Tuesday MLB Playoff Betting Odds, Picks and Predictions: Blue Jays vs. Rays (Sept. 29)
Mike Carlson/Getty Images. Pictured: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays.
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It’s only fitting that an unusual regular season is followed by an unusual postseason, and Major League Baseball is giving us just that.
As a result of the 16-team playoff, four AL Wild Card Series games will get underway today, and three of them have caught the betting attention of our experts:
- Astros vs. Twins (2 p.m. ET, ABC)
- White Sox vs. Athletics (3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
- Blue Jays vs. Rays (5 p.m. ET, TBS)
Note: Odds as of 11:30 a.m. ET.
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.
Danny Donahue: Astros vs. Twins Under 7.5 (-118)
I’m pretty much following the lead of those smarter than me with this take.
There’s been no question as to how sharps are seeing this game, both on the moneyline (more on that here) and total, but the latter specifically has my attention as it hasn’t moved out of the range I’m comfortable betting as a result of that sharp action.
As of Tuesday morning, only 24% of bets on the total have landed on the under, yet the number has fallen from its earliest opener of 8 (with a -119 under) down to 7.5, and from there has seen the juice once again rise to the under, which now sits around -120 at most shops.
The under has also accounted for 76% of actual money hitting the total, another giveaway that sharps are banking on a bit of a pitcher’s duel.
And while key numbers are generally reserved for football, seven- and nine-run games are the most common totals in baseball (with no ties, 3-3 games often become 4-3, and same goes for 4-4 into 5-4). So staying on top of that “key” number is enough for me to feel comfortable up to -125.
Sean Zerillo: Chicago White Sox F5 (-130), White Sox Moneyline (-120), White Sox Series Price (-110)
I’m much more bullish on the White Sox in a three-game series against the Oakland Athletics than than the rest of the betting market — setting them as a 66% favorite for the series (implied odds of -194) and at 64.5% (implied -182) in Game 1.
Chicago is the better team top-to-bottom for a three game set — particularly when two of the Athletics’ top starting pitchers, including Game 1 starter Jesus Luzardo, are left-handed.
The new-look White Sox finished with a 112 wRC+ (sixth in MLB) in the regular season, compared to a 101 wRC+ for the A’s, who were below average (97 wRC+) after the season-ending injury to Matt Chapman.
But Chicago obliterated left-handed pitching in 2020, to the tune of an .887 OPS and a 143 wRC+ — the best mark against southpaw pitching dating back to 2002. They can roll out a full lineup of right-handed or switch-hitting bats (wRC+ vs. LH):
- Tim Anderson (300)
- Yoan Moncada (105)
- Yasmani Grandal (147)
- Jose Abreu (135)
- Eloy Jimenez (132)
- Edwin Encarnacion (92)
- Luis Robert (123)
- Adam Engel (114)
- Nick Madrigal (22)
Furthermore, Chicago played significantly better defense than Oakland, recording +23 Defensive Runs Saved, compared to -19 for the Athletics, who have major holes in the infield defensively (-9 at 2B; -8 at SS; injury to best defensive 3B and player in the game) outside of Matt Olson (+5).
I have heard a couple of analysts tout Oakland’s bullpen advantage — but it doesn’t really come across in the metrics.
Chicago finished eighth in bullpen xFIP (4.22), one spot ahead of the A’s (4.27), who owned slightly better command of the zone (+1.9% in K-BB%), but who also had an outlier strand rate (82.2% — about 10% above league average) which is likely to regress.
The White Sox also got their best reliever, Aaron Bummer (career 3.55 xFIP), back for the final week of the season. His presence is vital to their making a championship run:
Luzardo didn’t live up to sky-high expectations in 2020 — partly due to his relative struggles against righties (.314 wOBA; .254 wOBA vs. LHH), even though he has an excellent changeup.
Giolito powered his 2019 breakout (3.43 xFIP) into 2020 dominance (3.19), and he is a clear-cut top 12 starter in baseball. Luzardo still has another tier jump to make.
I played the Sox’ series price at -110, and their Game 1 line at -115; I would bet those plays to -127 (implied 56% and 10% edge) and -157 (implied 61% and a 3.5% edge) respectively for one unit each.
Furthermore, I played the Sox F5 moneyline — projected at 66.4% or -198 — at -130, and I would bet that up to -160 for a half unit.
BJ Cunningham: Blue Jays vs. Rays Over 7.5 (+100)
Matt Shoemaker’s 2020 season has been one to forget. He’s only had six starts this season due to injury, but they did not go well. He posted a 4.71 ERA and 4.14 in those six starts and three of those starts came against the Rays.
He had major issues with the long ball as he allowed eight home runs in only 28.2 innings of work. The weird part about Shoemaker is every one of his pitches has been pretty successful, expert for his sinker, which is allowing a .501 wOBA to opponents in 2020.
He’ll have a tough matchup against a Rays offense that has been above average all season long, ranking 10th in the majors with a .329 wOBA and 108 wRC+. Brandon Lowe has been the clear leader of their offense this season, hitting 14 homers and driving in 37 runs.
What is interesting about the Rays is that they rank 24th against fastballs and sinkers, but crush off-speed pitches, so it’ll be on Shoemaker to use his sinker and fastball to navigate his way through this lineup.
Blake Snell hasn’t regressed that much this season, and posted some stellar numbers, including a 3.06 xFIP. However, the Blue Jays offense finished in style, accumulating a .361 wOBA and wRC+ over the final week of the season.
Toronto has found success against lefties this season, with a .327 wOBA and 107 wRC+. The Blue Jays also rank in the top half of MLB against fastballs, curveball and changeups, which are three of Blake Snell’s main pitches.
I think given the way these two offenses have performed this year, this total is way too low. I have 8.76 runs projected for Game 1, so I think there is plenty of value on over 7.5 runs at +100.
Mike Vitanza: Blue Jays vs. Rays Over 7.5 (+100)
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. And I agree with BJ: 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 relatively quickly. I’m comfortable risking half a unit and betting on the offenses to take advantage of their respective matchups.