The season’s Midsummer Classic is upon us, and it brings the unofficial midpoint to what has been an exciting and interesting baseball season thus far. There have been plenty of surprises, both pleasant (Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chris Davis and Yasiel Puig) and disappointing (Nationals, Angels, Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols… and of course the impending BioGenesis suspensions). But there is no denying that the final 65 or so games of the season are going to be compelling.
Here are a few interesting notes from a wagering perspective from the first half of the season:
* The Pittsburgh Pirates have been baseball’s best wager so far in 2013, netting a +2350. That’s by far the best in the bigs. In second, the Oakland A’s as +1458. The worse bets in baseball have been the Angels, Brewers and White Sox, all between -1900 and -1780.
* Despite all the hoopla surrounding the NL West, only one team in the division has been a positive wager this season, the Arizona Diamondbacks at just +376.
* The teams with the largest difference between their actual record and their “expected record” in the American League are the Yankees at four game BETTER than expected and Detroit at FIVE games WORSE. I really like the value of Detroit in the second half of this season as Verlander regains his form and gives them three (or even four) legit shutdown starters.
* In the National League, the Phillies record is five games better than expected, so be careful getting too wrapped up in their recent surge, and in the NL Central, the Pirates are three games better than expected, while the Cardinals and Reds are four and two games worse respectively. Look for that division to be shaking up over the next six weeks.
OK, onto tonight’s game. It bears mentioning, as I do in every year’s NBA All-Star Game pick, these games are EXHIBITIONS. As such, weird stuff happens. And unlike the NBA, where you at least know the best five players will be on the floor trying to win in the final four or five minutes, in MLB’s showcase, most of the stars have been pulled by the fifth inning, and instead you are banking on the gratuitous All-Star from the Marlins, Astros or White Sox to make the big game-winning play. It’s an odd event, and not one I’d bet the mortgage on… but it is a ton of fun, and there are some nice trends at play here, so let’s dig in.
American League All Stars +111 at National League All Stars -117 (Total: 8)
Max Scherzer took his first loss a few days ago, but will be getting the ball tonight for the American League All Stars and his manager, Jim Leyland. He will be opposed by the hometown phenom, Matt Harvey, getting the ball in his home ballpark for the Senior Circuit.
It’s a fine pitching matchup, but don’t get too concerned about these two, as both will likely throw one, maybe two innings at MOST. From there, it becomes a battle of attrition. I give them NL a slight advantage, not just having the home field and last at bats, but in having a few fresher arms in the mix and two dominant closers (Kimbrel and Chapman). In a game that favors bullpen power arms who are more accustomed to coming in and dealing right away, having two of the best closers – both dotting triple digits on the radar gun – is a big advantage.
The NL also enters with some good All Star Game momentum, outscoring the AL 16-2 over the last three games. I’ll take the National League tonight to win the game and lock up home field advantage for the World Series.
Free Pick: National League to WIN -117
Just for kicks, a few flyers on All-Star Game MVP:
David Wright 10:1 – I expect Wright to get an extra AB on most starters tonight, factoring in the home crowd sentiment. 10:1 in a game with 50+ players is a little slim, but he’s still a decent pick
Joey Votto 22:1 – Hitting third in the NL Lineup is a big advantage. His downside is that I expect Goldschmidt to get in the game reasonably early given the season he is having.
Torii Hunter 35:1 – It wouldn’t surprise me to see Leyland put HIS guy in the lineup late with a chance to stir up some more All Star magic…