The Angels may decide to use him again in the coming days if nagging injuries derail any of the regulars.

Weaver and Wilson are certainly holding up their ends of the bargain. Ace caliber stuff from those two arms. But, Haren and Santana down at the bottom have been a problem. This is going to matter A LOT in the playoffs because it’s hard to win best of seven’s with just two effective starters…particularly when they’ll be in coin flip games against the studs of other teams. The Angels need somebody to step up and deliver consistently in the #3 spot if they’re serious about going the distance.

Here’s the weekend schedule. Note that tonight’s game will be nationally televised by the MLB Network. Saturday’s game is off-the-radar nationally because it wasn’t moved to mid-afternoon for FOX. Sunday’s game will be on TBS. Usually our weekend showcase series is on TV all three days. The Yankees have the power to protect their local big market TV rights a few times a year.

 

TONIGHT (on MLB Network)

LAA: Undecided

NYY: Kuroda (8-7, 3.50 ERA, 1.26 WHIP)

Kuroda deserves a better won-lost record considering his stats. He’s pitching for a team that scores a bunch of runs. They just need to score for him more often! Remember that he pitches his home games as a righthander in a good park for lefty hitters. Those stats would be more like 3.00 and 1.10 in many other stadiums. A very solid year for the newcomer.

 

SATURDAY

LAA: Undecided

NYY: Garcia (3-2, 5.23 ERA, 1.35 WHIP)

Losing Andy Pettitte hasn’t brought about headaches yet. But, it’s hard to assume Freddy Garcia is going to keep winning games with that ERA. The WHIP is better. Just remember that it’s possible to have a decent WHIP but still allow a lot of runs as a Yankee pitcher if you’re gopher ball prone. The Angels are definitely hoping they can steal one here. And, barring surprise announcements, they’re happy that C.C. Sabathia wasn’t brought back for this series. They would have been facing him instead of Garcia if that were the case.

 

SUNDAY (on TBS)

LAA: Undecided

NYY: Nova (10-3, 3.92 ERA, 1.38 WHIP)

We’ve mentioned before that Ivan Nova is getting all the celebratory hype that would have been going to Kuroda if run support had been a bit different. Nova is 10-3, and is seen as a secondary ace to Sabathia even though his ERA and WHIP are worse than Kuroda’s. We’re looking forward to seeing the Angels offense face Nova in a day game in this park. Frankly, these pitchers and teams provide a really great test for each other! This is one of the most important matchups in the whole month of July in our view.

It’s very likely that JIM HURLEY will have at least one big play in this series over the weekend. Other matchups of note are:

Boston at Tampa Bay

Detroit at Baltimore

St. Louis at Cincinnati (the Sunday Night game on ESPN)

NY Mets at Atlanta

Game day releases go up a few hours before first pitch. You can purchase those daily to test the waters, or sign up for the rest of the season with your credit card right here at the website. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453. Be sure to check on early-bird football rates when you call.

Our college football conference previews pick up again on Saturday. We’ll be looking at the Mid American Conference this weekend (East on Saturday, West on Sunday). Even if that conference doesn’t get your juices flowing in most seasons, you should pay attention in 2012! All but a couple of teams return their starting quarterbacks. And, many of the contenders will have opening day games against college powers. THE MAC IS GOING TO MATTER!

Our mid major previews continue through the month of July on weekends (please check the archives for our notes on the WAC and Sun Belt that ran last weekend). We’ll study the major BCS leagues in August.

Summers are always so much fun because the daily baseball bombshells lead into a fabulous Fall of Football. Be sure you’re GETTING ALL THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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