Yankees/Cubs TV Extravaganza

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

SATURDAY ON FOX, SUNDAY ON ESPN, TWO STORIED FRANCHISES SQUARE OFF

It would be more exciting if the Yankees were leading the AL East, while the Cubs were leading the NL Central. Instead, the Yankees trail the Boston Red Sox entering the weekend (and are 1-8 heads up vs. the Bosox!), while Chicago is already so far off the pace that 2011 looks like it will be another wasted season.

Yet...IT'S STILL THE YANKEES...and IT'S STILL THE CUBS! Wrigley Field will be standing room only in the stadium and on neighboring rooftops from this rare visit from the AL superpowers to the "friendly confines" that Harey Carey is still talking about every day up in baseball heaven. FOX is confident they'll get good ratings by showing this game to most of the country Saturday afternoon. ESPN has been building up to this Sunday Night showcase for weeks.

The three-game set started Friday afternoon with Chicago winning 3-1. A quick rundown:

CHICAGO CUBS 3, NEW YORK YANKEES 1
Total Bases + Walks: Yankees 10, Cubs 11
Starters: Garcia 7 IP, 3 ER, Davis 7.1 IP, 1 ER
Vegas Line: Yankees -165, total of 9.5
Notebook: A surprisingly quiet opener...with the Yankees seemingly drained from an extra-inning game Thursday vs. Texas, and the Cubs going back into hibernation after getting three early runs of Garcia. Good outing for Davis, who had been struggling lately. A good estimate for what a baseball score "should" have been is total bases + walks divided by 4 (because it takes four bases to score a run!). We've shown you that basic fundamental often over the years. Do that here, and it's 2.75 to 2.5 for the Cubbies. Pitchers duel however you slice it. We do expect more thrills (and runs!) today and Sunday. Chicago moves to 29-40 with the win, and they have looked more competitive of late at home against the Brewers and today. The Yanks fall to 39-29, and have to be disappointed with the soft showing here.

Here are the pitching matchups in the TV games...

SATURDAY ON FOX
Yankees: A.J. Burnett...6-5 record, 4.09 ERA
Cubs: Ryan Dempster...5-5 record, 5.48 ERA

Both of these pitchers have had issues with consistency. In fact, both can be nearly unhittable when they have their stuff. Each has ace caliber performances in their bag of tricks. Unfortunately, they seem more at the mercy of the fates than most pitchers with that caliber of stuff. Neither has an impressive ERA this year. A 6-5 record on a winning team like the Yankees sure isn't very good (whereas 5-5 on the Cubs means you're pitching your heart out!). This could turn out to be a pitcher's duel or a slugfest. And, the direction of the afternoon wind could magnify the dramatics. These pitchers with the wind blowing out in Wrigley could lead to quite an offensive show. These pitchers with the wind blowing in on a good day for them could turn into a low-scoring strategy-filled chess match.

SUNDAY ON ESPN
Yankees: C.C. Sabathia...8-4 record, 3.28 ERA
Cubs: Randy Wells...1-1 record, 5.63 ERA

Sabathia had a great time embarrassing National League hitters during a quick stint with Milwaukee. One quick way to see whether or not the NL has lifted its game is to measure how they perform this weekend against American League aces. Sabathia's 3.28 ERA isn't exactly dominant in the post-steroid era. But, it is solid considering his home games are played in a good hitter's park. He's still an ace. Wells is trying to work his way back into form after a long stay on the Disabled List.

Let's note that Derek Jeter will miss this series because of his injured calf. In past years, that would be a strike against the Yankees. But, his bat has been so moribund in 2011 that leaving the lineup will probably help! We'll be monitoring "strong AL offenses" vs. "weak NL pitchers" very closely this weekend too. Boy was that a gold mine in the best of times for the AL. You could take the AL team and the Over and be fairly confident that a split was the worst case scenario.

Before calling it a day, we thought this would be a good time to remind you about the importance of divisional strengths when considering you IL options. We've seen time and time again in past years that teams from the best divisions play GREAT against the other league, while teams from the worst divisions really struggle. This was particularly true when the AL was dominant and the NL was dormant. Things look to be trending more toward equality (though its still early in 2011). We still expect divisional strengths to matter.

Here's how the divisions ranked in win differential heading into Friday's series openers.

AL East: +23
NL East: +17
NL West: -5
AL West: -11
AL Central: -12
NL Central: -12

Note that the Yankees division is on top, and the Cubs division is on the bottom. That's why we wanted to present these to you today!

The money is in the East. The media is in the East. Unsurprisingly, the best deepest divisions are the two on the East Coast. You already know that the AL East is a force. That's been true for years. Be sure you keep an eye on the NATIONAL League East though given their play this season. Sure, Florida may have fallen off the map in a way that you don't touch with a 10-foot pole. But, Washington just swept the St. Louis Cardinals of the NL Central. Philadelphia has World Championship pitching and hopes to score enough to go the distance this year (we've touched on their surprisingly mediocre offense previously). Atlanta is hanging in there. The Mets looked to be in bad shape a few weeks ago given off-the-field woes, but have settled the ship nicely for the time being.

Here's who the NL East is playing this weekend.
Philadelphia is at Seattle
Atlanta hosts Texas
NY Mets host the LA Angels
Washington hosts Baltimore
Florida visits Tampa Bay

We'll be watching those games closely just in case what we learn will pay dividends through the rest of June.

By the time you read this article Saturday, you'll know the Friday Night results...and you can make adjustments to what you see above. In past years, the top divisions took big steps forward in IL action. Let's see if that happens again this weekend.

We've already talked about how much JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK has been looking forward to the resumption of IL play. We ran some notes for you yesterday...and we'll continue to stay on top of handicapping details for you through the week and through the month. Of course, our BEST STUFF goes to our paying customers! You can sign up right now for BIG JUICY WINNERS here at the website. Full season rates are value priced (as are our early-bird football packages!). Game day releases go up a few hours before first pitch. Be sure you take care of business EARLY when there are day games.

You already know the marquee matchups this weekend. The midweek series that start Monday and Tuesday have a lot of potential too. First, Philadelphia is visiting St. Louis in a potential NL playoff preview. Then we have IL matchups like this to look forward to:

NY Yankees at Cincinnati (Bronx Bombers vs. Big Red Machine)
Chicago Cubs at Chicago White Sox (Windy City War)
Oakland at NY Mets (Classic World Series replay)
Houston at Texas (Battle of Texas)
Detroit at LA Dodgers (Motown meets Hollywood)

Back with you tomorrow with more from the bases. Be sure you're with us EVERY DAY in the NOTEBOOK so you know what's REALLY happening in INTERLEAGUE BASEBALL!

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