Looks like the AL East is up for grabs this year. The Orioles are in last place, but they’re not far behind the Boston Red Sox, and Saturday’s MLB odds have the O’s as slight home faves.
Jason's 2015 moneyline record as of Apr. 23: 8-7, plus-0.19 units
It’s never a dull moment in the American League East. This has been baseball’s marquee division ever since the 1994 realignment, and according to the early-season grades we handed out this week, all five AL East teams merit at least a “B” thus far. That’s “B” for the Boston Red Sox, and “B” for the Baltimore Orioles, who meet Saturday night (7:05 p.m. ET) in the second of a three-game set at Camden Yards.
And yet all five teams are floating somewhere around .500 as we go to press. That means there should be some betting value going forward – especially with the Orioles, who fell under .500 after suffering a three-game sweep at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays, the top “A” team on our early report card. Can Baltimore claw back some of that money this Saturday? The MLB betting odds have the O’s listed as slight home favorites with Wei-Yin Chen taking the mound against Justin Masterson and the Sox.
C Is for Cupcake
In case you missed out on that award-deserving article, we handed out letter grades based on each team’s on-field performance, as measured by the Simple Rating System at Baseball Reference. That model takes strength of schedule into account, and go figure, the Orioles have played all their games against AL East rivals. Tough gig.
Boston started the 2015 campaign by beating the Philadelphia Phillies two games out of three, and did the same to the very average Washington Nationals (“C” on our report cards) before splitting four games against Baltimore at Fenway Park. That’s why the Red Sox are trailing the Orioles in Simple Rating System as we go to press, plus-1.9 to plus-1.2., despite leading in the MLB standings.
If we’re going to add the O’s to our MLB picks, we’re going to have to put some faith in Chen. He’s got a 6.46 FIP after three starts, dropping 1.13 units on a team record of 1-2; one of those losses was on Apr. 20 against the Red Sox (–132 at home), who chased Chen in the fourth inning of a 7-1 victory, tagging him for five runs – all unearned, mind you.
Not good, but we’re not too worried. Chen was a good source of income last year, generating 7.4 units of profit with a 3.89 FIP, and the Taiwanese native improved in each of his three MLB seasons after coming over from the Chunichi Dragons. As a flyball pitcher, there’s bound to be some variance in Chen’s home run numbers; he’s already allowed three dingers in 14.2 innings of work (1.84 HR/9), which is well above his career average of 1.22 per nine innings.
As for Masterson, he’s got a shiny three units in earnings on three Red Sox wins, including that game against Baltimore. Masterson also has a very nice 2.20 FIP thus far in his return to the team where he started his MLB career in 2008. But he needed a lot of support from his teammates in their 8-7 win over the Nationals (+116 away). And he got to pitch against the Phillies (+115 at home) in his season debut. Not a tough gig.
Since Boston did manage to light Chen up this past Monday, let’s focus on their hitters for Saturday’s fantasy needs. 2B Dustin Pedroia is 15-for-29 lifetime against Chen with a 1.231 OPS, so that’s good. But if you don’t already have Pedroia, he’s not going to be available in your league. 1B Mike Napoli, on the other hand, is just 54-percent owned in Yahoo leagues after a slow start. He’s got a .841 career OPS against Chen with a pair of home runs in 18 at-bats.
Free MLB Pick: Take the Orioles at 5Dimes