Yankees take an ALCS lead to Houston. Cubs stay alive in the NLCS with the long ball. Plus a preview of Chiefs/Raiders in Thursday night NFL and preliminary NBA Power Ratings.
ALCS: Yankees sweep the rumble in the Bronx, but must win one in Houston to reach the World Series
Home teams continued to dominate this series (and most of the 2017 playoffs) as the New York Yankees completed a three-game home sweep of the Houston Astros in the middle of the ALCS. That gives the Bronx Bombers a 3-2 series lead heading back to Texas for Game 6 Friday, and Game 7 (if necessary) Saturday.
NY Yankees (pick-em) 5, Houston 0
- Totals Bases Plus Walks Drawn: Houston 7, NY Yankees 20
- Keuchel: 4.2 IP, 4 ER, 8 K, 1 BB, 0 HR’s
- Tanaka: 7.0 IP, 0 ER, 8 K, 1 BB, 0 HR’s
Great performance from Masahiro Tanaka, who wasn’t threatened all night accept for some lazy fly balls to right that reached the warning track because the fence is so close. There was a lot of talk entering the postseason that the Yankees were “built” for the playoffs because a deep bullpen could carry a heavy load. The Yanks starters have been almost untouchable!
- Game 1: Tanaka…6 IP, 2 ER, 3K, 1BB, 0 HR’s
- Game 2: Severino…4.0 IP, 1 ER, 0K, 2BB, 1 HR
- Game 3: Sabathia…6.0 IP, 0 ER, 5K, 4BB, 0 HR
- Game 4: Gray…5.0 IP, 1 ER, 4K, 2BB, 0 HR’s
- Game 5: Tanaka…7.0 IP, 0 ER, 8K, 1BB, 0 HR’s
The ace of the staff (Severino) could only pitch four innings because he got hit with a come-backer in his fourth inning. But the starters as a whole have still allowed only 4 ER in 28 innings (ERA of 1.29). They’re not exactly mowing the Astros down with strikeouts (20 in 28 innings isn’t impressive). But they’ve only allowed one home run, which should be impossible against this Astros offense in these two ballparks.
With the strength of their bullpen and offense, Yankees starters don’t have to pitch this well to win a world title.
If the three games in New York seemed very similar to you, there’s a reason for that. An updated look at “Total Bases Plus Walks Earned” from the offense’s perspective…
- 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
The Yanks got people on base and moved them around. The Astros couldn’t do much of that at all. This after Houston popped 29, 27, 18, and 24 in is four games against Boston. In late September, there was an expectation that Cleveland’s pitching staff would do this to Houston if the teams met in the ALCS. The Yankees outplayed the Tribe, and are filling that spot in the ecosystem with a similarly built staff.
A day off Thursday for travel. We’ll preview Friday’s Game 6 (Luis Severino vs. Justin Verlander) in our week-ender.
NLCS: Cubs survive home run derby in Wrigley, edge Dodgers 3-2
All five runs scored on solo home runs. A rare game where the Dodgers didn’t cash in scoring opportunities despite getting a lot more runners on base. If you take out the home runs…both teams had two singles (no doubles or triples)…but the Dodgers won “walks drawn” 8-0! None of those 10 baserunners scored, allowing the hosts to stay alive for at least one more game.
Chicago Cubs (plus 110) 3, LA Dodgers 2
- Totals Bases Plus Walks Drawn: LA Dodgers 18, Chicago Cubs 14
- Wood: 4.2 IP, 3 ER, 7 K, 0 BB, 3 HR’s
- Arrieta: 6.2 IP, 1 ER, 7 K, 5 BB, 1 HR
Big performance from Jake Arrieta when it was badly needed. Wade Davis allowed the other homer in nail-biting relief. Alex Wood was able to miss some bats. But the ball sure travelled far when the Cubs connected!
Updating our game-by-game sums of total bases plus walks drawn…
- 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
If you divide the fourth game totals by four (because it takes four runs to score a base), you get a final score of Dodgers 4.5 to 3.5. So…wasting those extra 10 runners prevented LAD from getting a sweep while still expressing its overall dominance in this series. They’re up in this stat 41-28 on the road, 39-15 at home.
Back on the same field tomorrow evening…
Thursday’s Game 5: LA Dodgers at Chicago Cubs (8 p.m. ET, 5 p.m. PT on TBS)
No line yet at deadline because of the late-night finish.
Pitching “Three True Outcomes” from Regular Season
- Kershaw: 2.84 xFIP, 29.4 K%, 4.4 BB%, 1.18 HR’s per 9 IP
- Quintana: 3.73 xFIP, 26.2 K%, 7.7 BB%, 1.10 HR’s per 9 IP
Kershaw is going to be a medium-sized favorite considering that Wood closed in the -125 to -130 range over Arrieta. Chicago’s consistently disappointed vs. quality pitching so far in the postseason. The Dodgers keep putting themselves in position to score, even if they failed to bring those runners home Wednesday.
Let’s look at the offensive TB W totals this way. In chronological order through the postseason.
- Chicago: 9-16-9-7-19-8-7-14-14 (average 11.4. median 9)
- LA Dodgers: 24-18-22-20-19-23-18 (average 20.6, median 20)
Chicago hasn't reached 20 a single time. LAD's midpoint performance is 20. The disappointing offense has its back to the wall against Kershaw. Bleak outlook for the baby bears. But anything can happen in baseball!
NFL: Kansas City Chiefs visit Oakland Raiders in rivalry showdown
This week’s Thursday nighter is a tricky one for handicappers. On “paper,” it looks like a rout for the visitors. Kansas City has been playing at a very high level, though the Chiefs did run into a wall last week against Pittsburgh. Oakland has been surprisingly bad, even after you account for Derek Carr’s back injury.
But they don’t play games on paper, particularly blood rivalries like Chiefs/Raiders. The market appears to be giving the home underdog some credit for that dynamic. Or, it’s at least pricing Carr at something closer to his normal form than he’s been since his injury in Denver. If you ONLY looked at the stats, the Chiefs might be laying something closer to -5 or -6. Knowing it’s Oakland, the market has been sitting on the key number of -3.
Kansas City (5-1) at Oakland (2-4)
- Las Vegas Line: Kansas City by 3, total of 46.5
- Estimated Market Power Ratings: Kansas City 84, Oakland 78
We settled on 84 and 78 back on Tuesday in our estimate of NFL “market” Power Ratings. The Chiefs had been playing more like an 85 or 86 until the Pittsburgh game. The past month, Oakland might as well have been Cleveland or the NY Jets given its four-game losing streak with poor stats. Let’s take a peek at the numbers.
- Kansas City: 6.4 on offense, 6.0 on defense (vs. #1 ranked schedule)
- Oakland: 5.1 on offense, 5.6 on defense (vs. #25 ranked schedule)
A reminder that we use Jeff Sagarin's computer ratings at USA Today for our strength of schedule rankings. Kansas City has a positive YPP differential despite playing the toughest schedule in the NFL so far (almost all playoff contenders, with New England, Philadelphia, LA Chargers, Washington, Houston, and Pittsburgh in that order). Oakland has a poor differential despite playing a soft schedule (Tennessee, NY Jets, Washington, Denver, Baltimore, and the LA Chargers). If you mentally pencil in what both would be doing against league average schedules, the Chiefs would shoot up to almost plus 1.0, while the Raiders would fall down to around -1.0. That would suggest a BLOWOUT rather than a nailbiter head-to-head. Handicappers must determine how much to adjust for Carr missing the end of the Denver loss, all of the Baltimore loss, and not being at full strength vs. LAC last week.
Key Passing Stats
- Kansas City: 8.5 yards-per-pass attempt, 12 TD’s, 0 interceptions thrown
- Oakland: 6.5 yards-per-pass attempt, 9 TD’s, 5 interceptions thrown
Kansas City has been consistently effective at finding open receivers and picking up yardage. Yes, they piled up some stats in the season opener at New England. They kept scoring TD’s and avoiding interceptions vs. everyone else on that tough schedule! Disaster in Oakland, where the team seems to have little chance of moving the ball through the air unless Carr is at 100% health. And he was healthy for the nightmare at Washington (19-31-2-96).
- Kansas City: 7.8 yppa allowed; 10 TD’s allowed, 5 interceptions
- Oakland: 8.0 yppa allowed; 7 TD’s allowed, 0 interceptions
This has been a week spot for the Chiefs, though they’ve faced Tom Brady, Carson Wentz, Philip Rivers, Kirk Cousins, Deshaun Watson and Ben Roethlisberger to start the season. Oakland makes all its opponents look like they play a Patriots/Chiefs kind of safely productive pass offense. That despite facing Marcos Mariota, Josh McCown, Cousins, Trevor Siemian, hobbled Joe Flacco, and Rivers. The Raiders might be allowing 8.5 or 9.0 yards-per-pass if they had faced all the Chiefs opposing quarterbacks. Famously erratic Philip Rivers was 25-36-0-263 on this same field last week. Kirk Cousins looked like a Hall-of-Famer with a 25-30-0-356 passing line.
- Kansas City: 39% third down pct-allowed, 8 takeaways, 15 sacks
- Oakland: 46% third down pct-allowed, 5 takeaways, 11 sacks
Both teams have played SIX games, so those aren’t impressive takeaway or sack totals by the standards of elite defenses. Oakland is playing way too soft…which might let Alex Smith do whatever he wants all night. This area of play could be what dooms the Chiefs come January. Everyone talks about how the coach and quarterback tend to fail in tandem in the playoffs. This defense will have to do a better job of getting opponents off the field.
Add it all up, and it looks like this:
- Kansas City may be able to control its own destiny by driving the ball, moving the chains, and hitting paydirt through the night against this very vulnerable Oakland defense. You’d have to expect intensity from Oakland with so much at stake, particularly against a rival. But motivation doesn’t make the untalented talented. Offenses worse than KC’s are doing what they want vs. the Raiders.
- Oakland will have to maximize what it can from Derek Carr’s arm while hoping Kansas City’s defense continues to safely coast.
The “market score” off a line of Kansas City -3 and 46.5 is Kansas City 24.75, Oakland 21.75.
Divisional games have been known to skew lower scoring (which is happening again this season) because defenses show up with intensity. That might make Oakland's attempt to reach 21.75 the most attackable option on the platter. The Raiders only scored 16 last week in Carr’s return (against a divisional defense), and didn’t put much on the board in Denver (another divisional defense) or Washington before Carr got hurt. Kansas City and Smith have a chance to run clock all night too, which might limit the number of Oakland possessions. Something to think about as you make your final decisions.
NBA: Early “tentative” estimate of “market” Power Ratings
Because we’ve been talking so much about estimated “market” Power Ratings this week, we decided to throw together a preliminary outlook for the NBA based on the first few nights of market assessments.
Please read our Wednesday “tutorial” for an expanded discussion on the goals and process for this effort. The short version of how they’re compiled…we start with the point spreads, adjust 3 points for home court advantage, create a “couplet” for the team teams in each game, then decide where that couplet should go on the scale based on past market tendencies and common sense.
Thursday night, all of the following were “even” teams after you adjusted for home court: Brooklyn-Indiana, Charlotte-Detroit, Denver-Utah. Those couplets stick together, with Denver and Utah paired in the “playoff caliber” range, Charlotte and Detroit paired in the “mediocre” range, and Brooklyn and Indiana paired in the “pretty bad” range.
Memphis was only -2 at home vs. New Orleans…so New Orleans must be one better on a neutral court. We stuck them at New Orleans 81 and Memphis 80. We’ll learn in future point spreads whether 82 and 81 might make more sense, or even 80 and 79. Always a work in progress, particularly in the NBA with so many injuries and scheduling challenges.
92: Golden State
86: Houston, Cleveland
84: San Antonio (with Kawhi), Oklahoma City
81: Minnesota, New Orleans, Denver, Milwaukee, Utah Miami
80: San Antonio (without Kawhi), Memphis, LA Clippers, Portland, Boston (after Heyward injury).
79: Philadelphia, Charlotte, Detroit
76: LA Lakers, Sacramento, New York, Brooklyn, Indiana
75: Phoenix, Orlando
We’ll tinker with those throughout the season. The increase in connectivity the next few weeks will really help us pin those down.
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