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Which MLB teams have the juice?

Jeff Fogle
VSiN.com

Which MLB teams have best exploited the “juiced” baseballs? Some surprises on both ends of the spectrum!

MLB: Multiple playoff contenders lead the Majors in “Home Run Differential”
It’s now become accepted in most circles (particularly in the betting marketplace) that a change in baseball construction is the single biggest factor driving the big increase in home runs and scoring this season. But nobody’s talking about which teams have best exploited this dynamic. Time to fix that!

Today we’re going to run through “Home Run Differential” for all 30 teams, meaning the difference between home runs hit and home runs allowed. We’ll use data through the games of Wednesday night because of publication deadlines. 

Best HR Differentials

  • Houston plus 32
  • Tampa Bay plus 32
  • NY Yankees plus 30
  • LA Dodgers plus 25
  • Arizona plus 24
  • Washington plus 21
  • Oakland plus 18
  • Milwaukee plus 16
  • Texas plus 12

Let’s stop there with “plus double digits” as a cut-off. That’s about a third of the league. It’s not a surprise that Houston and the NY Yankees are so high on the list. They’ve been making highlight reels all season. Tampa Bay? That’s going to surprise a lot of people, particularly casual fans who don’t read boxscores. 

What Tampa Bay’s offense is doing is even more amazing when you consider the impact of the home park (using park effects data through Wednesday night)…

  • Tampa Bay: 121 homers, 89 allowed (home park only increased homers by 1%)
  • Houston: 126 homers, 94 allowed (home park increased homers by 7%)
  • NYY: 122 homers, 92 allowed (home park increased homers by 40%)

Tampa Bay has more “true power” on offense than the Yankees given that stark difference in ballpark impact. On the other hand, the Yankees pitchers would look a lot better in the stats if they didn’t have to deal with the short porch in the Bronx.

Also high on the list at plus 20 or more, the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and Nationals…who are all very likely playoff teams come October. Milwaukee’s knocking on that door, possibly positioned to derail the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central because they’ve better taken advantage of the new baseballs. 

Continuing now with the other positive differentials… 

  • Toronto plus 9
  • Miami plus 8
  • Chicago Cubs plus 7 (down from plus 36 last season)
  • NY Mets plus 7
  • Kansas City plus 6
  • Cleveland plus 2 (only -1 last season)
  • St. Louis plus 2

The two 2016 World Series teams are in this hunk. The Cubs are way down from last year, just two games from the halfway mark of the 2017 campaign. They finished with a 199/163 ratio a year ago, and are 104/97 in our current sampling. The offense is on pace to hit a few more this season…but the pitching staff is on pace to allow A LOT more. Cleveland didn’t rely on dingers a year ago. They may be losing ground overall though because teams who DO are better positioned to succeed in this new environment. 

We cross now into the negatives…

  • Detroit -4
  • Colorado -5
  • Baltimore -7
  • San Diego -8
  • Pittsburgh -14
  • Boston -15
  • Chicago White Sox -15

Even though Colorado plays in a great home run park, (which has increased homers by 28% this season), their offense hasn’t been taking advantage of the new balls. Big improvements this year in pitching, as “home run avoidance” from the staff has helped this drive to contention. Boston’s another surprise down here in the negatives. You’d think an analytics-minded franchise playing in Fenway Park would be well-suited to shine in this environment. Last year’s differential was plus 32. This season’s -15 is dragged down by only 78 offensive dingers, the worst total in the whole American League. 

  • Minnesota -18
  • Cincinnati -18
  • Atlanta -23
  • San Francisco -25
  • LA Angels -28
  • Philadelphia -34
  • Seattle -37

A lot to talk about here. Minnesota and the LA Angels are in playoff discussions even though both have been outclassed badly in this particular stat. That helps you understand what they must be doing well to post winning records. Classic old-school baseball! Seattle wasn’t supposed to be this helpless. They were plus 10 last year. Handicappers who expected the Mariners to be a darkhorse in the AL West now have a reason why that hasn’t happened. More context for the horrible performances this year from San Francisco and Philadelphia. They don’t have enough offensive firepower to make up for what their pitchers are allowing. 

You don’t HAVE to be a great home run team to contend in 2017. But, it sure helps make things easier with these particular baseballs. We’ll pay closer attention to this dynamic moving forward. The Astros and Dodgers may be on a collision course for the World Series given their roster structure in the new context. Can contenders who don’t have multiple sluggers stay competitive over a full 162-game stretch and into the postseason? 

For handicappers…pay attention to the home run volume of offenses…pay attention to the home run allowed rates of starting pitchers and bullpens…and pay attention to the ballpark influences across the Majors. The market may still struggle to properly price the “home run mismatches” that show up on a regular basis. 

MLB: Potential playoff preview when Yankees visit Astros 
Fitting for today's theme that the showcase series of this weekend’s card involves two of the best home run differential teams in the sport. Though, it’s important to remind everyone that Houston isn’t just crushing people because of home runs. They have a dynamic offense that’s much superior to the rest of the pack this season. 

This is hidden from too many analysts who don’t make adjustments for park effects. You just read that the home parks of both of these teams help boost home run counts (particularly Yankee Stadium). In terms of overall offense though, Astros hitters have it much worse.

  • Yankee Stadium has increased offense by 11.7% this season
  • Minute Maid Park has decreased offense by 22.6% this season

The Yankees play half their schedule in the sixth best hitter’s park (through Wednesday’s games), while the Astros play half their schedule in the second-best pitcher’s park. 

  • Yankees road scoring: 5.1 runs per game
  • Astros road scoring: 6.6 runs per game

Wow!

With the knowledge that Houston has the better pure offense of the two teams, we can now move to the “three true outcome” stats for this weekend’s probable pitchers. We also include a fielding independent pitching stat that works on the same approximate scale as ERA.

Friday (early line: Houston -170, total 8 Under -115)

  • Michael Pineda: 24.0% K’s, 5.5% walks, 1.8 HR/9, 3.44 xFIP
  • Lance McCullers: 29.4% K’s, 7.0% walks, 0.7 HR/9, 2.65 xFIP

McCullers gets a ton of strikeouts and isn’t very home run prone, which is ideal for what’s happening this year in the sport. Pineda’s one of those pitchers who either has it or he doesn’t. That gives him a shot as a dog…but also a chance to be blown off the field by the fifth inning. The market is pricing McCullers like an ace, and Pineda like a guy who’s probably due to fade a bit. 

Saturday

  • Jordan Montgomery: 23.2% K’s, 7.9% walks, 1.1 HR/9, 4.27 xFIP
  • Francis Martes: 21.3% K’s, 14.7% walks, 1.1 HR/9, 5.50 xFIP

Martes has only made a few starts this season. He won’t get many more with that ridiculous walk-rate and awful xFIP. Edge to Montgomery here, though he’s far from likely to mow down this opponent. Worth considering the Over because there won’t be any travel distractions for these offenses against these pitchers in front of a packed holiday weekend crowd. 

Sunday

  • Luis Severino: 28.2% K’s, 8.1% walks, 1.0 HR/9, 2.95 xFIP
  • Mike Fiers: 20.7% K’s, 8.1% walks, 1.9 HR/9, 4.34 xFIP

People keep waiting for Severino to fall back to earth…but he continues to put up ace caliber numbers. Remember, his home games come in a hitter’s park that launches homers. Yet…he’s only allowing one dinger per nine innings while getting a ton of K’s. Fiers is obviously having some home run issues, but he can get away with that when backed by a great offense. If you think Severino can keep it going, he’s going to make a lot of sense as a road dog. That said…he’s probably not a sub-3.00 xFIP guy long term obviously. 

MLB: Reeling Rockies must now deal with Diamondbacks in the desert
Not too long ago, we were previewing a huge NL West series involving the Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks. And, the theme was pretty much, “the Rockies have established they’re for real…can Arizona hang with them on the road?”

So much for that!

  • Colorado lost two of those three games, getting outscored in the series 29-12
  • Colorado lost three straight to the Dodgers, getting outscored 22-7
  • Colorado lost three straight to the horrible Giants, getting outscored 18-8

The Rockies enter this weekend’s gut-check rematch on an eight-game losing streak, and with questions aplenty about whether or not they’re really playoff material after all. Let’s run through the likely pitching matchups…

Friday (early line: Arizona -140, total of 9)

  • Jon Gray: 17.0% K’s, 13.2% walks, 0.7 HR/9, 4.11 xFIP
  • Robbie Ray: 30.9% K’s, 11.2% walks, 1.1 HR/9, 3.79 xFIP

Ray has that great strikeout rate, but can have some trouble finding the strike zone. Gray’s been even worse in his limited time when it comes to walks…but has managed to dodge some trouble because of that low HR rate. The early line is in sync with the pitching skill sets plus home field advantage. But, if Colorado really is a fading pretender, then you could still see some value with the home favorite. 

Saturday

  • Tyler Chatwood: 19.7% K’s, 12.8% walks, 1.4 HR/9, 4.29 xFIP
  • Zack Greinke: 28.4% K’s, 5.4% walks, 1.2 HR/9, 3.16 xFIP

Greinke will be a heavy favorite here, with edges across the board in the most influential analytics stats, and a much better reputation with the general public. It’s the mismatch of the weekend in this series. 

Sunday

  • German Marquez: 19.9% K’s, 8.2% walks, 0.9 HR/9, 4.78 xFIP
  • Taijuan Walker: 19.7% K’s, 9.2% walks, 0.7 HR/9, 4.44 xFIP

Very similar performance profiles thus far. It’s a good sign that neither has been particularly home run prone in these ballparks in a “Year of the Homer.” Colorado’s best chance to get a win based on how the rotations fell. And they enter the series 3.5 games back in the standings. The rapids got rough really fast for this team.

The Rockies still have a comfortable lead for the final Wildcard spot. They’re up six games on the Cubs entering the weekend. That lead is going to seem a lot less comfortable if they don’t start winning some games!

Tennis: Wimbledon begins very early Monday
Before we’re together again Monday morning, the 2017 Wimbledon championships will have begun over in England. Here’s a quick look at the Betfair exchange “Yes/No” prices for the favorites in both the men’s and women’s championships.

To win the Men’s championship

  • Roger Federer: yes plus 220, no -225
  • Rafael Nadal: yes plus 490, no -600
  • Andy Murray: yes plus 620, no -640
  • Novak Djokovic: yes plus 620, no -640
  • Milos Raonic: yes plus 1900, no -2000
  • Marin Cilic: yes plus 2200, no -2300

Nobody else is better than plus 2500 at the moment. Here’s a link to the men’s page at Betfair. As we discussed during US Open golf, the blue column called “Back all” represents taking that player to win. Subtract one from the number you see, because the number in the column represents what a bettor is returned off a one unit bet. The pink column called “Lay all” is a bet that the player WON’T win the tournament. You also subtract one from those. The difference between the two columns represents the exchange’s cut of the action. 

To win the Women’s championship

  • Petra Kvitova: yes plus 490, no -520
  • Karolina Pliskova: yes plus 540, no -580
  • Johanna Konta: yes plus 1250, no -1400
  • Garbine Muguruza: yes plus 1450, no -1550
  • Venus Williams: yes plus 1500, no -1850
  • Jelena Ostapenko: yes plus 1600, no -1900

Obviously, the women's’ brackets are wide open given the absence of Serena Williams. Here’s a link to the women’s page at Betfair that you can use all through the tournament

If you’re an avid tennis fan but new to the concept of betting the sport, you can click around Betfair to check out other categories like “odds to reach the quarterfinals, odds to reach the finals, and head-to-head matchups. 

NBA: Nevada takes record May hoops hit thanks to Golden; State, Cleveland and the Overs
The official May money breakdown was released by Nevada Gaming early Thursday. VSiN Senior Editor Matt Youmans has complete details in this article. Sportsbooks still won money overall because May baseball was profitable. But, the public’s love of “favorites and Over” really hurt the books through the playoff brackets. 

If you’re a late arrival to news and ramifications of Chris Paul’s trade to the Houston Rockets, some bonus reading:

Matt Youmans talks about the response on futures prices in Nevada books
Oddschecker shows you the latest NBA odds at a variety of offshore locales
Nylon Calculus studies whether Paul and James Harden will be a good fit of skill sets

Have a great weekend! Remember that free subscribers to VSiN City also get South Point betting sheets emailed every weekday morning. If you haven’t already subscribed, you can do so by clicking here. Follow us on twitter for programming bulletins and blurbs all through the day. That can be particularly valuable on weekends when surprise guests often pop up. If you have any comments or questions about VSiN programming or this newsletter, please drop us a note.

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