Point Blank – July 9
A Tigers Tale for the Ages (yet why so quiet?)…There can never be too many Charles Mackay references…Revisiting those Arrows from Archer…Why don’t the markets like Alex Wood?
One of the greatest point spread streaks in the history of sports betting is currently in play, the Detroit Tigers having played Over the Total in 19 consecutive games. It is a rather mind-boggling achievement for two reasons, first naturally being the length of the run, and second how little activity it has actually caused in the marketplace. Have there been bettors flocking to take the ride? Actually no. Yesterday the Detroit/Seattle Total opened 7.5 -105 at Pinnacle, and closed 7.5 Under -122, significant money showing in that direction. So let’s break it down.
In the NBA or the NFL, a run of 19-0 vs. lines that are within a sneeze of being 50/50 propositions would be almost unheard of. Once a run has reached a half dozen a major buzz sets in, and the oddsmakers have the task of adjusting to knock it down, since a significant part of such a streak happening would be a team either over-valued in a major way, or under-valued. On the Major League diamonds that is not the case, Detroit is a different team based on the starting pitcher that day, as is the opposition. Through this run it has been four starts each from David Price, Alfredo Simon and Anibal Sanchez, three from Justin Verlander and Kyle Ryan, and one from Buck Farmer. Meanwhile it has been 19 different opposing starters. In other words, a lot of moving parts in play.
There has been an additional wild card element – the Tigers have scored 36 runs in the five games played without Miguel Cabrera, including a most unlikely 23 in a three-game set in Seattle, outscoring the projected Total of 22.5 by themselves across the series. Jefrey Marte, Marc Kraus and Andrew Romine each got a start at 1B vs. the Mariners, combining for 5-13 with two HRs. That is above Cabrera’s production level; it won’t last.
Now for that Part II, and it stems back to something that I mentioned on a Pregame First Preview radio show early in the season, which led to some good discussion – the current baseball market is dominated by a couple of major groups, with the betting public having as little influence on the lines as in any sport cycle in my career. As such a streak like the one Detroit is on becomes immune from the “madness of crowds” (if you have not read your Charles Mackay by now, either buy a copy to hold in your hands, or accept the generosity of the folks at Project Gutenberg). Some of the sharpest baseball minds out there, you see, might not even be aware the streak is taking place. Seriously.
Here is the gist, and it is worth taking the time to absorb. Actual game results are not a major factor in the handicapping processes of these organizations. Wins and Losses, like everything else that takes place on the diamonds, are statistics that reflect performances, but they are not near the top of the totem pole when it comes to being predictive. So at the highest levels, baseball is not thought of as a team game, but rather as two distinct entities – Offense and Defense, the latter being predominantly pitching. Those two factors do not connect much at all, and as such are treated distinctly. At those high levels, you will find outstanding metrics used for offensive production, and for pitching, and some of them get discussed here in the daily flow. They are then matched up to generate game projections.
For example, a working model might come back tonight with a projection of the St. Louis offense vs. Jeff Locke and the Pirate bullpen being 3.6 runs, and perhaps the Pirates into Carlos Martinez and the Cardinal pen at 3.5. That becomes the starting point to build out the game model. The fact that St. Louis is 55-30 is only seen through the collective Hitting and Pitching calculations, and not the game outcomes. There are some really sharp guys that might not even know that the Cardinals are 55-30.
Have I explained that well? The thread is open for the usual questions. The key is that if the Green Bay Packers were to go on a 19-0 ATS run, or the same length either Over or Under, the markets would quake, and every sophisticated dollar in play would be aware of it. The lines would be impacted. But what does the 19-0 Detroit Over run mean today? To the sharpest groups, nothing at all, and because of that not all that much to the oddsmakers. It will be all about David Price and the Tiger bullpen vs. the Minnesota offense, and the ratings of Mike Pelfrey and the Twin relievers vs. the Tiger offense. And with Price having allowed two runs or less in eight of his last nine starts, there is actually an anchoring in play that keeps the Over surge from having much line impact.
Answering the Chris Archer Question
Last Friday there was a sub-headline detailing the potential struggles ahead for what had been the American League’s best pitcher through the first half of the season – “Are Chris Archer’s arrows now being shot too high”.That indeed has turned out to be the case. Archer is still sitting on a 9-6/2.74, with a 2.65 FIP, which is outstanding, and his command of the strike zone shows in both a career-high 10.9 K/9 and a career-low 2.22 BB/9. But what had made him really explode from the gate this season was also getting a lot of ground-ball outs, far above his career norms. That was what brought Archer into focus last Friday, and since then it has been even worse – his two lowest percentages of the season in that category have followed. Here is a look at how much that category has turned for him over the course of the season -
Chris Archer GB%
First 9 Last 10
Follow this category closely when he returns from the All Star game. Also for those of you that keep your own statistics, there is an adjustment to be made from his showing last night. Archer deserves to be punished for a hard hit ball off of the bat of Jarrod Dyson that rolled around and became a HR, but that is better charted as a double. Archer was bad at Kansas City, but not quite as bad as the way the traditional box scores will measure.
In the Sights…
I don’t know why the markets don’t like Alex Wood. If he gets the Rockies out without a run in the first inning tonight, he will reach the 350 inning mark of his career with an ERA of 3.00 (3.02 going in), and with that being supported by a 3.13 FIP there is validity behind the numbers. Could it be that his 20-19 W/L mark simply does not set off fireworks? Or that he is one of those pitchers that just lacks sex appeal, a case of someone that does a little of everything right, without dominating in any category? His average per-game price this season is a +109, and the fact that #905 Atlanta is available for as low as -112 this morning means time to get in play in a setting that brings a major mismatch between the starting pitchers.
Kyle Kendrick has been discussed often on these pages this season, beginning with “A veteran starter makes a ‘rocky’ career move” back in mid-April, and having the Coors Field mound as his new home is simply a bad fit. At the best of times Kendrick could not do much more than pitch to contact, needing pin-point control to survive, but now his K/9 is down to 4.8 and his GB% at a career-low 38.7, and it is difficult to survive anywhere with that, much less this environment, with the NL’s worst PADE gloves behind him.
How bad has it been? The Rockies have gone 2-5 behind his five home starts, getting out-scored by 13 runs, and Kendrick has worked to a 6.70, with 13 home runs allowed over 41 2/3 IP, and only 18 K to go with 15 BB. For his career it has been a 6.01 from this mound, and a 2.04 HR/9. There just is not any reason to believe that he is going to get any better, so with the Wood/Kendrick mismatch at nearly three full runs of ERA and FIP, and a hot closer in Jason Grilli rested and ready (nine K, 0 hits over his last five outings), the Braves bring solid value at this price point over the slumping Rockies.
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