When it comes to betting on sports in general and baseball in particular the term “value” is often mentioned as a key to long term success.
Value can refer to finding the best price or point spread at the time when one shops to make a bet. It can also refer to finding a price or point spread that appears unreasonably ‘cheap’ based on circumstances or situations.
The latter was in play in last Saturday’s Game 1 of the American League Championship Series. Because Houston’s AL Division Series against Tampa Bay went the full five games (after the Astros were up 2-0) neither of Houston’s co-aces, Justin Verlander or Gerrit Cole, were available to start. Zack Greinke, Houston’s No. 3 starter, was given the starting assignment.
Greinke has plenty of postseason experience but in just over 70 innings of postseason play his ERA was 4.58 with a 1.14 WHIP. Starting for the Yankees was Masahiro Tanaka whose 35 previous post season innings produced a 1.54 ERA and 0.80 WHIP.
The value prior to the game was on the Yankees at +145 to +150 by asking the question “When would the Yankees would be such large underdogs against other than Cole or Verlander, especially with Tanaka starting for New York?”
Greinke pitched respectably, going seven innings and allowing three runs. But he got no run support as Tanaka was brilliant, allowing just one hit in six innings before New York’s bullpen took over. The Yanks added four runs against Houston’s relievers in their 7-0 win.
It will be interesting to see how a potential rematch is priced if Tanaka and Greinke are matched up in either Game 4 or 5 at Yankee Stadium. There are weather concerns for Wednesday’s Game 4 so we could see that game played on Thursday which could give us that rematch.
The NL Championship Series has had its competitive moments. In winning the first two games in St Louis, the Nationals scored a total of just five runs. But that was enough thanks to brilliant efforts from starters Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer, who combined for 14 2/3 shutout innings. The Cards scored just one run in the two games and that came against Washington’s bullpen.
The Nats then won Game 3 on Monday 8-1, leading 7-0 before the Cards scored their lone run in the seventh inning.
The Cardinals had the unenviable task of trying to win four straight and the NLCS may have ended Tuesday night.
While Washington has surprised, Houston and the Yankees were the two best teams in the AL by far all season. Despite losing the home field edge, at least temporarily, by splitting the two games in Houston the Astros were still -160 to -170 favorites to win the ALCS even though it will require at least one win at Yankee Stadium.
This series has the makings of going the full seven games with Houston’s starting pitching edge matched by New York’s bullpen edge. Both teams have deep and potent lineups despite combining for just 12 runs and 29 hits over the first two games, the second of which went 11 innings. The four starters pitched a combined 21 innings, yielding just 6 runs and 17 hits while walking 5 and striking out 20.
And that’s before Cole started Game 3. In his two postseason starts he’s pitched 15 2/3 innings, allowing one run and just six hits while walking three and striking out 25.
I’ll look to back the Astros in starts by Cole and Verlander the rest of the way in the ALCS but the preference will be to play the first five innings instead of the full game out of deference to the Yankees’ bullpen. That will also allow for somewhat of an exception to back the Yankees for the full game if Tanaka starts and is an underdog against either Cole or Verlander (making for Houston First Five and Yankees Full Game in the same game).
I’ll also look back the Yankees in games against other than that duo (including against Greinke) while also looking to play under totals of 7 or higher in matchups of Cole or Verlander against the trio of Tanaka, Paxton or Severino.
The ultimate call is for Houston to win in seven games after their close call in the ALDS vs. Tampa.