The Minnesota Twins are starting to fall back down to earth a bit, but they could be the right baseball pick on Saturday when they visit Joe Blanton and the Kansas City Royals.
Jason's 2015 record as of July 3: 28-22, plus-5.84 units ML; 0-3, minus-3.30 units Total
It took them 10 innings, but the Kansas City Royals finally managed to beat the Minnesota Twins (+125 away) 3-2 on Friday night, opening up a 4.5-game lead in the AL Central race as they approach the halfway point of the 2015 regular season. No surprise to see the Royals (45-32, +11.96 betting units) in this situation, but the Twins (42-38, +11.74 units)? They were near the bottom of the World Series odds list at 100-1 when the season started.
We can't promise you it'll be a pitching duel when these two teams meet Saturday night (7:15 p.m. ET) in the third game of their four-game set. Mike Pelfrey (4.10 FIP) is due up for the Twins against Joe Blanton (3.36 FIP), who's done well for himself in his latest crack at major-league employment. But the signs aren't particularly good for either gentleman, and the Royals might be way too overvalued at –160 on the MLB odds board.
For a relatively average starting pitcher, Pelfrey sure is raking in the long green. He's ninth on the MLB money charts this year with 5.69 units in earnings on a team record of 9-6, and that's after the Twins lost three of Pelfrey's last four starts. Minnesota started the year with those low expectations and the very friendly MLB odds that go with them; the Twins are also 5-2 with Pelfrey on the mound in games decided by one run.
It's fair to expect the Twins to run out of luck at some point. Those one-run victories are already evening out: Minnesota is 13-11 in this situation after Friday's loss. That +4 run differential suggests the Twins are “really” a .500 team – which is still a lot better than people expected, though. And Pelfrey's .315 BABIP is pretty high for a groundball pitcher. Maybe there's still some value in the Twins after all.
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You may remember Blanton as one of the pitchers discussed in Moneyball. He was able to carve out a decent career for himself as an innings-eater in the middle or back of the rotation, although his biggest claim to fame might be hitting a home run for the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 4 of the 2008 World Series. Blanton retired from baseball at the start of the 2014 campaign, then unretired to join the Royals.
Results have been somewhat mixed since Blanton was called up from the minors last month. He allowed a single run in each of his first two starts, then coughed up five runs to the Houston Astros (–124 at home) in just 2.2 innings of Monday's 6-1 loss. Blanton will no doubt be back in the minors once Jason Vargas and Kris Medlen come off the DL, so at these baseball odds, fade him while you can.
If you needed any more encouragement to take the Twins, how about this: Current hitters are a combined 24-for-66 lifetime against Blanton with five home runs and a Bondsian 1.058 OPS. Unsurprisingly, there are plenty of Minnesota bats available in most fantasy leagues. How about that old waiver-wire standby, 3B Trevor Plouffe (.749 OPS)? He's 3-for-9 versus Blanton with a pair of dingers.
Meanwhile, it's not too often we get a tasty value MLB pick like this – tasty in theory, at least. This is a case where the name on the front of the uniform is drawing all the betting action, while people ignore the name on the back. No offense to Blanton; we seem to recall that Chance Harper was a big fan back in the day. That day was quite some time ago. I'm getting misty-eyed just thinking about it.
Free MLB Pick: Take the Twins +152 at SportsBetting