The Highlight Zone Or The Twilight Zone? Royals/Twins Playing For Al Central Supremacy

THE HIGHLIGHT ZONE OR THE TWILIGHT ZONE?
ROYALS/TWINS PLAYING FOR AL CENTRAL SUPREMACY

Very few people in the world of baseball would have spent the Preseason pointing to an early June series between the Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins as being meaningful in the championship chase. KC was supposed to fall back to earth this year…and Minnesota wasn't even supposed to get up off the ground. Yet, here we are with two "small market" contenders doing battle at the top of the AL Central in a surprisingly important three-game set that begins Monday night in the Twin Cities.

The nature of the crowded, convoluted, and parity-riddled American League is such that both teams have cooled off a bit of late, yet are still pretty much where they've been in recent days in the overall standings. Does the whole AL cool off at once? Are there no "real" contenders this year…just a bunch of mediocrities who are going to blow hot and cold?

For answers to those questions and more, let's run through JIM HURLEY'S key indicator stats…

OFFENSE
Kansas City: 4.40 runs per game, .321 on-base, .407 slugging
Minnesota: 4.45 runs per game, .303 on-base, .382 slugging

Very interesting numbers there. Minnesota looks like they're getting the best of it at first glance. Yet, the on-base and slugging numbers tell a different story. In fact, Kansas City ranks #5 in the AL in on-base percentage, and #4 in slugging. That's decent for a team sharps respect that's riding the arms of a great bullpen. Minnesota ranks #11 and #12 in those categories (out of 15 teams), suggesting good fortune in run production that isn't likely to hold up. You can't hit great with runners on base forever! Edge here going forward to the Royals. They're more likely to produce with the bats at something resembling playoff caliber.

MONDAY'S PITCHERS
Jason Vargas: 4.79 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 5.8 K-Rate, 5.1 IP-per-Start
Phil Hughes: 4.96 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 5.9 K-Rate 6.3 IP-per-Start

Wow…ugly start to the series! Vargas does have two quality starts in his last three outings, as he tries to work his way back to respectable form. But, you can see that he's not a guy who can control his own destiny with great stuff. Just like Hughes! Consider the over unless weather is likely to get in the way. Also, with these bullpens, considering a five-inning Over might make some sense too. These teams are living with these starters because of run support and bullpen stinginess.

TUESDAY'S PITCHERS
Chris Young: 2.56 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 6.7 K-Rate 5.6 IP-per-Start
Trevor May: 4.45 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 7.9 K-Rate 5.6 IP-per-Start

Misleading full season numbers for Young, who just allowed 10 earned runs in 11 innings over his last two starts vs. the Indians and Yankees. It's easier to post great ERA's and WHIP's if you're coming in for small stints out of the bullpen. Young's numbers as a full-time starter might look a lot like May's, but with a lower K-Rate. Minnesota is 7-3 in May's starts…but his run support is due to cool off. Second straight night where pitching looks like it's a wash.

WEDNESDAY'S PITCHERS
Edinson Volquez: 3.26 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 7.2 K-Rate 6.0 IP-per-Start
Kyle Gibson: 3.00 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 5.1 K-Rate 6.3 IP-per-Start

Gibson had created the illusion of being an ace in terms of ERA for several weeks. But, he's coming off his worst start of the season this past weekend against Milwaukee. Baseball's laws of math are likely to catch up to him going forward. Though, the same can be said for Volquez. At least he has the better K-Rate of the two. Tough call as handicappers must evaluate regression for both guys. Tough series to handicap!

Ultimately…going forward…Kansas City has the superior of the two offenses in terms of getting guys on base and moving them around in a way that's likely to hold up…and probably the better bullpen for the full 2015 campaign as well. That's why the Futures markets are more bullish on Kansas City and bearish on Minnesota. Let's see if this series changes any minds.

Usually, at this point, we suggest that JIM HURLEY is likely to have at least one big play in our showcase series. That may not be true here! The pitching matchups are relatively even…and the market is likely to price each game conservatively. Let's see how it plays out. You can definitely purchase each night's BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card! If you have any questions about extended service, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 during normal business hours.

Back to basketball tomorrow here in the NOTEBOOK. Here's what's ahead this week…

Tuesday: NBA Game Three Championship Preview as series moves to Cleveland
Wednesday: MLB Big Game Preview…Chicago Cubs at Detroit Tigers
Thursday: NBA Game Four Championship Preview
Friday: MLB Interleague Series Preview…Kansas City Royals at St. Louis Cardinals
Saturday: NBA Early Look for Sunday's Game Five of Cavaliers/Warriors if necessary. Otherwise a baseball preview or MLB handicapping notes.

We'll be transitioning to a baseball-heavy approach fairly soon. Though, our summer series of college football conference previews isn't very far off. And, then in August…we'll have comprehensive divisional previews in the NFL to get you ready for marquee Preseason games on TV. Spend the summer with the HOTTEST HANDICAPPER in Las Vegas betting…PROVEN WINNER JIM HURLEY!

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Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley
Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters

22
Sep

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