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Jun 19, 2018
Jun 19, 2018

MLB betting: Five offences to consider

Five offences to consider when betting MLB

MLB offences in 2018

MLB betting: Five offences to consider

With the MLB season 40% of the way through, we now have enough data to understand how the teams’ offences are shaping up. Below, we take a look at five teams whose offences should give bettors pause before betting on or against them.

Offence in 2018

Baseball strategy and data is constantly evolving. What is true one season is not always true the next, or the next, and so on. In 2015, the biggest complaint heard when assessing the state of the game was that pitching had become too dominant.

By 2017, that tune had been replaced by complaints that there were too many home runs. In reality pitching innovates and dominates before hitting evolves to meet the challenge.

With that in mind, it’s important to take stock of how the game’s evolutions are affecting play this season, but not before we’ve collected a large enough sample for the data to be relevant.

Now more than 40% of the way through the season, this data is available. So, what do we know about offence in 2018?

Primarily, home runs are down in a major way. In this article published on June 7th, Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs showed that both home runs per fly ball and home runs per batted ball are way down year on year. This may mean there have been changes to the ball whose previous changes lead to the home run spike we saw in 2016/17.

It’s important to note that players continue to swing for the fences at an ever-increasing pace, leading to more strikeouts than at any other time in MLB history. What this all means is that runs are down, with 20 of 30 teams scoring fewer runs per game than they did in 2017:

Runs per game 2018 vs. 2017

Team

Runs/game in 2018

Runs/game in 2017

Difference

Yankees

5.31

5.19

+0.12

Astros

5.25

5.41

-0.16

Red Sox

5.08

4.84

+0.24

Cubs

4.96

4.92

+0.04

Braves

4.85

4.52

+0.33

Indians

4.77

5.01

-0.24

Dodgers

4.77

4.81

-0.04

Pirates

4.65

4.12

+0.53

Rockies

4.58

5.10

-0.52

Angels

4.56

4.38

+0.18

Blue Jays

4.51

4.28

+0.23

Brewers

4.42

4.52

-0.10

Diamondbacks

4.39

5.02

-0.63

A’s

4.39

4.56

-0.17

Mariners

4.38

4.63

-0.25

Rangers

4.32

4.93

-0.61

Phillies

4.29

4.26

+0.03

Twins

4.26

5.02

-0.76

Senators

4.26

5.02

-0.76

Cardinals

4.26

4.70

-0.44

Reds

4.24

4.65

-0.41

Tigers

4.18

4.54

-0.36

Giants

4.14

3.94

+0.20

Rays

3.94

4.28

-0.34

Padres

3.82

3.73

+0.09

White Sox

3.79

4.36

-0.57

Mets

3.75

4.54

-0.79

Royals

3.69

4.33

-0.64

Orioles

3.54

4.59

-0.05

Marlins

3.51

4.80

-0.29

All stats as of June 18, 2018

No team has improved its offensive output more than the Pirates at 0.53 more runs per game but seven teams have seen their offence drop off by more than that amount.

Five teams to note

While each team’s offence is worth studying in more depth when betting on or against it, we understand that time is sometimes of the essence. As such, here’s a look at five teams whose offence needs particular attention when wading into their markets.

This section uses wRC+ as an offensive evaluation tool, which measures runs created, a concept that incorporates all offensive contributions. 100 is league average.

New York Yankees

Pitchers set to face the Yankees face a difficult test. New York plays in an offence-heavy stadium, but their home-road splits aren’t extraordinary. This team hits, no matter where it is playing.

The Yankees feature a strong core of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez. It’s noteworthy that the Yankees’ extraordinary depth has lead MLB in runs/game despite Stanton and Sanchez struggling to below-expectation results.

2018 call-ups Miguel Andujar (wRC+ of 125) and Gleyber Torres (wRC+ 140) often occupy the last two spots in the lineup so there are no breaks for opposing pitchers.

Houston Astros

After posting historic numbers a year ago, the Astros offence is only now finally rounding back into form.

Reigning MVP Jose Altuve has posted his best monthly wRC+ in June thus far and has returned to his aggressive baserunning ways conspicuously absent in April/May.

Carlos Correa has followed an abysmal May (88 wRC+) with a superlative June (188 wRC+). Alex Bregman has gone from a 116 wRC+ in April to 143 in May and 164 in June, while Evan Gattis has been the most productive catcher in MLB despite starting the year with a 66 wRC+ in April (163 since).

Throw in World Series MVP George Springer and you have a team that has been more productive than even the Yankees on the road. They’re not too shabby at home either.

Los Angeles Dodgers

After missing the championship by a single game a year ago, LA started 2018 in a slumber but has since found its footing.

After posting a 95 wRC+ in April/May, LA bats have exploded for an MLB best 143 rate in June, thanks to the Dodgers’ greatest strength: depth.

Regulars Yasiel Puig and Cody Bellinger both reached full stride in June after difficult Springs and were joined in productivity by part-timer Joc Pederson, who managed six home runs in a single week earlier this month, and previously-unknown Max Muncy who ranks second on the team in WAR despite having played just more than half the season.

Muncy leads the Dodgers in wRC+ (165, which would be good for fifth in MLB amongst qualified players if he had more plate appearances). If Justin Turner and Chris Taylor can return to their 2017 forms, this offence might prove the most dangerous in MLB aside from the Yankees and Astros.

Boston Red Sox

No offense is more representative of MLB’s annual fluctuations than The Red Sox.

They were far and away MLB’s best offensive team in 2016 before falling to 22nd out of 30 teams in 2017.

Now, with the acquisition of J.D. Martinez (173 wRC+) and the remarkable maturation of Mookie Betts (196 wRC+, #2 in MLB), Andrew Benintendi (147. 172 in May/June) and Xander Bogaerts (130), Boston boasts a core that should be intact for years and which has been the center of the third-most productive offence in MLB.

Colorado Rockies

Colorado makes this list for a different reason. Ninth on the list above, the Rockies score as many runs as they do because of the thin, elevated air they play in. In reality, this is one of the worst offenses in baseball, and bettors should treat it that way, especially on the road.

The thin air makes breaking balls less-effective, which in turn forces hitters to all but eliminate them from their tactical approach; this has a residual effect when the Rockies take the road and results are ugly.

Don’t be fooled by their run totals: Colorado is a poor offensive club, and that reality should influence your betting both on moneyline and in totals.

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