$FML’s Best MLB Bet - 10/18

In case you missed it. . . We backed the Guardians last night for three main reasons. Then Mother Nature chuckled, the deck re-shuffled, and here we are. For today’s column, I’ll break down what changed, what didn’t, and the expected betting impact.

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Game 5: Cleveland Guardians @ New York Yankees

First and foremost, as mentioned yesterday – all the pressure is on New York. Their fans are ruthless, and raucous boo birds don’t pair well with performing under pressure. If Yankee fans were on a short fuse last night… Imagine today.

If Yankee fans were on a short fuse last night… Imagine today.

Fans paid top dollar for tickets, only for the game to be rescheduled to 4PM today during work hours, and guess what? No refunds or exchanges. I’d say don’t poke the bear, New York Yankees, but you already did.

Second and related – absolutely zero pressure is on Cleveland. As if we needed more evidence, see how they passed time during the rain delay:

I’m a data-driven handicapper; I also grew up playing competitive baseball and can say from experience: this is a drastically easier sport to play when you’re having fun. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true. The effect is tough to measure, but just look at how many games it took Aaron Judge to hit #62. When the pressure is on, you overthink. And overthinking doesn’t pair well with the frustrating sport that is baseball – especially in the playoffs.

Those first two factors are unchanged. The game was pushed out a day, but the pressure dynamic remains.

The third and most important reason we backed Cleveland, though, related to perceived value we detected on their Moneyline price at +135. That value was linked to the starting pitching matchup, which featured Jameson Taillon, a fade-worthy pitcher for New York. However, he’s since been replaced with Nestor Cortes, a clear upgrade – at least on paper – for the Pinstripes. Meanwhile, Guardians’ starter Aaron Civale is unchanged.

Now, the million dollar question: how does swapping Taillon for Cortes affect the Yankees chances to win the game? To guide our answer, I simulated the game 1,000 times (again) using Out of the Park Baseball software, this time with Cortes pitching. Here’s what happened:

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Yesterday, Cleveland won 47.1% of simulated games with Taillon pitching. Today, that number dropped to 43.3%, a -3.8% decline, with Cortes pitching. Their betting odds also dropped, but just -2.9% vs. yesterday.

Taken together, this tells us: The simulated win probability is still higher than betting odds imply (+152 moneyline = 39.7% implied win probability, below the 43.3% simulated win probability); however, the estimated betting edge is slightly less, coming in at +3.6% (down from +4.4% yesterday).

It’s important to note – these simulations do not account for the fact Nestor Cortes will be pitching on 3-days rest. The last time he started a game on 3-days rest was in September 2019, and he allowed 4 runs (2 earned) in just 2.1 innings pitched. It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, since he was a different pitcher back then with a different role. However, the key point remains: he’s pitching on 3-days rest, a rare event for starters. This adds uncertainty to the handicap; and generally speaking, uncertainty tends to benefit underdogs.

Simulations aside, the real-life Guardians went 29-17 in games started by lefties this season. Cortes pitched well in both head-to-head meetings (including Game 2 this series); however, given the pressure dynamic, simulated edge and uncertainty around Cortes pitching on 3-days rest, I still see value in Cleveland ML @ +152 and rolled my bet accordingly (risk 0.5u). However, I wouldn’t bet much below that price.

$FML's Best MLB Bet

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CLEVELAND GUARDIANS ML @ +152

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