MLB Odds, Picks and Predictions: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Tampa Bay Rays Game 1 Preview (Tuesday, Sept. 29)
Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images. Pictured: Toronto Blue Jays standout Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Blue Jays vs. Rays Odds
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|Blue Jays Odds||+170 [Bet Now]|
|Rays Odds||-200 [Bet Now]|
|Over/Under||7.5 (+100/-122) [Bet Now]|
|First Pitch||Tuesday, 5 p.m. ET|
The Tampa Bay Rays (40-20) enter the American League Wild Card round of Major League Baseball’s postseason as the top seed. They face the Toronto Blue Jays (32-28), a division rival whom they went 6-4 against during the regular season.
Despite the winning record , the season series was even closer than it appears. Five of those games were decided by one run or less and three were decided by just two runs.
Toronto finished the regular season with a 6-4 record over their final 10 game and saw its offense come to life over that span. Down the stretch, the Blue Jays averaged 6.4 runs per game and played well enough to earn the eighth seed in the playoffs.
Tampa Bay was even better to close things out, going 8-2 over its final 10 games to cement its status as the A.L.’s top dog. The Rays’ 40 wins were second overall in baseball, only trailing the Los Angeles Dodgers.
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.
Tampa Bay Rays
Blake Snell will take the mound for Tampa Bay in Game 1. Snell’s season numbers were impressive. In 50 innings pitched, he collected a 3.24 ERA and had an above-average 11.34 K/9.
That said, those numbers are a bit misleading. Snell’s 4.35 FIP was more than a run higher than his ERA and his 1.80 HR/9 was substantially higher than the 1.18 HR/9 he averaged a season ago. That won’t fly against a Blue Jays team that was fourth in the league with 88 home runs.
Overall, the Blue Jays were above average against left-handed pitching, collectively hitting to a .327 wOBA (11th best in all of baseball). They also posted a 107 wRC+ against southpaws, fourth best in the league.
Snell did find success in limited innings against Toronto, this year, though. In 7.2 innings pitched, he allowed just two earned runs and struck out 14 batters.
Toronto Blue Jays
Matt Shoemaker gets the unlikely start for the Toronto. Shoemaker struggled over his six starts this season, pitching to a 5.95 FIP while allowing 2.51 HR/9 over 28.2 innings.
He missed a month of the season with a lat injury and has made just one appearance since returning to the team. In that start, he allowed one earned run on three hits in three innings.
Shoemaker still hasn’t been fully stretched out, so this will likely become a bullpen game sooner rather than later for the Blue Jays. Their bullpen was mediocre at best during the regular season, collectively pitching to a 4.57 FIP and 4.84 xFIP. A major part of their struggles was tied to walks, with their 4.8 BB/9 ranking as the 5th highest in all of baseball.
Meanwhile, the Rays were league-average against right-handed pitching with a .319 wOBA on the season in such matchups. They’ve shown a penchant for taking advantage of subpar pitching, though, with 11 of their 40 wins coming in games where they scored at least seven runs.
I fully expect Tampa Bay to win Game 1. At -200, however, I don’t see much value on the money line.
The total, on the other hand, is more reflective of a Game 1 with two aces dueling it out. That will not be the case in this showdown.
Toronto is starting a struggling pitcher and will transition the game to a mediocre bullpen. On the other side, the Rays will be sending out an underperforming starter against a Blue Jays team that hit left-handed pitching well during the regular season.
There is a reasonable chance that this game goes over — and relatively quickly. I’m comfortable risking half a unit and betting on the offenses to take advantage of their respective matchups.
The Pick: Over 7.5 runs +100 (Play up to 8 runs)