Baseball TV Preview

ANGELS VISIT YANKEES IN CRITICAL AL SERIES

You knew it had to be a tough choice for ESPN when trying to pick out which game to show on national TV this evening.

*Milwaukee was visiting St. Louis in the NL Central, and those two teams are in quite a war to be the sole survivor from the division come October. It's unlikely at the moment that the Central runner-up could catch Atlanta for the Wildcard (unless the Braves hit a sustained slump). This series, just like it's predecessor in Milwaukee was going to have a playoff atmosphere…with all the positive and negative intensity that implies.

*Detroit was visiting Cleveland in the AL Central, and THOSE two teams were in virtually the same exact position as Milwaukee and St. Louis entering play last night. The road team was up by either three or four games over the host. The Wildcard wasn't coming from this division. Playoffs in August!

*The Los Angeles Angels were visiting the New York Yankees. Both teams were 1.5 games out of first place in their respective divisions entering this series. It's wrong to say neither can afford a loss, because the Yankees are in great shape for the Wildcard even if they were to drop this series and tread water for the following month. But, it's obviously a huge series and a potential playoff preview.

In terms of drama, it's tough to make the call. If you're a TV network? Well, picking the big cities becomes a no-brainer! So, Angels/Yankees is the national game tonight on ESPN. And, that gives us a chance to catch up some with the Halo's who have been playing very good ball in recent days.

AL LAST 30 GAMES (thru Monday Night)
Boston 22-8
Texas 20-10
LA Angels 19-11
NY Yankees 19-11
Toronto 18-12
Detroit 17-13

Wow…you have to play great just to stand pat right now! Credit to Toronto for performing like a playoff team even though they're well off the pace. You can see the cream really rising to the top since the All-Star Break.

What have the Angels been doing right? Let's start with their pitching, where potential Cy Young winner Jered Weaver is leading a potent 'big three.'

ANGELS ROTATION (stats thru Monday)
Jered Weaver: 1.78 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 7.6 K-Rate
Dan Haren: 2.81 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 7.3 K-Rate
Ervin Santana: 3.21 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 7.5 K-Rate
Tyler Chatwood: 4.10 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 4.8 K-Rate
Joel Pineiro: 5.31 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 3.7 K-Rate

Weaver has an ERA edge on the field in the AL (where anything below 2.00 in a DH league is stupendous), but C.C. Sabathia has a lot of wins, and Justin Verlander seems to have the most games where he's absolutely unhittable…so the race for the Cy Young could come right down to the wire.

Haren has almost the same WHIP (walks and hits allowed per inning) and K-Rate (strikeouts per 9 innings) as Weaver, but is a run worse in ERA. Still a stellar year if not quite historic. Santana tossed a no-hitter recently in Cleveland, and has a leg up over most other #3 men in the rotation across the league.

We've noted often this year that many of the best teams are pretty stacked at the top of the rotation. Most either have a legitimate 'big three,' or even a 'big four' if they're lucky. That's what you need in the playoffs when frontline pitching is on the mound for such a large percentage of the innings. The Angels will be in position to hold their own in the postseason thanks to Weaver, Haren, and Santana. The problem is…can they get there if two of the five spots keep performing so poorly through August and September?

Chatwood is very lucky to have an ERA down at 4.10 with all the baseruners he's been allowing. Pineiro has been throwing batting practice much of the year. You saw in those 30-game records that going 3-2 every five games won't help you pick up ground on first place teams right now. The Halos may have to get creative down the stretch to overcome the back end.

On offense, the Angels aren't quite as bad as you think, but aren't particularly great either. They rank near the bottom of the AL in most offensive categories. Some of that has been influenced by their home park though.

2011 ANGELS
Home: .242 batting, .307 on base, .355 slugging
Road: .257 batting, .317 on base, .408 slugging

If you stick their 'road only' stats into the league standings, they move up to league average. Here we have the inverse of what happens with the Yankees and the Texas Rangers. Those pitching staffs are better than you realized because the home parks favor offense so much. The Angels bats are better than you were thinking (and their pitchers not quite as good, which is even worse news for Chatwood and Pineiro!).

Let's look at the Angels and Yankees offenses in 'road only' stats

ROAD ONLY
Angels: .257 batting, .317 on base, .408 slugging
Yankees: .259 batting, .336 on base, .427 slugging

Batting average is almost the same. The Yanks to a better job of drawing walks, and have more power. So, everyone's right in thinking the Yankees have the superior of the two offenses…but it's not exactly the Gotham Goliath's vs. a Disneyland David once you adjust for home park influences.

Obviously the pitching matchups will have a big impact on this series. Let's see who will be on the mound tonight on ESPN and Thursday afternoon in the series finale…

TONIGHT
Angels: Takahashi (making his first start)
Yankees: Nova (10-4, 3.81 ERA, 1.39 WHIP)

Here's part of the Halo's trying to get creative! Hisanori Takahashi is a 36-year old lefthander who's thrown 48.1 innings in relief this year. He'll take Pineiro's spot in the rotation here, and the Angels will cross their fingers for 5-6 innings and hope for the best. Tough spot to make a starting debut! But, lefthanders do sometimes have an edge out of the gate because no two lefties throw exactly the same way. Note that there may be a change before game time. Takahashi is being 'tentatively' listed as the starter as of press time. Oh, Nova has been in very good form of late, and has better ERA and WHIP numbers over his last eight starts than you see above.

THURSDAY AFTERNOON
Angels: Chatwood (6-8, 4.10 ERA, 1.54 WHIP)
Yankees: Colon (8-6, 3.33 ERA, 1.24 WHIP)

Bad luck that the struggling spots in the rotation popped up here for the Halos. And, bad luck for Toronto that they run into Santana, Weaver, and Haren in succession this weekend! This is a horrible spot for the righthander Chatwood…who doesn't get strikeouts, and will be facing a potent offensive force in a great hitting environment.

The Yanks have to be pleased with the matchups. And, as we said up front, there's less urgency for them this weekend given their spot in the playoff picture. Los Angeles is looking to steal a win in the Bronx, then consolidate their mound edges North of the border afterward.

We encourage handicappers to pay very close attention to the pennant race games this week and through the month. We hope you're also playing Over/Under opportunities that pop up when vulnerable back end pitchers are facing good offenses. Scoring has exploded with the warmer temperatures in recent weeks…creating several fireworks shows across the country. Take full advantage!

Our daily baseball continues today with big play releases here at the website. Make a few clicks and have your credit card handy. We have great rates for the rest of the season. If you have any questions about our programs…or if you want to put together a baseball/football combination package, call our office at 1-800-323-4453.

We're back to FOOTBALL in the NOTEBOOK on Thursday, as we begin our NFL Divisional previews with a look at the NFC West. That will get you ready for Seattle's game against San Diego that night on ESPN. We'll look at the AFC West on Friday to warm you up for Kansas City-Tampa Bay that night on FOX. College mid major previews continue Saturday and Sunday with Conference USA.

Be sure you're with us EVERY DAY in the NOTEBOOK so you know what's REALLY going on in the world of sports!

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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Nov

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