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Astros need Kershaw-like performance from Verlander in Game 2

Jeff Fogle
VSiN.com

Clayton Kershaw strikes out 11 in seven innings of work (and just 83 pitches!) to lead the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 3-1 victory and a 1-0 lead over the Houston Astros in the 2017 World Series.

World Series: All runs score on homers as Clayton Kershaw outduels Dallas Keuchel in 3-1 pitchers’ duel
It was destined to be a very difficult environment for run scoring. A twilight start in a park that traditionally helps pitchers anyway. Two staff aces on the mound on regular or extended rest. An umpire behind the plate known to have a friendly strike zone for hurlers. Lotsa luck hitters!

  • Chris Taylor led off the bottom of the first with a HR for the Dodgers
  • Alex Bregman hit a homer in the top of the fourth for the Astros 
  • Justin Turner hit a two-run shot in the bottom of the sixth for LAD (after Taylor drew one of only two walks in the entire game!) to finish out the scoring. 

Under bets for the first give innings cashed easily, as did Under bets for the full game. The offenses combined for only nine hits. No doubles or triples for either side. Six singles and three homers. 

LA Dodgers (-180) 3, Houston 1

  • Totals Bases Plus Walks Drawn: Houston 6, LA Dodgers 14
  • Keuchel: 6.2 IP, 3 ER, 3 K, 1 BB, 2 HR’s
  • Kershaw: 7 IP, 1ER, 11 K, 0 BB, 1 HR

We talked about walks possibly being a tie-breaker in this series. Not a dramatic differential here, with just a 2-0 edge for the Dodgers over the full game. Though, one of the walks doubled the value of the HR that Turner hit. You could tell the Astros were more of a “free swinging” team because they only forced Kershaw to throw 83 pitches in seven innings. It was the big lefty’s longest outing, lowest pitch count, and highest strikeout count of the postseason. He should be fresh and ready for G5 in Houston (if needed).

Wednesday’s Game 2: Houston at the LA Dodgers (8:05 p.m. ET, 5:05 p.m. PT on FOX)

  • Money line: LA Dodgers -115, Houston plus 105
  • Run Line: LA Dodgers -1.5 runs (plus 180), Houston 1.5 runs (-210)
  • Over/Under: 7.5 (Under -115)

Huge line adjustment from the opener because Justin Verlander is getting a ton of respect from the most important market influences. You’ll see below in the “three true outcome” stats that Verlander is “the Kershaw of the Astros” in terms of his current ability to control his own destiny on the mound. Maybe he won’t be able to keep that up outside of Minute Maid, or against this dynamic Dodgers attack. Handicappers will have to make that determination. 

Pitching “Three True Outcomes” from Regular Season

  • J. Verlander: 2.94 xFIP, 35.8 K%, 4.2 BB%, 1.06 HR’s per 9 IP
  • Rich Hill:  3.88 xFIP, 30.1 K%, 8.9 BB%, 1.19 HR’s per 9 IP

Very high K-rates for another twilight start. Hill has been more vulnerable to allowing walks. That may not matter against the free-swinging Astros. Much like Tuesday…whoever hits the ball the farthest when they happen to connect is likely to win. 

Pretty close to a must-win game for Houston, because Verlander would only be able to start one more even if he shines here…and the Astros must now win four of six against the rested and ready Dodgers staff.

VSiN City: Answering a Question and Wednesday’s Tutorial
First, a quick answer to a question from a reader that came in late last week. Since Wednesday is “tutorial” day here in VSiN City, we’ll also use this report to answer questions.

“Could you tell us how parlays work at South Point? Can you mix sports? What’s the max number of games on the money line? What are your point spread parlays and can you mix football and basketball or even hockey? Thanks.”

VSiN City contacted Vinny Magliulo to get the answer. Here was the prompt reply from @VSiNVinny.

“Cross-sport (mixed sports) parlays are accepted at the South Point. The number of teams & payouts for parlays/teasers are posted in the Sports Book. If someone has a specific request, it’s best to come to the counter and inquire…the South Point team is very accommodating.” 

The South Point is happy to go above and beyond the call if there are requests for special features or a bet size above the usual limits.

Now…to this week’s tutorial…

It’s important to remember when you’re analyzing a game that you’re not a lawyer trying to make a case for something. You’re a judge trying to determine whether or not a line is fair. If it’s not, you then determine whether that edge favors: 

  • One side or the other on a team bet
  • The Over or the Under on a total (or a prop)
  • The team in question to win a championship at the posted futures price

Far too many bettors fall into the trap of deciding what they think right away…then trying to find stats or trends that back that belief up. Unfortunately, it’s a characteristic of sports fans in general…particularly those who like to argue sports topics with their friends. The betting markets are basically “sports arguments with money.” Casual bettors lose too many of those arguments because they decide what they want to bet before diligently analyzing reality.

A great example of this was pundits trying to make a case Tuesday that Clayton Kershaw had “struggled” through the playoffs. He was allowing more home runs than some would like to see…so they made a kneejerk reaction that he was vulnerable because of his prior back injury, and then cherry-picked stats over a recent range to make that case. 

Kershaw, in recent seasons, has been less concerned about challenging hitters when he has a lead. Particularly if nobody’s on base. That, plus the change in ball construction that has caused the number of home runs to skyrocket, has led to more dingers off Kershaw pitches.

Kershaw’s Percentage of Fly Balls That are Homers (from fangraphs)
2009: 4.1%
2010: 5.8%
2011: 6.7%
2012: 8.1%
2013: 5.8%
2014: 6.6%
2015: 10.1%
2016: 7.5%
2017: 15.9%

Three of the highest four on the chart are from the last three seasons. And, that 15.9% looks like a disaster. But, his overall indicator stats are still terrific. Let’s cut and paste the 2017 numbers from yesterday’s WS preview…

2.84 xFIP, 29.8 K%, 4.4 BB%, 1.18 HR’s per 9 IP

He’s striking out a ton of hitters, not allowing many walks…and he’s not really getting “rocked” with home runs even though the percentage of fly balls that go over the fence is up. He’s still awesome. Allowing solo home runs when you’re way ahead doesn’t mean you’ve suddenly lost it!

2017 Playoffs

  • Tied or Trailing: Kershaw has allowed 2 earned runs in 9 innings (2.00 ERA)
  • Leading by 1-3 runs: Kershaw has allowed 1 earned run in 7 innings (1.26 ERA)
  • Leading by 4 or more runs: Kershaw has allowed 5 earned runs (on 5 solo homers) in 8.1 innings (5.40 ERA)

The solo home runs with a big lead came when he was ahead 4-0, 7-1, 7-2, 7-3, and 9-0. He’s throwing to contact with a comfortable scoreboard advantage and nobody on base. He’s not “struggling” any more than an NFL defense is “struggling” when they allow garbage time yards and points after jumping ahead 31-0.

Tuesday, he never enjoyed a big lead and overpowered his opponent from start to finish. Kershaw was an expensive pitcher to back in G1 because the market is analytics driven…and analytics tries to “judge” likely performance based on skill sets and common sense. Kershaw’s skill sets were likely to weigh heavily on proceedings. What he’s allowed recently in “garbage time” caused a few too many lawyers to make ill-advised cases for his demise. 

When it comes to selecting sports bets, don’t be a lawyer, be a judge.  

College Football: Updating our estimated “market” Power Ratings for Power 5 conferences
Notre Dame has become very important this season as a major independent. We’ve been dealing with them first before running the conferences. We’ve lifted Notre Dame to 83 off last week’s rout of Southern Cal. The Irish are currently laying -7.5 to NC State, who we had at 78 on last week’s scale. That would put Notre Dame in the discussion for the Final Four if the spots were based on “what Las Vegas thinks.” But, still below Alabama,  Georgia (who beat ND in South Bend), Ohio State, Penn State, and…for now…several others who are knocking on the door. 

SEC West: Alabama 100 vs. teams at 75 or less (lower vs. better opposition), Auburn 84, LSU 77, Mississippi State 76, Texas A&M 72, Ole Miss 67, Arkansas 66.
SEC East: Georgia 87 vs. teams at 73 or better (90 vs. worse opposition), Florida 73, South Carolina 71, Kentucky 68, Tennessee 67, Vanderbilt 67, Missouri 65.

The good news this week is that Georgia is playing somebody that isn’t perceived as a doormat. So, their line isn’t inflated because they’ve been blowing out doormats. Georgia is -14 vs. Florida (73) on a neutral field. We stick them at 87…which is about where common sense would have them anyway. A road game at Auburn that’s coming up will help pin down Georgia’s spot in the postseason picture more clearly too. We’ll see what a liquid market brings for Alabama (off this week) when they play LSU and Auburn…and then Georgia in the SEC Championship. They’ve played to inflated prices vs. lesser lights. 

Big 10 East: Ohio State 90, Penn State 87, Michigan 80, Michigan State 75, Indiana 72, Maryland 64, Rutgers 59.
Big 10 West: Wisconsin 84, Iowa 73, Purdue 71, Northwestern 70, Minnesota 69, Nebraska 68, Illinois 57.

Ohio State continues to get big respect from the marketplace despite its home loss to Oklahoma earlier this season, and despite having a lot of talent back from the team that was squashed by Clemson in last year’s Final Four. Biggest test of the regular season this week at home vs. Penn State. Should the Buckeyes win, Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship game would be the next one. 

Big 12: Oklahoma 84, Oklahoma State 84, TCU 83, Texas 74, West Virginia 73, Iowa State 73, Texas Tech 72, Kansas State 72, Baylor 63, Kansas 45.

Not clear on why Oklahoma is laying -19.5 to Texas Tech given their recent non-covers vs. Baylor, Iowa State, Texas, and Kansas State. There’s no way to “lift” them in reasonable rankings off market misses of 19.5, 38, 5, and 7.5 points. Should Texas Tech fall to 68-ish off a loss to Iowa State? The Red Raiders are 5-2 vs. the market this season…and the non-cover at West Virginia two weeks ago was a very late fade. We’re just going to put OU at 84 (which they haven’t played too in awhile) and Tech at 72…then see what happens down the road. 

ACC Atlantic: Clemson 86, NC State 78, Florida State 78, Louisville 75, Wake Forest 72, Boston College 72, Syracuse 70.
ACC Coastal: Miami 82, Virginia Tech 79, Georgia Tech 75, Virginia 67, Duke 66, Pittsburgh 65, North Carolina 59.

We have to admit that pinning down teams in the mid-to-lower 70’s is very tough here because Louisville has been surprisingly soft, and teams like Boston College, Syracuse, and Virginia have posted some good results.

We’ve launched Boston College up to 72 after covers of 23 vs. Louisville and 38 vs. Virginia. They’ve covered five straight after opening with three non-covers that would have suggested doormat status. Pittsburgh is -3 vs. Virginia, which means the market would now rate them dead even on a neutral field. Virginia was recently plus 1 at Duke, Pitt was plus 9.5 at Duke last week. Now they’re even? Not sure what to make of that. Another pair we’ll have to monitor in future action. 

Pac 12 North: Washington 86, Stanford 82, Washington State 80, California 71, Oregon 69 (injuries), Oregon State 58.
Pac 12 South: USC 79, Utah 75, Arizona 74, Arizona State 73, UCLA 72, Colorado 71.

Arizona and Arizona State are causing a bit of a mess because they improved off slow starts. 

  • Arizona lost early at home to Houston (which looks worse now) and Utah. Then they covered by double digits in a road upset at Colorado, then again in a home upset of UCLA. The market overshot the mark last week when the Wildcats were -5 at Cal (overtime win). This week Arizona is getting three at home from Washington State.
  • Arizona State was 0-3 ATS out of the gate. Since, they’ve won outright in double-digit covers vs. Oregon (16.5-point cover), Washington (23.5-point cover) and Utah (30-point cover in the letdown that didn’t happen). This week the Sun Devils are three-point home dogs against fading USC (six straight non-covers now for the Trojans). 

Plenty of fun, competitive matchups ahead in this conference. They might not mean much in the big picture unless Washington steamrollers everyone moving forward. 

Back Thursday to recap Wednesday’s World Series game, and to preview the NFL Thursday nighter featuring the Miami Dolphins and the Baltimore Ravens. Brace yourself…if the playoffs started today, 4-2 Miami would be in the AFC brackets!

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