By Edward Egros
FOX Sports MLB Betting Analyst
The Professor has a stern warning for today’s class: Before we generate our own trade hype, it’s important to take a deep breath before looking for betting value at the trade deadline.
Take last season: the Dodgers acquired Max Scherzer and Trea Turner but didn’t win the pennant even as both played exceptionally well. The Giants picked up Kris Bryant, and even though the ball club won 107 games, they failed to advance past the National League Division Series.
However, the successes were there, too. The Braves needed their midseason acquisition in Jorge Soler to win it all (.300/.391/.800 in the World Series). The Astros made less splashy moves for their bullpen, but in September and October, they still finished ninth in MLB in strikeouts per nine innings (9.38) and eighth in xFIP (4.23). My main point is always to take the hype with a grain of salt.
So now that you’ve completed your breathing exercises, let’s break down the latest trades, their impact on the betting odds and if making an investment for that squad’s championship chances is worth it.
As we’ve discussed in this space, there’s no team I was more interested in studying at the trade deadline than the Mariners.
Sure enough, they’re the first to make an earth-shattering move, acquiring starting pitcher Luis Castillo from Cincinnati for a few talented prospects.
From a betting perspective, the move squeezed a lot of value out of Seattle in the futures markets. To win the American League, the M’s odds shortened from +2000 to +1400, and they went from +4000 to +3000 to win the World Series.
Castillo throws fireballs, as his fastball averages almost 97 mph. It may not have much movement, but it doesn’t need to, with an opposing batting average of .124 and a strikeout rate of 45.5%. Strangely though, he has had more successful seasons, like in 2020 with a FIP of 2.65 and more than 11 strikeouts per nine innings. Either way, he’s a stud that will help the Mariners in a big way down the stretch.
The market does not have many starting arms available, and Seattle needed one, so this seems like a win for both teams. And given the Mariners’ playoff drought has lasted longer than any North American team in the men’s four major sports, it’s a move they had to make with a high likelihood of success.
The Bronx Bombers have run away with the AL East and are now sizable favorites to win the pennant. But this move has improved the Yankees’ odds to win the World Series, from second-shortest at +400 to tied for shortest with the Dodgers at +350.
Baseball Reference charts Wins Above Average by position groups, and the Yankees rank 10th at left field, their second-worst ranking ahead of shortstop. Now, New York goes from Joey Gallo, who ranks second in strikeout rate (38.1%) among all hitters with at least 250 plate appearances, to Andrew Benintendi with the 20th-lowest rate (13.3%). He doesn’t have much power but knows how to get on base with a .387 OBP. Summed up, the Yankees got better in a big way with this trade.
Relief pitching is not the biggest need for San Diego at the deadline, as their bullpen ranks seventh in collective Fielding Independent Pitching. But, to acquire someone of Josh Hader’s caliber to be the ball club’s closer is something the Padres simply couldn’t pass up, as the Padres have more than enough prospects to send Milwaukee’s way. The Dodgers also have such a massive lead in the NL West that the odds for the Padres to win the pennant have not changed (+1000 at FOX Bet). World Series futures also haven’t budged for San Diego, as they currently sit at +2200.
One reason for the consistency might be because Hader has been unpredictable this season. Every season from 2018-2021, his expected batting average ranked in the 99th percentile of all pitchers in the bigs. However, his home runs allowed per nine innings this season is the highest it’s been in any season (1.85).
Overall, few can force hitters to swing and miss more often, and few can throw faster, so the potential is there for Hader to dominate. Perhaps more importantly, San Diego has many more prospects to use as currency, so it’s possible they’re not done trading. Keep an eye out for the Padres to also potentially go after Juan Soto or Wilson Contreras. If SD lands another big fish, look for their World Series odds to move significantly.
They may have the best record in the American League, but that mark hasn’t stopped the Yankees from being the most active franchise, one day before the Trade Deadline. The latest moves involve picking up starting pitcher Frankie Montas and reliever Lou Trivino from Oakland in exchange for four prospects.
The deals have shortened New York’s odds to win the AL from +175 to +165, but not the World Series. In fact, they’ve lengthened from +350 to +370 thanks to how well the Dodgers have played lately.
Montas’ statcast numbers may not wow Yankee fans. For instance, his fastball velocity has gone from averaging 98.2 mph to 96.2 mph while other hurlers are throwing harder and his hard hit rate (or how often batted balls are at least 95 mph) is in the 56th percentile. But, Montas forces a lot of hitters to chase, and his whiff rate is greater than 30% on his splitter and slider.
He can also consistently get through five innings, and that reliability may be the difference in a five or seven-game series.
The biggest name among position players to be traded has a new home (so far). Former Oriole Trey Mancini is going to Houston as part of a three-team trade where the Astros collect pitcher Jayden Murray, while Tampa Bay gets OF Jose Siri and Baltimore receives pitchers Seth Johnson and Chayce McDermott.
But back to Mancini. Houston has needed a consistent bat at first base about as much as any other position, given Yuli Gurriel’s split this season: .243/.293/.392. While American League pennant odds for Houston have remained steadfast at +200, the team’s World Series odds have shortened from +475 to +450.
Where Mancini will provide an edge is how he handles four-seam fastballs. Run value is a way to evaluate the impact of how a hitter has performed, given runners on base, outs and the count. Against four-seam fastballs, Mancini ranks 16th in MLB with a +10 run value.
Houston already ranked fourth in the majors in wRC+ (113). Though they need a catcher who can hit more consistently, this offense now has virtually no glaring weaknesses.
Edward Egros is a sports analytics broadcaster/writer, a sports betting analyst, a data scientist and an adjunct professor of statistics at Pepperdine University. These passions have led him to become a cold brew aficionado. Edward previously worked in local television, notably at the Fox affiliate in Dallas covering the Rangers, Cowboys and high school football. Follow him on Twitter @EdWithSports.
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