It’s Monday in Major League Baseball which means a whole slate of great series and a brand new set of interesting matchups. Bovada and a few other sportsbooks have started doing series odds which make for some really fun and hopefully profitable wagers.
One word on the series prices: the odds are in the book’s favor. In a normal betting scenario, we are laying -110, meaning lay $110 to win $100 or 10% “juice” or “vig.” With most of these series prices, Bovada especially, the odds are a little wider gulf. For example, in the Cubs and Rockies series the prices are -160 and +135 respectively. That is a little wider gulf between the two than in most normal single-game wagers, and is certainly playing to the house’s overall long term advantage by about five points. It doesn’t make it a “bad” bet, but as far as a long term overall wagering strategy, I still prefer more focus on single games and looking for good value lines each night. Prop bets and other type of wagers tend to have a little less advantageous odds, but of course, everything is more advantageous when you hit it correctly…
Any series wager needs to start with a glance at the expected starting pitching matchups. Unlike most single game wagers, our series pick is not contingent upon listed starters making an appearance, but it is still a good place to start. Listed pitchers could change, which introduces a little potential variability, but it is just as likely to change in either team’s favor, so it isn’t a deal breaker for me. From there, I want to consider how a team is hitting and what their bullpen is doing. When we are going “series” as opposed to “single game” relative bullpen strength matters a great deal. Lastly, I want to know how teams fare against one another. There are some weird little quirks that evolve in head-to-head MLB matchups. For example, so far this season the Brewers are 6-1 against the Reds. Yet the Reds are 6-1 against the Pirates. Matchups can matter, so if there is an extreme advantage, no matter how irrational ones success has been, it is worth noting. None of the three series below are division rivals with any substantial momentum to factor into consideration.
That said, there are a few series upcoming that I like a great deal, so let’s take a look at a few MLB Series Wagers and their corresponding values.
#1. Chicago Cubs -160 at Colorado Rockies +135
The Cubs are fresh off a disappointing home series sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees and a marathon 18-inning Sunday Night affair. So, while every other MLB team was safely tucked into their beds or in their next cities, the Cubs were playing well into the morning and burning out their entire relief corps. I think that makes this line immediately intriguing from a Rockies perspective.
There are other compelling factors as well. The Rockies are at home where they are 9-7 this season; worse than their road record, but they are still a team built to mash in their home ballpark. The Cubs are the heavy favorite in Vegas, but their record is four games worse than the Cubs and their run differential is nearly identical (Cubs are three runs better). If you took away preseason expectations, you’d favor the Rockies in this series, yet the Cubs are HUGE -160 faves. They are almost identical in nearly every offensive category and their pitching has been similar as well.
The Rockies bat .255 as a team, Chicago is checking in at a slow-starting .246. Colorado leads in homeruns at 45 to 36 and is slugging .38 points higher at .444. Pitching is a perceived edge for the Cubs as well, but their overall staff ERA is only 0.23 better. The bullpen is a big edge for the Cubs, they lead the NL in bullpen ERA at 2.97. The Rockies are a respectable sixth at 3.81 – not bad considering the ballpark they do half their work in, but still an edge for the Cubs.
But here is why I like the Rockies (aside from the really, really nice price). I think tonight is a TOUGH turnaround for the Cubs players time-wise, and that the Rockies have a chance to steal the opener against Jake Arrieta. Arrieta enters with an ERA of almost five and in his last trip to Coors he allowed nine runs (disclaimer – it was in 2014). The Rockies starter, Antonio Senzatela has electric stuff and is off to a nice start with a 2.84 ERA. Arrieta is the BIG name, Senzatela, the April Rookie of the Month, has been the better pitcher in 2017. I like him to be big again tonight and steal the win.
IF Senzatela can get the Rockies off to a good start tonight, then you get the Rockies at +130 to split the series and Jon Lester threw last night, so the ace of the staff is out of the way.
The remaining pitching matchups are as follows:
John Lackey (2-3, 5.14 ERA) vs. Kyle Freeland (3-1, 2.65 ERA)
Kyle Hendricks (2-1, 3.51 ERA) vs. German Marquez (0-2, 7.31 ERA)
The Game Three pitching matchup favors the Cubs heavily, but the first two actually favor Colorado statistically. The Rockies are playing better baseball, are more rested, and have the statistical pitching edge in two of the three games. That makes +135 a really nice series price for the Colorado Rockies at home.
MY PICK: COLORADO ROCKIES TO WIN SERIES +135
#2. Cleveland Indians -130 at Toronto Blue Jays +100
Season starts don’t get much more disastrous for expected playoff contenders than the 2017 start for the Jays. They were no worse than a Vegas co-favorite to represent the American League in the World Series at the start of the last two postseasons, but heading into tonight, the Blue Jays own the worst record in the American League East and tied for the second worst record in all of baseball at 11-20. They have a -22 run differential, which actually isn’t quite as bad as their record portends. However, their offensive production of just 118 runs is second-worst in the American League – something really concerning for a team whose identity was predicated on scoring massive amounts of runs. Perhaps they are all aging at once, perhaps the loss of Edwin Encarnacion was more damaging that people realized. Whatever the reason, the Jays aren’t scoring, which makes a three game set against the Indians potentially daunting.
Here’s the series pitching matchups:
Trevor Bauer (2-3, 7.67 ERA) vs. Marcus Stroman (2-2, 3.89 ERA)
Carlos Carrasco (3-2, 2.18 ERA) vs. T.B.D.
Danny Salazar (2-3, 4.28 ERA) vs. Francisco Liriano (4.44 ERA)
The first obviously favors the Jays, the second, no matter who Toronto throws out there favors Cleveland, and the third is a push. So, on the surface, the Jays seems like a decent value. But that would be overlooking some of Cleveland’s biggest strengths. The Indians bullpen has posted a ridiculous 1.89 ERA on the season, easily the best in all of baseball. The Jays have been reasonable at 4.29, but overall, it is NO contest.
Neither are the offenses. Cleveland hasn’t hit as well as hoped, ranking tenth in the American League in runs scored, but they are still nearly a half a run a game better than Toronto. Toronto is 14th in runs scored, 13th in batting average and 13th in slugging. A lineup struggling this much could be the exact recipe Trevor Bauer needs to get on track. And if the Indians can win game one of the series tonight, it is hard to see them not finishing off the deal with Carrasco waiting in the wings.
Cleveland is a nice 11-7 on the road this season. Toronto is just 5-10 at home. Home field shouldn’t make much of a difference in this series. The biggest difference is how much better the Indians are, especially in relief. I’d give the Indians a slight starting pitching edge, but even if you want to call it a push, the Tribe’s bullpen more than makes up the difference.
MY PICK: CLEVELAND INDIANS TO WIN THE SERIES -130
#3. St. Louis Cardinals -115 at Miami Marlins -115
This is a case of two teams heading in the opposite direction. Miami started off strong but is 3-7 over their last ten games. The Cardinals has a disastrous start but are just a half game back of the Reds (not a typo) for first place in the National League Central after ripping off seven of their last ten games. The have the pitching edge tonight in the opener with ace Carlos Martinez on the mound against Conley, and have Lance Lynn who is 4-1 going in the finale. That’s a pretty substantial starting pitching advantage for a team playing really good baseball.
The Marlins are just 5-6 at home and the Cards have a winning record on the road, so again, venue matters little in this matchup. Both offenses are similar in production, though the Cards have been much better over the past few weeks and the Cardinals have been a stingier overall pitching staff.
Here’s the pitching matchups for the week:
Carlos Martinez (1-3, 3.75 ER) vs. Adam Conley (2-2, 6.12 ERA)
Adam Wainwright (2-3, 6.30 ERA) vs. Dan Straily (1-3, 4.65 ERA)
Lance Lynn (4-1, 2.04 ERA) vs. Tom Kohler (1-1, 5.40 ERA)
I know. If you read my column on The Sports Geek, you know we have made a profitable habit of fading Adam Wainwright this season, but it isn’t like Dan Strailly has been pitching well either, so the Waino weakness may not be as glaring in this series. And even if Wainwright does struggle yet again, I’ll trust the overall better baseball team to back him up.
I’ll take the Cardinals on the basis of two strong starting pitching edges and the fact they are playing much better baseball right now.
MY PICK: ST. LOUIS CARDINALS TO WIN SERIES -115
Good luck this week! Enjoy some great baseball series and awesome action!
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