New York Yankees
The Yankees are my World Series pick. They were second in wOBA last season, have the best paper bullpen in baseball, and made some good improvements in the starting rotation with James Paxton and a full season of JA Happ. Betting odds in Yankees games will be really interesting this season. New York was 78-77-7 in the totals market last season and was overpriced, as the Yankees won 100 games, but cost $100 bettors money over 162 games.
I’m not sure that we’re going to find a lot of opportunities with this team. You’d like to think that they’ll score a lot of runs, but the pitching staff is going to prevent a lot of opposition runs. That makes totals a little bit of a challenge. Sides are going to be way overpriced, especially because oddsmakers are starting to incorporate bullpens into the equation a lot more than they used to. Lines aren’t nearly as starting pitcher dominant as they used to be.
Logically speaking, that means that we should be able to find opportunities to go against the overpriced Yankees. The problem I have is that a bullpen that good will allow the offense plenty of chances to come back and last year’s weakness, the starting rotation, has been addressed.
There weren’t any big outliers for the Yankees either. By the alternate standings metrics, they were pretty much where they should have been. They were a solid 70-47 against righties and 30-15 against lefties. They were 23-17 in one-run games, which is perfectly reasonable with that bullpen, if not a little disappointing.
Money Line Spots
The betting markets will look to fade CC Sabathia. He was the one guy in this rotation that regularly got bet against and has posted three straight seasons with a lower ERA than xFIP. New York was 16-13 in his 29 starts. He’s actually something of a wild card to me. He’ll turn 39 in July and already announced that this is his last season. He’s also coming off of his best season since 2012 in the swinging strike department, so he’s still got it. He’s also throwing his slider more than ever before and a 35 percent SL% would not surprise me this year. That’s his best pitch at this point. I wouldn’t run to fade him.
I do have a fade candidate down the board to discuss. As far as betting against the Yankees, there will be spots, I’m sure. If I had one knock on the lineup, it would be how right-handed-heavy it is. Against strikeout righties, we can fade New York. Using Baseball-Reference’s splits on Pitcher Types, the Yankees only slashed .230/.321/.388 against “Power” pitchers, which are guys in the top third of the league in strikeouts plus walks. That was still above league average (.22/.300/.364), but Yankee Stadium plays a role.
Fade New York against “Power” pitchers on the road. That’s what I’d take from this.
Similarly, this is where we can probably find some totals value as well. Anybody with really good right vs. right splits has a chance against this team. More often than not, those will be elite types, but guys like Jose Berrios, Mike Clevinger, Kyle Gibson, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Lance Lynn had enough innings to qualify and held righties to a sub-.300 wOBA among AL pitchers. If those starters also have a good bullpen, those will be under opportunities, as well as money line opportunities.
Individual Players to Watch
James Paxton – James Paxton is an upgrade over the revolving door of back-end starters that the Yankees had last season, but the park factor switch from Safeco Field to Yankee Stadium will have an impact. So will the move from the AL West to the AL East. Paxton had a respectable .311 wOBA against on the road last season, but his ERA went from 3.35 at home to 4.24 away from home. He had similar bad luck on the road in 2017, despite a lower wOBA against.
Paxton will see some drops in some metrics and some increases in his run metrics. That’s not to say I’m going to rush to fade him, but he does allow some home runs and will have a tougher time in a better environment for hitters.
Domingo German – People will be looking for ways to bet against the Yankees. As long as Luis Severino is sidelined, they’ll likely try to do it with Domingo German. German posted a 5.57 ERA in 85.2 innings, but also had a 3.94 xFIP. His 14 starts weren’t great, as he allowed .344 wOBA against, mostly from a .487 SLG.
I’d be careful rushing to fade him. German had a 14.9 percent swinging strike rate, with a ton of swings and misses in the zone in a relative sense. He had a very solid 26.2 percent K% as a starter. He has some upside that doesn’t show up in the traditional metrics.