It is inevitable that the Blue Jays will win the American League East and they are also tied with Kansas City for the top seed, but Toronto may be overvalued in Baltimore Monday.
The probable American League East Champions this year could be overvalued Monday with an overachieving pitcher as a road favorite when Marco Estrada and those Toronto Blue Jays (90-65, 37-37 away) pay a visit to fellow right-hander Chris Tillman and the Baltimore Orioles (76-79, 44-30 home) in the first game of a four-game series from Camden Yards in Baltimore, MD at 7:05 ET in a game available on MASN.
The posted money line at Pinnacle Sports has Baltimore as a home underdog for this contest at current odds of +115.
On Verge of Clinching Division
The Blue Jays drew closer to the American League East title by sweeping three games from the Tampa Bay Rays over the weekend, extending their most recent winning streak to four games overall and lowering their magic number for clinching the division over the second place Yankees to four. The Jays are also now tied with the slumping Kansas City Royals for the best record in the American League at 90-65.
They now look to at least duplicate what they did when these teams last met in Toronto with the Blue Jays taking two out of three in that series.
The Orioles meanwhile were not only the losing MLB picks to the Red Sox in all three games this past weekend, but they also failed to score a single run! In all fairness however, Baltimore was coming off of a three-game sweep of the Nationals and the O’s were 5-2 on the road trip before visiting Boston, so they are still returning home from a respectable 5-5 trip.
Also, the bats should awaken here considering Baltimore is batting .264 and averaging 5.55 runs per game vs. right-handed pitchers at home.
Now, if you looked only at the surface numbers, the natural inclination would be to believe that the unheralded Estrada is underrated, as he is quietly 13-8 with a 3.13 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 26 starts. However, a closer look reveals that he may actually be overvalued when looking at his peripheral numbers, and remember that he did start the last game that the Blue Jays lost vs. the Yankees last Tuesday.
You see, despite the very good mainstream stats, Estrada has had great luck on his side as he is primarily a contact pitcher that averages 6.47 strikeouts and 2.91 walks per nine innings with a lot of that contact being in the air, as Estrada also has a very low 32.2 percent groundball rate. Yet, Estrada has allowed an abnormally low .223 BABIP without the normal regression you would expect.
So much more telling than Estrada’s ERA are his unflattering 4.39 FIP and downright awful 5.00 xFIP!
Tillman with Much Better xFIP
Now, a case can be made that Estrada this year is exactly where Tillman was the last three years, when the latter posted very good mainstream stats and was even generally considered the ace of the Baltimore staff while far out-performing his peripheral stats. However, while his regression was slow in coming, it has come with a vengeance this season with Tillman sitting at 10-11 with a 5.16 ERA and 1.39 WHIP.
Tillman has also been destroyed by this Toronto offense in five starts vs. the Blue Jays this year. However, he has shown a little improvement as of late allowed three runs in each of his last two starts including recording an official Quality Start last time out in a win over the Nationals in Washington, and perhaps most interesting is that Tillman’s xFIP of 4.58, while no means very good, is still nearly a half-run better than that of Estrada, perhaps giving the O’s home dog value.
Still Good at Home
Finally, while the Orioles have been much worse this year overall compared to the playoff teams of the last two years, especially the East Division Champions of last year, they have still been tough as always here at home going 44-30 at Camden Yards (compared to 32-49 on the road).
Thus, look for Baltimore to at least temporarily play the role of spoiler when hosting Toronto on Monday.
MLB Pick: Orioles +115