Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, August 5, 2014 at 7:00 AM
The AL East has largely fallen off the radar this season because the traditional powers are having subpar seasons. Boston and Tampa Bay made more news last week for big trades than they had all season for baseball quality. The Yankees are in a transition year between the ending Jeter-era and whatever’s going to come next. That leaves BALTIMORE and TORONTO to determine who’s going to make the playoffs.
And, those two teams start a three-game series Tuesday Night in Canada!
Baltimore has shaken off an unimpressive start to 2014 with a solid run in recent weeks. Toronto managed just the opposite…a fantastic start followed by several weeks of mediocrity. If the Blue Jays are going to get back into the mix…it needs to happen NOW at home against the team they’re chasing. Let’s see what the numbers are saying about this matchup.
Baltimore: 4.16 runs per game, .311 on-base, .409 slugging
Toronto: 4.57 runs per game, .329 on-base, .427 slugging
Those stats are a bit misleading because Toronto started the season like a house afire, while Baltimore took forever to get any offense rolling. In terms of recent form, the offenses are fairly similar. You should probably see them as similar moving forward. Note that both are worse than Oakland, Detroit, and the LA Angels in park-adjusted runs per game. So, whoever wins the AL East is going to have the least impressive offense of the division winners unless Toronto gets hot again.
Bud Norris: 3.69 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 6.6 K-Rate
Mark Buerhle: 3.11 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 5.2 K-Rate
Norris has seen his ERA drop three-fourths of a run over the last two months. And, he did just throw a gem against the LA Angels. But, consistency is an issue. Quality starts are surprisingly uncommon given the statline above. And, that low K-Rate could be an issue in the pennant race. Remember when Buerhle was in Cy Young discussions?! Two months on the crazy train of overachievement fell by the wayside, and Buerhle’s been his pitching to career norms in recent weeks. He really flirts with disaster with a high WHIP and low K-Rate. Probably a wash in terms of the pure pitching matchup.
Wei-Yin Chen: 3.76 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 6.5 K-Rate
Drew Hutchison: 4.62 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 8.1 K-Rate
Chen just dominated Seattle two starts in a row. But, his ERA was 4.21 before that, and the Blue Jays hit a lot better than the Mariners! Chen looks like he’s settled into a pattern of being mortal vs. quality, but effective vs. the weakest bats. Might be enough to keep the Orioles at the top of the division…but this staff could be blowout fodder in October. Hutchison has really struggled of late, posting an ERA of 6.63 over his last eight starts. You can see why Toronto fell back to earth as a team after that red-hot start. Their pitchers were throwing way over their heads. Potential for an Over here with Hutchison’s poor current form and Chen’s struggles vs. quality offenses.
THURSDAY’S PITCHERS (in Anaheim)
Miguel Gonzalez: 3.93 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 6.4 K-Rate
J.A. Happ: 4.34 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 7.3 K-Rate
Gonzalez is a right-handed version of Chen, but with a worse WHIP and arguably more vulnerability vs. quality. He has been in decent form over his last five starts though, granting that only the Angels were a good offense in that stretch (Mariners/Mariners/Angels/Yankees/Red Sox going back). Really good chance for handicappers to evaluate the Orioles as a contender in this series…if their starters get rocked by the Blue Jays offense, then the O’s will be a weak playoff entry if they qualify. Of course, if Baltimore fades, then it’s TORONTO that likely wins the division…and we’re sure not seeing much from that staff in this series either. (And, we already talked about how the other top contenders have better OFFENSES than these two teams at the moment).
Wow…this could be a wild series because there just aren’t any shut down pitchers who will be taking the mound. Any of the six projected starters could throw a gem…but none have established the ability to do that on command when needed.
JIM HURLEY may have a big play in this series, but there are interesting possibilities all over the card. You can purchase game day BEST BETS every day right here at the website. If you have any questions about baseball, football, or combination packages, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155.
Our mix of baseball and football in the NOTEBOOK continues over the next few days with this schedule…
Wednesday: MLB TV Preview: Boston Red Sox at St. Louis Cardinals on ESPN
Thursday: NFC West Preview…to get you ready for 49ers vs. Ravens on NFLN
Friday: NFC South Preview…to get you ready for Saints vs. Rams on NFLN
Saturday: NFC North Preview to get you ready for Lions vs. Browns on NFLN
Sunday: MLB TV Preview: Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves
Wow…we have baseball bookends provided by the Red Sox and Cardinals, who were part of that huge trade last week…and then the NL East race with the surging Nationals and fading Braves. In the middle, three straight days of NFL divisional previews amidst the first FULL weekend of Preseason action.
Fasten your seat belts for a wild ride through August…and be sure you GET ALL THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!