You might have heard by now that the Houston Astros have been under some fire this winter.
With the arrival of MLB spring training has come the first comments from players around their league voicing their displeasure with the Astros organization and the players that participated in Houston’s technological sign-stealing scheme that inevitably led to a World Series title in the 2017 season.
Understandably, players around Major League Baseball are unimpressed with their Astros peers and the league interestingly came out with new steps to curb intentional hit-by-pitches, apparently unrelated to the Astros’ scandal.
MLB recently sent memo to teams laying out new steps to curb intentional hit-by-pitches. Umps will now confer to determine if they deem intent. Managers will be held more accountable for these incidents, too. Rule unrelated to Astros new concern, but they should welcome change.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 19, 2020
While the timing is awfully curious, let’s skip past all the controversy and find out how to profit from it.
Indeed, thanks to Bovada, we have a chance to get in on all the fun and bet on whether certain pitchers around the league will plunk an Astros in the 2020 season.
Keep in mind that there doesn’t have to be any intention here. Simply whether each pitcher will hit an Astro with a pitch during the 2020 campaign.
Let’s get going!
*Odds courtesy of Bovada
Bovada’s Astros Hit by Pitches Props
- Yes (+100)
- No (-130)
Of all the pitchers we get to, Chapman is probably the last one of the bunch you would want to get beaned by.
I mean, the guy’s fastball averaged 98.2 mph in the 2019 season and 99.7 mpg for his career, but we could certainly understand why the Yankees’ closer would want some form of retribution on Houston.
After all, it was Chapman that surrendered the ALCS-winning walk-off home run to Astros second baseman Jose Altuve who has been at the epicenter of the entire scandal and has even been accused of using a buzzer underneath his jersey during the even in question.
Remember, Altuve pleaded with teammates to refrain from ripping off his jersey en route to home plate during the wild celebration that ensued and went straight to the locker room to change gear while his teammates celebrated their World Series berth on the Minute Maid Park field.
This is video after Altuve hit the walkoff HR against Chapman in Game 6 of the ALCS. He approaches home plate adamantly telling his teammates not to rip off his jersey and he ran straight to the tunnel instead of celebrating. He was hiding a buzzer
H/T theinsidedrop on IG pic.twitter.com/5551gBT0Fa
— Jonathon Shipman (@Shippyfunsports) January 16, 2020
Chapman recently stated that he believed Altuve’s actions after the home run to be suspicious, and for good reason.
However, in the spirit of this prop, you have to wonder if Chapman plans on drilling an Astro with a heater as it would be the most obvious hit-by-pitch in the history of the sport.
In his 535.2 innings of big league work, the fire-balling southpaw has hit 25 batters, hitting as many as five in a single season twice in the 2018 and 2015 seasons.
He only hit on batter in 57 innings of work last season, so he’s not exactly known for hitting a ton of batters, but he does own a 4.17 BB/9 for his career, so he doesn’t exactly sport pinpoint control, either.
However, when it comes to Chapman and his duty as a closer looking to protect leads for the World Series favorite, I don’t believe he’d be out to hit anyone on purpose, and while one could theoretically “get away” from him, I think he’ll take the professional route on this one.
Prediction: No (-130)
- Yes (+120)
- No (-160)
Ryu’s beef with the Dodgers would come his days as a member of the Dodgers, although the thing with him is that he didn’t participate in the 2017 World Series when the scandal was at its highest due to injury.
In fact, Ryu has never even thrown a single pitch against the Astros in his career.
He’s not the ace of the Blue Jays after signing a lucrative four-year contract north of the border this winter, but I think his beef with the Astros isn’t extremely limited.
Also, unlike Chapman, Ryu does own pinpoint control as he’s coming off a Cy Young-caliber season in which he posted a minuscule 1.18 BB/9 rate and owns a 1.99 mark for his career.
He has hit 13 batters in 740.1 innings of regular season big league work, but to me this one is easy.
Prediction: No (-160)
- Yes (+115)
- No (-150)
Like Ryu, Maeda was a member of the 2017 National League champion Dodgers, but unlike Ryu he participated the World Series against the Astros that season.
Maeda pitched 5.2 frames of relief in that series, and allowed just one earned run but it came with two runs that were charged to the starter, Clayton Kershaw. The thing is that is was a three-run homer in the Astros’ wild 13-12 Game 5 win… in Houston… off the bat of Jose Altuve.
As a result, given what we’ve learned at this point, there’s a strong chance Altuve knew what pitch was coming on that home run.
Therefore, you’d think Maeda would be fairly PO’d by allowing that homer to a guy that knew what pitch was coming.
However, is the 6’1″, 184 lb Maeda going to be throwing at anyone for retribution, potentially risking a brawl? Even if it is to the diminutive Altuve? I’m not so sure.
Maeda is now a member of the Minnesota Twins, and you wonder if he’s moved on by now.
I say he has.
Prediction: No (-150)
- Yes (+130)
- No (-170)
The Indians never lost a World Series to the Dodgers, but he did face them in the 2018 postseason, at home in an ALDS Game 3 start in which he hurled five innings of one-run ball wth nine punchouts at Progressive Field.
While his experience with the Astros and their scheme isn’t as intimate as the three players above, Clevinger what quite outspoken this winter about his feelings towards their cheating.
— Momentum (@Watch_Momentum) January 17, 2020
Ya, he’s not happy.
As a result, I think there’s some retribution coming in this case.
Unlike Chapman, Clevinger is likely to face Houston in low-leverage situations at some point this season. He can afford to waste a pitch or out someone on base via a hit-by-pitch with two outs in the first inning, for example.
We haven’t heard Ryu or Maeda speak on this issue yet, and as noted, I don’t believe there’s much hostility there, like we can blatantly see here.
So, someone is going to hit an Astro on purpose this season, and I believe this guy’s as good of a candidate as anyone despite just two hit batsmen in 126 innings a season ago.
Prediction: Yes (+130)
- Yes (+160)
- No (-215)
The Fiers case is probably the most interesting of them all.
He doesn’t have a beef with them from an opposition standpoint. In fact, he was a member of that 2017 World Series club.
Rather, Fiers was the whistleblower that blew this whole thing apart for Houston.
It actually came out today that Major League Baseball would like to protect Fiers from any type of retribution this season, but he doesn’t appear interested in any of that.
Fiers warned his Detroit Tigers teammates of the scheme in the 2018 season upon signing as a free agent and did so again with the Oakland A’s after Detroit sent him west at the 2018 trade deadline.
Still a member of the A’s, Fiers could see a big chunk of his former mates in 2020 within that AL West Division in which Oakland will be one of the teams looking to hunt Houston down off their perch atop the division.
With that in mind, I don’t think Fiers has the same appetite to retaliate on Houston as these other hurlers might have considering he was on that sign-stealing team. He simply informed others to be weary of it.
That said, Fiers has been hitting a lot of batters in recent years, unintentionally of course.
He plunked nine batters in 184.2 frames last season, eight in 172 innings in 2018 and 13 in just 153.1 innings in 2017 while with Houston.
In other words, pitches have gotten away from him in recent years and we’re not judging intent with these props, so I’ll stay away from this one all together.
- Yes (+120)
- No (-160)
Like Maeda, Hill is a former Dodger from the 2017 season that is now pitching for the Minnesota Twins after signing as a free agent this winter.
Also like Maeda, Hill participated in that 2017 World Series, throwing 8.2 frames of two-run ball with a whopping 12 punchouts.
Both of those outings came at Dodger Stadium and it’s clear he got the better of Houston in those appearances. There was no sign-stealing against Hill personally in that postseason.
There’s also a wrinkle in Hill’s case and that’s the fact he’s currently injured and not expected to pitch until the second-half of the regular season.
Whether that includes the three-game set the Twins play in Houston from June 22-24 remains to be seen, but at this point is seems unlikely.
The only other time the two clubs will face each other is a July 31-August 1 two-game set in Minnesota.
As a result, there’s a real chance that Hill won’t even throw a pitch against the Astros in the 2020 season, simply from a schedule standpoint combined with his injury.
He did hit four batters in just 58.2 innings of work last season, but this one is easy money to me.
Prediction: No (-160)