Networks Brace for Manny's Boston Return

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

MANNY'S RETURN TO FENWAY
A HUGE WEEKEND STORY

Just for fun, Friday afternoon we googled the phrase 'Manny Returns to Fenway,' and got about 300,000 hits. Everyone who's ever been a Boston fan is talking about it in their blogs, in their tweets, in their comments to other people's blogs and tweets. And, of course, the mainstream media in both Boston and Los Angeles are having a field day. FOX-TV will make Dodgers/Red Sox a showcase game during their Saturday TV coverage. There's been a time change Sunday so ESPN can show the series finale in prime time (sorry Mets/Yankees, you're not as marketable as this!).

While we're as excited as anyone about Manny's return from a fan's perspective...from a handicapping perspective, this is a very interesting series as well. If there was a 'World Series of June,' it could be the Dodgers and Red Sox battling it out for supremacy based on their recent form.

BEST MLB TEAMS LAST 30 GAMES (thru Thursday Night)
Boston 21-9
Atlanta 21-9
NY Mets 20-10
LA Dodgers 19-11
LA Angels 19-11
Texas 18-12
NY Yankees 17-13
Chicago White Sox 17-13
San Francisco 17-13

Boston has the best record in the American League, and has been beating people like a drum for a full month. The Dodgers are third best in the NL. But, as we mentioned yesterday, the hot Mets have played a very soft schedule while enjoying a new home park. It's really between Atlanta and the Dodgers for 'best in the NL' as we speak based on recent form.

So, it's not just 'Manny Returns to Boston' this weekend. It's two of the hottest teams in baseball...representing two of the most storied franchises in sports history...playing in a refurbished baseball museum...squaring off in one of the most anticipated series of the year.

Oh...and a few million members of Red Sox nation wish they could be there to boo every time Manny comes to bat or touches the ball!

Here are the pitching matchups for today and tomorrow:

TODAY: Padilla (6.65) vs. Wakefield (5.42)
SUNDAY: Kuroda (3.10) vs. Buchholz (2.67)

Today's game could see a lot of fireworks. Padilla hasn't pitched in two months because of an inflamed radial nerve in his pitching arm. That ERA shows he was obviously struggling badly before going on the Disabled List. Wakefield has been inconsistent this year, saving some of his worst performances for Fenway. This is always a fun park for watching games when hitters are pounding line drives off the green monster. The stats say that's the best expectation for the Saturday afternoon FOX telecast.

ESPN will have a better shot at a pitcher's duel. Buchholz is having a great year, and has become the de-facto staff ace in terms of actual performance on the field (if not contract size). Kuroda can be very tough to hit when he's on (plus, it's a get away game with both teams heading West afterward for their next series). Kuroda can be shaky on the road though. He just had a decent outing at Cincinnati, but struggled earlier this season in that bandbox, and in a recent start at Colorado as well. Kuroda may not like Fenway much when the night is in the books.

Tough matchups for the Dodgers, as a couple of front end guys get pushed back to a revenge series with the LA Angels (where they will be badly needed!). Boston will have issues of its own next week when they travel to Colorado, one of the few NL franchises to thrive during IL play in recent seasons.

This is probably a good time to set the record straight on these two teams. If you're trying to handicap these games on your own, it's important to understand the REALITY for both teams. Each has some false storylines brewing, and you need to know what's actually happening.

*The Dodgers are known to play a lot of tight games in their home park, and on the road in their division in hitter's parks. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking this is a bad offensive team that relies on pitching to get victories.

In actuality...

DODGERS ON OFFENSE
2nd in the NL in batting average
3rd in the NL in on-base percentage
4th in the NL in runs per game
5th in the NL in avoiding strikeouts
5th in the NL in total bases

There are 16 teams in the National League, and the Dodgers grade out as an elite offense even though they play home games in a pitcher's park and have to deal with San Diego and San Francisco in multiple road series.

This is a group of sluggers who put runs on the board! Joe Torre brought an American League mindset when he came over to manage. Manny Ramirez is still an offensive force despite creeping issues with age. The Dodgers basically have an AL offense playing in an NL park. It's important for you to remember that.

*Boston started the season with a well-publicized focus on pitching and defense. Those slugfests of the past were GONE! This is now a team that was going to focus on winning with multi-faced players rather than slow-footed or clumsy sluggers who were just as likely to lose a game 8-5 as to win one. Offensive production would go down, but so would the ERA of the pitching staff.

In actuality...

RED SOX ON OFFENSE
1st in the AL in slugging percentage
1st in the AL in total bases
2nd in the AL in runs per game
2nd in the AL in batting average
2nd in the AL in walks drawn
2nd in the AL in on-base percentage

Same old Red Sox! What a scam! Why were hundreds of thousands of words devoted to the new Boston emphasis when it was just going to be the same old team doing the same old things?!

Be aware that Boston is a great hitter's park, and the team isn't quite as good as those rankings would suggest. If you only used their road stats, they still grade out above average in most offensive stats...and would still be amongst the elite in the league in a few. This is a good offense that gets to play in a great hitter's park. Despite what people were telling you in March, you can't think of these guys as a bunch of glove-men trying to win low scoring games. Almost three months of regular season baseball has made that clear.

JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK is planning a few major releases today and tomorrow. We can't go into too many specifics here in the NOTEBOOK. You have to call 1-800-323-4453 right now to LOCK yourself into these bombshell plays. Don't forget, it's a DREAM WEEKEND of marquee matchups in INTERLEAGUE action.

Among the possibilities for our Saturday or Sunday card:
NY Mets at NY Yankees
LA Angels at Chicago Cubs
Minnesota at Philadelphia
San Francisco at Toronto
Tampa Bay at Florida
Texas at Houston
Oakland at St. Louis

We absolutely LOVE handicapping IL baseball because the oddsmakers are always so far behind the curve. It took them forever to notice that the AL had become the superior league. They haven't made any adjustments in the line this year based on developments we've seen so far. EASY MONEY!

Don't forget that game day releases and BLUE RIBBON package service can also be purchased here at the website with your credit card.

Oh, if you call the office today, be sure to ask about early-bird football specials. We're already in the early stages of preparing our NOTEBOOK summaries of all the major (and mid major) football conferences and the NFL divisions. Football will be here before you know it! Sign up early and enjoy big savings off the regular season rates.

Now...it's time to focus on the big story of the day...Manny's back in Boston in the showcase TV game of the day...and you're just a phone call away from watching yourself win a fortune this weekend!

This article is part of the VSM MASTERS SERIES presented by VegasSportsMasters.com and JimHurley.com. For more information on JIM HURLEY'S handicapping packages, call 1-800-323-4453.

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Aug

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