Tuesday MLB Playoffs Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions: Yankees vs. Indians Game 1 (Sept. 29)
Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured Gerrit Cole
Yankees vs. Indians Odds
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|Yankees Odds||-114 [Bet Now]|
|Indians Odds||+102 [Bet Now]|
|Over/Under||6.5 (-107/-114) [Bet Now]|
|First Pitch||Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET|
Game 1 between the Indians and Yankees features what is likely the best pitching matchup of the Wild Card Round. Gerrit Cole vs. Shane Bieber pits the best pitcher in baseball from 2019 against the best pitcher in 2020.
The Cleveland Indians finished the season in great form, winning eight of their last 10 games. The Yankees were terrific in the second half thanks to their high-powered offense. Everything points to this being the most exciting series of the round and the odds couldn’t be tighter.
Let’s dive in.
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.
New York Yankees
The Yankees really turned things around over the second half of the season. The Bronx Bombers accumulated a .340 wOBA and 116 wRC+ over the last month of the season, which ranked seventh in MLB over that span. It’s not a coincidence that the Yankees got healthy in the second half.
Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and DJ LeMahieu combined to miss 79 games this season and the Yankees still finished with the fifth best wOBA in baseball.
The Yankees rank fifth in the Majors with a .349 wOBA against right-handed pitchers, but Bieber projects to be the most difficult righty they will see this season.
Cleveland’s offense was disappointing in 2020. The Indians finished with a .303 wOBA and 86 wRC+, ranking 26th in each category. Cleveland’s bats did show some signs of life down the stretch with a .318 wOBA in its last 10 games. Jose Ramirez was a big part of that improvement as he clubbed six home runs and drove in 14 runs on his way to a .463 wOBA over his final 10 outings.
Ramirez is a bright spot, but the Indians will need to drastically improve on their regular season numbers if they want to make a run in October.
Starting Pitching Matchup
Gerrit Cole vs. Shane Bieber
2020 Stats (via Fangraphs)
Gerrit Cole, RHP
Pitch Arsenal (via Baseball Savant)
Gerrit Cole was just OK during his first year in the Bronx. His 3.38 xFIP is really good by a normal pitchers standards, but when you’re paying your No. 1 starter $324 million, you expect him to be one of the best pitchers in the league. Cole fell short of that marker in 2020.
Cole went to his fastball more often this year (53% of the time) than any other season in his career. The strategy didn’t really pay off as his heater only generated a 24.7% whiff rate and a .327 wOBA — his worst marks since 2017 with the fastball — in his 12 starts.
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Perhaps Cole’s biggest issue this season was his inability to keep the ball in the yard. He surrendered a career-worst 1.73 home runs per 9 innings (HR/9) in 2020. That was the third-highest mark of among qualified pitchers this season.
Even though the Indians have struggled on offense this year, they stand a chance against Cole.
Shane Bieber, RHP
Pitch Arsenal (via Baseball Savant)
There’s no doubting that Shane Bieber has been the best pitcher in baseball this season. He leads all qualified starters with a 2.07 xFIP and a ridiculous 14.2 K/9 rate.
The biggest change Bieber made during the offseason was a commitment to throwing his off-speed pitches more often. In 2019, he threw his fastball 45.7% of the time, that number has ticked down to 37.4% in 2020.
His fastball is a little above average — it has decent velocity — but he’s been on point with his location. His heater is producing a 25.7% whiff rate this year, compared to only a 13.7% whiff rate in 2019.
Bieber’s curveball and slider have produced terrific results in 2020. He’s only allowed 13 hits against his curveball and slider, which he’s thrown a combined 469 times. That translates to a .107 batting average against those two pitches.
The Yankees offense is top-five against fastballs, cutters and changeups, so I expect Bieber to feature his slider and curveball a lot tonight.
Cleveland has a top-five bullpen coming into the postseason. The Indians relief core collectively posted the third-best ERA (3.53) and fifth-best xFIP (4.14) during the 60-game season.
The back-end of their bullpen is stout with James Karinchak, Brad Hand and Phil Maton. Those three guys have combined for 110 strikeouts in only 70.2 innings this year.
The Yankees bullpen has been a disappointment this year. They finished with the 16th-best ERA (4.51) and xFIP (4.52) in the league, which is a major step back from their 2019 numbers.
The biggest issue has been New York’s middle relief. Jonathan Holder, Luis Cessa and Jonathan Loaisiga all have xFIPs well above 4.75 and have been the Achilles’ heel of the pen this season.
Cleveland will have the advantage in the bullpen department during this series and the Yankees better hope their starting pitchers can go deep into games so they can skip the middle part of their pen.
The wind is going to be blowing slightly out at Progressive Field on Tuesday night. So, both offenses will get a slight weather advantage against these two stellar starting pitchers.
Projections and Pick
When you see Gerrit Cole vs. Shane Bieber as the pitching matchup, the natural inclination is to take the Under. However, I think there’s a recipe for a play on the Over on Tuesday night. The Yankees offense has been red hot and Cole has not been in dominant form, so we could see more scoring than expected in this one.
I have the total for this game projected for 7.25 runs, so I think there is some value on Over 6 runs at -115 and I would bet it up to -121.
The Bet: Over 6 runs (-115)