MLB Betting Notes: Chris Sale, Sean Manaea Duke It Out by the Bay
Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Sean Manaea
It’s only April, but the AL East is shaping up to be a gauntlet. The Red Sox are flying, the Blue Jays are hot out of the gates, and the preseason favorite Yankees are struggling to get it together — but that will likely change soon.
The early landscape in the division has added some weight to these April games, which is always nice as an onlooker.
Things get started early on Saturday as the Bombers take on Long Island native Marcus Stroman and the Blue Jays at 1:05 p.m. ET. After an 8-5 loss as heavy favorites last night, the Yankees will look to avoid a second straight defeat and stay within striking distance of the top of the division.
After the Yankees and Jays battle it out early, Boston ace Chris Sale will take on another electric southpaw, Oakland’s Sean Manaea, on the West Coast. Manaea (pictured above) is off to a great start for the A’s, and even though he’s not in the same tier as Sale, there are plenty of similarities between the two. This could be a powerful pitching matchup.
Happy Saturday, let’s get to work.
Toronto Blue Jays (+136) @ New York Yankees (-151) | O/U: 9
1:05 p.m. ET
Marcus Stroman (0-1, 7.98 ERA) vs. Jordan Montgomery (1-0, 4.70 ERA)
Fortune Favors: Heading into Friday night’s contest, the Blue Jays led the league with a 161 wRC+ (weighted runs created plus, average is 100) and a .409 wOBA (weighted on-base average, average is ~.320) with runners in scoring position, suggesting they’ve been pretty lucky offensively. The Yankees, meanwhile, are average in both wRC+ and wOBA with RISP this season but rank fourth in the Majors in wRC+ and wOBA in all situations.
The Yanks haven’t been lucky on the other side of the ball, either. The Bombers currently boast a 4.47 ERA, which is much higher than their 3.24 xFIP (a regressed version of fielding independent pitching that should, in theory, match the subject’s ERA), suggesting they’ve gotten the short end of the stick. The Blue Jays are in the opposite category, as their 3.83 ERA outpaces their 4.13 xFIP. — Michael Leboff
The Full Monty: Jordan Montgomery seems like a nice, Southern-hospitality kind of dude. He sort of pitches like one, too. The second-year southpaw doesn’t overpower hitters with velocity (or velo if you’re trying to fit in at the cool kids’ table at the SABR Show), but he has a good fastball that primarily serves to get ahead in the count to set up his curveball. Montgomery’s deuce gets hitters to chase often, so he’s a strikeout artist in the sense that he gets K’s by crafting at-bats rather than blowing balls by hitters. Still, expect a lot of contact in this one, as both Montgomery and his counterpart, Marcus Stroman, aren’t ones to chase punchouts. — Michael Leboff
Stro-Show: Toronto has gone 7-0 straight-up at home when Marcus Stroman starts against New York, and his ERA in those games is 2.33. But the Jays are 2-5 on the road when their ace faces the Yankees, and Stroman’s ERA increases to 5.17 in those situations . — John Ewing
Stroman has been absolutely horrific this year on the surface (7.98 ERA, 16 K/10 BB). While he does need to limit his walks (6.1 per 9), his FIP of 3.89 is actually right on par with his 2017 FIP of 3.90, when he finished with an ERA of 3.09. He can thank a .378 BABIP for that. The groundball specialist has actually had an excellent GB/FB ratio this season (2.29 compared to 1.68 last season). Expect Stroman to turn it around when his string of bad luck ends. — Stuckey
To Err Is Human: The Yankees’ defense has been a problem. They lead the AL with 18 errors through just 17 games. They’ve also allowed nine stolen bases in 10 opportunities — that 90% success rate ranks 26th in baseball. Add in 10 wild pitches (T-6th most) and three passed balls (T-2nd most), and you get a fielding percentage of .971, the worst in baseball. The Yankees weren’t a great fielding team last season (18th in fielding percentage), but they need to stop giving away as many outs as they have been. Things have gotten so bad that manager Aaron Boone organized a defensive practice session before the game on Friday. — Stuckey
Bronx Blues: Jordan Montgomery has started eight games in his career at 1 p.m. ET. The Yankees are 2-6 on the moneyline in those eight starts, including losses in their last three at home with Montgomery allowing 11 earned runs in total in the three starts. Montgomery owns an ERA of 5.08 when starting a game at 1 p.m. ET over the course of his career. — Evan Abrams
Boston Red Sox (-163) @ Oakland Athletics (+147) | O/U: 7
9:05 p.m. ET
Chris Sale (1-0, 1.23 ERA) vs. Sean Manaea (2-2, 1.63 ERA)
The Baby Giraffe: Sean Manaea has good stuff, but he’s been blessed by the baseball gods in the early going. The 26-year-old’s BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is .169, and he’s striking out only 6.51 batters per nine innings — which is unusually low for the southpaw. Plus, his 4.11 FIP suggests that 1.63 ERA won’t be around much longer. — Michael Leboff
On the Defensive: I mentioned how bad the Yankees’ defense has been earlier in this space. Well, the same can’t be said for the Red Sox. You will hear a lot of talk about how dominant the Red Sox’s offense has been (and rightfully so), but their defense has been equally great. Boston leads the American League in fewest errors (five) and fielding percentage (.992). Small sample size or longer-term trend? Some may be surprised by their start in the field after finishing 26th in both fielding percentage and defensive efficiency rating in 2017. — Stuckey
Closing Time: Is Craig Kimbrel the best regular season closer in MLB history? I won’t touch the postseason, where Mariano Rivera clearly holds that title. However, let’s dig into some historical save percentage numbers. Many don’t know that Kimbrel actually has the highest save percentage of qualified closers in the history of MLB.
Rivera 652/732 (.891)
Hoffman 601/677 (.888)
Kimbrel 296/325 (.911)
Most saves striking out every batter in MLB history (career):
Fun Fact: Boston enters the 20th game of the season with a winning percentage above .800. Since 2005, only three other games have been played later in the season with one team having won at least 80% of its games: the 2016 Chicago Cubs in Games 32 and 33 and the 2005 Chicago White Sox in Game 21. — John Ewing
Spring Sale: Chris Sale’s utter domination of the early parts of the regular season has continued into 2018. Throughout his career in March, April and May, Sale is 44-15 (74.6%) on the moneyline for +17.3 units. However, Sale is only 62-64 (49.2%) on the moneyline (-22 units) in June or later. When Sale faces an opponent outside of his own division in May or earlier, he is 23-5 (82.1%), but two of his five losses have come against the Athletics in Oakland. — Evan Abrams