Often criticized, major league baseball deserves kudos for the way the final day of the season was scheduled with all 15 games beginning at 12:05 p.m. Pacific time. Under normal conditions teams in later starting games might be able to juggle lineups based on results of earlier games.
In the current environment in which television networks and dollars govern broadcast decisions it was refreshing and somewhat surprising the MLB did not end the season with a Sunday night game involving contenders or teams already in the Playoffs.
The American League Wild Card game takes place Tuesday with Baltimore at Toronto. As of press time neither team had announced its starting pitcher for this one-game elimination and the right to face Texas in the ALDS that is scheduled to start on Thursday.
The National League Wild Card is on Wednesday with the San Francisco Giants at the New York Mets. The Giants have announced ace Madison Bumgarner as their starter with the Mets going with their current ace, Noah Syndergaard. The game opened right around pick ‘em with the Mets the slightest of favorites at some books. The Total is at 6 with a slight “vig” attached to the UNDER. The attractiveness of this matchup should make for some heavy betting action in this one-game elimination.
Baltimore’s best starters over the past two weeks have been Wade Miley and Ubaldo Jimenez. Miley is unlikely to start since he pitched on Saturday. Jimenez pitched last Thursday and despite his 5.18 ERA and 1.55 WHIP over his 25 starts his last three starts have been solid, producing a 1.89 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. Chris Tillman also remains an option although he was much better in the first half of the season than in the second half.
Toronto may start either Marcus Stroman or Francisco Liriano. Their top two starters, Jay Happ and Aaron Sanchez, pitched over the weekend in Boston in games the Blue Jays needed to win just to earn a Wild Card. Liriano is off of back-to-back shut-out performances, pitching at least six innings in each start.
His most recent start was just last Tuesday on this field against this team. In 6-1/3 innings he allowed Baltimore 6 hits and 1 walk while striking out 10. The veteran lefty has been a much better pitcher in Toronto than he was in Pittsburgh before being traded. In 8 starts for Toronto he has a 2.66 ERA and 1.16 WHIP.
Toronto is likely to be about a -150 favorite with the total at 8.5. The Blue Jays are the better team overall but their weakness has been the bullpen which is a major strength of Baltimore. The best approach to betting this game might be to play Toronto for the first 5 innings but to take advantage of in game wagering to back Baltimore if the game is close after 6 innings. Normally the preference would be for the OVER, especially at 8.5, but both offenses have been inconsistent down the stretch. Over their final 10 games the Orioles have averaged just 3.8 runs per game while Toronto has averaged just 3.7 rpg.
The Mets are the defending National League Champions. The Giants won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014. The Giants struggled since the All Star break but ended the season with 4 straight wins and wins in 6 of their final 7, virtually needing to win each game to stay alive for the Wild Card. The Mets took advantage of a favorable late season schedule to win 21 of their final 32 games, although they did lose 4 of 6 to lowly Atlanta during this stretch.
Despite the low total, UNDER 3 for the first 5 innings might be the best way to approach this game. Both starters are capable of going deep into the game and the First 5 Innings play takes the bullpens out of the equation. As an elimination game it should be played at a deliberate pace with more thought going into each pitch than in normal regular season games. Both managers should not hesitate to make changes to prevent the potential for big innings.
Ultimately the call in the AL Wild Card is for Toronto to advance to face Texas in a rematch of last season’s ALDS which the Blue Jays won in a thrilling 5 game series in which the Rangers won the first two.
In the NL the call is for San Francisco to advance with Bumgarner outdueling Sydergaard to advance to the NLDS against the Chicago Cubs.
The League Divisional Series are best-of-five series played in a 2-2-1 format. The two series already known involve the No. 2 and 3 seeds in each league. The Washington Nationals will host the Los Angeles Dodgers for the two games of their NLDS and Cleveland hosting Boston for the first two games of their ALCS.
Both ALDS series start on Thursday and Boston’s Rick Porcello is about a -130 favorite at Cleveland over Trevor Bauer. Cleveland had one more win than Boston during the regular season and played one less game with last week’s postponement against Detroit not needing to be made up on Monday. Boston won 4 of 6 against Cleveland but 5 of the 6 were played early in the season prior to Memorial Day. One game was rained out an made up in mid August with Boston winning at Cleveland 3-2.
Cleveland would be the pick to win the series if their starting pitching was fully healthy. But Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar are injured with ace Corey Kluber hurt but likely to start Game 2. Boston has too much offense and with Porcello and Game 2 starter David Price also have the two best fully healthy starters. Still, a play on Cleveland as underdogs of +120 or more in Game 1 can be supported but the Red Sox should advance in no more than four games.
Texas should be favored over either Baltimore or Toronto. Toronto won 4 of 7 games against Texas this season with the home team winning 5 of 7. Texas won 4 of 7 against Baltimore with the home team also winning 5 of 7. Note that Toronto won 3 of 4 home games against the Rangers and Texas won 3 of 4 home games against the Orioles.
Texas has the better starting pitchers with Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish but they are not overly impressive statistically other than their uncanny success in one run games (36-11). This should be a high scoring series with OVER Totals of 9 or lower to be strongly considered. Baltimore’s bullpen is their biggest edge but it might not matter if Texas has success against the starters.
Texas is the pick to advance to the ALCS in five games with a play on Baltimore as underdogs to earn at least a split of the first two games in Texas worth your consideration.
The NLDS begin on Friday. The Dodgers took 5 of 6 games against the Nationals this season, sweeping all three home games in mid June and winning two of three in Washington just after the All Star break. The Dodgers are the healthier and deeper team and played their best baseball over the season’s final three months, including when ace Clayton Kershaw was injured for July and August. Washington will be without starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg and catcher Wilson Ramos, two key players for the Nats this season. Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper both ended the regular season nursing nagging injuries.
Kershaw is about -140 in the opening game matchup against. Although the forecast is for the Dodgers to win the series in 3 or 4 games the play in game one will be to take Washington and starter Max Scherzer as underdogs of +125 or more. The play in Game 2 would be to back the loser of Game 1 if not favored by more than -125. Game 1 opened with a Total of 6 and, again, UNDER 3 for the First 5 Innings can be considered.
The winner of Wednesday’s Wild Card game between the Mets and Giants will play at the Cubs on Friday. The Cubs are solid favorites to win the World Series at revised current odds of roughly 5 to 2. As such they can be predicted to win their NLDS series in no more than four games.
The Mets won 5 of 7 games against the Cubs and the home team won 6 of the 7. Interestingly, Syndergaard won both of his starts against the Cubs but would only pitch once after facing the Giants in the Wild Card game. The best chance for the Mets would be to back them back home in Game 3 if they are down 0-2 and facing elimination.
The Cubs took 4 of 7 against the Giants with the home team winning 5 of 7. This should be a very competitive series because of the starting pitching on both sides. As such, the underdog will be playable throughout. The Giants are dangerous given their World Series pedigree. At 25-1 odds they are worth a flyer to win it all but the forecast is for the Cubs to advance in 4 games.
And once the Cubs get through this opening series they should be able to complete their journey of more than a century and win the 2016 World Series. Their 103 regular season wins are the most since the Yankees won 103 in 2009 when they won their most recent World Series.