We have made it to the finish line. The seemingly endless marathon that is the Major League Baseball season comes to a close on Sunday. It’s been a long year and thanks are in order for those that have read this column throughout the season. Sometimes the results were there and sometimes they weren’t, but hopefully you were able to learn some different things about the process and find some new ways to handicap.
I will keep doing the picks and analysis piece every day throughout the playoffs and I will also have some series previews early this week once we know the matchups and the schedules.
Looking back to yesterday, the Indians were an easy winner and you were ahead of the line move if you got it early. I was off badly on the Twins/White Sox game, but the Astros lean did come in.
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Per usual, the games with big lines will be overlooked, unless there is something particularly noteworthy about them or a play on the underdog is a possibility. Also, day games are usually skipped due to the lead time of the article. That will not be the case on Wednesdays, Thursdays, or Sundays when there are a lot of day games.
Los Angeles (NL) at San Francisco (-130); Total: 7.5
This line should be higher. The Dodgers have absolutely nothing to play for, while the Giants have everything to play for. More importantly, Matt Moore throws with his left hand and the Dodgers have the worst offense in baseball by a pretty big margin against left-handed pitching. They have a 73 wRC+, a .277 wOBA, and a .627 OPS, which is more than 40 points worse than the Phillies.
The Giants have all the pressure, so maybe that’s a reason to be a little bit wary. Given that simple split against lefties, the Giants are the obvious play here and they should be able to come through for us today.
Toronto at Boston (-135); Total: 8.5
Nothing has been decided in the AL Wild Card race as the Blue Jays take on the Red Sox. Toronto picked up an enormous win on Saturday to stay even with the Baltimore Orioles. Boston is still in the hunt for home field advantage, so they have some incentive here in this one.
It’ll be Aaron Sanchez against David Price, though Price is going to get some work in and then exit this ballgame early. That’s something to watch out for in a lot of these games. There are some good arms on the mound with bigger things to consider, like Kenta Maeda, Kyle Hendricks, and Max Scherzer, so that has to be a factor in those four games.
It certainly has to be a consideration here as well. In some games today, the starters might only play four or five innings to get some plate appearances and then the benches will empty. This could be a spot like that for Boston.
Toronto’s the only way to look in this game. I think the idea of teams wanting home field advantage is really overblown and it probably does nothing more than inflate lines.
Baltimore (-135) at New York (AL); Total: 8.5
Kevin Gausman and Luis Cessa are the listed pitchers for this one, as the Orioles look to lock up a wild card spot. The Yankees won’t make it easy on them, as Joe Girardi’s team seems to play hard just about every day. This is a much tougher handicap than the previous two games.
The Orioles have a big pitching matchup advantage here with Gausman against Cessa. Gausman has a 3.66 ERA with a 4.08 FIP and a 3.75 xFIP on the year over his 29 starts. He’s also struck out almost a batter per inning on the season. I’ve talked in past write-ups about the huge reverse splits that he has, where righties own him and lefties rarely touch him. I don’t know if there’s an advantage or a disadvantage in this game, but it’s something to remember for next season because it’s now a two-year trend.
Cessa has fared better as a starter in his eight outings than as a reliever in eight of those outings. He has a 4.18 ERA with a 5.71 FIP and a 4.76 xFIP on the year. The big issue for him has been the long ball, with 15 of them in just 64.2 innings of work. He showed some decent stuff at the upper levels of the minors, but he hasn’t missed many bats here.
The lean is on Baltimore, but the price looks a little bit inflated. I’d probably pass here.
Oakland at Seattle (-145); Total: 8
What will we get from Felix Hernandez? It’s always interesting to see how pitchers that had a bad season treat their last starts. Hernandez has easily had the worst season of his MLB career. He hasn’t struck out more than four in a game since August 26. He’s just not the same guy that we’re used to seeing and he’s put a ton of reliance on the bad Mariners defense. There won’t be a whole lot of emotion here for Felix and he’s a guy that kind of thrives on those moments.
I’d have to look to fade the Mariners here in this spot if I did anything with this game. Sean Manaea is trying to put the finishing touches on a really strong season. The rookie southpaw owns a 3.89 ERA with a 4.17 FIP and a 3.98 xFIP on the year. He’s had a sub-3.00 ERA since late June and has shown some excellent control in that span.
The A’s would probably be today’s top underdog play.