The Senior Circuit takes center stage today as the two National League Division Series continue. After all eight teams took the field on Friday, we begin an alternating schedule with the NL today, the AL tomorrow, and then that same format, if necessary, through Thursday. Hopefully you’re learning some things about betting baseball in the playoffs because there’s a lot to learn and a lot of variance to try and overcome. With a lot of college football today and some NFL tomorrow, it’s nice that there are some alternative options because these two games look like difficult handicaps.
Looking back to yesterday, Yu Darvish struggled and the Blue Jays bullpen held on to give Toronto a 2-0 series lead. This is the opposite of last year when Texas had the 2-0 lead and Toronto won three straight. The Rangers were the preferred side, so that didn’t work out. Oddsmakers put up a pretty good line for BOS/CLE, where the Indians took a 2-0 series lead. Didn’t have a line up for that game at time of writing. The Dodgers won, but that was also a pretty good line. We did see Kershaw money drive it up, which was interesting. Finally, the Giants gave it a great effort, but lost 1-0 as a big dog to the Cubs.
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Los Angeles (NL) (-115) at Washington; Total: 7.5
The Dodgers send Rich Hill to the hill here for this Game 2 matchup against the Washington Nationals. The Nationals will counter with Tanner Roark, who has been really solid this season. It’s another lefty for the Nationals, who are still a wounded offense. Daniel Murphy looked okay on Friday, but Bryce Harper still isn’t hitting much and the Nationals went from a positive to a negative at the catching position on offense.
This line actually looks a little bit short to me with Hill. Hill has been phenomenal over his 110.1 innings this season, posting a 2.12 ERA with a 2.39 FIP and a 3.36 xFIP. He’s struck out 129 in those innings against just 33 walks and he’s only walked five in 34.1 innings since moving over to the National League. The health concerns are still there with his blister issue, but it hasn’t been talked about very much lately. Until I see otherwise, I’ll have to assume that he’s throwing without restriction.
My guess is that we’ll see the public players backing the Dodgers here, but Tanner Roark is no slouch. Roark had a really strong season with a 2.83 ERA, a 3.79 FIP, and a 4.17 xFIP. I wouldn’t worry about the FIP or the xFIP that much in this case because Roark’s not a high-strikeout guy, which is a big component of those two stats and he also wasn’t going to post a league average HR/FB like xFIP assumes.
Roark is the biggest benefactor of new pitching coach Mike Maddux, who has a reputation of helping pitchers with their changeups. Roark went from 6.9 percent usage of the CH to 9.8 percent and it’s a great complement to his sinker, which has a similar tunnel, but falls out of the zone. Roark’s changeup went from being one run above average last season to 8.9 runs above average this season. It also helped his entire arsenal. Of the five pitches classified by PITCHf/x, all five rated above average. Lefties hit .293/.359/.507 in 225 plate appearances last season off of Roark. They batted just .213/.315/.302 this season, as he actually allowed a higher wOBA against righties (.283 to .281).
This guy is a legit arm. I really like the under in this game. There have to be some worries about Roark in his first playoff start, but his arsenal matches up very well with the Dodgers and he can neutralize some of the lefties that have had big success against RHP this season. We all know what Rich Hill is capable of. Obviously my concern is how deep these guys work into the game and how the bullpens are deployed, but I really like a position on the under with a chance to do some things with live betting if you’re following along.
San Francisco at Chicago (NL) (-175); Total: N/A
Oddsmakers are waiting to post a total for Jeff Samardzija vs. Kyle Hendricks until they get a clearer picture of the winds at Wrigley, since we all know that those can play tricks on a baseball game. In any event, we can focus on the side here. We saw some investment in the big price on Cueto today, so I’ll be interested to see if we get the same with Jeff Samardzija. My guess is that we probably won’t.
Samardzija has had three different seasons within one season. In 10 starts from April 6 to May 24, Samardzija posted a 2.54 ERA with a 2.99 FIP and a 3.55 xFIP. He had 62 K in those 71 innings of work and only walked 16. From May 30 to August 5, Samardzija posted a 6.30 ERA with a 5.82 FIP and a 5.01 xFIP over 12 starts. He only struck out 42 and walked 20 in that span, so his K/BB rate stats really went down in a big way. He also gave up 16 HR. It was a really ugly performance.
Finally, from August 10 to September 28, Samardzija posted a 2.45 ERA with a 2.62 FIP and a 3.25 xFIP in 10 starts covering 62.1 innings. He struck out 63 and only walked 18. He also only gave up three home runs. So, I don’t know what Jeff Samardzija is. It’s amazing to cut his season into thirds and see the way that things played out. The Cubs are a special lineup, so buyer beware.
Kyle Hendricks is a hard guy to handicap as well. He’s had a Cueto-esque season in terms of inducing weak contact and it has played up in a big way with the Cubs defense. Hendricks did his part, though, with a strong K rate and a very good BB rate. He had a 2.13 ERA with a 3.20 FIP and a 3.59 xFIP. He gave up just 17 runs in 91.1 innings in the second half for a 1.68 ERA. He had similar slash stats against (avg/obp/slg), but his ERA was 0.87 runs lower. His second half strand rate was 90.7 percent. That’s wholly unsustainable over a large sample size, but it’s hard to know when or if that regression will come in these playoffs.
Among qualified starters, Hendricks had the fourth-lowest BABIP against, trailing only Marco Estrada, Dan Straily, and teammate Jake Arrieta. With an 81.5 percent strand rate, Hendricks trailed only Jon Lester, Ian Kennedy, and Max Scherzer in that stat. Because Clayton Kershaw didn’t qualify with enough innings, Hendricks had the lowest ERA by 0.31 runs over teammate Jon Lester.
My style of handicapping and my belief in baseball statistics would point to regression from Hendricks, but, he may just be a major exception to the norm. Weak contact can do a lot of things for a pitcher and he combines it with really solid K/BB rates.
As a rule, the line value will be in going against the Cubs in the playoffs, but I’m not sure I’d look to do that here because Samardzija’s weird season doesn’t really point us in the right direction as to how he’ll pitch. He’s familiar with the mound and the setting at Wrigley Field, but I don’t know how much that will help. All in all, this is a pass.