July 5th’s Results: 3-0
All-Time Results: 43-46-1, +0.33 Units
Somehow made it through the first half in the black! Let’s keep it going!
Texas Rangers (+116) vs. Houston Astros – .1 Unit
These Texas rivals have battled together in the AL West since 2013.
For most of their division rivalry Houston was one of the worst teams in baseball. However, as Sports Illustrated brilliantly recognized when they predicted them to win the 2017 World Series back in 2014: the youth movement in Houston was second to none. Their prospects became starters, became stars.
While the Astros improved, the Rangers largely bottomed out after 2014. And it’s no surprise that the Astros have had the upper hand against the Rangers for most of the past couple years. Houston has won the last four against the Rangers, and 19 of the last 30. However, while the Astros cemented themselves as perennial contenders ever since they acquired Justin Verlander in the summer of 2017, the Rangers are just now reaching the inflection point of their own player development cycle and appear poised to become a contender.
The Rangers have significantly improved in both pitching and hitting this season. Although they still don’t have a frightening staff, they have gone from 28th last year in Team ERA to 20th today. In runs scored they have also jumped 8 spots, going from 14th to 6th in the MLB.
25-year old, Joey Gallo has been the biggest revelation for the Rangers, taking his OPS from a quality .810 last season to MVP-contender-level, 1.060 so far this year. Gallo is good against right handers, and simply monstrous against left handers with a 1.200 OPS and 1 HR for every 9.3 ABs. He should like his match-up against lefty, Framber Valdez – and the market agrees setting his odds to hit a Home Run at only +165 (~36% implied odds).
Between March 31st 2018 to April 1 2019, Houston went 9-0 as a road favorite against the Rangers. Since April Fools day this year, however, the Astros have gone 1-4 in these situations. In that time – the Rangers have gone from 200/1 to win the World Series to 80/1. They have shifted from a bottom dweller to a fringe playoff team.
In April, Rangers won vs. Houston at home as a +230, +200 and +190 favorite. Today in July, they are only +120. The market has come around significantly on the Rangers.
One concern I have is that the Astros have weathered the storm from key injuries so well so far. If players like Jose Altuve and George Springer return to their best form, the Astros could be undervalued in the market – as crazy as that sounds considering they are the 3rd favorite to win it all.
Ultimately, the Astros are a road team with a significant starting pitching disadvantage. Whether or not they will improve along with the health of their players, I do not think their upside warrants being a -130 road favorite against a solid and up-and-coming team like the Rangers with their Ace on the mound. Small play here – I like the Rangers.
Houston Astros @ Texas Rangers Under 10.5 (-116) – .1 Unit
There are two main reasons, I feel the market is poised to over-correct to the offensive explosion we saw league wide in the first half: 1. The astronomic wallops of the Home Run Derby still flying through our collective memory, combined with 2. The recent practical admission by the commissioner that the balls have less drag – i.e. are more juiced. I think odd-makers expect a lot of Over money – and thus are setting lines artificially high.
We have already seen this line come down some – and I think it’s still too high.
I do not expect the Astros to have their way with Lance Lynn. Lynn has been the Rangers best pitcher, and protects the suspect bullpen of the Rangers with his propensity to provide high quality outings. Lynn has gone 7+ innings in his last 4 starts, and has gone 6+ innings in his last 13 starts.
While I am less confident in 2nd player, Frambler Valdez, he may not be as significant a factor in this tilt. The Astros have one of the best bullpens in baseball, and all are fully rested. The Astros have 3 relievers with a sub 2 ERA, all of whom are ready to go if necessary, including their excellent closer Roberto Osuna.
Lance Lynn Over 5.5 Strikeouts (+115) – .1 Unit
Perfectly poised wager here: On the one hand, Lance Lynn has struck out more than 5 batters in 8 out of his last 9 starts. On the other hand, the Astros lead the MLB in fewest strikeouts.
I lean on the fact that Lynn went through this rotation with decent success when he matched up with them in Houston on May 10th. Although he earned one of his four losses on that night, he recorded 8 strikeouts in 7 innings. For his career against the projected Astros lineup, Lynn has recorded 21 strikeouts in 59 ABs. He has struck-out Astros lead off man George Springer in 5 of 7 ABs. Especially considering his impressive record of lasting long into the game, I like Lynn to get over this strikeout total here.