Wednesday MLB Playoffs Odds, Picks, Projections: Can Chris Sale Shut Down Astros’ Bats for Red Sox?
Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images. Pictured: Chris Sale
Throughout the Major League Baseball postseason, I will provide a daily breakdown summarizing my thoughts on futures and individual games.
I will also address betting these playoff series, whether on the series moneyline or a game-by-game basis, while using my daily MLB Model projections.
Let’s talk series prices and World Series futures before digging into Tuesday’s NLCS Game 4 (Dodgers vs. Braves) and ALCS Game 5 (Red Sox vs. Astros).
Series Moneyline Corner
Here are my updated ML projections for the two league championship series matchups:
The Dodgers’ NL pennant chances improved by 13% following their Game 3 win – where they had just a 7% chance of victory down three runs in the eighth inning.
I would bet the Braves series ML up to -113 (53% implied) with an extra game in hand.
However, we’ll continue to get plus-money prices on the Atlanta ML from game to game throughout the remainder of that series. And I’m not rushing to lay juice on their series price, particularly with an NL Pennant ticket at +700, and a series ML bet at +130 from before Game 2.
The Astros improved their AL pennant chances by 21% (from 33% to 54%) following their comeback victory in Game 4.
I would need +127 (44% implied) to bet Boston on the series ML. I already have a series bet on Boston (at +125) from before Game 1, so there’s no need to force another play. However, I am very focused on optimizing my overall position around my Astros World Series tickets.
Still, there’s a better place to find value on the Red Sox in the futures market.
World Series Futures Update
Here are my updated World Series projections for the four remaining teams, alongside listed odds at DraftKings:
Boston remains the only team showing value in the World Series futures market, and I would bet their futures down to +410 (implied 19.6%) at a 2% edge compared to my projection.
With the ALCS deadlocked at 2-2, jumping in on Boston at a ripe price before their final home game in the ALCS seems wise – even if you have Astros futures.
Boston offers more value in the World Series market than they do on their series ML
As a refresher, here’s how my World Series projections have evolved throughout the season:
Astros vs. Red Sox, Game 5 (5:08 p.m. ET)
Game 5 of the ALCS series is a rematch from Game 1, with Framber Valdez (3.78 xERA, 3.58 xFIP, 3.79 SIERA) facing Chris Sale (3.49 xERA, 3.35 xFIP, 3.44 SIERA).
Valdez defeated the Red Sox twice in June (combined 14 1/3 innings, 10 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 18 K) but he couldn’t find his command last Friday (2 2/3 innings, 3 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 2 K); leading to a very short outing.
Sale (2 2/3 innings, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K) was equally shaky that night while throwing his fastball and slider a combined 90% of the time (80% in 2021).
Houston’s offense has excelled against fastballs (10th), sliders (4th), and changeups (2nd) this season – so Sale really has nowhere to hide.
I could say the same for Boston’s offense, which has shown success against all pitch types. Still, they have performed better against righties (109 wRC+, 5th in MLB) than lefties (102 wRC+, 10th); and their split has grown wider since the trade deadline (1st vs. RHP; 13th vs. LHP).
Houston had the best offense in baseball against lefties this season (117 wRC+) – an unofficial title they have held in four of five years, dating back to 2017.
I still have my doubts about Sale’s immediate effectiveness in his progression after Tommy John surgery. He’s significantly less effective at league average velocity than he was at 96-98 mph from the left side:
In a limited sample, Sale’s strikeout minus walk rate (21.9%) this year was his lowest since 2016, and his lowest in Boston by 7.7%. His swinging-strike rate and zone percentage also declined by a few points this year.
Sale has typically limited home runs throughout his career (0.96 HR/9), but since the start of the 2019 season, he has allowed 30 round-trippers in 34 starts (1.42 HR/9).
Valdez (0.83 HR/9) is the man more likely to limit the longball – which is huge in any game but amplified in the postseason. His sinker (74.4% GB%), changeup (70.4%), and curveball (59.5%) all generate grounders, leading to the highest groundball rate (70.3%) amongst starting pitchers – by nearly 10% (Logan Webb ranks second, at 60.7%)
Flat-out disgusting sinker by Framber Valdez pic.twitter.com/HdIICar840
— Nick Pollack (@PitcherList) June 3, 2021
Valdez had seemingly refined his command issues in a small sample last season (5.6% BB%), but his walk rate regressed this season (10.1%) back towards his career mark (10.6%).
The southpaw remains one of my favorite pitchers in the game, Still, he hasn’t been nearly as sharp in 2021 (11.7% K-BB%) as he was last year (20.8% K-BB%).
Perhaps his spring training finger injury is to blame, or maybe his short-sample 2020 season was merely an outlier. But once a player displays a skill, they own it – and Valdez seemingly has another level to unlock.
Still, I make Sale the slightly better pitcher in this matchup (by 0.20 runs per game), and I project the home team as a very slight favorite – as I have in almost every game in this series.
Brooks Raley and Phil Maton – who worked back-to-back days in Games 3 and 4 – as well as Cristian Javier – who worked three innings on Tuesday – may be unavailable for Dusty Baker on Wednesday.
Still, I show Houston with the superior bullpen (by 0.39 runs per game) on top of slight offensive advantages.
I would bet Boston to-102 (50.5% implied) at a two percent edge compared to my projection, either on the First Five Innings (F5) or full game moneyline.
And I would set the price target on the Astros to +120 (45.5% implied) in either half.
With regard to the totals, I would bet an Over 9 (to -104), or an Under 9.5 (to +105).
Additionally, I would bet an F5 Over 4.5 (to -102) or an Under 5 (to -105).
Braves vs. Dodgers, Game 4 (8:08 p.m. ET)
The Braves don’t have a true fourth starter on their roster, and the Dodgers utilized Julio Urías in relief in Game 2 – leaving some lingering questions as to how both teams will manage their pitching staffs for Game 4.
I would expect Atlanta to use a mix of righty Huascar Ynoa (4.30 xERA, 3.40 xFIP, 3.61 SIERA), and lefty Drew Smyly (5.02 xERA, 4.39 xFIP, 4.40 SIERA) as bulk options.
Tyler Matzek, and Luke Jackson – who allowed all four runs and took the loss on Tuesday – have worked in all three games of this series, and may be unavailable.
Between Smyly’s left-handed curveball (42% usage) and Ynoa’s righty slider (48% usage), Atlanta can turn over the lineup with a couple of signature pitches and hope to mix and match their way to victory.
Huascar Ynoa, K'ing the Side. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/m0zrN8fhOi
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 1, 2021
The Dodgers will surely deploy the southpaw Urías (3.12 xERA, 3.73 xFIP, 3.64 SIERA) at some point, after throwing just 14 pitches on Sunday. The right-handed flamethrower Brusdar Graterol (2.92 xERA, 4.18 xFIP, 4.01 SIERA) will be allotted five or six outs, and Blake Treinen (2.45 xERA, 3.25 xFIP, 3.15 SIERA) should be good for an inning.
Los Angeles used eight relievers – including Tony Gonsolin – behind Walker Buehler on Tuesday. Kenley Jansen, Joe Kelly, and Alex Vesia have pitched in all three games in this series.
The combination of Urías, Graterol, and Treinen gets the Dodgers five or six innings. Dave Roberts and a tired group of relievers will have to figure out the remainder; with rest for Game 5 on Thursday to keep in mind too.
Atlanta’s bullpen is in slightly better shape than the Dodgers for Game 4 – and this is the closest that I have projected these two bullpens all series (3.63 vs. 3.80 Model Weighted ERA).
Still, I have a difficult time getting Atlanta above 40% in any of these road matchups with the reigning champions:
I would bet the Braves F5 ML to +199, and their full game ML to +176.
I would have needed -168 and -149, respectively, to have bet the Dodgers at a similar edge.
I would set the boundaries for actionable totals between Over 7.5 (to -110) and Under 8.5 (to -108).
An F5 Over 4 (to -108) or an Under 4.5 (to +102) are some other possible plays.
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- Astros/Red Sox — F5 Under 5 (bet to -105)
- Atlanta ML (bet to +176)
- Atlanta +1.5 Runs (bet to -112)
Boston Red Sox vs. Houston Astros
- Astros/Red Sox — Over 9 (to -105) or Under 9.5 (to +105)
- Houston ML (wait for +120)
- Houston F5 ML (wait for +120)
- Boston — Series ML (value to +127)
- Boston — To Win World Series (value to +410)
Atlanta Braves vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
- Atlanta F5 ML (wait for +199)
- Atlanta — Series ML (value to -113)
- Braves/Dodgers — Over 7.5 (to -110) or Under 8.5 (to -108)
- Braves/Dodgers — F5 Over 4 (to -108) or Under 4.5 (to +102)
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