On the Giants, and why Baseball isn’t really a team sport…Some Paxton perspectives (he is in some select company, though it also means the markets will begin to adjust)
Before putting my Tuesday MLB portfolio to bed I am probably going to bet the San Francisco Giants in some form. As in the “38-63 and out of first place by 31.5 games in a season in which they expected to contend” Giants. But this is not a momentary lapse of reason (I would cue up some Pink Floyd here but I am holding the jukebox back until football comes around); instead it is an appreciation of how baseball is so much different from the other major team sports on the betting boards. The reality? It isn’t much of a team sport at all.
Let’s start there before getting into the specifics, though many of you are likely already anticipating that the 0-6 for San Fran with Madison Bumgarner as the starter, including an 0-4 personal tag for him, is a rare “buy low” for this level of performer, which indeed it is. I’ll get back to that in a moment.
You will read and hear much across the Sports Mediaverse about MLB teams having “packed it in” for the season, or “just playing out the strings”, because it is an easy story to tell, and to sell, which allows for laziness on the part of those with the microphones or by-lines. It does indeed happen in basketball and football, which are sports in which team chemistry and effort matters on just about every play. Lose focus in those sports, and the opposition will be merciless at the mercenary level through which the higher levels of competition are played.
Baseball is different. It is about a series of one-on-one encounters, primarily batter vs. pitcher, and it is also ruled by a dynamic that governs player behaviors in modern times – with statistics measuring every one of those batter/pitcher outcomes, and contracts based heavily on those statistics, there is the magical motivation of money in play until the final out of a season is recorded. So when you read that the Giants have nothing to play for the rest of the way, think about the amount of money involved in the contracts of those players, and you will begin to perceive it in a different light.
The 2017 San Francisco campaign to this point has been among the biggest disappointments in the history of professional sports. Yes, that is extreme, but it is not an exaggeration. Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford have all won three World Series rings while wearing Giants uniforms, and most of the others on he roster are off of a season in which they got a win over the Mets in the N.L. Wild Card game last October, before falling to the Cubs in the NLDS.
Tonight Bumgarner comes front and center, and that calls for a focus point on two fronts. First the personal - at 0-4/3.57 it has been a particular disappointment for one of the sports better competitors, and what matters to the handicapper is that guys with his pedigree rarely go through the motions in bad times; instead they work hard to correct. While the veteran left-hander has not been to his usual standards in terms of outcomes, he is also not that far away in the pitches that he is throwing – a career K/9 of 8.9 is sitting at 8.5; a career BB/9 of 2.1 has actually been reduced to 1.6, and a career GB% of 44.5 is at an almost identical 43.5 in 2017.
Bumgarner knows that he is not far off, after failing to win in either of his first two starts back from the DL - “Honestly, I don’t feel it’s much different. I really felt good both times. I really felt better than what the box score says. That’s what is most frustrating.”
There are also some extenuating circumstances in terms of the W/L tally – the San Francisco offense has only backed him with 12 runs across his six starts, being held to one run or none in half of them. Which leads us to the second key aspect of it being MadBum on the hill – even if some players were inclined to not bring their best based on the team position in the standings, when the ace takes the mound, and brings a competitive frame of mind, that will often permeate through the rest of the dugout.
What makes the notion of a buy-in work is that the markets have done their job, and have adjusted to the current realities. Bumgarner has gone off at an average lay price of -171.2 over his 36 home starts the last three seasons, yet now we find him at-120 against a .500 opponent, albeit with an emerging talent in Jameson Taillon (who we are going to like over time).
What helps to set up an investment opportunity is that there is anti-Bumgarner money showing two ways, the Pinnacle opener of -143 down to -118 (a shopper can find -115 in some good shops), and early Over money in the markets also turning 7 into 7.5 on the Total. That has me setting up a split ticket of #910 San Francisco and #909 Pittsburgh Team Total Under, the various trading elements combining to generate reasonable prices for a 3.5 on the latter.
Some Paxton perspective (and it is getting interesting as hell)
Those that have been following PB from a previous platform will remember past takes on James Paxton, who showed signs of potential brilliance on the mound when he was healthy, some virtually unhittable pitches coming from a strong left-hander that not only brings high heat, but also has good command of it (a career 2.8 BB/9 as 400 innings approaches). Last night qualified as the “scary good” category in that he was dominating while appearing to be throwing free and easy, the Red Sox being held without a run over seven innings, managing only four singles without drawing a walk, and 10 batters striking out.
Let’s start with Paxton’s own take - “It was coming out easy today. I wasn’t thinking about going out there and throwing 98, 99. That’s just what was coming out today.’’ And then an interesting cross-sport way of looking at it from manager Scott Servais - “They are a contact team, they know the strike zone, control it very well and he just dominated it. He owned the line of scrimmage tonight if you talk about that being the strike zone. It was fun to watch.’’
Of course, it wasn’t all that much from for Dustin Pedroia and the Red Sox, and I thought this particular facial expression was indeed the picture worth a thousand words -
Want some perspective on just where Paxton can reside among the MLB elite? How about a quick tour through FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) over the past two seasons, focusing on pitchers that have worked at least 200 innings –
1. Syndergaard 2.14
2. Kershaw 2.35
3. Paxton 2.63
4. Sale 2.88
5. Kluber 2.99
Nice neighborhood, isn’t it? Of course, that also means that the bargains are going to become scarce
If you want to know when PB is ready to go each day, as well as following along for some of the most important Sports Betting news as in unfolds, make @Vegaspointblank a part of your routine.