Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 9:41 PM
The divisional races in the National League are shaping up to be very interesting this year. And, two big market teams who could end up winning their divisions are squaring off in a big four-game series that starts tonight.
The New York Mets have had the look of a champion for several weeks now. That was derailed a bit by having to face the New York Yankees six times in short order. But, if you throw that unlucky IL draw out of the equation, you’re looking at a team that’s scoring runs (one of the best in the league offensively once you adjust for their home park), and a team with a potent one-two punch at the top of the rotation with R.A.Dickey and Johan Santana.
The Los Angeles Dodgers started the season on fire…but have cooled off recently thanks in part to bad injury luck. The full season standings show the Dodgers with a better record than the Mets. But, LA is was just 2-8 its last 10 games entering Wednesday’s series finale with the Giants…and has been treading water at best for well over a month.
In fact, you could make a case that the Mets are actually the better of the two teams even though the Dodgers currently have the better record by a handful of games.
ONE RUN RECORDS
LA has been fortunate in close encounters, while the Mets have broken dead even. About half of LA’s distance over the .500 mark can be attributed to good fortune in nailbiters. From this point forward, those records could easily flip-flop and erase the perceived differences between the teams. You longtime readers know we use this stat as an “inverse” indicator. It’s very tough to win close games “on purpose” for an entire season.
GAMES VS. TEAMS AT .500 OR BETTER
Wow…much tougher schedule for the Mets. Flip flop schedules, and the Mets might be the team with a better record. And, since you’re trying to handicap this head-to-head series, you need to take possible pollution out of the mix. Yes, the Dodgers have been at the top of the NL picture all year. Would the Mets be THAT team instead of they had better luck in close games and had played a softer schedule?
Something to think about as you monitor this high profile series that will get plenty of TV attention the next few days. Let’s look at the projected pitching matchups…
New York: Young (1-1, 3.42 ERA, 1.52 WHIP)
Los Angeles: Capuano (9-2, 2.60 ERA, 1.13 WHIP)
Big edge for the Dodgers here, as Capuano is having a great season. Some pitchers are very well suited to the West Coast pitcher’s parks…and Capuano just loves Chavez Ravine. Young is still rusty after a long layoff. That’s more clear in that very sloppy WHIP number in limited action. Should the Mets steal a win here, they will be well-positioned to make a big move because of their probable edges the next two nights. Big game for Capuano.
New York: Dickey (11-1, 2.31 ERA, 0.91 WHIP)
Los Angeles: Harang (5-4, 3.81 ERA, 1.45 WHIP)
Dickey’s fast knuckler is hard to hit in any conditions…but particularly tough in pitcher’s parks. That’s one reason he’s done so well at home. You’d have to expect him to sparkle in any good pitching environment (except we he draws an ELITE offense like that of the NY Yankees!). He still has Cy Young numbers even if the Bronx Bombers pricked his balloon a bit last Sunday. That gives him an edge over Harang who’s numbers aren’t impressive this year when you consider that he gets so many outings in pitcher’s parks. Oh, JIM HURLEY has been in constant touch with his sources to get a read on how Dickey is likely to respond to last Sunday’s disappointment. That information will play a big role if you hear about a major release in this game Friday.
SATURDAY (prime time FOX regional)
New York: Santana (5-4, 3.00 ERA, 1.13 WHIP)
Los Angeles: Eovaldi (0-4, 4.04 ERA, 1.43 WHIP)
Imagine trying to hit Santana after chasing knuckleballs! The edges on the mound speak for themselves. Santana no-hit the Cardinals at home and has that kind of potential whenever he takes the field. Eovaldi may have a bright future…but his present is still shaky. And, that won-lost record isn’t going to inspire his teammates. Players pay more attention to that stat than they should, and are prone to stick a “can’t win” label on a pitcher’s whose just had some bad luck. To this point, the Mets have clear edges on the mound in two of the first three games.
SUNDAY (prime time ESPN national)
New York: Gee (5-6, 4.42 ERA, 1.29 WHIP)
Los Angeles: Kershaw (5-4, 2.74 ERA, 1.04 WHIP)
Kershaw has had some bobbles in recent days, and has had to pitch himself out of self-created jams. But he’s still a handful for anybody to hit in a twilight start (note that both Saturday and Sunday will be twilight starts for television where early shadows could cause problems for hitters). Clear edge here for the hosts based on those numbers
Each team would probably gladly take a 2-2 and move onto the next battle. The projected pitching matchups lay out the most likely split because we don’t have any pure pitchers’ duels matching aces. But, baseball doesn’t always cooperate with logic. Any team managing 3-1 or better will be in position to close the first half of the season strong between now and the All-Star Break. Posting 1-3 or worse is a pothole nobody wants to hit. Now’s not the time to get a flat tire!
JIM HURLEY is looking forward to this series very much. It’s one of MANY this weekend that will have a playoff atmosphere because contenders in both leagues are now focused on their divisional races. Thursday’s interesting schedule features a couple of important series conclusions in the afternoon…followed by developing drama in the night games.
THURSDAY AFTERNOON HIGHLIGHTS
Pittsburgh at Philadelphia (finale in big four-game series)
Washington at Colorado (will Nats look ahead to Atlanta series?)
THURSDAY NIGHT HIGHLIGHTS
Arizona at Atlanta (will a pretender be revealed?)
Cincinnati at San Francisco (another showcase series will discuss this weekend)
Chicago White Sox at NY Yankees (wow, another big four-game battle)
Detroit at Tampa Bay (playoff atmosphere as both need to win)
Be sure you take care of business early on Thursday just in case NETWORK is involved in day action. Selections always go up a few hours before first pitch. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453. Be sure to ask about football when you call! Combination packages are available that get you the rest of baseball and all of football for fantastic prices. JIM HURLEY always takes care of his summer clientele because he appreciates those of you who are ready to commit for all sports.
Back with you Friday to talk about another showcase series. Washington at Atlanta is the most likely choice given how important that game is in the NL East. But, as we showed you earlier…there are SEVERAL showcase matchups this weekend in both leagues.
The summer is heating up sports fans. DON’T SIT ON THE SIDELINE, GET IN THE GAME!