Despite the glut of home runs in a high scoring Major League season, will the sports betting standard “defense wins championships” still ultimately determine the World Series champ?
If so, that could be bad news for fans and backers of the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees who are intently watching this weekend’s series in the Bronx (Saturday, FS1, 12:05 p.m.; Sunday ESPN, 6 p.m.). Both teams have been disappointed with their pitching in recent weeks. Both teams have below average defensive skill sets.
Run prevention is a marriage of pitching and defense. It can be tricky to separate the two. Pitchers’ ERA’s are often damaged by defenses with poor range. It’s possible for a team to have a sub-par defense even if it’s not making errors. Imagine sticking an aging catcher in centerfield. He wouldn’t drop the ball, but many more fly balls and line drives would be landing for clean hits.
This is why VSiN always encourages bettors to focus on skill sets. For pitchers, that means using “fielding independent stats” that cover what they can control. Strikeouts, walks, home runs allowed. For defenses, it means the ability for fielders to turn batted balls into outs.
We recommend two easily available team defense stats (available on the “standard fielding page” at baseball-reference.com) that do a good job of painting an accurate picture.
▪ Defensive Efficiency: this is simply the percentage of batted balls converted into outs. The Red Sox are dead last in the American League at .669 (67%). The Yankees grade out slightly below average at .680 (68%). Serious championship threat Houston has a clear edge over both, leading the A.L. at .722 (72%). The top four teams in the league are all playoff contenders. Just behind Houston are Oakland at .710, Tampa Bay at .702, and Cleveland at .698.
▪ Defensive Runs Saved: compiled by Baseball Solutions, this is the number of runs above or below average saved by the defense. Both the Yankees (-10) and Red Sox (-12) are again below average. Houston (39) also leads the A.L. in this stat, ahead of playoff contenders Tampa Bay (31) and Cleveland (28).
It’s been fun watching A.L. futures prices move around in recent days. New York is no longer clear of Houston at the top of the board. Circa Sports in Las Vegas now has both the Yanks and Astros at +188 to win the league (risk $100 to win $188, or anything in that ratio), and +450 to win the World Series. Whoever earns home field in the brackets will lead the way entering the postseason, and likely be a head-to-head favorite should they meet in the ALCS. “Run prevention” stats are shouting “Houston” as national TV networks continue virtual wall-to-wall coverage of recent Red Sox/Yankees meetings.
▪ Team xFIP: Houston 3.86, Yankees 4.27, Red Sox 4.30
The stat that isolates pitching skill sets favors Houston by nearly half a run. And, then they also have better defensive skill sets you saw earlier.
Thus far, the Yanks and Sox have been able to “outscore” what they allow. That will get at least one, possibly both into the playoffs. Bettors will soon need to determine if that approach still work against playoff caliber pitching.
▪ Red-hot pennant races are creating important TV matchups all over the betting schedule. Saturday, the Los Angeles Angels (fringe of the A.L. wildcard race) visit the Cleveland Indians (now a favorite to earn a wildcard) on FS1 at 6:10 p.m.
Sunday, the Milwaukee Brewers visit the Chicago Cubs (those two are neck-and-neck-and-neck with the St. Louis Cardinals in the N.L. Central and N.L .wildcard races) on TBS at 1:20 p.m. Monday, the Oakland A’s (serious A.L. wildcard contender) visit the Cubs in Wrigley on ESPN at 7 p.m. Key series matching the Atlanta Braves at the Minnesota Twins and St. Louis at the Los Angeles Dodgers also begin that night.
With so much at stake, fans are enjoying playoff intensity right now.
▪ Circa’s money line odds to win the American League for all contenders: Yankees and Astros both +188, Minnesota +575, Cleveland +750, Boston +950, Oakland +1900, Tampa Bay +2400, L.A. Angels +7000.
▪ Circa’s money line odds to win the National League: L.A. Dodgers -105 (lay $105 to win $100, or anything in that ratio), Atlanta +500, Chicago Cubs +850, St. Louis +900, Washington +900, Milwaukee +1400, Philadelphia +1800, San Francisco +3500, Arizona +4500.
The Dodgers are essentially “pick-em” with the rest of the N.L. field right now. But, anything can happen in a short playoff series.