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Astros vs. Rays Odds, Picks & Predictions: Back Underdog Houston in ALCS Opener (Sunday, Oct. 11th)

Astros vs. Rays Odds, Picks & Predictions: Back Underdog Houston in ALCS Opener (Sunday, Oct. 11th) article feature image

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images. Pictured: Houston Astros pitcher Framber Valdez.

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Astros Odds +130 [BET NOW]
Rays Odds -150 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 8.5 (+100/-121) [BET NOW]
First Pitch 7:42 p.m. ET

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After an offensive explosion against the Oakland Athletics, the Houston Astros are back in the ALCS for the fourth consecutive year. Despite being below .500 during the regular season, Houston has come alive during these playoffs and look like threat to win the world series.

Mike Brosseau’s eighth-inning home run in Game 5 of the ALDS propelled Tampa Bay past the New York Yankees.


— Starting 9 (@Starting9) October 10, 2020

The No. 1 seed in the American League will try to take care of business against Houston and get back to the World Series for the first time since 2008.

Advanced Stats Glossary

FIP or Fielding Independent Pitching measures what a pitcher’s ERA would look like if the pitcher experienced league-average defense and luck. xFIP  is a regressed version of FIP that adjusts or “normalizes’ the home run component based on park factors.

wRC+ or Weighted Runs Created Plus takes the statistic Runs Created and adjusts that number to account for critical external factors — like ballpark or era. It’s adjusted, so a wRC+ of 100 is league average, and 150 would be 50 percent above league average.

wOBA or Weighted On-Base Average is a catch-all hitting metric with more predictive value than on-base percentage. An average MLB hitter can be expected to post a .320 wOBA. xwOBA is a regressed version of wOBA that accounts for variables like park factors.

BaseRuns is a formula designed to estimate how many runs a team would be expected to score (or allow) given their underlying offensive (or defensive) performance. In other words, BaseRuns is a context-neutral run estimator used to evaluate teams. Major League average for an individual batter per game is 0.50 BaseRuns and a for a pitcher its 0.52 BaseRuns per inning.

Offensive Matchup

Houston Astros

Houston has struggled offensively coming into the postseason, accumulating a .311 wOBA and 100 wRC+. However, its offense exploded during the series against Oakland, scoring 33 runs and hitting for a .345 average.

Houston has also been below average against left-handed pitching, ranking 22nd in MLB in wOBA. However, I think the Astros’ red-hot hitting will continue against Blake Snell in Game 1.

Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay’s offense caught fire in the first half of their series against the Yankees, but went cold in Games 4 and 5 of the series. The Rays were 10th in the MLB with a .325 wOBA and a 109 wRC+, so they are difficult lineup to get through.

The Rays are an interesting team, due to the fact they rank 24th against sinkers, but tend to crush off-speed pitches. Valdez is mainly a sinker ball pitcher, so Tampa Bay could be set up for a difficult matchup.

Starting Pitching Matchup

Framber Valedz vs. Blake Snell

2020 Stats (via Fangraphs)

Framber Valdez, LHP

Pitch Arsenal (via Baseball Savant)

Framber Valdez has been Houston’s best pitcher this year. The 26-year-old lefty has posted a 3.57 ERA and a 2.94 xFIP. He’s been stellar so far in the playoffs as well, tossing 12 innings and only allowing two earned runs.

Valdez is mainly a sinker ball guy, throwing it over 50% of time. He’s been little suspect with it this year, allowing a .326 average and .338 wOBA to opponents this season. Where he’s really excelled though is with his curveball, as its been responsible for 60 of his 76 strikeouts and is producing a 41.9% whiff rate.

🎥La Curveball de Framber #Valdez a été dévastatrice !

1️⃣1️⃣ K pour notre gaucher qui enregistre sa 4️⃣eme Win de la saison.#fortheH

— Astros France🇫🇷🇺🇸-😷 (@AstrosFrance) September 18, 2020

The Rays have been pretty good against lefties and curveballs this year, so Valdez will have to be on point with his sinker in Game 1.

Blake Snell, LHP

Pitch Arsenal (via Baseball Savant)

Snell has been a strikeout machine in 2020 posting a 11.34 K/9, which ranks 10th among MLB starting pitchers. That has led to an xFIP of 3.03, which second on the team to only Tyler Glasnow.

Snell is predominately a fastball pitcher, but he’s been struggling with it this year. He averages just over 95 MPH with the heater, but his location has been off, allowing a .444 wOBA to opponents. In fact, eight of his 10 home runs that he’s surrendered have come against his fastball. That may become an issue against this Astros lineup that has been crushing fastballs during the postseason.

Snell’s secondary pitches have been nasty this year. His changeup, curveball, and slider have combined to allow a .132 average to opponents and all are producing over a 30% whiff rate. He will have to utilize those secondary pitches more often in Game 1 if he’s going to shut down Houston’s red hot offense.

Bullpen Matchup

After starting out the season as one of the worst in baseball, the Astros bullpen has steadily improved over the second half of the season. However, the bullpen finished with the 14th best xFIP in baseball (4.43) and likely won’t provide Houston with an advantage in this series.

Tampa Bay has one of the best bullpens in baseball, collectively ranking second in ERA (3.37) and sixth in xFIP (4.16). Nick Anderson and Jalen Beeks have by far been their best two relievers this year posting xFIPs below 3. Anderson has been almost un-hittable, allowing five hits in 16.1 innings. The Rays bullpen was stellar in Games 4 & 5 of the Yankees’ series, allowing just four runs in 13 innings.

Projections and Pick

I think the Astros are undervalued in Game 1. Snell is obviously one of the best left-handed pitchers in baseball, but the way Valdez has been pitching this year should give him a slight advantage. I’ll take the defending AL champs at +130 and would play them up to +115.

The PICK: Astros +130 (play up to +115)

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