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MLB Odds, Preview, Prediction: for Yankees vs. Athletics: Can New York Bounce Back to Win Series in Oakland? (August 29)

MLB Odds, Preview, Prediction: for Yankees vs. Athletics: Can New York Bounce Back to Win Series in Oakland? (August 29) article feature image

Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images. Pictured: Oakland Athletics standout Starling Marte.

  • Oakland closes out its series with the New York Yankees in a Sunday Night Baseball showdown.
  • The Athletics, who snapped the Yankees' 13-game winning streak in Saturday's win, are making a push for a playoff spot.
  • Sean Zerillo takes an in-depth look at this matchup and explains why he's siding with the underdog Athletics.

Yankees vs. Athletics Odds

Yankees Odds-155
Athletics Odds+135
Over/Under9 (-115 / -105)
Time7:08 p.m. ET
Odds as of Sunday morning via Bet365

Sunday Night Baseball could end up as a potential AL Wild Card preview, as the New York Yankees (76-53) and Oakland Athletics (71-59) finish their season series.

The two teams are no strangers in the postseason, facing off in the 2018 AL Wild Card and ALDS in 2000 and 2001. Still, Oakland has some work to do in securing the AL’s final playoff spot. The Athletics currently sit 3.5 games behind the Boston Red Sox, while the Yankees hold a two-game advantage over their AL East rivals.

The Bronx Bombers have surged in August after an active trade deadline, compiling a 21-4 record (+57 run differential) that included a 13-game winning streak Oakland snapped with Saturday’s 3-2 victory.

The A’s are just 11-12 in August and 22-25 since the start of July despite a +23 run differential. Oakland needs to get hot down the stretch to make up ground in the playoff hunt.

So, who has the edge in this matchup and where does the betting value lie?

Yankees Relying on Powerful Offensive Attack

New York’s revamped offense has been dominant over the past month, posting a 116 wRC+ (3rd in MLB) since Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo joined the fold. Still, they have continued to struggle against right-handed pitching with a 96 wRC+ (13th), despite the addition of those left-handed bats. Through July, New York has posted a 92 wRC+ (17th) vs. righty pitching.

It’s dangerous to read too much into splits — or any stat — over that small of a sample, but the presence of those lefty bats, alongside the previously righty-heavy lineup, which includes D.J. Lemahieu, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela, has at least provided a different look for opposing pitchers.

One recent roster addition who has surprised is 27-year-old Bronx native Andrew Velazquez, but the shortstop has overachieved offensively with a .268 expected wOBA compared to his actual mark of .297.

However, he’s a strong defender with two Defensive Runs Saved in 49 career games at the position and should continue to hold down the spot until Gleyber Torres returns from injury.

Defensively, the Yankees have struggled on the season (-18 DRS, 24th), but have several strong defenders, including Aaron Judge (+7) and Joey Gallo (+12) in the corner outfield spots. Their contributions are offset by players like Torres (-8), Sanchez (-4), Aaron Hicks (-4) and Brett Gardner (-3); fortunately, the Clint Frazier (-10) problem has been resolved.

New York’s bullpen (3.66 FIP, 3.78 xFIP; 3.53 SIERA: 17.4% K-BB%) ranks in the top three by virtually every indicator, but has drawn a ton of scorn.

If anything, the club’s metrics have gotten better in recent months, but Aroldis Chapman (4.47 xERA; 3.24 xFIP; 3.51 SIERA) has continued to struggle. The southpaw has returned a negative run value on his fastball and slider (combined 91% usage), but both his swinging strike rate (16.2%) and called strike rate (16.5%) are still around his career averages (16.8% and 16.5% respectively).

Chapman’s spin rate started to decline substantially this season around the time when MLB started implementing foreign substance checks.

Since those substance checks began in late June, Chapman has posted a 23:15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 14.2 innings pitched, while allowing 11 hits and four HR that’s good for a 7.08 FIP and a 5.08 xFIP. His fastball velocity is also down by 0.5 miles per hour.

Again, this is a limited sample that’s difficult to draw conclusions from, but it’s certainly a reason to be concerned.

Conversely, Jordan Montgomery (4.09 xERA; 4.05 xIFP; 4.14 SIERA) has been a steadying presence for the Yankees’ rotation, pitching to his career averages and projected expectations.

He uses a varied arsenal (23.9% curveball; 23.8% changeup; 23.7% sinker; 14.4% cutter; and, 14.2% four-seam), but only the curveball and changeup have netted a positive pitch value, both in 2021 and for his career.

One area of concern is in handedness splits. Montgomery has pitched much better against same-sided hitters (.224 wOBA vs. LHH) than righties (.306 wOBA), which also holds in his careers numbers (.246 vs. lefties, .310 vs. righties).

As I’ll detail below, the Athletics have been one of the most successful offenses in baseball against left-handed pitching in recent seasons.

Oakland Getting Impactful Boost From Marte

Despite their struggles as a team, I’m not sure any deadline acquisition (aside from Max Scherzer) has been as impactful as Starling Marte, who has posted a .357/.397/.482 line with a 146 wRC+ and 18 stolen bases in 120 plate appearances.

The A’s also made some under-the-radar moves by acquiring Josh Harrison and Yan Gomes to solidify their roster. Both bats provide a couple of more lefty killers to their group of position players:

The Gomes and Harrison acquisitions fill obvious platoon holes. Sean Murphy has largely struggled against lefty pitching despite hitting right-handed; Gomes offers the inverse splits. And Harrison can spot multiple guys around the diamond.

In sum, Oakland has the ability to churn out nine right-handed or switch-hitting bats on any given night, though it has no reason to remove Matt Olson, who has always crushed same-sided pitching and can frustrate any left-handed starter.

The team result is a 104 wRC+ against lefties (7th in MLB) in 2021 after ranking fourth in 2019 (116 wRC+) and third in 2018 (107 wRC+). I’m discounting the Athletics’ 2020 season (93 wRC+, 22nd), but that data sample is a third to a quarter of the size of the other three  I included, plus the career splits above are intuitive.

Surprisingly, the A’s haven’t ranked as an above-average defensive team since 2014. They sit 19th (+1 DRS) this season.

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Oakland’s bullpen also ranks below-average, with a 4.64 xFIP, 4.28 SIERA and 12.1% strikeout minus walk rate, each of which ranks 26th in MLB. They acquired Andrew Chafin from the Chicago Cubs at the deadline and have received a recent boost from high-ceiling prospect A.J. Puk, but they don’t have a ton of back-end depth. Fortunately, they do appear to be well-rested for this game.

And Oakland might get some early work, with Paul Blackburn (career 5.53 ERA) making his third start of the season. The righty is a soft-tosser (average fastball 90.2 mph), who relies upon a sinker/cutter/changeup/curveball mix.

Blackburn carries a career 52.7% ground-ball rate, so the sinker is doing what it’s supposed to and both his cutter and changeup have produced a positive pitch value for his career.

The projection market (projected FIP between 4.40 and 4.69) sees Blackburn as a replacement-level arm. However, he’s still about a run better than his career ERA would suggest, and his career indicators (4.34 FIP; 4.71 xFIP; 4.94 SIERA) support that suspicion; he’s been betrayed by a 61.5% strand rate (MLB average is 72%).

The betting market is seemingly rating Blackburn based on his inflated career ERA rather than underlying metrics.

Yankees vs. Athletics Projections & Pick

I only projected the Yankees as slight favorites in this matchup, and I see actionable value on Oakland’s moneyline. However, I don’t see any value concerning the total:

Oakland’s starting pitcher isn’t as overmatched as it might first appear, particularly after you factor in the drastic offensive splits on both sides of this matchup. Furthermore, their bullpen is a bit better rested.

I would bet the Athletics’ moneyline down to +120 (45.5% implied), which is more than a 2% edge compared to my projection.

Pick: Oakland ML (+135)

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