This article is part of our MLB Betting series.
Previous day: 0-3, -3.5 RWBucks
Season: 49-66, -24.60 RWBucks
Well, that's more like it. The Twins went 0-3 with runners in scoring position in the first inning Wednesday night to set the tone for my own 0-3 evening. As I mentioned on VSIN last night with Gill Alexander, the challenge of sequence — of run elements not adding up to runs — has dogged me all year.
MLB teams, as you're surely aware, are hitting .236, which would be the lowest league batting average ever. Even when they have an advantage, they're struggling. Get ahead 1-0, and they still hit just .247. Get to 3-1, one of the best hitters' counts, and they hit .247. Put runners in scoring position, usually a good time for hitters, and they're batting just .244 — third-lowest on record (since 1913). A batter hitting with a runner or two in scoring position is 14 percent more likely to strike out than he is to deliver a hit.
What we think of as "scoring position" really is no more, not with non-home-run hits at all-time lows. Between increasing strikeout rates and more efficient defense, scoring position in now the batter's box. In regulation play — innings not starting with a runner on second — 42 percent of runs are scored on home runs. The correlation between hitting for power and scoring runs, and in fact, hitting for power and winning, has never been higher.
How do we apply this knowledge? I'm still working on that part. It does seem that totals betting will have more variance. Projecting baserunners and even total bases won't be as valuable with fewer hits in high-leverage spots. In fact, pitchers becoming more efficient at getting strikeouts when strikeouts are the most valuable. From my Newsletter two years ago:
The biggest changes in strikeout rate have happened when a strikeout is desperately needed — runners on the corners with one out, or a runner on third with nobody out. ... The increases in strikeout rate with second and third and one out, and bases loaded and one out, are also above the norm.
As someone who has sat through countless miserable performances with runners in scoring position this year, this tracks. Let's hope to avoid such nastiness Friday night.
7 p.m. Red Sox (Eovaldi)/Yankees (King) under 9.5 (-120). The Red Sox and Yankees are both middle of the pack among AL offense, and a bit worse than that since the end of April. The Red Sox have a strong core surrounded by a poor supporting group; the Yankees have lost their power to injuries and the deadened baseball. Combined, it makes this number a bit generous. Both these teams have two of the best bullpens in the AL as well. This is a line from 2019. 1.5 RWBucks.
7 p.m. Marlins (Poteet)/Pirates (Keller) under 8 (-113). Just betting the base rates here, with two of the worst offenses in the NL squaring off. I feel like any time I can get the Pirates under at 8 or better, I have to take it. Thirty-three of the team's 51 non-doubleheader games have come in at eight runs or fewer. 1 RWBuck.
7:20 p.m. Dodgers (Urias) -132 over Braves (Anderson). The Dodgers are very close to being their scary-monster best selves, having now gotten everyone but Corey Seager back from the injured list. They're 15-6 in their last 21 games, and once again have the best run differential in baseball. Julio Urias was knocked around by the Giants last time out, allowing 11 hits in five innings; his 2.91 FIP is a better reflection of his season to date than his 3.61 ERA. Look for him to work deep. 1.5 RWBucks.
8 p.m. Tigers (Turnbull)/White Sox (Keuchel) over 8 (-120). I'm torn on the best way to fade Dallas Keuchel and his 12 percent strikeout rate, but I know I want to bet on him allowing runs. Spencer Turnbull has a quality start and a near-miss in his two outings since his no-hitter. Turnbull has allowed a single homer this year, three since the start of last season and 18, total, in 267.1 career innings. It may be a skill. 1 RWBuck.
Oh, why not, it's Friday. Add Tigers +133 to the card. .75 RWBucks.
9:38 p.m. Mariners (Dugger) +160 over Angels (Ohtani). I was anticipating fading Shohei Ohtani all week, but this matchup is daunting. Robert Dugger, serving as the opener, is a replacement-level starter, with a career 7.07 ERA (6.17 FIP) in 62 innings with bad teams, including this year's Mariners. Behind him is Hector Santiago, five years removed from his last decent year with the Angels. Still, Ohtani's 17 percent walk rate is too tempting to pass up at a good price, especially with a poor defense and lineup backing him up. .75 RWBucks.