Last Updated: 2017-10-31
Like 47 years ago, when the 2017 playoffs first started, I told you about how the playoffs were mostly about variance. It doesn’t take away from the allure or the spectacle, it just simply means that the team that runs the best, which isn’t always the best team, generally comes out on top. As a result, because there’s really no rhyme or reason to anything, live betting is the best way to go.
Enter Game 5. It is literally impossible to find a game that personifies live betting better than that one. Those that scalped, middled, and arbitraged with in-game wagering were able to get both teams at plus money multiple times. Eventually, the Astros won 13-12 in walk-off fashion. On the same day we found out that Major League Baseballs are, in fact, messed up, 10 of the 14 pitchers to work in the game gave up runs. Of the four that did not allow a run, two only got one out and the two others got only two outs apiece. So, we head back to Dodger Stadium with the Astros needing just one win to close out the first World Series in franchise history.
Frankly, I have no idea what to expect. Two of the games in this series have had four or more plays that have swung the win probability by more than 25 percent. Five games in World Series history can make that claim. It makes for great television, to say the least. What does it mean for the future of the game? On the biggest stage imaginable, we’re getting 13-12 home run derbies while pitchers voice their displeasure. Changes are likely coming. But, at least for these last two games, we could very well see more of the same. When former Cy Young winners Clayton Kershaw and Dallas Keuchel last 8.1 innings with 10 runs allowed on nine hits with five walks and six strikeouts, something is clearly amiss.
Anyway, we head into Game 6 with Justin Verlander on the bump against Rich Hill. The travel day was sorely needed for both teams, especially both bullpens, as they worked extensively in the 10-inning slugfest that was Game 5. BetOnline was the first to pop a number for Tuesday’s Game 6 and it opened with the Dodgers as a -125 favorite. The first initial hits with the $250 opening limit hit the board with Houston to move the number to +110/-120. My guess is that we see Astros investment and this number comes down and closes more like a money line pick ‘em with -110 both ways. Verlander and the Astros actually closed a road favorite in Game 2. It also wouldn’t be a surprise to see that again.
Update: The rest of the market opened Verlander and the Astros as a small favorite in the -110 range. We’ll have to see where this number moves as it gets closer to close, but this is a far better opening line.
Verlander has been exceptional for the Astros since his acquisition from the Tigers. In nine starts and one relief appearance, Verlander has allowed 11 runs on 36 hits across 64.2 innings of work with a 72/13 K/BB ratio. He has allowed seven home runs in that span, which just seems to be an occupational hazard at this point. In the postseason, Verlander has a win in four of his five appearances, including a complete game shutout. In Game 2, he fired six solid innings with three runs allowed on two hits. Both hits were home runs. Surprise, surprise. He only struck out five, but he also only walked two. As the series shifts back to Los Angeles, we shift back to NL rules, which means that Verlander has to hit. That could force AJ Hinch to make some tough decisions in the middle innings, especially with the state of his battered bullpen.
Verlander only threw 79 pitches in getting through six innings and will be going on one extra day of rest, so Hinch is going to ride him as long as he can. Verlander threw a playoff-high 124 pitches in his complete game effort against the Yankees on October 14 and then 99 pitches in his October 20 start against the Yankees. Despite all the craziness, we haven’t seen a whole lot of short rest outings in these playoffs and it is good to see pitchers back on regular routines. Considering fly balls had a 50/50 chance of going out at Minute Maid Park on Sunday night, Verlander is hoping for a pitcher-friendly breeze at Dodger Stadium as an extreme fly ball guy. In his four starts, he has had at least 10 balls in play hit in the air. Thus far in the postseason, that hasn’t been a good thing for most pitches, but Verlander has done a good job to overcome it.
Rich Hill is a really tough guy to peg in the postseason. This will be his fourth start, but he has only worked 13 innings. In the regular season, Hill was limited to 25 starts and 135.2 innings of work. He posted a 3.32 ERA with a 3.72 FIP and a 3.88 xFIP while striking out a high number of batters. Like most pitchers affected by the slick ball in the playoffs, he has a 20 percent HR/FB%, but that was a problem dating back to the regular season when he allowed 18 home runs. He only allowed four in 110.1 innings in 2016. Hill has allowed a couple of home runs in these playoffs, but has allowed mostly weak contact with just nine hits against.
Hill has pitched well in his three starts, but he has been pulled very early. He’s only allowed four runs on nine hits, but he’s been pulled after four, five, and four innings. He hasn’t been overly efficient with his pitch count and the Dodgers have been watching those very closely. He’s thrown 78, 79, and 60 pitches. During Game 2, there were a lot of questions about whether or not Hill should have been pulled at just 60 pitches, but the Dodgers are holding very close to not allowing starters turn the lineup over for a third time. Given how vulnerable the Dodgers bullpen has been in this series, including Kenley Jansen, it might be in manage Dave Roberts’s best interest to give Hill as many frames as he can. He’s mostly been in control of the game, with a 15/4 K/BB ratio over his last two starts. The odds are high that we will see a quick trigger again, but neither manager has leveraged the bullpen all that well in the middle innings in this series. Roberts used a gassed Kenta Maeda too early in Game 5 and paid dearly. He removed Hill with the one run allowed after four innings and the bullpen allowed six runs the rest of the way in a losing effort.
Obviously this series has been all about offense and we have seen a lot of it. The Dodgers started hitting over the last two games, so at least they have been able to keep pace. The Astros had the best offense in baseball for a reason and we’re seeing it here. The bullpens have been a trainwreck. There were 417 pitches thrown in Game 5, even with Astros hitters jumping very early in counts. Chris Devenski, who was such a good weapon in the regular season, has been awful in the postseason. He blew the Game 5 save with three runs allowed in the ninth, including a Yasiel Puig dinger.
Basically, what I’m saying is that I have no idea what to do with Game 6. Live betting is once again the preferred option. Those with access to the early BetOnline number will get some line value with Houston, since this number likely closes with both sides preceded by minus signs. The total is already at 7.5 with heavy juice on the over and I’d expect that to keep climbing as we get closer to first pitch, but you should get live opportunities on the total as well.
I won’t even claim to have a guess on who will win. My lean would be to Houston, since Verlander has been so good throughout these playoffs and has been able to overcome the awful pitching conditions, but the Astros are still going to need outs from the bullpen, and that’s when the adventure starts.
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