Dodgers win the NL Pennant! Yankees will try to win the AL Pennant Friday night in Houston. Plus the Chiefs/Raiders Thursday night thriller and a stat preview of Michigan/Penn State as we close out the week in VSiN City.
NLCS: LA Dodgers crush the Chicago Cubs 11-1 to wrap it up in five and advance to the World Series
A large percentage of TV viewers yelled “ballgame” when Enrique Hernandez hit a grand slam homer in the top of the third inning to give the Los Angeles Dodgers an early 7-0 lead over the Chicago Cubs in Game 5 of the NLCS. Clayton Kershaw isn’t going to blow a lead like that! He didn’t.
LA Dodgers (-145) 11, Chicago Cubs 1
Totals Bases Plus Walks Drawn: LA Dodgers 32, Chicago Cubs 8
Kershaw: 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 4K, 1BB, 1 HR
Quintana: 2.0 IP, 6 ER, 1 K, 1 BB, 1 HR
Jose Quintana didn’t seem to have much, as Dodgers hitters kept rocketing shots all over the park. He would allow six hits in 2-plus innings of work. Granting that the Dodgers have been running a merry-go-round offense most of the series. They posted 21 offensive bases in the first half of the game Thursday night…more in line with what they had been doing in full games prior in the series. Hernandez would finish the night with three dingers.
Final “offensive bases” count for the NLCS…
Game 1: LA Dodgers 20, Chicago Cubs 8
Game 2: LA Dodgers 19, Chicago Cubs 7
Game 3: LA Dodgers 23, Chicago Cubs 14
Game 4: LA Dodgers 18, Chicago Cubs 14
Game 5: LA Dodgers 32, Chicago Cubs 8
There were competitive games when the Dodgers had occasional dry spells. But it wasn’t a competitive series given the numbers above. LAD is a different class of team when most of its stars are healthy. Chicago was the best team in a mediocre NL Central this season. They were out-based by Washington in the divisional round, and squashed 112-51 here.
The Dodgers are now off until Tuesday, when they host Game 1 of the 2017 World Series. Kershaw should be ready to go on regular rest. If LAD’s opponent is the New York Yankees, the Bronx Bombers won’t have Luis Severino back yet because he pitches Friday night. Dallas Keuchel would be ready for Houston if the Astros are able to win both Game 6 and Game 7 in Minute Maid this weekend. He pitched Wednesday in New York.
LAD was about a -180 favorite to win the NLCS over the Cubs. They would likely be slightly less than that vs. either the Astros or Yankees. Though, this was a dominant week for them…and the Yankees/Astros survivor could seem outmanned and exhausted if the ALCS goes the full seven and the finale is a battle.
ALCS: Houston Astros host New York Yankees Friday night in Game 6
Houston has its back to the wall. But tonight the Astros have exactly the arm they want on the mound when Justin Verlander gets the ball in MLB’s best pitchers’ park (based on park effect data from the past two seasons). He has posted Cy Young caliber numbers for the Astros ever since coming over late in the regular season. The Yankees couldn’t touch him on this field in Game 2.
Friday’s Game 6: NY Yankees at Houston (8 p.m. ET, 5 p.m. PT on FOX)
Money line: Houston -130, NY Yankees plus 120
Run Line: Houston -1.5 runs (plus 160), NY Yankees plus 1.5 runs (-180)
Over/Under: 7.5 (Under -120)
Verlander is an affordable favorite because both the Yankees as a team, and starting pitcher Luis Severino have been gaining market respect. We’ve talked a lot about how the Yankees offense has been getting the best of it vs. both Cleveland and Houston in the postseason. You’ll see in the “three true outcome” stats from fangraphs that Severino has posted stellar numbers this season.
Pitching “Three True Outcomes” from Regular Season
Severino: 3.04 xFIP, 29.4 K%, 6.5 BB%, 0.98 HR’s per 9 IP
Verlander: 4.17 xFIP, 25.8 K%, 8.5 BB%, 1.18 HR’s per 9 IP
Those numbers for Verlander reflect his time with both Detroit and Houston. He was adequate with the Tigers during a lost season for the franchise, but found some of his best career form when joining the Astros. He’s said publicly that he came to Houston to try to help them win a championship. Can he match the complete game 5-hitter (13K, just 1 BB) from G2? The Yankees bats would like a second chance. (And, Severino hopes he doesn’t bet knocked out of the game in the fourth inning on a come-backer!)
Reviewing the Total Bases plus Walks counts in this series…
Game 1: NY Yankees 11, Houston 7
Game 2: Houston 13, NY Yankees 9
Game 3: NY Yankees 17, Houston 12
Game 4: NY Yankees 20, Houston 9
Game 5: NY Yankees 20, Houston 7
Verlander’s spot is the only time Houston won this stat through the first five games. Some of that, obviously, is because they’re not doing much on offense. Worrying to Astros fans that Severino was the most impressive Yankees starter during the regular season…and these hitters haven’t even been able to connect much on the other guys.
Game 7 if necessary will be Saturday evening. Please watch VSiN programming throughout the day for the latest market developments (amidst the weekly college football extravaganza). C.C. Sabathia would be up for the Yankees. It would be Charlie Morton’s turn in the rotation for the Astros, but he allowed 7 ER in 3.2 IP in a disappointing outing this past Monday.
NFL: Derek Carr saves the season for the Oakland Raiders with last second TD pass
Thursday night, the Raiders were just seconds away from falling to 2-5 for the 2017 season, with losses to what would be all three divisional rivals already spiking tie-breaker possibilities down the road. But quarterback Derek Carr led an 85-yard TD drive in the final 2:25…capped off by a short TD pass to Michael Crabtree…to lead the silver and black to a dramatic 31-30 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Oakland (plus 3) 31 Kansas City 30
Yards-per-Play: Kansas City 7.1, Oakland 6.9
Total Yards: Kansas City 425, Oakland 505
Third Down Pct: Kansas City 53%, Oakland 46%
Rushing Yards: Kansas City 94, Oakland 88
Passing Stats: Kansas City 25-36-0-331, Oakland 29-52-0-417
Turnovers: Kansas City 0, Oakland 0
Touchdown Drive Lengths: Kansas City 82-99-75, Oakland 75-75-85-85
Thursday night was supposed to be when offenses couldn’t execute. Was there any defense in this game?! Amazingly…there were 88 passes thrown without a single turnover and only one sack. The quarterbacks passed for almost 750 yards, as the offenses combined for over 900 yards with little in the way of disruption. Look at the lengths of those seven TD drives.
Kansas City had chances to grind out a win in the fourth quarter. The Chiefs led 30-21 entering the period, and 30-24 for the bulk of the final stanza. Bad time to forget how to score! That said, it would have been a 30-30 all dead heat early in the fourth quarter if Oakland hadn’t failed on two field goal attempts Yardage was almost dead even before that final Oakland drive. The stats say it was the dog’s game to cover…and that last second TD made up for the two missed FG’s.
Kansas City falls to 5-2 straight up after a 5-0 start. The Chiefs are 4-3 ATS (and it would be 3-4 ATS if not for that crazy defensive TD on the final play of the Washington game). Oakland stays alive in the playoff picture with a 3-4 record. They’re also 3-4 against the spread.
Tougher now to see the Chiefs as having any clearance over the rest of the AFC contenders. We joked Tuesday about putting all the top NFL teams at 82 in our Power Ratings (85 is usually championship caliber on that scale) until somebody proved they were elite. Still something to consider as the market tries to work things out at the top. Oakland continues to have serious concerns about its very soft defense. And, obviously, the Raiders would have little hope of contending if Carr got hurt again. Will they fix the defense before the franchise moves to Las Vegas?
Oakland: at Buffalo on Sunday October 29
Kansas City: vs. Denver on “Big Money Monday” October 30
College Football: Let’s crunch the numbers for #19 Michigan at #2 Penn State
Now that many of the top 20 teams in the nation will start running into each other more frequently, we’ll expand our college football coverage here in VSiN City to include previews of each Saturday’s most important game. This week, that’s #19 Michigan visiting #2 Penn State at 7:30 p.m. ET (4:30 p.m. in Las Vegas) on ABC.
Michigan (5-1) at Penn State (6-0)
Las Vegas Line: Penn State by 9.5, total of 45
Estimated Market Power Ratings: Michigan 80, Penn State 87
The game opened closer to -12 late last weekend (with a Game of the Year number even higher this past summer at the South Point). Sharps have been pounding the underdog aggressively at anything in double digits. That’s why we’re seeing Penn State -9.5 late Thursday evening. Some stores are showing the total at 44.5 rather than 45. The market does expect a defensive battle (that’s a low college Over/Under for you casual fans). Dogs often get smart money respect when points are expected to be scarce.
Michigan: Florida (neutral site), Cincinnati, Air Force, at Purdue, Michigan State, at Indiana
Penn State: Akron, Pittsburgh, Georgia State, at Iowa, Indiana, at Northwestern
It’s tempting to say that both teams have played weak schedules. But those aren’t horrendous by national standards this season because almost everyone has played an unimpressive schedule! Michigan’s loss came against rival Michigan State. Penn State just missed losing on the road at Iowa, though they dominated raw stats. It took a TD on the last play of the game to avoid the upset…the kind of upset that befell Oklahoma State earlier that day, and has since nailed Final Four contenders USC, Oklahoma, Clemson, Washington, and Washington State. The championship chase could get really messy down the stretch.
Michigan: 5.4 on offense, 3.7 on defense
Penn State: 6.5 on offense, 4.0 on defense
Differentials that big aren’t surprising when you play a bunch of manageable opponents. Respected measures suggest Michigan has played the slightly tougher schedule to this point in the season. So, Penn State’s advantage of plus 2.5 to plus 1.7 is probably slightly less vs. even schedules. Still, the Nittany Lions are the better team. That’s why they’re laying more than a TD at home.
Key Rushing Stats
Michigan: 185 yards-per-game (#50), 4.4 yards-per-carry (#64)
Penn State: 165 yards-per-game (#67), 4.8 yards-per-carry (#45)
We don’t spend much time on rushing yardage in the NFL because it’s not really a linchpin stat in the modern game. It still is in the colleges. Michigan has more yards-per-game, but Penn State is better on a per-carry basis. We put in national rankings for some additional perspective. Neither is particularly stellar on the ground. That’s surprising given their schedules, and shocking for PSU considering Saquon Barkley is in its backfield. Barkley has fallen out of a temporary favorite’s role in the Heisman Trophy race because he only rushed for 56 yards on 20 carries vs. Indiana, and 75 yards on 16 carries at Northwestern. When he had a big game at Iowa (211 yards on 28 carries), the Nittany Lions still had trouble finding the end zone until winning on the final play of the game. He’s a stud, no doubt. He’s not having the impact many were expecting to this point in the season.
Michigan: 85 yards-per-game (#6), 2.6 yards-per-carry (#5)
Penn State: 117 yards-per-game (#24), 3.1 yards-per-carry (#15)
Michigan has a great rush defense, and will be focused on making sure Barkley doesn’t have his “Heisman resurgence” game this week. Penn State is also very stingy. Very strong rush defenses for both.
Key Passing Stats
Michigan: 7.0 yards-per-pass attempt, 4 TD’s, 6 interceptions thrown
Penn State: 8.2 yards-per-pass attempt, 15 TD’s, 4 interceptions thrown
We’ll have to see if Penn State can continue producing at that level when they step up in class. Michigan has been a disaster in the air despite a manageable schedule. They began the season with two shaky quarterbacks. They’re down to one because of injury. Only FOUR touchdown passes vs. THAT schedule?
Michigan: 4.9 yppa allowed; 5 TD’s allowed, 5 interceptions
Penn State: 5.1 yppa allowed; 3 TD’s allowed, 9 interceptions
And, now Michigan's shaky offense has to try to pass against what might be an elite pass defense that’s only allowed 3 TD passes all season. Again, great defensive numbers for both. To this point, the question has to be asked…how is Michigan going to score? If it’s going to be hard to run on Penn State, and may be impossible for this quarterback to throw well downfield…can the Wolverines get much on the scoreboard?
Michigan: 20% third down pct-allowed, 9 takeaways, 20 sacks
Penn State: 34% third down pct-allowed, 17 takeaways, 17 sacks
Both defenses are stellar at getting stops. Though Michigan has been a disappointment at forcing turnovers. Nine takeaways in six games against that schedule isn’t impressive.
You can see why the sharps are making “defensive struggle” type bets on the dog and the Under. Traditionally, underdogs do make sense when points are at a premium. But it’s also reasonable to ask if -9.5 is going to be all that hard for the home favorite to cover if Michigan can’t score any points! The critical score from Thursday night’s pricing is Penn State 27.25, Michigan 17.75. It might take cheap points off turnovers to get either team to those targets based on the stats we just studied. Of the two teams, Michigan’s offense is the more likely to lose the turnover battle.
Best of luck with your picks in that game and all weekend through the sports smorgasbord. We’ll see you again on “Big Money Monday” to recap Sunday’s key NFL stats.
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