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How the West is winning in MLB

Jeff Fogle
VSiN.com

Cody_Bellinger
The Dodgers are 42-15 since putting Cody Bellinger (right) in the lineup.
© USA Today Sports Images

Have the Los Angeles Dodgers (16-1 their last 17, and 42-15 since putting Cody Bellinger in their lineup) and the Houston Astros (52-25 this season) become the Golden State Warriors of the National and American Leagues? Big wins this past weekend confirmed both are currently in dominant form.

MLB: Dodgers sweep Rockies, winning scoreboard 22-7, Astros close out 6-1 road trip, with weekend wins over Seattle
Though futures prices still suggest the league races are toss-ups, it’s clear that “right now” the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros are well clear of the field in their respective leagues. They are dominating their brethren at a level that’s more commonly seen in the NBA or NFL. 

The new Boys of Summer have won 16 of their last 17 games after finishing off a three-game sweep of a solid Colorado Rockies squad. Colorado was outclassed by the top of the Dodgers rotation Friday and Saturday (Wood and Kershaw), then out-slugged when they finally had a chance to compete. 

To give you a sense of how dominant the Dodgers have been lately. In those 17 games, they have a monstrous run differential of plus 57. Laying -1.5 runs per game on the run-line, they’re 13-4. If they had spotted opponents two runs per game, they’d have gone 9-4-4. Even if the Dodgers had to spot three runs per game, they’d still be even 8-8-1. It’s hard to be THAT much better than everyone else for THAT long in this sport.

Yet, futures prices still have the Dodgers around 5/2 or 3/1 to win the National League, priced very similarly to the Washington Nationals and the slow-starting Chicago Cubs.

Houston stubbed its toe Friday in Seattle, but won scoreboard the rest of the weekend 13-4. It should be impossible playing in the superior league…but the Astros are now 29-9 on the road. We’ve already talked a lot about Houston’s amazing offensive production away from their home pitcher’s park. (Minute Maid’s impact to reduce scoring still isn’t as widely recognized as it should be.)

American League futures prices generally have the Astros around 9/4 to reach the World Series. Boston and Cleveland are 3/1 or 7/2 at many stores. 

Championships aren’t won in June. Particularly when luck plays such a big role in the postseason crapshoot. No doubt that the Dodgers and Astros are playing like champions at the moment. 

MLB: The AL West isn’t just Houston, as this past weekend proved
The AL West currently has the best record in the American League if you’re trying to evaluate overall “divisions.” The best way to express that is with games over .500 (since every divisional game splits out as a win and a loss within the loop). 

AL Divisions vs. Outsiders using games above/below .500
AL West: plus 21
AL East: plus 12
AL Central: -10

(Note: That adds up to 23 because the AL is 23 games over .500 vs. the NL in Interleague play. If you’re wondering about the NL divisions, it’s West plus 23, Central -19, East -27.)

A lot of that is obviously due to Houston. But, this past weekend’s results were a reminder that other AL West teams can play too. Texas took two of three in New York against the Yankees (winning at plus 145 and plus 150). The Los Angeles Angels took two of three in Boston against the Red Sox (winning at 160 and 190). Oakland swept the Chicago White Sox (at -115, -115, and -125). 

You can tell from those prices that the market has a lot more respect for the Yanks and Red Sox than the Rangers and Angels. Should they? 

One area of pollution that can come from having a superpower in a division is that the other teams in that division absorb a lot of losses that outsiders don’t endure. Here’s a quick exercise to show that. Let’s look at the four other teams in the AL West, and the five teams in the AL East, looking only at winning percentages this season when NOT playing Houston.

Winning Pct when NOT playing Houston
Texas .565
NY Yankees .565
Boston .549
Seattle .537
LA Angels .521
Baltimore .513
Tampa Bay .512
Oakland .485
Toronto .480

The Rangers suddenly look like a playoff team, the Mariners and Angels look like Wildcard contenders (even with Mike Trout missing so many games). Oakland would have been viewed as better than the White Sox entering that series rather than even with them (which the market took care of with a big line move Friday night). 

Something to keep an eye on moving forward. Unbalanced Major League divisional schedules may have had you (and the market) downgrading the rest of the AL West out of the gate in a way that wasn’t justified.

MLB: Other weekend highlights include Twins shocking the Indians
If there was ever a team due to turn into a pumpkin this past weekend, it was the Minnesota Twins. Their winning record was largely an illusion caused by a 41-29 split in home games played to road games. They had a run differential of -49 even with that very friendly schedule. Their pitching staff had started to mimic the collapse of the Baltimore Orioles. And, they were running into an allegedly red-hot team that was ready to finally play to 2017 expectations. 

Friday: Minnesota (plus 145) beat Cleveland 5-0
Saturday: Minnesota (plus 250) beat Cleveland 4-2
Sunday: Minnesota (plus 150) beat Cleveland 4-0

Last Friday we showed you the dire straits that Minnesota starting pitching appeared to be in. They allowed only two runs in 27 innings! So much for Cleveland finding its bats again. Did they even pull them out of the rack? Anything can happen in baseball…but THAT sure wasn’t supposed to happen given the depth of context. 

Minnesota is still tough to trust moving forward. That home/road split is still overly friendly at 41/32…and you can’t assume they’ll just keep winning those extra road games ahead. Minnesota’s run differential is still a lousy -38, suggesting they’ll struggle to reach .500. Yet, they’ve retaken the lead in the AL Central. 

Other notes…

*Baltimore’s “O’s Woes” pitching streak finally came to an end at an even 20 when they held Tampa Bay below five runs Saturday. They started a new streak Sunday, but won 8-5. 

*San Francisco got swept by the NY Mets, who had looked so helpless against the Dodgers earlier in the week. The Giants are now 1-12 their last 13 games, 7-25 their last 32. The market is still having trouble believing the team is THIS bad. The Giants were favorites or pick-em in every game this past weekend. SF is now down 28 betting units this season, worst in the majors by far.

*The home run and scoring surge of 2017 has become much better documented of late, which has helped the market get Over/Unders up to where they should be. Has it overshot the mark? Both the NL and AL saw Under performances every day through the weekend.

Friday: NL 2-4-1 to the Under, AL 3-4 to the Under
Saturday: NL 3-4 to the Under, AL 2-5 to the Under
Sunday: NL 3-4 to the Under, AL 3-4 to the Under

There are still scoring explosions on a daily basis. But, you don’t want a game where there HAS to be a scoring explosion for you to win your Over bet. If you’re the type to bet Overs (or throw them haphazardly into parlays), you may now be dealing with the traditional 11/10 vigorish and inflated numbers, making it very difficult to grind out a profit. Don’t try to jump on a train that’s already left the terminal.  

Canadian Football: Underdogs go 4-0 ATS, 2-1-1 straight up in opening week
Interest in football from North of the border continues to grow in betting circles, particularly since the ESPN family of networks started televising summer action. We’re not going to pretend to be experts on the CFL. But we thought it would be fun to play around with some basic handicapping fundamentals in advance of the NFL Preseason in August. 

With just one game played for eight teams (Winnipeg was idle in Week 1), it’s too early to pin down market Power Ratings. Let’s assume that home field advantage is worth “about” three points (you can pronounce that as “a-boat” if you want to get further into the spirit). We know…

  • the market saw Montreal as about 4 points better than Saskatchewan
  • the market saw Calgary as about 9 points better than Ottawa
  • the market saw British Columbia as about 2 points better than Edmonton
  • the market saw Hamilton as about 6.5 points better than Toronto

In a few days, we’ll let the Week 2 lines settle…then try to put together a more formal tentative scale. Obviously, none of the favorites covered! So, the market will make some adjustments off that moving forward. 

Week 1 Stat Summaries

Montreal (-7) beat Saskatchewan 17-16

  • Total Yards: Saskatchewan 395, Montreal 332
  • Yards-per-Play: Saskatchewan 6.3, Montreal 6.9

Montreal only ran 48 plays, so the Alouettes were actually better on a per-play basis. The Over/Under here was 51. Both offenses were subpar in that context. Saskatchewan also had 12 penalties for 113 yards, suggesting even more sluggishness. 

Calgary (-6) tied Ottawa 31-31 in overtime

  • Total Yards: Calgary 441, Ottawa 416
  • Yards-per-Play: Calgary 7.2, Ottawa 6.4

Ottawa had 13 penalties for 126 yards, and threw the game’s only interception. Very lucky tie for the home dog given that they were outgained, outplayed per play, had more miscues, but didn’t suffer a loss. The market probably had it right in terms of its read on the talent. The stat composite is in line with Calgary by that much, no matter what the final score was. 

Edmonton (plus 5) beat British Columbia 30-27

  • Total Yards: Edmonton 414, British Columbia 355
  • Yards-per-Play: Edmonton 8.9, British Columbia 6.5

Wow…8.9 yards-per-play for the Eskimos. Those 414 yards came on only 47 plays. BC wasn’t supposed to struggle like this in is home opener. Mike Reilly was very efficient at QB for the upset winner, with only 8 passes hitting the ground and more than 300 yards in the air. 

Toronto (plus 3.5) beat Hamilton 32-15

  • Total Yards: Hamilton 232, Toronto 524
  • Yards-per-Play: Hamilton 5.1, Toronto 9.1

You probably know the name Marc Trestman. After a stellar coaching career in the CFL, he moved to the NFL and largely struggled as a head coach and an offensive assistant. Well, he’s back in a league he can dominate. Toronto’s players sure have responded to their new coach! Nobody else reached 450 total yards this week…but Toronto flew past 500. Nobody else passed for 400 yards this week, while QB Ricky Ray led the offense to 485 in the air with just nine incomplete passes. It’s only one game…and maybe Hamilton spent too much time thinking about Trestman’s troubles in the US and not enough respecting his past glory. But, for now, it’s worth keeping an eye on the Argos. Most impressive offensive performance of the week by far. Note that Hamilton had a defensive TD off a blocked field goal return, helping to create a misleadingly close final score. 

Offshore Odds to Win the Grey Cup
Calgary 3/1
British Columbia 5/1
Edmonton 5/1
Montreal 15/2
Hamilton 15/2
Ottawa 8/1
Winnipeg 10/1
Toronto 11/1
Saskatchewan 12/1

You can see why Toronto did what it could to bring in Trestman. No surprise that Calgary is the overall market favorite given that line at Ottawa. 

This week’s schedule…
Thursday (9 p.m. ET): Ottawa at Calgary (extended overtime!)
Friday (7 p.m. ET): British Columbia at Toronto (ESPN2)
Friday (10 p.m. ET): Montreal at Edmonton 
Saturday (9 p.m. ET): Winnipeg at Saskatchewan (ESPNews)
(Bye: Hamilton)

Note that Winnipeg may get off to a slow start against a team that’s already played a game. Many CFL teams had slow offensive starts this past weekend in their season openers. The instant rematch for Ottawa and Calgary will give us a quick sense of how the market rates home field advantage in the CFL. 

That’s it for Monday. If you have any questions or comments about VSiN programming or this newsletter, please drop us a note. Click here to follow us on twitter if you’re not following already. Quick snippets from audioboom help you catch up on what you can’t hear live. Or, you can peak through periscope throughout the day! And, don’t forget that a free email subscription to VSiN City gets you those daily PDF files of the South Point betting sheets. 

Back Tuesday for more sports betting coverage that you can’t get anywhere else!

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