MLB: Minnesota up against Cliff Lee and Tough System


MLB: Minnesota up against Cliff Lee and Tough System




There is no need to sugar coat this, the Minnesota Twins were expected to stink this year. They lost their best pitcher in Johan Santana and best everyday player in Torii Hunter.


2008-09-17

There is no need to sugar coat this, the Minnesota Twins were expected to stink this year. They lost their best pitcher in Johan Santana and best everyday player in Torii Hunter. Instead, as often has been the case, Minnesota found a way to surprise us. They'll continue their quest for the A.L. Central title tonight in Cleveland, facing 22-game winner Cliff Lee.

Twins' Manager Ron Gardenhire is a baseball fundamentalist, play the game the right way and your chances of winning go exponentially. While most believed Minnesota would be languishing with Kansas City, they have instead been fighting all summer long with the Chicago White Sox to win the AL Central. Unfortunately, the long grind of a 162-game season appears to be catching up with Minnesota, who is 8-15 since August 23 and trails the Chicago by three games in the loss column will just 11 to play. Tonight the challenge is even more foreboding for the Twins.

If Minnesota fails to win the division, the answer will be as clear a gin martini, straight up. The Twins are 82-69, +10.7 units on the year, but has had a great deal of trouble on the road. Here they are 33-43 (-8 units), however it hasn't been the offense that let them down. On the road, Minnesota averages a healthy 4.9 runs per game, which is second in the American League and sixth overall. No the failures are squarely on the shoulders of the bullpen. Twins non-starters have April-like 5.53 ERA with a 10-17 record. Joe Nathan and others have failed miserably when given the chance to lock up wins as a visitor, converting on 16 of 34 chances for sickly 47.1 percent save percentage. Here is another way to look at this, if Minnesota was merely average in this category, around 70 percent, they would have a four game lead in the AL Central.

The Cleveland Indians ended up being one of the bigger disappointments in baseball in 2007, mostly because they never hit. The 4.9 runs per game has the look of a team that had the ability to score runs, however a truer gauge ended up being the lowly .261 team batting average. Because of the low average, Cleveland was unable to secure wins in closer games, unless they received outstanding pitching. On the season the Tribe is 38-50 in games decided by three runs or less.

Any success in this area has come primarily from Cliff Lee (22-2, 2.36, 1.062 WHIP). The lefthander has had magical season will try to become the first 23-game winner since Barry Zito with Oakland and Curt Schilling with Arizona in 2002. To do so, Lee will have to continue doing what he has done all season in Cleveland, where he is 10-0 with a 2.34 ERA over 13 starts. He will face Scott Baker (9-4, 3.57, 1.204) who has had a nice season in 2008, with the Twins 15-10 when he takes the ball.

This leads directly to a great Super Situation available for tonight's contest.

PLAY ON all favorites with a money line of -150 or more, who are a below average hitting team like Cleveland (BA .265 or less), against a good starting pitcher (ERA of 4.20 or less) in the American League, in the second half of the season.

This outstanding system is 80-19, 80.8 percent since 1997. The reason it works is based on deductive reasoning. If a team is a -162 money line favorite, like Cleveland is at Sportsbook.com, there has to be a good reason. Why would team with a low team batting average facing an above average starting pitcher be such a large favorite? The answer in this case is Cliff Lee. This system has carried its weight no problem also, with 20-4 mark since 2004. The average score differential is very comfortable at 2.4 runs per game.

The Indians have won 23 of Lee's 29 starts and they are 14-3 against the money line vs. poor power teams averaging 0.9 or less home runs per game this season. With the Twins just 9-28 in road games vs. AL teams allowing 4.7 or less runs a game in the second half of the season the last two years, it might be time to bet the Tribe.

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