Our ongoing baseball handicapping series continues with a look at the American League East's W-L record and how that impacts each team's betting odds & our MLB picks.
Our next theme will be about the pitching means – good or bad – and what MLB baseball handicappers like yours truly look for in making MLB picks when tearing apart each pitching staff. Our first look will be in the AL East.
How are Tampa Bay and the New York Yankees showing a profit?
Coming into the season, sportsbooks were not high on the Yankees and Rays for a variety of reasons. Among them was pitching. Nobody questioned the Tampa Bay did not have good young arms, that is the foundation of the franchise since became an annual power in the division. However, without the guidance of Joe Maddon, many questioned if first-year manager Kevin Cash could work with this staff, harness this talent and assemble a bullpen as skillfully as Maddon?
On the subject of the former, the Rays starters have the third-best ERA in the American League. Lead by Chris Archer, Tampa Bay starters are tops in batting average and on-base percentage allowed. Besides Archer, Jake Orduzzi commands a two and four-seam fastball which he can work either side of the dish. Drew Smyly is just beginning to come along and Alex Cobb should be back in May from the DL. The bullpen still has to be solved, but as long as setup man Kevin Jepsen and closer Brad Boxberger to the job, Tampa Bay will win their share of games and will not be facing overvalued MLB betting odds.
The Yankees are close to the opposite of the Rays, ranking 10th in starter ERA and second in the league by those coming out of the pen. This could be a precarious situation as the season unwinds, but for now, New York is surviving. In order for the Yanks to remain a contender, Marhiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda have to be the two most reliable starters for manager Joe Girardi. New York is 7-1 in their eight starts and one can still comprehend improvement from both.
From the pitching point of view, what will make or break the Yankees are C.C. Sabathia and No. 4 Nathan Eovaldi. Sabathia is not the ace of the staff and coming off injury, he still searching, but showing signs of improvement. Eovaldi has all the skill but lacks the confidence to get in the batters kitchen (pitch inside) with his high 90’s fastball.
The Yankees bullpen has been lights out with Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller to finish games. New York is third in bullpen usage and if the starters can show improvement and work later into games, we might start seeing the sportsbooks overvaluing the Yankees again.
The Issues for Boston, Baltimore and Toronto Pitching
The conundrum for the Red Sox is their starters, with highest ERA in the AL at 5.75. In Bean-Town, panic has not set in, yet, nevertheless, there’s uneasiness. While Boston may have more recognizable names as starters, here is question to contemplate, when Cobb return for the Rays, would you rather have their starters or Red Sox? Manager John Farrell says it just a matter of time before this group finds a groove. But with no ace, who steps up?
Baltimore’s problems are two-fold or should we say all-fold? The Orioles ERA is 14th among starting pitchers and 14th among all pensters in the AL. That does not leave skipper Buck Showalter many options. Fortunately the offense and been fantastic or the Orioles would really be in trouble. Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen and Bud Norris have to do more and the middle relievers have to supply greater support.
Toronto made changes to their lineup, but the staff was not altered much and that remained the lead question on the lips of Blue Jays fans coming into the season, was the pitching good enough to make the postseason? Early on, survey says “No”. It is not quite as bad as Baltimore’s, yet because Toronto pitchers have handed out walks like discount food tickets at a festival, they rank dead last in the league in on-base percentage, causing self-inflicted problems.
None of these three teams are a bad wager; however, they are not worth consideration until the pitching improves.