Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Kevin Gausman
Seattle Mariners at Baltimore Orioles, 7:05 p.m. ET
- Mariners (James Paxton): -135
- Orioles (Kevin Gausman): +125
- Over/under: 8.5
Bet to Watch
After having success yesterday with a super-contrarian play in Kansas City, I figured I should naturally target an even worse club. And in Baltimore, I have my team.
In this matchup, we have the opportunity to catch two teams in the midst of opposite regressions. Early this season, the Orioles graded out as the worst team in baseball by basically any measure — and usually by a wide margin. However, that has started to change recently. It probably helped that they decided to take the worst hitter in MLB history (2018 Chris Davis) out of their lineup for about 10 days.
Although you can squabble about just how much (or little) home-field advantage matters at Camden Yards (since nobody seems to go anymore), it does hold some value. Over the course of this season, the O’s should win more than their current home winning percentage of 31%.
Also, several Oriole hitters (especially Mark Trumbo) have suddenly looked like major-leaguers over the past 14 days. I’m not saying they’ll suddenly make a run at the wild card, but the consensus of what the Orioles “are” (the worst team) isn’t predictive of their future performance. And in single-game situations, that disconnect can provide small amounts of inherent contrarian value.
On the other side of the diamond, Seattle has overachieved this season by countless measures. Despite a 2018 season win total of 81.5, the Mariners sit at 48-31 just a few weeks from the All-Star break. A truly remarkable feat, especially considering they lost Robinson Cano to suspension.
Seattle’s success in close games has helped drive this surprise start. The M’s are 6-0 in extra innings and 23-11 in one-run games. If you like sweating a game, the Mariners are for you.
However, there are huge elements of randomness and luck that play into those categories over the short run. As such, Seattle has a Pythagorean win-loss record of just 41-38. The Mariners have easily been the “luckiest” team in baseball up to this point. Even if you argue that a stellar bullpen, roster talent and managerial decisions can help in close games, I think it’s safe to say that the average bettor has an inflated view of the Mariners. And not surprisingly, the early ticket count heavily favors Seattle.
Not only do I get to take on the luckiest team in baseball with an improving “terrible” team (at home), I also like some other unique factors. Gausman finds himself in the middle of a really productive stretch with no significant negative indicators. Meanwhile, Paxton — Seattle’s ace — has struggled in back-to-back starts (granted against New York and Boston). Even if those numbers are a little inflated, Gausman vs. Paxton came up way more even in my model than I originally anticipated when looking at both names on paper.
Baltimore can also field a lineup of eight right-handed hitters (with strong wOBA and ISO splits vs. lefties) against Paxton. Those bats will also benefit from wind blowing out to left field. And while I don’t adjust my model for batter vs. pitcher history, it’s a nice bonus that several Orioles have had success against Paxton — even if it’s not the largest sample size.
Can I pull off the rarest-of-rare exactas in sports by winning back-to-back games with the Royals and Orioles? If so, I’m betting on the Washington Generals tomorrow. They’re due.
The Pick: Orioles +125
Editor’s note: The opinion on this game is from the individual writer and is based on his research, analysis and perspective. It is independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.