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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, May 16, 2014 at 7:00 AM

No basketball Friday Night, because the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs both wrapped up their respective second round series on Wednesday. That gives us a day to preview a huge series in Major League Baseball. The Detroit Tigers visit the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park for a three-game set. Those teams met last year in the ALCS (on Boston’s way to claiming another world title). It would surprise nobody to see those teams meet again in the 2014 MLB postseason.

*ESPN’s standings page already had Detroit above 85% to win the AL Central this season. They haven’t even played 40 games yet (the Tigers have had a few rainouts). But, they’re clearly the class of their division by a mile. It would take a few key injuries to allow one of the also-rans to catch the from behind.

*Boston is only around 40-45% to win the AL East at the moment. But, that’s still the highest percentage of the five teams in a very competitive group. And, that seemingly low number was keyed by a very poor start to the season. The Red Sox are playing better lately…and their true odds of winning the division (if you look at true talent and not small sample size math) are better than where ESPN has them.

Maybe Boston will only be good enough to win a Wildcard. Maybe everyone really did get too old all at the same time. Best expectation is that both the Red Sox and Tigers will be AL brackets once again this season.

That means…for those of you who have been only casually following baseball during the NBA Playoffs, it’s time to jump back in!

Here are the probable pitching matchups for the weekend…

 

FRIDAY’S PITCHERS

Max Scherzer: 2.04 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 11.2 K-Rate

Jon Lester: 2.75 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 10.7 K-Rate

Wow…what a way to start a series! Scherzer has Cy Young numbers so far…clearly in terminator mode through the first quarter of the season. But, rather quietly, Lester isn’t that far behind him. Because Boston as a team has gotten off to a slow start, it’s not commonly known that Lester has been lights out. Look at how close he is to Scherzer in both K-Rate and WHIP, while pitching in what has historically been a tougher division.

 

SATURDAY’S PITCHERS

Rick Porcello: 3.22 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 5.8 K-Rate

John Lackey: 3.57 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 8.7 K-Rate

Porcello wins with guile rather than heat, so he can get by with a low K-Rate. Well, he HAS to figure out ways to get by with a low K-Rate, and has been able to do so as a Tiger. Lackey has been sharp, though that ERA may be a touch high for the WHIP and K-Rate sitting alongside. Not a true pitcher’s duel when compared to Friday…but another showcase of quality.

 

SUNDAY’S PITCHERS

Anibal Sanchez: 3.13 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 9.4 K-Rate

Jake Peavy: 3.94 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 7.7 K-Rate

Sanchez hasn’t pitched in more than three weeks because of a finger laceration. Boston is hoping he’s a bit rusty. And, the Red Sox are certainly glad they miss Justin Verlander this weekend! Peavy struggled in Minnesota in his last start, and has a horrible WHIP thus far in 2014. Usually a pitcher’s ERA will be up around 5.00 or worse with a WHIP that high. Peavy’s been pitching in good lucky…which is dicey indeed when you run into an offense like Detroit’s.

 

OFFENSE

Detroit: 4.9 runs per game, .329 on-base, .423 slugging

Boston: 4.3 runs per game, .338 on-base, .390 slugging

Boston still does a good job of getting people on base (as any team with Bill James on the payroll should). But, slugging has been a big problem, which is why they’re not scoring as may runs as had been expected. Detroit’s on-base number is disappointing for an offensive power (particularly when they lead the AL in batting average!), but there’s obviously some pop in those bats.

You can see why Detroit is a virtual lock to win the AL Central…great offense AND stellar rotation pitching. And, frankly, you can see why Boston is expected to improve moving forward in 2014. They’re likely to slug better than .390 the rest of the way…which means more runs to go with a decent enough pitching staff.

What’s going to happen this weekend? JIM HURLEY has some ideas about that. You can purchase the best plays of the day in baseball and basketball right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office during normal business hours Friday at 1-888-777-4155. Don’t forget that THE PREAKNESS goes SATURDAY! BE sure to ask about our special combination offers for basketball and/or baseball that also include the rest of the Triple Crown horse racing.

Coverage for both baseball and NBA Playoff action will continue through the spring and summer. Check out the NOTEBOOK daily for handicapping notes and tips. And, be sure you hook up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK through PREAKNESS WEEKEND for a three-day stay in THE WINNER’S CIRCLE!

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