LA Dodgers outspend, but can they outplay all other teams?

If you fancy long term wagers, then you are probably contemplating the possibility of backing the LA Dodgers to win the World Series in 2014. There are plenty of reasons for why punters would be inclined to place such a wager, but the leading argument is the fact that bookies regard them as favorites to win. Since the house rarely loses and the odds tend to reflect the value of individuals and teams alike, it is hard to dismiss the Dodgers as underdogs.

MLB: Spring Training-Los Angeles Dodgers at Oakland AthleticsWhile it is obvious that Los Angeles is among the favorites to win the trophy, we should think things through, because the Dodgers won’t be able to buy a World Series victory. They have the biggest budget in club history and for the first time in many years they outspend the New York Yankees, but this is not enough. The New Yorkers had a commanding lead in terms of budget for many years in a row, yet they won a single World Series since 2001.

The competition is every bit as intense as ever, with St. Louis being a strong candidate and the bookies have picked up on the vibes. Unlike the Dodgers who tend to collapse during the playoffs, the Cardinals are more resilient and they could pose serious problems in the National League finals. It would also be a mistake to underestimate the Red Sox, who are the reigning champions or to completely ignore the Tigers

Detroit spent a lot of money as well and have some of the best starting pitchers in the league, including Justin Verlander. Granted one player is not enough to win the World Series, a handful of well-paid ones are no guarantee that the Dodgers will cruise to an easy victory either. The strongest reason for why Los Angeles is heavily favored by bookies is that they are very likely to win the division. The competition is weak and now that the Giants are struggling heavily, there are very few capable of stopping the Dodgers.

Another thing to factor in is pressure, because with so much money invested, manager Don Mattingly will have to deliver remarkable results just to meet expectations. In turn, players won’t have any room for error and whenever they commit a mistake there will be someone to exaggerate its impact. The bottom line is that the value is not with the Dodgers and if you insist on placing an ante-post wager, it would be better to take a chance with the LA Angels or Pittsburgh Pirates.

Busy week in the MLB and beyond

david ortizThe regular season is still two months away, but things are moving at blazing fast speed in major league baseball especially at the big clubs. The Red Sox need to make up their mind about what they’re going to do with David Ortiz in the next couple of years. His contract ends one year from now and the 38-year-old is looking for a multiyear offer and told the local CBC television station that he doesn’t rule out the possibility of leaving the team.

The reigning champions made full use of his services over the last decade and in 11 years he helped his team win three World Series. Reporters took notice of his intentions and are speculating about the time he plans on playing, with no estimation being available yet. Additionally information about the interview and the possible outcomes can be found at http://boston.cbslocal.com/2014/01/27/red-sox-ortiz-on-sports-final-hopefully-i-wont-have-to-wear-another-uniform/.

The prolific slugger would be definitely welcomed by most clubs in MLB, despite the fact that he is inching closer to 40 years old. He packs quite a punch and has both the experience and skills that many clubs need to make a successful and deep run in the playoffs, which means that the Red Sox need to take his announcement seriously. Ortiz told the media that he hopes that his club will make him a deal that he will gladly accept, as he would like to retire from Boston.

Not so long ago, similar words were uttered by Carlos Zambrano who played for Chicago Cubs, but things took an unexpected turn. The Venezuelan player was simply too flamboyant and sometimes downright aggressive and in absence of spectacular results he had no future with Chicago Cubs. Instead, he headed back home and now plays for Navegantes del Magallanes where he was the protagonist of an embarrassing incident.

He punched the opposing pitcher and three days later apologized for his gesture, which proves that even though Carlos changed his team his habits remained the same. Elsewhere in the MLB, Cincinnati Reds signed Chris Nelson to a minor-league contract, after he played for Colorado in 2012. He failed to meet the high expectations and was demoted, before finally leaving Colorado. The Rockies are now signing Paul Janish and he will be put to the test in the minor leagues, before having the chance of playing among the best players in North American baseball.

Greg Maddux inducted in the Hall of Fame

Greg MadduxThere is no greater honor for a baseball player than to be inducted into the Hall of Fame and this year, it was time for Greg Maddux to shine. Widely regarded as one of the best pitchers in the history of the game, this emblematic player competed way past 40 years. He was the kind of pitcher that his team felt comfortable having on the mound and he also led by personal example.

There are a couple of factors that improve the pitcher’s chances of joining the Hall of Fame including earned run average and the number of wins. Compared to other starting pitchers, his fastballs were not that impressive and he didn’t have the athletic body of many of his counterparts. What makes them stand out from the crowd was the fact that he was always willing to go a step further and he knew how to make the most of his abilities.

While playing for the Dodgers in the final part of his career, he frequently scored from impossible positions and was one of the most intelligent players to ever grace the baseball diamond. The Dodgers gave him credit even when it looked like age is finally catching up with him and in return, the starting pitcher never let them down. Maddux has few critics and most of them would agree that he had the uncanny ability of extracting the most from his skills and was extraordinarily perseverant.

Numbers don’t lie and the fact that he won four Cy Young awards in four years in a row is perhaps his greatest achievement. Add to this the fact that Greg Maddux won 18 Gold gloves and outplayed some of the best players in games of critical importance and it is easy to explain why he went to the Hall of Fame almost unanimously. Last but definitely not least, Greg was one of the most constant pitchers, with impressive results throughout his 23 seasons.

He had an in depth understanding of the game and used his insight each time he pitched, having one of the best strikeout to walk ratios and great earned run average. Maddux got to know his opponents so well over his numerous seasons played at the highest level, that he had a counter for most of them. Not even Barry Bonds and Craig Biggio were particularly successful at hitting his pitches and Greg was never shy of challenging than instead of granting a walk.

NY Yankees have their eyes fixed on Grant Balfour

NY Yankees have their eyes fixed on Grant BalfourLast season, the New York Yankees failed to achieve their goals, and the fact that they made the playoffs is only a pale consolation for fans and management alike. The richest club in baseball obviously needs a change and in 2014, the New Yorkers were supposed to spend much less than they did one year ago. Their plans changed on the way and with Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran joining the East Coast giants, hundreds of millions of dollars were spent in the process.

The former will enjoy a seven years contract worth $150 million, while the latter will receive 15 million per season, for three consecutive years. Add to this the irresistible offer made to Shin-Soo Choo who is expected to cash in $140 million, and the amount offered for Masahiro Tanaka and it is fairly obvious that the Yankees are going to spend a lot of money before the spring training begins.

A couple of veterans will return to their rotation, but the team lost a few key players, such as Robinson Cano who will play for Seattle, while Alex Rodriguez is very likely to be suspended throughout the season. This means that they will save some money, but for all the wrong reasons and the new prospects are every bit as expensive. Derek Jeter and Brian Roberts will be playing for the Yankees, but they spend a lot of time on the bench with an injury, so shouldn’t be factored in.

Now, the Yankees have their sights locked on another player, Grant Balfour who is very likely to be transferred to the American League. The Eastern division teams have the best chance of signing him, with Baltimore and the New York Yankees being the main candidates. The latter needs to replace Mariano Rivera and given the fact that they spent a lot of money already on speculative players, it would come as no surprise if they will eventually choose to sign Balfour as well.

There are of course some arguments against this transfer which promises to be expensive, as the Yankees desperately try to stay below the $189 million luxury tax limit. There are a couple of questions looming above this potential transfer, and the name of Masahiro Tanaka frequently pops up in any discussions regarding Balfour’s transfer, for implicit reasons. Last but not least, the pitcher needs to be healthy to play for a full season, and so far the doctors didn’t give the green light.

Philadelphia is unwilling to hold on to Jonathan Papelbon

baseballThe Phillies were disappointing last season and despite having plenty of quality players in their rotation, they failed to make the playoffs. The season start was borderline catastrophic and nothing seemed to work, including pitching. For a team that spends millions on some of the best players in MLB, Philadelphia is a mess and it looks like the management is finally willing to make radical changes.

To start with, they are no longer willing to hold on to prominent players who don’t meet expectations and one of those about to be transferred out is Jonathan Papelbon. For more details on this allegedly $46 million contract, head on to http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/12/06/phillies-trying-to-trade-jonathan-papelbon/?ocid=Yahoo&partner=ya5nbcs.

Unlike other starting pitchers and relievers playing for Philadelphia, Jonathan has been a bright star in their rotation and this explains why many teams are interested in acquiring him. $46 million is hardly a small amount for a reliever, but with both teams trying to close those games that they lead by a narrow margin, it should come as no surprise if someone would actually pay this amount for Papelbon.

While Philadelphia is downsizing and accepts the fact that the current pace of investment is no longer sustainable, other teams are following suit. Boston Red Sox won the World Series with East and many would expect them to strengthen their rotation and spend a lot of money on new players. Surprising enough, they hold the headlines for a very different reason, as they chose not to tender Andrew Bailey and allow him to go through free agency.

He suffered a reconstructive surgery on his right thumb in 2012 and that’s why he only played for 19 games, and the next year he spent most of the time on the bench due to a shoulder surgery. He is no longer a young and promising player and since he won the American League rookie of the year award back in 2009, he entered a downwards trajectory.

Injuries kept him off the pitch far too long for a potent team such as Boston to put up with it and not surprising they chose to let him go. Bailey shouldn’t have problems in finding a new team, all that he needs is one club willing to give him a chance and take a leap of faith with his health issues.

Detroit Tigers gear up for 2014

detroit tigersDetroit Tigers made the playoffs for consecutive seasons, but once again they suffered a meltdown and were eliminated in the ALCS. To some extent, this is a step back if compared to their performance from 2012 when they played in the World Series but lost to San Francisco. It was disheartening to see the Tigers getting swept by the Giants, but fans agree now that it is even worse for them to be deprived of a chance to play the World Series.

The fact that the team that eliminated them lifted the trophy in the end is just a pale consolation and Detroit is now preparing for a new and highly competitive season. They plan on winning the World Series in 2014 or at least make another deep run in the playoffs and in order to do that, they need to reinforce their rotation. They have some of the best starting pitchers in the league, and certainly one of the best paid once but unfortunately these star players failed to propel them to another World Series victory.

Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer will remain with the Tigers for a couple of years as a result of their contract being extended, with Detroit paying a lot of money for both of them. The problem is that the bullpen is still shaky and many relievers failed to defend a narrow advantage, which rendered the efforts of starting pitchers virtually useless. The Tigers suffered as a result of Bruce Rondon leading the team and they now plan on re-signing Joaquin Benoit even though they previously thought about letting him go.

He will become a free agent this autumn but unless the Tigers find a replacement on such a short notice, they are very likely to keep him for at least one more season. A similar decision needs to be made about Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante and although the latter has crossed the 30 years threshold, he is indispensable. Jhonny Peralta is now a free agent, so Detroit could hire him in an attempt of boosting Omar, but then again these are just speculations and a decision is yet to be made.

Detroit needs to consider the prospect of using Nick Castellanos extensively this season, after the shortstop was seldom used in 2013. The Tigers were relatively unlucky to lose Miguel Cabrera who strained a groin muscle in July, and without him they were powerless in the playoffs. To some extent, Prince Fielder stepped up and provided the runs of support that the Tigers were lacking, but his effort was not sufficient.

Overall, Detroit committed the same mistakes in 2013 as the Yankees did for the last decade or so, by focusing almost exclusively on the offense. The fact that they signed some remarkable starting pitchers was definitely a good idea but unless they find a way of plugging all those holes, it is unlikely for them to lift the trophy in 2014. Check out http://detroit.tigers.mlb.com/index.jsp?c_id=det&sv=1 to get an accurate picture of their roster and return to this link to learn more about the recent players transferred.

Dodgers try to take an early lead in NLCS

Dodgers try to take an early lead in NLCSThe two teams that everyone was talking about at the beginning of the season were LA Dodgers and Detroit Tigers, with the impressive investments providing fuel for endless comments. Both teams have purchased remarkable players and extended the contract of some of their best starting pitchers, more precisely Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw.

The Tigers spent a small fortune for Justin to extend his contract by another five years, while the Dodgers are expected to spend increasingly more money just to keep Clayton content. Both starting pitchers were tremendous in the playoffs and throughout the regular season, which means that at least so far they have fully justified the investment made. Verlander did his part and sent Detroit to the American League conference series, but Kershaw was not required to pitch on a short notice.

The reason is that the Dodgers had a fairly easy mission against Atlanta and the series concluded in four games. Los Angeles is now gearing up for a much more difficult series against St. Louis, a team that finished with the best record in the regular season. This means that the Cardinals will have home pitch advantage in three games including the decisive one, something that the Dodgers will try to avoid.

Either way, Los Angeles will need to win a game away from home and it looks like the best opportunity to do it is tonight when they use Zach Greinke. The starting pitcher has already defeated the Cardinals this season and LA won three games at Busch Stadium out of a total of four matches. The numbers are clearly encouraging and the idea of having a safety net in game two when Clayton Kershaw starts will also strengthen their morale and boost their confidence.

He has both the skills, form and experience to defeat St. Louis at their own turf, not to mention that he posted better numbers than his counterpart. Joe Kelly won 10 decisions last season and kept his earned run average below three, but it is too early to say whether he will cope with the increasingly high pressure. It is only fair to give him the benefit of doubt, because so far he led the Cardinals to victory and didn’t allow opponents to score many runs off him.

The two teams are evenly matched and the odds reflect this reality, although punters are inclined to back the Dodgers at odds of 1.90. This is the average value offered by most bookmakers and as long as the odds don’t sink below this value it makes perfect sense to place such a wager.

Cleveland wins 10 in a row to secure wildcard

Cleveland wins 10 in a row to secure wildcardAt the beginning of the regular season, Cleveland was not among the teams regarded as favorites to make the playoffs, but they have proven the critics wrong. The Indians finished just one game behind Detroit, a team that spent tens of millions the season to acquire or keep some of the best players in the league. This is a remarkable performance and it is only fair to assume that had the regular season lasted a couple of weeks, Cleveland would’ve won the Central division.

Then again, they had to settle for the first wildcard and now wait for Texas and Tampa to play the first decisive game at Arlington Park. Bookmakers credit Tampa Bay with the first chance to win, although the game looks more of a coin flip and punters would have more to gain by backing the hosts tonight. Meanwhile, the Indians are gearing up for a very important game and they couldn’t care less about what team will come visiting at Great American Ballpark.

They have an impressive record against both opponents and home pitch advantage will certainly give them the upper hand over either of these teams. It also helps a lot to have a couple of days off for both starting pitchers and relievers to recuperate after a lengthy and intense regular-season. Cleveland is yet to announce the starting pitcher for the one-game playoffs although Justin Masterson is a strong candidate for this position.

He is the first pitcher in the starting rotation and has an impressive earned run average of 3.45, not to mention that he won 14 games this season. Compared to his colleagues, he is also more experienced and has what it takes to play in a decisive game, so it is very likely to see him on the mound in midweek. The problem is that he recently suffered an injury and it is uncertain if he will be fit to play so early, after playing four consecutive games in the relief.

Masterson allowed a single run over these four starts and kept a clean sheet in three consecutive games, so his presence on the mound would bring confidence. Assuming Justin doesn’t recuperate fully, Ubaldo Jimenez is the next choice after the starting pitcher struck out 13 in his last start. He didn’t lose a single decision the September and lasted an average of seven innings, each time giving the bullpen a comfortable lead to protect.

Rangers keep searching for a victory

texasSomething clearly went wrong with the Rangers who are mired in a four games losing streak, while their divisional rivals have recently won the fifth consecutive game. In these conditions, it comes as no surprise that Oakland is six points above Texas and the chances of anything to change at the top of the West division are slim to none.

Oakland is very likely to win the division and they will probably finish with the second-best record in the American League which will guarantee home pitch advantage throughout most of the playoffs. By contrast, Texas are on the verge of losing their wildcard after winning the division for months in a row and they need to end the slide tonight. The A’s took the first two games of the series and if they manage to sweep the Rangers, this will be the first achievement of this type in more than four years.

Pride aside, Texas can’t afford another defeat because their opponents in the Central and Eastern division are closing the gap separating them from the leaders. There are two wildcards in play and the Rangers are currently competing for the second one, but the remaining rounds announce some difficult fixtures. Having home pitch advantage and Perez on the mount are usually good reasons for optimism but Oakland has the countermeasures for both of them.

To start with, they are one of the best traveling teams in the league and have already won two games in Texas, so they are clearly comfortable at Arlington Park. Second, they have a starting pitcher that can brag about even better numbers than Perez, although the two players are evenly matched and this could easily turn into a pitchers’ duel.

Perez has won nine decisions this season and conceded an average of 3.6 runs per game virtually the same number as his counterpart. By contrast, Parker won 11 times and nine of these victories are consecutive ones with the last defeat dating on May 22 when Oakland lost to Texas. Both teams are highly motivated to win, but the visitors are focused mostly on securing home pitch advantage in as many playoffs game as possible and they can certainly weather a defeat tonight.

By contrast, this is a do or die situation for the Rangers who can already feel the ground shaking underneath them and see their very playoffs qualification in jeopardy. Not surprising, the bookmakers are finding it difficult to determine a favorite in this fixture and as a result credit both teams with similar odds that revolve around 1.90. The best choice for punters who are not risk-averse is to decide on a team and then find the bookmaker where they can bet on it to win by two runs or more at odds of 2.70 or higher.

Kansas City keeps chasing a dream

kansasThe odds are stacked against them as the Royals sit on the third place in the Central division, nine victories behind leading Tigers. The odds of leapfrogging both Cleveland and Detroit in the remaining months of the regular season are slim to none, but Kansas City is not going to lay down its weapons. Their best bet is to extend the winning streak long enough to overtake either Tampa Bay or Oakland Athletics and secure one of the two wildcards.

This week they’ve played some impressive baseball and swept Minnesota, at the Metrodome without conceding more than one run per game. Now they travel to Toronto to face another rock-bottom team, with the Blue Jays being long eliminated from the playoffs race. They’ve won just three of the last 10 games, but enjoyed an unexpected surge against the New York Yankees to win the series.

Now they turn to one of their best pitchers and hope that Mark Buehrle will extend his winning streak of six consecutive decisions after an impressive performance in August. He faced the Royals more times than any other pitcher in Toronto and except for Billy Butler, opponent sluggers didn’t cause him too many headaches. Overall he conceded an average of four runs per game and was tagged for seven lost decisions in 2013 but he can improve his record with six starts left.

The match preview at http://espn.go.com/mlb/preview?id=330830114 suggests that the visitors will come out firing on all cylinders trying to keep their faint playoffs hopes alive. Alex Gordon is the player that could help them break Mark Buehrle but all eyes are on the Royals’ starting pitcher Ervin Santana. He posted an ERA of 3.21 this season and he has every reason to be frustrated by the fact that he lost seven of the 15 decisions.

His teammates didn’t support him properly and even when he left them ahead after five or more innings, the reliever somehow found a way to squander that advantage. Nevertheless, he will need to stay sharp tonight and capitalize on the fact that the home team lacks motivation and struggles offensively. Ervin won his last three decisions in Toronto and since the All-Star break he lost just one decision while limiting opponents to less than three runs per match. This is one of those rare opportunities to back the visiting team, with most bookmakers offering odds of 1.90 and above.