This past week saw a flurry of mostly minor transactions leading up to next Monday’s trade deadline. Two of the consummated trades, however, could have significant implications.
Arizona acquired J.D. Martinez from Detroit for several prospects in an attempt to boost their offense. The Diamondbacks will not catch the Dodgers in the NL West but are positioned to earn the top Wild Card.
After Sunday’s action Arizona was a game behind Colorado for the top NL Wild Card although both teams had 42 losses. Both are in solid position to earn Wild Cards as only Milwaukee, percentage points behind Chicago in the NL Central, was less than 5 games behind Arizona for that second playoff slot. At 4.5 games out of the Wild Card the Brewers are 3 ahead of Pittsburgh.
Quite likely at least half a dozen National League teams will be trading away talent over the next week.
The other trade of significance last week involved the New York Yankees, who strengthened both their bullpen and their corner infield by sending mostly prospects to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for third baseman Todd Frazier and a pair of late inning bullpen specialists, former Yankee David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle. The Yanks are very much in contention for both the AL East title and the Wild Card.
In fact, only the White Sox started this week nearly 7 games out of the second Wild Card. Four teams are less than 4 games out of the second Wild Card with more than 60 still to be played.
Four of the five AL Playoff spots are up for grabs as only Houston in the West has a commanding lead in its Division (17 games). In the NL both Washington and the LA Dodgers have double digit Division leads of 12 and 10.5 games respectively.
It will be interesting to learn over the next week which AL teams will take an aggressive approach to making a run at the Playoffs and those conceding that 2017 will not be their season.
Through nearly 100 games both Houston and the Dodgers continue to win at a pace that translates to the vicinity of 110 regular season wins.
It’s taken a long time but the Cubs have finally caught Milwaukee for the top spot in the NL Central. Chicago has played well following the All Star break whereas the Brewers have slumped. Still, the Cubs are unlikely to sniff their pre-season Wins projection which was in the range of 95 to 96.
At their current record, 51-46, the Cubs are on pace to win just 85 games. Their runs differential of +23 also translates to 85 wins, according to Bill James’ sabermetric concept of the Pythagorean Theorem. Milwaukee is on a similar pace, which if achieved would represent exceeding their Wins projection by 14 games. Milwaukee was projected to win just 71.
Despite their struggles the Cubs are not close to being the most costly team to have backed at the betting windows this season. Using a wagering standard of risking more than $100 to win 100 when backing a favorite and wagering 100 to win more than 100 when backing an underdog the Cubs are down 16.5 units on the season. That is costly, to be sure, but four other teams have fared worse.
The costliest team this season has been San Francisco. Projected to win 89 games and contend with the Dodgers for the NL West title and at the very least a Wild Card, the Giants were 38-62 through this past Sunday and had cost their backers 28.4 units for the season.
The next costliest team is Cleveland, also expected to contend for the Playoffs. The Indians were projected to win 93 games and actually are in first place in their Division after having lost the World Series last season. The Tribe is 51-45 through Sunday and down 24.0 units.
Next in line are Philadelphia (down 20.0 units) and Toronto (down 18.5 units). Following the Cubs is the New York Mets, also a team expected to be a Playoff contender. The Mets are 45-51 for the season and down 14.3 units.
With more than a third of the season still to be played a total of 8 teams are down double digit units with the group rounded out by St Louis (down 11.7 units) and Cincinnati (down 10.4 units).
Of course there have also been teams that have rewarded their backers nicely this season although only five teams are up double digit units. It’s no surprise that most of those teams are Playoff contenders.
The Astros top the list with a profit of 19.9 net units followed very closely by the Dodgers at +19.7 units. Colorado is third on the list at +17.2 with Milwaukee (+13.4) and Arizona (+11.6) rounding out the double digit profit quintet.
Washington, despite its 59-38 record and 12 game lead in the NL East, is up just 3.1 units.
The Atlanta Braves are on the rise, projected to win just 76 games and on pace to slightly exceed that with 78. Yet the Braves, starting the week 47-50, have been profitable to their backers – up 8.8 net units.
There is a long history of things evening out over the entirety of a season so let’s pay attention to those eight teams currently down double digit units to see how many of them turn a profit from this point forward and how many of the five teams up at least double digit units show losses over the balance of the regular season.
It would not be surprising if more than half (say 8 to 10 of the 15) show a reversal over the final two plus months of the season.
Here are previews of three series that wrap up the pre-trade deadline portion of the 2017 schedule.
Cubs at Brewers: The teams began the week in a virtual tie for the lead in the NL Central. Chicago has won 5 of the 9 prior head to head meetings this season. Perhaps the most remarkable statistic involving their games is that 8 of the 9 have gone OVER the Total including 8 in a row after Milwaukee’s 2-1 win in their first meeting on April 7. The teams have averaged 12.0 runs per games in those nine meetings.
Since the All Star break the Cubs were 7-2 through Sunday whereas the Brewers were just 3-7, enabling the Cubs to catch them in the standings. Chicago got a boost with the trade for lefty starter Jose Quintana who was brilliant in his first start as a Cub but just ordinary in Sunday night’s to St. Louis. The Cubs have gotten nothing near the level of starting pitching they got last season.
OVER Totals of 9 or less is the preferred play in starts not involving Quintana or Eddie Butler (whose 11 starts are 9-2 to the UNDER). Milwaukee is playable in a start by Jimmy Nelson against any Chicago pitcher, especially as an underdog or if laying no more than -125. Nelson has pitched extremely well at home, especially since late May as he’s allowed just 6 earned runs over 6 starts (43.7 innings) producing a 1.24 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and striking out 54 over this stretch. The Brewers won 5 of the 6 with the lone loss a 2-1 defeat to the Dodgers in which Nelson pitched 8 shutout innings. Otherwise look to back the Cubs at -140 or less, or as underdogs not facing Nelson.
Rays at Yankees: This four game series begins Thursday. In their three prior series this season the Yankees have won 5 of 9 games including a three game sweep in their lone series at Yankee Stadium in mid April. The home team has won 7 of the 9 games with teams combining to average 8.2 total runs per game. The OVER is 5-4. The teams haven’t met since mid May.
At Totals of 9 or higher look to play the UNDER in starts by that Tampa Bay trio and even consider UNDER 8 or 8.5 if a “plus” vig is attached to the UNDER. Also consider the Rays at +120 or more in starts by Chris Archer, Alex Cobb or Jake Faria. Not facing that trio consider playing the Yankees if laying no more than -150 with any starter.
Mets at Mariners: Lefty James Paxton has been the Mariners’ most effective starter with a 3.06 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 16 starts, although averaging just 5.9 innings per start. Jacob deGrom has been the Mets best starter with the best numbers across the board for the Mets, save for Noah Syndergaard who made just 5 starts before being injured.
The Mets can be backed as favorites of up to -140 in a start by deGrom. Otherwise the look will be to either the Mariners or OVER. In starts not involving deGrom the OVER can be considered at Totals of 8.5 or lower. Seattle can also be played as favorites of -135 or lower (or as underdogs) with any starter not facing deGrom.