Two of the three best teams in baseball begin a three-game series Tuesday night in Chavez Ravine, and we build “market” Power Ratings in the ACC and CFL.
MLB: Arizona (52-31) begins three-game series at LA Dodgers (55-29) Tuesday night
Only the Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Arizona Diamondbacks have more than 50 wins thus far in the 2017 Major League Baseball season. The latter two will go head-to-head Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in a showcase showdown that will include some elite starting pitchers.
It will also feature the two hottest teams in the sport. Arizona is on a fantastic 31-13 run its last 44 games. But the Dodgers can stick a 12-4 on top of that, as LAD is 43-17 its last 60 games! And, as we mentioned Monday in VSiN City…
- The Los Angeles Dodgers are 20-4 their last 24
- The Los Angeles Dodgers are 18-5 their last 23 on the -1.5 run line
Maybe it will take a team as hot as Arizona to provide any sort of challenge to the Dodgers. Here’s a quick look at the pitching matchups, using the classic “three true outcome” stats from analytics (strikeout percentage, walk percentage, and home runs allowed). We also include a fielding independent pitching stat that runs along the same scale as ERA. A few Cy Young contenders will have a chance to shine in the Hollywood spotlight.
Tuesday (early line: Dodgers -280, D-backs 240, total of 7 Over -125)
- Patrick Corbin: 19.2% K’s, 6.4% walks, 1.5 HR/9, 4.09 xFIP
- Clayton Kershaw: 30.1% K’s, 4.5% walks, 1.3 HR/9, 2.85 xFIP
Kershaw is having some home run issues, but is still his normally dominant self otherwise. Corbin has some gopher ball issues of his own, without the overpowering K-rate. You won’t be getting any bargains on Kershaw for the rest of the season. Or will you? The Dodgers are 15-2 in his 17 starts! That’s the equivalent of a -750 favorite. Properly pricing the Dodgers will be a challenge if they continue their current rampage. What’s the right line when a team capable of winning 110 games is throwing one of the best starters in the history of baseball?
- Zack Godley: 23.9% K’s, 8.1% walks, 0.6 HR/9, 3.44 xFIP
- Alex Wood: 30.2% K’s, 6.9% walks, 0.2 HR/9, 2.58 xFIP
Brent Musburger alerted the VSiN audience to Wood’s increase in velocity and overall awesomeness several weeks ago. To this point, he’s basically the same as Kershaw if Kershaw was allowing more walks and fewer home runs. Arizona fans will remember the glory years of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. Kershaw/Wood has that feel in 2017. Let’s not lose sight of Godley for the visitors. Great stats for a guy who has to throw his home games in a hitting paradise (2.67 ERA and 0.97 WHIP if you want a couple of mainstream stats for context). If Tuesday’s total is 7-Over, we’re likely to see 7-Under or 6.5 here.
- Zack Greinke: 29.7% K’s, 5.1% walks, 1.2 HR/9, 3.11xFIP
- Rich Hill: 26.3% K’s, 12.5% walks, 1.0 HR/9, 4.92 xFIP
All this and Greinke too?! He has some personal history with the Dodgers which will add drama, particularly if he’s trying to help the D-backs avoid a sweep after facing those aces. Arizona has won nine of Greinke's last 11 starts.
The nature of current win distribution is going to minimize the number of truly “great” regular season series. There will be plenty of exciting matchups if the AL Wildcard race stays crowded. But, “great?” Enjoy one when it pops up!
MLB: A “Future Focus” on the AL Playoff race
Speaking of that crowded AL Wildcard picture, it’s getting in the way of our plans to focus on series previews featuring teams with winning records. Much of the AL keeps bobbing above and below the .500 mark. Seemingly everyone but Detroit, the Chicago White Sox, and Oakland are within arm’s reach of a playoff berth (everyone else was 4.5 games or closer in the standings through the weekend).
So, we’re going to try to come up with ways to put that race in context going forward. And, the best way to do that is to think about what’s ahead rather than put too much weight on what’s already happened. Handicappers often fall into the trap of letting the standings represent “true talent.” That’s not always the case. Minnesota may be over .500 now, but their roster is much less likely to pull that off over 162 games. Should you handicap them as a .500 team based on the standings? Or, like a .450 team because that’s more realistic for the games yet to be played?
Many analytics-based handicappers focus on composite skill sets rather than half-season data compiled at the whims of small sample size. A great shortcut for capturing that knowledge is to study the “rest of season” category on the fangraphs “cool standings” page we’ve linked to a few times when discussing playoff odds.
We did some math for you, subtracting everyone’s won-lost record through Sunday from the projected final records to create a “future focus” for what remains. Let’s see if that paints any helpful pictures…
American League: Expected won-loss for rest of season
- Cleveland 48.1-32.9
- Houston 46-33
- Boston 44.5-35.5
Fangraphs shows Cleveland playing better ball than Houston the rest of the way. That’s a bit hard to believe. But, the Indians are long overdue to play to last year’s league championship level. And Houston probably isn’t likely to maintain their torrid first half pace. Boston’s projected to surge to a win in the East.
- Toronto 42.4-38.6
- NY Yankees 42.3-39.7
- Texas 39.3-40.1
- Seattle 39-40
- LA Angels 36.7-39.3
- Kansas City 38.4-42.6
- Tampa Bay 37.3-41.7
- Baltimore 37.6-43.4
- Minnesota 36.7-44.3
Fangraphs has been bullish on Toronto all season. Hasn’t worked out yet but there’s still plenty of time. Only the Blue Jays and Yanks are currently projected to play better than .500 ball the rest of the way amidst the Wildcard hopefuls. Somebody’s likely to bust that projection. Possibly the LA Angels who will be getting Mike Trout back soon. Note that Minnesota isn’t projected to play near a .500 pace moving forward
Out of it?
- Detroit 40.9-40.1
- Oakland 39.4-40.6
- Chicago 32.4-48.6
Interesting that fangraphs calculations have both Detroit and Oakland outplaying many of the Wildcard contenders. But, not by enough to get into the brackets from so far back. The White Sox are seen as the Padres of the American League.
No need to take those projections as a crystal ball. Baseball is a sport full of surprises. But, making sure that your handicapping is focused on skill sets and what those skill sets are likely to do going forward will put you in sync with the sharpest influences in the marketplace.
Tuesday’s Games in the AL Wildcard longjam (early lines)
- Toronto at the NY Yankees (Sabathia is -115 over Happ)
- LA Angels at the Minnesota Twins (Gibson is -110 over Ramirez)
- Kansas City at Seattle (No line yet, Hernandez likely to go for Seattle)
- Boston at Texas (Darvish is -120 over Price)
MLB: Interleague play...just...got...interesting!
We spent a lot of time documenting the early jump for the American League over the National League in 2017 Interleague play. For roughly the first 140 games….it looked like we were destined for a replay of the last dozen years of AL dominance.
Suddenly…a lot of AL teams are playing poorly while some unheralded NL teams are getting results.
Beginning Friday June 23
- San Diego took two of three from Detroit
- The LA Dodgers split four with the LA Angels
- Philadelphia swept two in Seattle as huge underdogs
- Pittsburgh took two of three from Tampa Bay
- Atlanta swept three at Oakland
- Milwaukee beat Baltimore 8-1 Monday
That’s a 12-4 record the last 16 games for the Senior Circuit, which pays even better with some big dog winners!! At the series level, four wins and a push…with a head start for the Brew Crew.
This doesn’t mean that Atlanta is now a lock to beat Houston Tuesday night. Or that San Diego is going to win at Cleveland. But the glaring weaknesses we’re seeing from more than a few AL teams could be worth paying attention to during the busiest IL stretches. Needless to say, this topic is back on our radar.
College Football: Building ACC Power Ratings from “Game of the Year” point spreads
Last week we covered the SEC, Big Ten and Pac 12. Two more Power 5 conferences to go. We’ll look at the ACC momentarily, then wrap up tomorrow with the Big 12.
First, a look at the “game of the year” lines currently available at the South Point for conference games in the ACC. Be forewarned that we’re not going to have a lot of connectivity outside of projected powers Florida State, Clemson, and Louisville because there are so many mediocre teams in this league. Four teams (Syracuse, Wake Forest, Boston College, and Duke) didn’t have any GOY qualifiers.
- Louisville -5 at North Carolina
- Clemson pick-em at Louisville
- Miami plus 10 at Florida State
The first big conference game of the season comes early when Clemson visits Louisville. Of course, Clemson has to open with Auburn, while Florida State draws Alabama…so there will be some monsters involving the ACC right out of the gate. You’ve probably heard many analysts talking about Clemson falling back to the pack this year with the graduation of Deshaun Watson. The market still has Clemson about three points better than Louisville on a neutral field if you assume three points for home field advantage.
- Clemson -4 at Virginia Tech
- Louisville plus 6.5 at Florida State
Here we also have Florida State about a field goal better than Louisville on a neutral site.
- Clemson plus 2 at Florida State
Respected summer publication Athon has Florida State at #4 in the nation, Clemson at #7, even before you get to the skeptical analysts wondering about Clemson’s rebuild. Currently the betting markets still have Clemson as best in the ACC (slightly)…because home field advantage is worth more than two points in Tallahassee. Let’s see if Auburn/Clemson on September 9 changes any minds about what’s going to happen in the later months.
- Virginia Tech -8 at Virginia
- Miami -5 at Pittsburgh
Scary to think that one of four those teams from the Coastal division is likely to be playing for the ACC Championship. The superpowers are all in the Atlantic division. Miami and Virginia Tech meet on November 4. But, it didn’t qualify as a GOY for the South Point.
Using those pointspreads, accounting for roughly three points for home field advantage, then hooking up the ACC to our prior scale using interconference pointspreads from marquee matchups, we get the following for a neutral site scale for “market” Power Ratings in the ACC.
- 84: Clemson
- 83: Florida State
- 81: Louisville
- 77: Virginia Tech
- 75: Miami
- 74: Georgia Tech
- 73: North Carolina
- 72: NC State
- 68: Pittsburgh
- 67: Virginia
- (no listing yet for Syracuse, Wake Forest, Boston College, Duke)
It wasn’t possible to make everything line up perfectly for all teams because the market doesn’t always allot exactly three points for home field. But that’s the right ballpark at the moment.
Now, we plug the ACC into our growing Power 5 outlook…
- 90-92: Ohio State
- 88 or 89: Alabama
- 87: Washington
- 85 or 86: USC, Penn State, Wisconsin
- 84: Clemson
- 83: Florida State, Stanford
- 81 or 82: LSU, Michigan, Louisville
- 80: Auburn
- 79: Georgia
- 77: Florida, Virginia Tech
- 75-76: Texas A&M, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Northwestern, Minnesota, Oregon, UCLA, Colorado, Washington State, Miami
- 73-74: Kentucky, Ole Miss, Nebraska, Iowa, Utah, Oregon State, Arizona State, Georgia Tech, North Carolina
- 72: NC State
- 69-70: Vanderbilt, Michigan State
- 67-68: South Carolina, Arkansas, Indiana, Arizona, Pittsburgh, Virginia
- 64: California, Rutgers
- (No listing yet for Missouri, Maryland, Purdue, Illinois Syracuse, Wake Forest, Boston College, or Duke)
OU and Texas, we’re coming for YOU tomorrow in the Big 12.
CFL: Early lines for Week 3 allow us to build our first market estimate
Finally! Let’s start with the early lines for Week 3’s action…
- British Columbia (-3, total of 49.5) at Montreal
- Calgary (-3.5, total of 56) at Winnipeg
- Toronto at Ottawa (-5.5, total of 56)
- Hamilton at Saskatchewan (-1.5, total of 53)
For now we’re going to assume three points for home field here as well (the base standard in the NFL and college football). We have a scale that makes sense using three…and we can always tweak down the road if it becomes clear that the market uses something closer to two or four.
CFL Estimated “market” Power Ratings
- Calgary 84
- Edmonton 81
- British Columbia 81
- Ottawa 80
- Winnipeg 77
- Hamilton 77
- Toronto 77
- Montreal 75
- Saskatchewan 74
We want to be clear that those aren’t “our” rankings for the CFL. That’s our estimate of how “the market” is ranking CFL teams based on this week’s lines and what’s happened to this point in the season. British Columbia is -3 on the road at Montreal…so they go six spots higher than Montreal on the scale. Games with a half-point either way are shaded in a direction that makes sense based on earlier lines and results. Calgary is the current futures favorite to win the Grey Cup, so they go atop the scale. Saskatchewan has been priced with the least respect of anybody…so they go at the bottom.
It's a fairly tight scale from top to bottom. But that’s OK since an early 8-0 ATS record for underdogs suggests relative evenness at the outset before things start to spread out more with time. Calgary may become more dominant. The bottom may really fall out for somebody down in the lower half.
Have a great Fourth of July!
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Celebrate safely…bet responsibly…and we’ll see you again tomorrow.