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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, June 30, 2017 at 7:00 AM

A couple of weeks ago, this was shaping up as a dream series. Possibly an ALCS preview with the two best teams in the league. Then the Yankees fell apart on a West Coast swing…and then stayed in a slump until getting some things going offensively against the lowly Chicago White Sox earlier this week.

No way you can compete with the Houston Astros juggernaut playing like that!

But, we know the Yanks are capable of much better than that recent slide. And, for some reason, the Astros have been more vulnerable at home than on the road this season. Maybe the boys from the Bronx can take two of three. Maybe this weekend series is still destined to be a playoff preview. Let’s run through JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats to learn more about what’s happened so far in 2017, and what might be ahead.

 

TEAM QUALITY

NY Yankees: +104 runs, while playing 37 home games and 39 road games

Houston: +120 runs, while playing 41 home games and 38 road games

Our stats today are through Wednesday’s action because of publication deadlines. If you trust run differential, which many of the sharpest handicappers do, then this is still one of the best possible matchups in all of baseball. The Yankees were crushing people so badly during the best of times that the recent slump just brought them closer back to the century mark. Great stuff from both teams in the first half of the season.

 

TEAM OFFENSE

NY Yankees: 5.6 runs-per-game, .346 on-base, .460 slugging

Houston: 5.6 runs-per-game, .349 on-base, .484 slugging

We need to spend a little time in this category because these offenses aren’t nearly as even as they look in terms of “true” talent. Yes, runs scored and on-base percentage are almost identical. But the Yankees have played their home games in one of the best hitters’ parks of 2017…particularly with that early season jet stream blowing balls over the short porch in right field. Houston plays its home games in one of the best pitchers’ parks in the sport. That’s not commonly realized because announcers always talk about the short dimensions. While the dimensions are short, there are other factors in play (like quirky visibility) that really help pitchers. Take a look at what happens if you study only ROAD games for these offenses.

 

TEAM OFFENSE IN ROAD GAMES

NY Yankees: 5.1 runs-per-game, .339 on-base, .422 slugging

Houston: 6.6 runs-per-game, .358 on-base, .491 slugging

The Yankees are still good…but lose a half a run a game because their slugging falls back to earth. Houston EXPLODES when facing a more neutral cross-section of parks. The Astros have one of the best offenses of the past several years in this sport…and it’s hidden because they play their home games in tough scoring conditions. That’s SIX-POINT-SIX runs per game on the road!

So, whenever you handicap a matchup involving these two teams…start with the knowledge that Houston has the better pure offense. They’ll generally play higher scoring games in New York, but lower in Houston. It’s up to the markets to judge those adjustments correctly when posting totals.

Now, we move on to probable pitchers…

 

FRIDAY

Pineda: 4.12 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 9.1 K’s per 9 innings

McCullers: 2.53 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 10.7 K’s per 9 innings

Big edge for McCullers, who’s been able to post ace caliber stats when healthy. Pineda has flashes of brilliance, but is a bit too vulnerable to allowing big blows. Tough spot for the Yanks to run into a top opposing pitcher as they adjust to their first game of the season in this quirky Minute Maid site.

 

SATURDAY

Montgomery: 3.53 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 8.7 K’s per 9 innings

Martes: 5.51 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 8.8 K’s per 9 innings

Martes has only made three starts this season…which gives us a small sample size issue. He’ll have to pitch much better than that to stay in the rotation. Clear edge to Montgomery, even if you allow for some regression back toward “adequate” for Martes. Best chance for the Yanks to get a win in this series.

 

SUNDAY

Severino: 3.15 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 10.2 K’s per 9 innings

Fiers: 3.98 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 8.0 K’s per 9 innings

Here’s another good chance for the guys in pinstripes. Though, many analysts are waiting for Severino to come back to earth after a strong start. He’s not supposed to be THIS good. Fiers has been workmanlike, getting the job done in front of a great offense. He’s certainly not a “shut-down” pitcher who’s going to scare the Yankees.

There’s a good chance JIM HURLEY will have at least one pick in this series. And, his recent emphasis on live underdogs could have him considering the Yankees in those games with a pitching advantage.

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Back with you Monday to preview the Boston Red Sox/Texas Rangers series that begins that night. The American League playoff race could really open up beneath Houston if the projected powers continued to tread water. Teams like Texas, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Minnesota, and most of the AL East could rise up to deny spots to Cleveland, Boston, and the New York Yankees. We’ll follow that story for you all summer here in the NOTEBOOK.

It’s already been a season full of BIG, JUICY WINNERS. Go GET THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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