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Market settles on World Series after Dodgers open lower than expected

Jeff Fogle
VSiN.com

Possible difference-makers for the Dodgers and Astros in the 2017 World Series that begins Tuesday night. Plus key stats from Monday Night football and our weekly update of NFL “market” Power Ratings right now in VSiN City. 

MLB: LA Dodgers settling around -170 for World Series and Game 1 as best-of-seven vs. the Houston Astros begins Tuesday night
Let’s start with a look at the betting market before digging into some stats. Last Friday, we wrote:

“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.”

After Houston rallied to win the ALCS over the Yankees, we were a bit stunned to see a World Series opener of only Dodgers -140 in Las Vegas. That’s more than “slightly” below -180, and really surprising for a city that was likely to be flooded with Dodgers money for geographic reasons. 

That flooding happened, both from sharp and public influences. We’re now seeing prices ranging in the -165 to -170 area (plus 150-ish for the Astros) to bet the Dodgers in the series and/or Game 1 (Kershaw vs. Keuchel). Smart money preferring Dodger blue jumped in quickly at the surprising opener. Sharps that were looking to take the dog waited for the move…and were happy to come in once plus 150 on the Astros was reached. 

Note that the low opener set up an arbitrage possibility for fast actors. Someone just wanting to “play the market” could bet, say $1,400 to win $1,000 on the Dodgers when the game went up, then come back later on the Astros at $1,000 to win $1,500. That works out to a $0 bet on the Astros to win $100 (or more in that ratio for sharps with deeper pockets). No risk, and free money if the Astros pull the upset. The key, of course, is being right about the eventual line move. This wasn’t a difficult move to guess for market followers. 

To the math! We’ve decided to focus on a couple of key factors rather than just repeat all the same stuff we’ve been saying through October…or duplicate most of what you’ll be hearing from VSiN broadcasters or mainstream outlets Tuesday. You know that both teams have great offenses (the Dodgers of the NL would actually grade out as an excellent AL offense even though their pitchers had to bat all season). You know that LAD has the superior bullpen (though the Astros aren’t bad themselves). 

What is less widely known?

First, the Dodgers offense is MUCH better at drawing walks. In a short, intense series like this, EVERY base matters! We touched on this during the series with the Cubs, where LAD enjoyed a huge edge. Let’s compare this skill set with the Astros. 

Walks Drawn Percentage (regular season)

  • LA Dodgers: 10.5% (#1 in the Majors, even with pitchers batting)
  • Houston: 8.1% (#11 in the AL, #21 in the Majors)

In the playoffs thus far, the Dodgers are drawing 5.5 walks-per-game, while the Astros are drawing 3.5 walks-per-game. 

Houston has more free swingers. The Dodgers like to work deep into the count to put pressure on opposing pitchers, possibly forcing starting pitchers to leave a half-inning to an inning earlier than their opponent planned. If you’re thinking of betting the Dodgers, this is an ace up your sleeve. If you’re thinking of betting the Astros, this is something you’ll have to overcome. 

Here’s a quick reminder of the offensive TB plus Walks Drawn stat we monitored during the league championships.

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

Free bases come in handy! Particularly when you have sluggers who can drive those guys around the bases against tiring pitchers. 

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
Game 6: Houston 19, NY Yankees 12
Game 7: Houston 20, NY Yankees 6

Houston had to sweat a dramatic seven-game series because it wasn’t able to get any sort of merry-go-round going until late. 

The second factor we want to bring up could help the Astros. We’ve talked all season about what a great pitchers’ park Minute Maid is. Yes, the dimensions are friendly for home run hitters. But visibility is more difficult there for a variety of reasons (plus other factors may be in play). It’s had the lowest ballpark factor in the Majors the past two seasons

Offenses who haven’t been there in a while are known to struggle. Let’s look at the TB plus W data in Houston’s home games ONLY.

Offensive TB plus W for Playoff Visitors in Houston’s Home Games
Boston 14
Boston 12
NY Yankees 11
NY Yankees 9
NY Yankees 12
NY Yankees 6

That’s consistent! Nothing but lousy offensive performances in six games involving normally productive lineups. Neither Boston nor the Yankees could figure out how to make consistent contact off quality pitching, or see the ball well enough to draw a large number of walks. (Justin Verlander didn’t just find another gear as an Astro because of grit and experience. He was a quality pitcher moving to a pitching paradise, and took advantage.) 

Something to keep an eye on when the series switches to Texas for the middle three games. If the Dodgers can’t adjust, things could get more interesting than all of this early money is expecting. LAD does catch a break in that Verlander isn’t currently scheduled to throw at Minute Maid.

We’ll wrap up our baseball discussion with a recap of the “three true outcome” stats from the regular season for the expected starting pitchers. You regulars have seen these a bunch already. If you’re a newcomer, xFIP is a “fielding independent” measure designed to run along the same scale as ERA. The only change we’ve made is that we’re going to use “Houston only” numbers from Verlander, because he’s been throwing like a Cy Young candidate since he started pitching in games that matter (which will really jump out in those stats!)

“Three True Outcome” Stats for Starting Pitchers

  • C. Kershaw: 2.84 xFIP, 29.8 K%, 4.4 BB%, 1.18 HR’s per 9 IP
  • Rich Hill:   3.88 xFIP, 30.1 K%, 8.9 BB%, 1.19 HR’s per 9 IP
  • Yu Darvish: 3.65 xFIP, 27.3 K%, 7.6 BB%, 1.30 HR’s per 9 IP
  • Alex Wood: 3.34 xFIP, 24.6 K%, 6.2 BB%, 0.89 HR’s per 9 IP

 

  • Dallas Keuchel: 3.32 xFIP, 21.4 K%, 8.1 BB%, 0.93 HR’s per 9 IP
  • Justin Verlander: 2.94 xFIP, 35.8 K%, 4.2 BB%, 1.06 HR’s per 9 IP
  • Charlie Morton: 3.58 xFIP, 26.4 K%, 8.1 BB%, 0.86 HR’s per 9 IP
  • L. McCullers Jr.: 3.17 xFIP, 25.8 K%, 7.8 BB%, 0.61 HR’s per 9 IP

Might be a good day for you to print out the newsletter just so you have those handy all week.

NFL: Philadelphia establishes frontrunner status in the NFC East, and arguably the whole NFC
It wasn’t exactly a juggernaut performance on paper, as it didn’t create a boxscore that’s going to knock your socks off. But the Philadelphia Eagles played mostly very sharp football on the way to a “more comfortable than the score makes it look” victory over the Washington Redskins Monday night. 

Philadelphia (-5) 34, Washington 24

  • Yards-per-Play: Washington 5.5, Philadelphia 6.1
  • Third Down Washington 33%, Philadelphia 50%
  • Turnovers: Washington 1, Philadelphia 1
  • Rushing Yards: Washington 75, Philadelphia 127
  • Passing Stats: Washington 30-40-1-269, Philadelphia 17-25-1-244 
  • TD Drive Lengths: Washington 81-52-75, Philadelphia 80-80-81-75

Both defenses were a bit soft, trying to keep things in front of them. That made it feel like a shootout even though total yardage only ended 371-344. But between the numbers…

  • Philadelphia scored a stunning 31 points on drives of 63 yards or more, with three of their TD drives reaching 80-plus. That was helped by a 6 of 12 performance on third downs, and some very savvy maneuvering from fast-learning quarterback Carson Wentz. From early in the second quarter to midway through the fourth quarter, the Eagles marched up and down the field. 
  • From midway through the second quarter on, Washington only marched when it had fallen behind by at least two touchdowns. Their second TD didn’t come until they were down 24-10, and their final touchdown came with a 34-17 deficit. 

Big difference between building a lead when both teams are going all out, and scoring against a defense that’s sitting back with a 14-point or 17-point advantage. 

Carson Wentz had 4 TD passes and one pick, to push his seven-game numbers to 17 TD’s and 4 picks…which doubles to 34 TD’s and 8 picks for something approaching a full season. This from a guy who different pundits were saying this past summer “was still too inexperienced,” or “due for a sophomore slump,” or “wouldn’t be able to win on the road.”

He’s won everywhere but Kansas City so far, as the Eagles move to an NFL-best record of 6-1. Washington falls to 3-3…which still has them in the Wildcard race…but suggests they’re not yet able to compete with the best the NFC has to offer (two double-digit losses to Philadelphia). 

Thanks to everyone who joined our broadcasts for “Big Money Monday.” Up next week: Denver at Kansas City.

NFL: New Estimated Market Power Ratings
Time for our weekly Tuesday update.  Here are the Monday evening lines we’ll be using to build the scale…

Miami at Baltimore (-3/37.5)
Minnesota (-9/37.5) vs. Cleveland in London
Chicago at New Orleans (-9/48)
Atlanta (-4.5/46.5) at the NY Jets
Carolina at Tampa Bay (-2.5/44)
San Francisco at Philadelphia (-10.5/no total yet)
Oakland at Buffalo (-2.5/46)
Indianapolis at Cincinnati (-10/42)
LA Chargers at New England (-7.5/48.5)
Houston at Seattle (-5.5/45.5)
Dallas at Washington (-1/no total yet)
Pittsburgh (-3/45) at Detroit
Denver at Kansas City (-7/44)

If you’re new to this effort, we adjust those margins with a standard home field advantage of three points to create “couplets” that are placed on the scale below. Miami is plus 3 at Baltimore this coming Thursday night. That means the market sees those teams as even after home field is accounted for. We put the Dolphins and the Ravens on the same line, trying to stay reasonably consistent with past scales. Minnesota is -9 over Cleveland on a neutral field. The Vikings are nine lines above the Browns.  

84: New England, Pittsburgh 
83: Kansas City, Philadelphia
82: Atlanta, New Orleans
81: Dallas, Seattle 
80: Washington, Carolina, LA Rams
79: Tennessee, Jacksonville, Cincinnati, Oakland, Denver, LA Chargers, Minnesota, Tampa Bay 
78: Houston, Buffalo, Detroit 
76: Miami, Baltimore
75: NY Jets, Chicago, San Francisco
74: Arizona (early estimate with Stanton at QB)
72: Indianapolis, NY Giants, Green Bay
70: Cleveland 

We’re surprised the market only has Carolina slightly better than Tampa Bay given the poor defense from the Bucs in recent weeks. We couldn’t really justify that in a way that made sense. You can see Carolina’s at 80, Tampa Bay’s at 79 above. 

If it were up to us, Philadelphia would be 10 points clear of SF on a neutral field rather than just eight. But that would yield a line of Eagles -13…which is NOT what we’re seeing in the marketplace (yet). The Monday evening line of -10.5 suggests only an 8-point differential. Maybe the line will rise off the MNF victory. SF as a 75 is a tough sell (well, kinda nutso since Dallas was just -6 on that field and won big, but knocking Philly to 82 or lower would be nutso too). 

We’ll touch on these again later in the week if line moves necessitate an update. 

NBA: Phoenix fires head coach Earl Watson just THREE games into the season
Wanted to squeeze in an NBA note on the heels of the Phoenix Suns firing their head coach Earl Watson just three games into the new season. It’s fairly common in the world of sports for extremely poor performances against market expectations to signal that something is askew. The market knows the talent. If the talent isn’t playing at least in the vicinity of the market, something is up!

The three games that got Watson fired…

Phoenix (plus 2.5) lost to Portland 124-76 (missed by 45.5)
Phoenix (-3.5) lost to the LA Lakers 132-130 (missed by 5.5)
Phoenix (plus 13.5) lost at the LA Clippers 130-88 (missed by 28.5)

That’s not just 0-3 ATS (missing the mark by a combined 79.5 points), but two true debacles, and an embarrassing loss at home to a team that’s looked pretty bad in its other two games.

LA Lakers (plus 6.5) lost to the LA Clippers 108-92 (missed by 9.5)
LA Lakers (plus 4.5) lost to New Orleans 119-112 (missed by 2.5)

If you’re a League Pass subscriber (or enjoying the standard complimentary week to start a new season), you saw horrible defense from the Suns in all three games. Allowing 124-132-130 was a natural result of the Suns not guarding anyone…and then not helping when an opponent with the ball dashed by a teammate. 

Jay Triano took over as interim coach in Monday night’s home game vs. Sacramento. A 117-115 win as a 2-point home underdog…keyed by an enthusiastic 36-17 first quarter “thank you” to management.

Back with you Wednesday to recap Game 1 of the World Series and set up Game 2. That’s also the day we update our estimated “market” Power Ratings in the major college football conferences. We’ll see if there’s room for a tutorial as well. We have a question from a reader to answer…and we’ll also get to that Wednesday. 

If you have any questions or comments about anything in the VSiN universe, please click here to drop us a note, or leave a comment in the Facebook widget below.

If you haven’t yet taken advantage of our FREE subscription to the VSiN City newsletter, please click here. You’ll receive every issue in your weekday morning email, along with links to very handy betting sheets from the South Point. 

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