Shorthanded Texas visits NYY

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

SILVER LINING TO HAMILTON INJURY...HE'S A SUMMER HITTER!

The defending American League champion Texas Rangers visit the New York Yankees this weekend...the team they defeated in the AL finals to earn a trip to the World Series.

Unfortunately, they'll be without star slugger Josh Hamilton. Hamilton broke a bone in his arm on an ill-advised head first dive toward home play earlier this week in Detroit. He'll be out for anywhere from six weeks to two months based on early estimates.

Given Hamilton's potent stats, that would obviously seem like very bad news for the Rangers. But, there is a silver lining. Look at Hamilton's month-by-month stats from the 2010 season:

April: .265 batting, .351 on base, .494 slugging
May: .294 batting, .322 on base, .505 slugging
June: .454 batting, .482 on base, .815 slugging
July: .418 batting, .468 on base, .704 slugging
August: .356 batting, .433 on base, .644 slugging
September: out most of month with injury

If Hamilton is going to miss time, you want it to be in April and May!

Many those summer numbers are huge. We're basically talking about a .400 hitter with a .460 on base percentage and a .700 slugging percentage from June through August. Now, a lot of that comes from the extreme perk of getting to playa hot weather games in a hitter's paradise down in Arlington. Opposing pitchers melt in the heat. And, the prevailing winds turn a lot of fly balls into home runs. Hamilton really isn't THAT good as an individual, which is clear if you're only looking at his road numbers. But, he does know how to take advantage of the conditions more than the opposing sluggers who come into town...which provides a significant edge for Texas in the best hitting months.

Hamilton's going to be gone for several weeks...but he should be back in time to enjoy the ideal conditions that he exploits so well.

Texas enters the weekend series with a 9-3 record after taking Thursday off. They were 9-1 at the time of the injury. And, the offense hasn't responded well to the challenge of scoring runs without Hamilton in the subsequent losses. The Rangers are looking at these probable pitching matchups.

Friday:
Texas: Harrison (2-0) with a 1.29 ERA
NYY: Nova (1-0) with a 6.10 ERA
Notebook: At least Texas is dealing with the back end of the Yankees rotation here at the start of the series. It's important to remember that Yankee Stadium is a great home run park all the time, and has shown particular gopher ball tendencies early in the season. Nova's ERA will likely drop down to a more respectable level once he's played in a better sampling of ballparks. Well, it BETTER drop down or he'll be out of the rotation. Texas clearly has the edge on the mound. But, without Hamilton, the offense is taking much the worst of it. An interesting battle of extremes in that sense, and a challenge for handicappers.

Saturday:
Texas: Holland (2-0) with a 2.25 ERA
NYY: Garcia (0-0) with a 9.00 ERA
Notebook: Similar story here, with Freddie Garcia trying to salvage his career in a ballpark that doesn't play to his strengths at all. That gives you a sense of how desperate the Yankees are to fix the back of their rotation. They're taking a gamble on Freddie Garcia! Last year, in his first full season since 2005, Garcia had an ERA of 4.64 with the Chicago White Sox, striking out just 89 batters in 157 innings. He's a fly ball pitcher who allowed 23 home runs in 2010. You can make that work in San Diego. In Yankee Stadium? It's going to be tough. Maybe nobody was happier to see Josh Hamilton get hurt than Freddie Garcia.

Sunday:
Texas: Ogando (2-0) with a 0.00 ERA
NYY: Sabathia (0-1) with a 1.45 ERA
Notebook: Hello! There's still time for this intriguing matchup to get derailed because of weather or injuries. But...we're talking about a premier pitcher in the sport for a few years taking on a hot rotation newcomer who has fans and media buzzing. Ogando hasn't allowed an earned run yet this season. Is he ready to perform under the spotlight on the greatest stage in the sport (in front of a prime time national TV audience on ESPN to boot)? Even though the series is a playoff rematch, it probably won't have a playoff feel with guys like Nova and Garcia on the mound in the first two games. This is where the excitement could really kick in.

Is this series not only a Championship rematch...but a playoff preview for October of 2011? It's way to early to pencil in anybody in the playoffs. But, it's generally pretty safe to pencil in the Yankees! And, Texas is the class of the AL West when healthy. Their pitching is so much better and deeper than anybody else in the division that they still may be the class of the AL West with Hamilton in street clothes. The Rangers carry the best run differential in the AL into this series. You have to consider them a heavy favorite right now to return to the playoffs. Given the early season woes of Boston and Tampa Bay, the Yankees are in the driver's seat in their division too.

We wouldn't be surprised if we're talking a lot about both the Yankees and Rangers all Spring and Summer here in the NOTEBOOK. And, if there's an NFL strike come Autumn...there will be plenty of time to talk even more about the Yankees and Rangers through September and October!

Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. As the nation's leading handicapper, JIM HURLEY is focused on THE HERE AND NOW! He's already mapped out a plan of attack for this series, and any weather contingencies. He's also got his eye on these other marquee matchups this weekend:

NY Mets at Atlanta
Chicago Cubs at Colorado
St. Louis at LA Dodgers
Toronto at Boston

And, there are at least a half dozen pitchers in other matchups who have so many indicators in their favor that they could show up as GAME OF THE MONTH caliber releases Friday through Sunday. If you haven't been playing the Bases with us yet, now is the perfect time to sign up! Try out a few days individually with your credit card here at the website to test the waters. Or, take advantage of discounted rates for longer term packages.

Oh...DON'T FORGET ABOUT THE THE NBA PLAYOFFS!

We have QUADRUPLEHEADERS set for both Saturday and Sunday...

SATURDAY
Indiana at Chicago at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN
Philadelphia at Miami at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
Atlanta at Orlando at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN
Portland at Dallas at 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

SUNDAY
Memphis at San Antonio at 1 p.m. ET on TNT
New Orleans at LA Lakers at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
New York at Boston at 7 p.m. ET on TNT
Denver at Oklahoma City at 9:30 p.m. on TNT

Thanks to information from our SCOUTS and SOURCES...numbers work from our STATHEADS... simulation work form our COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS... and inside news from our WISE GUY CONNECTIONS in Las Vegas and offshore...we're set to bring you the very best plays on the board each and every day through the playoffs. We will have at least one MONSTER both Saturday and Sunday...along with bonus games you can use in parlays.

If you have any questions about our baseball or basketball programs, call the office at 1-800-323-4453. We'll be running expanded stat previews for all eight playoff games for you this weekend in the NOTEBOOK. And, we'll guide you day-by-day through the postseason.

We're on the cusp of a great weekend...that's going to finish out a great month...and lead us right into the Triple Crown horse racing excitement of May and June. Don't make a move in any important legal wagering event until you hear what JIM HURLEY has to say!

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