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Mid-week series may sort out wildcard spots

Jeff Fogle
VSiN.com

Eight teams are fighting for two Wildcard spots in the American League…a college football team couldn’t score the spread…plus it’s Power Ratings Tuesday in the NFL, CFL, and the English Premier League. 

MLB: Midweek mayhem might clear up muddled races
Now that football is upon us, we must be quick and efficient with our baseball coverage. We’ll continue to focus on key indicator stats for teams involved in the playoff chase. Here are the current “races” in play.

  • Boston leads the NY Yankees by 3.5 games in the AL East
  • There are EIGHT teams fighting for two AL Wildcard spots
  • The Chicago Cubs lead Milwaukee by 2.5 games, St. Louis by 5 in the NL Central
  • Milwaukee still has a puncher’s chance to steal an NL Wildcard spot

As we speak, there are six mid-week series that are matching contenders against each other, or contenders against confirmed playoff teams. Here’s a quick look at those matchups going in Tuesday’s Nevada Rotation order. We’ll continue to use xFIP as an indicator stat for probable starting pitchers because it tells you so much (form, future projection) in a simple number that uses the same relative scale as ERA.

St. Louis (5 games out of NLC lead) at Milwaukee (2.5 games out of NLC lead)

  • Tuesday: Weaver (3.67 xFIP in limited action) vs. Garza (5.01 xFIP)
  • Wednesday: Martinez (3.60 xFIP) vs. Anderson (4.52 xFIP)

The Brewers continue to contend despite starting pitching that doesn’t scare anyone. The Cards will have a clear edge in Game 2. Can Luke Weaver get them back in the divisional race by winning the opener Tuesday night? Neither team can afford to lose both.

LA Dodgers (lock) at Arizona (5 games clear of third NL WC)

  • Tuesday: Hill (4.01 xFIP) vs. Godley (3.27 xFIP)
  • Wednesday: Ryu (3.93 xFIP) vs. Ray (3.82 xFIP)
  • Thursday: Maeda (3.89 xFIP) vs. Greinke (3.19 xFIP)

The D-backs were emasculated the last time the Dodgers came to visit. Can’t ask for better pitching prospects for the hosts considering who they have throwing versus who misses the series on the mound for the recently cooling Dodgers. 

Cleveland (7 game lead in ALC) at NY Yankees (3.5 behind Boston for ALE)

  • Tuesday: Bauer (3.60 xFIP) vs. Garcia (4.35 xFIP)
  • Wednesday: Tomlin (4.07 xFIP) vs. Sabathia (4.30 xFIP)

Cleveland took G1 Monday night on ESPN. Not at full strength yet in the bullpen, but definitely rounding back into championship form at just the right time. The Yankees have so much at stake every night considering what’s sitting just ahead of them…and the logjam right behind them for the Wildcard spots. Note that Cleveland has edged past Houston in “expected W-L record” because its slightly worse run differential has much better run denial (sabermetric formulas reward pitching!). 

Seattle (2 games out of WC) at Baltimore (1.5 games out of WC)

  • Tuesday: Ramirez (4.56 xFIP) vs. Bundy (4.85 xFIP)
  • Wednesday: Miranda (5.34 xFIP) vs. Jimenez (4.62 xFIP)

Baltimore won the series-opener last night, in expectedly high scoring fashion. They’re basically playoff caliber at home this season, but a doormat on the road. They’re not outmatched on the mound according to xFIP in the two games that remain. It’s fun to have an exciting Wildcard race. But it might be an indictment of the AL that these two are still in the mix heading into September. 

Texas (3 games out of WC) vs. Houston (lock) in Tampa

  • Tuesday: Perez (4.69 xFIP) vs. Fiers (4.52 xFIP)
  • Wednesday: Cashner (5.31 xFIP) vs. Keuchel (3.34 xFIP)
  • Thursday: Hamels (4.89 xFIP) vs. McHugh (4.42 xFIP)

The series was moved from Houston because of the weather emergency. It wouldn’t have been fair to all the other Wildcard contenders to let Texas have three extra home games. So, “the battle of Texas” will be renewed in Tampa in front of a handful of fans and hot dog vendors. The Rangers keep zig-zagging…winning when you’ve given up on them…losing when you start to give them a chance again. 

Tampa Bay (2.5 games out of WC) at Kansas City (3 games out of WC)

  • Tuesday: Cobb (4.43 xFIP) vs. Junis (5.13 xFIP)
  • Wednesday: Odorizzi (5.41 xFIP) vs. Vargas (4.82 xFIP)

Tampa Bay went weeks without scoring much, then put a dozen on the board Monday night to win the series opener. You don’t maximize run distribution that way! A chance for the Rays to start throwing others out of the battle royal by taking this road series.

Look for baseball previews and discussion all day with our new programming schedule…

  • Mitch Moss and Pauly Howard at 7 a.m. ET on “Follow the Money”
  • Gill Alexander’s analytic approach at 10 a.m. ET on “A Numbers Game”
  • Jonathan Von Tobel and Matt Youmans at 3 p.m. ET on “The Edge”
  • Ron Flatter and Amal Shah at 6 p.m. ET on “My Guys in the Desert”

That’s a starting lineup full of guys who love talkin’ baseball!

College Football Review: Colorado State still Ram tough…Stanford makes a statement
We’re not going to run full boxscore stats from the five college football games played this past weekend. There weren’t any marquee matchups. And, the only game that wasn’t decided by at least two touchdowns was the Hawaii/UMASS battle of relative non-entities. Some quick notes that could influence your handicapping moving forward…

  • Colorado State (-4) finished last season on fire, and picked up right where they left off (regular season-wise) with a 58-27 blowout of Oregon State. The offense moved easily, totaling 525 yards on 6.4 yards-per-play. They were assisted by a big 5-2 edge in the turnover category. Inexperience plagued OSU’s new quarterback Jake Luton. The Rams will take that head start advantage into a matchup this Friday night vs. Colorado in Denver. That line has already fallen from plus 7 down to plus 5 based on CSU’s form and that potential head start edge. 
  • Hawaii (plus 2) scored a late TD to win at UMASS 38-35. They won yardage 503-413, YPP 6.9 to 5.5, and turnovers 2-1, yet still had to sweat the ending. A 2 for 4 performance on fourth downs was part of the problem. Those are virtual turnovers. 
  • South Florida (-21) overcame a horrendous start to win at San Jose State 42-22. Charlie Strong’s new program won total yardage 548-387, and YPP 5.4 to 4.4 (a zillion plays for both fast-paced teams). San Jose State had jumped ahead 16-0 thanks to some relatively cheap points on TD drives of 47 and 6 yards. South Florida marched to six TD’s on drives of 66, 69, 59, 50, 80, and 86 yards. 
  • Stanford (-30) obliterated Rice 62-7, winning yardage 656-241 and YPP 8.9 to 3.9. If you watched, it looked even worse!
  • BYU (-37) looked very sluggish in a 20-6 win over Portland State in an “added” game. Historically, it’s a red flag when a college offense can’t even score the point spread in an early season game. BYU won yardage 365-220 and YPP 5.9 to 3.1. That’s fine as far as establishing superiority. But they were favored by more than Stanford was! Those are poor numbers when you’re supposed to win by more than five touchdowns. Maybe they were looking ahead to this Saturday’s LSU game, which will now be played in the Superdome in New Orleans after moving from Houston because of the weather emergency. That point spread has risen from LSU -12 to LSU -14. 

We’ll devote some space later this week to previewing this Saturday’s big games: Alabama (-7) vs. Florida State and Michigan (-3.5) vs. Florida, both at neutral sites. 

NFL: Estimated Market Power Ratings
We’re starting to see some moves in the advance Week One lines for the regular season. Let’s tweak our estimated “market” Power Ratings off those. We use a standard 3 points for home field advantage.

88: New England
84: Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Seattle, Green Bay
83: Dallas without Elliot
82: Kansas City, Oakland, NY Giants
81: Minnesota, Carolina
80: Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, New Orleans
79: Arizona, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Tennessee
78: Houston, Denver, Washington
77: Detroit, LA Chargers
76: Jacksonville
75: Miami, Buffalo
74: Chicago, LA Rams, Indianapolis with Tolzien
72: Cleveland, San Francisco
71: NY Jets

  • Buffalo is sneaking up to -7 at home vs. the NY Jets at some stores
  • Same with Houston up to -5 at home vs. Jacksonville
  • Detroit is down to -1 vs. Arizona
  • Looks like the Rams will be -3 over the Colts with Tolzien

We’ll update these as needed from now until opening weekend. 

CFL: Getting caught up in the Canadian Football League
The CFL made some very quick headlines Monday when the hapless Hamilton Tiger-Cats hired embattled Art Briles to be an offensive assistant coach. The league office stepped in immediately with the corporate equivalent of “ARE YOU GUYS INSANE?!” Briles was then un-hired later Monday. Hamilton is still hapless.

Quick recaps from last week’s action…

  • Winnipeg (-1) played another thriller, winning at Montreal 34-31 in double overtime. Montreal won total yardage 422-367 and yards-per-play 6.4 to 5.7. But Winnipeg played the cleaner, sharper game. Montreal lost the TO category 2-1, and had a failed third down try, which is a virtual turnover. Winnipeg moves to 7-2 straight up and ATS (but you can’t win all the coin flips forever!). Montreal falls to 3-6 straight up and 4-5 ATS. The Alouettes are still within a half game of first place Toronto in the East, even with that 3-6 record. 
  • Saskatchewan (plus 5.5) beat banged up Edmonton 54-31. Very misleading final score, as the road dog had two interception-return TD’s and a blocked punt return TD. The Roughriders did win total yardage 335-324, and YPP 6.6 to 5.7. So, it was a clean upset, but not a true rout at the point of attack. Edmonton fell to 7-2, suffering its second straight loss (3-6 ATS). Saskatchewan had a rare good road game. They’re now 4-4 straight up, 5-3 ATS. 
  • Ottawa (-1) beat British Columbia 31-24. The Redblacks were up 18-0 at the half. The long comeback try from BC warped the yardage stats a bit. BC won total yardage 411-401 and YPP 7.5 to 6.4 because they were in desperation mode the whole second half. Ottawa’s been overdue to win some games like this. The Redblacks are now 3-5-1, putting them back in the East race (a sparkling 7-3 ATS). British Columbia is now 5-5 straight up, 4-6 ATS, with quarterback issues because its two options are imploding in different ways. 
  • Calgary (-10) beat Toronto 23-7. Typical grinder from the Grey Cup favorites. Defense wins championships in all leagues! Calgary won total yardage 453-238 and YPP 7.0 to 5.5. A lot of offense to go with that defense, though it didn’t lead to a scoreboard explosion. Calgary regains the top spot in the West with a 7-1-1 record (6-3 ATS). Toronto still leads the East at 4-6, with a poor 3-7 ATS record. Two recent meetings between the divisional leaders. Calgary leads scoreboard 64-31…expressing the huge differences this year between West and East in one sum. 

Winless Hamilton (0-8 straight up, 2-6 ATS) had a bye last week.

This week’s schedule…
Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET): Ottawa (-pick-em, 51) at Montreal
Sunday (4 p.m. ET): Winnipeg at Saskatchewan (-2.5, 61)
Monday (3 p.m. ET): Edmonton at Calgary (11, 54.5)
Monday (6:30 p.m. ET): Toronto (-4.5, 53) at Hamilton 

It’s “Labour Day” weekend in Canada, hence the holiday schedule featuring geographic rivals. Too bad Edmonton’s fallen apart physically just before the Calgary showdown. A few weeks ago, that would have felt like the true first-half championship. 

Here are estimated “market” Power Ratings based on those lines (using a standard 3 points for home field advantage. 

CFL Estimated “market” Power Ratings  
Calgary 86
Winnipeg 80
Saskatchewan 79 at home
Saskatchewan 78 on the road
Edmonton 78 (dealing with injuries, low 80’s when healthy)
British Columbia 78
Ottawa 78
Toronto 77 
Montreal 75
Hamilton 70

Looks like Tuesday will be our CFL day, as long as time and space permits. Quick futures notes: Calgary is still the offshore favorite at 9/4 to win the Grey Cup. Edmonton is around 3/1 on the assumption they’ll get healthy. Winnipeg is now around 4/1. Toronto is best in the East at around 9/1 or 10/1 depending on the shop. 

English Premier League: Market Power Ratings using a goal supremacy scale
Here are updated “market” Power Ratings using a “goal supremacy” scale. We’re trying 0.2 goals for home field advantage as we work out the kinks for soccer. The numbers you see below represent a neutral field Power Rating. Manchester City would be about half a goal better than Arsenal for a neutral field price…Southampton about half a goal better than Burnley or Crystal Palace, and so on. 

EPL Estimated “Market Goal Supremacy” Scale
2.6: Manchester City
2.4: Manchester United
2.3: Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham
2.1: Arsenal 
1.5: Southampton
1.4: Everton
1.1: Newcastle United, Stoke City, Leicester City
1.0: Burnley, Crystal Palace, Swansea City
0.9: Bournemouth, Watford, West Brom
0.8: Brighton and Hove Albion, West Ham
0.7: Huddersfield Town 

Because so many sports bettors are expanding their Saturday and Sunday “football” schedules with morning soccer from England, we’ll try to stay on top of this through the season. 

With September fast approaching, this is a great time to subscribe to VSiN City if you haven’t already done so. Please click here to get free email delivery every weekday morning, plus links to all the South Point betting sheets. 

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