Anticipation at All Star level
July 17, 2018 3:00 AM
by Andy Iskoe
VIP The 3-2 Pitch | Baseball’s All Star break has arrived and with it the last true vacation opportunity for those in the sports gaming industry until after next February’s Super Bowl, the Madness of March or beyond.
Baseball’s All Star break has arrived and with it the last true vacation opportunity for those in the sports gaming industry until after next February’s Super Bowl, the Madness of March or beyond. Max Scherzer for the host NL Washington Nationals and Boston lefty Chris Sale for the AL were named the starting pitchers for Tuesday’s game.
Sportsbooks will be fairly quiet this week as wagering possibilities are limited until play resumes on Friday with a full slate of baseball games, save for the All Star Game and an isolated game on Thursday.
Over the next few days rumors and speculation will intensify as the July 31 trade deadline is two weeks away. Decisions will be made that will shape the future of many teams over the final two months of the regular season and the 10 teams to make the Playoffs are determined.
For the past month or so the five American League teams to make the post season seemed obvious but developments over the past week or so suggest perhaps there may be an opening for teams not in the contention conversation to now have a chance.
Boston, the New York Yankees and Houston are all but certain to make the Playoffs as that trio is on pace to win 112, 106 and 105 games respectively.
Cleveland enters the All Star break at 52-43, a pace that would result, by comparison, in a rather paltry 89 wins. But as the only team in the AL Central with a winning record and a 7.5 game lead in the Division it is hard to envision and of their four Divisional foes mounting much of a challenge over the final 65 or so games still to be played.
By losing 7 of their last 11 games, including being swept this past weekend in their three-game series in Colorado, Seattle’s once comfortable grip on the second AL Wild Card has been loosened. Just a month ago the Mariners were neck and neck with Houston for the lead in the AL West.
But while the Astros continued to play outstanding baseball, Seattle’s recent swoon has caused their lead for the second Wild Card to be cut in half over the past week to just three games over another AL West rival, Oakland. And the Mariners now trail Houston by five games for first place in the Division.
Oakland has what is a seemingly comfortable 5.5 game lead over Tampa Bay, the next team in line for the second Wild Card. But baseball being baseball, is any single digit lead truly safe with more than 10 weeks remaining in the season? The Seattle versus Oakland battle will be interesting to watch and a case can be argued that Oakland is the better team.
Seattle has been very fortunate in one-run games, going 26-12 as part of the 58-39 overall record. Yet despite being 19 games over .500 the Mariners have been outscored on the season by two runs (412 vs. 414), indicative of a team that could well be just a .500 team at best.
Oakland enters the Break at 55-42 and having outscored the opposition by 21 runs (449 vs. 448). Using Bill James’ time tested Pythagorean Theorem that correlates a team’s win-loss record based on runs scored and runs allowed, the Athletics are a better team than their record shows and should have two or three more wins than Seattle.
This further suggests Seattle should show some regression over the balance of the season and Oakland should show progression. Yet both the A’s and the Mariners have each fared well for their backers at the betting windows. These two AL West rivals have been the second and third most profitable teams this season.
Not surprisingly, the 68-30 Boston Red Sox are the clear wagering winners through the All Star break, rewarding their backers with 23.3 net units of profit. Oakland is second with 18.9 units of profit followed by Seattle with 15.8 units.
The Yankees enter the All Star break with baseball’s second best record, 62-33. But they trail Boston by 4.5 games in the AL East as the Red Sox are an impressive 38 games over .500!
The good news for baseball fans is the Yanks and Sox still have 10 head-to-head meetings this season that should produce compelling baseball played at an elite level.
In contrast to the American League, in which the closest Divisional race has a gap of 4.5 games, all three races in the National League have two Divisions with leads over just a half game and third with a 2.5 game gap.
Philadelphia holds that slim half game lead over Atlanta in the NL East with heavily favored Washington 5.5 games behind the Phillies.
The Chicago Cubs start post All Star break play with a 2.5 game lead over Milwaukee in the NL Central. The Brewers limped into the Break by being swept in a five-game series in Pittsburgh and having gone 2-8 in their last 10 games and having lost six straight overall.
The best race in baseball is unfolding in the NL West where the LA Dodgers have a half game lead over Arizona and with Colorado just two games behind the Dodgers and San Francisco four games out of first place.
Unlike in the AL, where three teams are on pace to win over 100 games (actually 105 games or more), the Chicago Cubs are the pace setter in the NL, on pace to win 96 games.
Put another way, the top three teams in the AL are playing at a pace to win more than 64 percent of their games. No NL team is on a .600 pace.
This high degree of parity in the NL, with no truly outstanding team, affords bettors the opportunity to find some values in playing Futures, especially to win the NL Pennant.
Last October, when the Westgate posted their Opening Odds for the 2018 season, the LA Dodgers were the favorites to win the NL Pennant with odds of 9-4 followed very closely by Washington at 3-1. The Cubs were third choice at 9-2 with the next three teams – Arizona, the NY Mets and St. Louis – all at 9-1 odds.
As of a few days ago the Dodgers and Cubs were now co-favorites at 3-1 odds followed by the trio of Atlanta, Milwaukee and Philadelphia at 6-1. The Nationals were 8-1 and Arizona at 9-1.
On paper Washington still has a formidable roster and might be worth a look at those 8-1 odds. Their experience (at least in the regular season) gives them edges over the Braves and Phillies in the NL East. And there is plenty of time to erase a 5.5 game deficit.
They are also just five games out of the second NL Wild Card although there are four teams between them and the current second Wild Card holder, Atlanta.
Two other teams worth noting are San Francisco and St. Louis. The Giants are 20-1 to win the NL pennant and the Cardinals are 30-1.
St. Louis made a managerial change over the weekend, axing Mike Matheny. Within minutes of the announcement Joe Girardi rumors began circulating but, for the time being at least, Matheny was replaced by bench coach Mike Shildt. The Cardinals won his managerial debut Sunday to enter the Break 48-46. They are third in the NL Central, 7.5 games behind the Cubs, who they will face in a four-game series in Chicago that begins on Thursday. The Cards are also just four games out of the second NL Wild Card.
With reports of internal turmoil inside the St. Louis clubhouse involving Matheny and several of his players, perhaps this change will have a positive impact on this proud and tradition-heavy franchise. It would not come as a surprise if the Cards’ Division and Wild Card deficits were cut in half by the end of July as a result of the renewed energy that often accompanies a midseason managerial change.
Teams often, though not always, rearrange their starting rotations during the All Star break to have their aces, or at least their number two starters, begin post All Star break play, allowing for the possibility of an extra start or two for their best starter(s) over the remainder of the season, taking into account scheduled days off and the makeup of postponed games.
Here are thoughts on three series that begin post All Star play this weekend.
St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs
This four game series starts Thursday and gives the Cards a chance to quickly make up ground in the NL Central after their managerial change over the weekend. The Cardinals have won five of their eight meetings this season. The OVER is 4-3-1. Neither team has a dominant ace although Chicago’s Jon Lester and St. Louis’ Miles Mikolas have put up statistics worthy of being designated a staff ace.
Carlos Martinez and Jack Flaherty have also pitched well for St. Louis while Kyle Hendricks, Mike Montgomery and Jose Quintana have been average at best for the Cubs. Play the Cardinals, especially as underdogs of +120 or more not facing Lester. Against all others the Cards can be played as favorites of -125 or less in a start by Mikolas. The Cubs’ best situation would be in a start by Lester, laying no more than -150 against any St. Louis starter. Look toward the OVER at 9 or less.