Picks Surely To Go Wrong — Handicapping The Division Series’

C’mon, guys. I told you. I warned you: There are worse bets in the world than putting [money down on the Royals at 18/1] to win the World Series.

After Tuesday night’s win over the Athletics (!), Vegas have the Royals down to 10/1, still the biggest longshot in the field. (San Francisco is 10/1 as well.) Kansas City is a very scary team in a mostly un-scary, white city, and now they take on the Angels who claim the hard knock streets of Los Angeles but are really just a bunch of phonies because it’s only Orange County.

LAA is the better team, both by record and overall team talent, but I’m going to say it again because I really, really want my audience to understand just how good of a bet the Royals are at the odds Bovada is giving them: There are worse bets in the world than taking Kansas City at 10/1 to win the World Series. There are worse bets than picking the Royals at +160 to upset the best team in baseball during a five-game series. 

The pick: Royals (+160) over Angels in 5

If we’re breaking down this series in a basic who is better? format, the Angels are better. But in a sense of who has the better components, matchups, then LAA is a better matchup for the Royals than Baltimore would have been. Kansas City has the better starting rotation, the better bullpen, better speed and better team defense. The Angels have a far superior offense, but this is the playoffs where offense means much less than it did over the large, 162-game sample.

Something Kansas City has going for itself is the decision of Anaheim starting Jered Weaver in Game One, meaning he would also start Game Five if necessary. With Garrett Richards on the shelf, Weaver — a reasonable #3 starter who put up a respectable 3.59 ERA (4.30 xFIP) in 2014 — gets the nod over the better Matt Shoemaker (3.04 ERA, 3.28 xFIP), which could prove critical.

With James Shields having already pitched on Tuesday, it means he’s only available for one start during the series, Game Three in Kansas City. Jason Vargas (3.71 ERA, 4.05 xFIP), the Game One/Five starter, isn’t markedly more attractive than Weaver is, but given the dominant state of the backend of the Royals bullpen, less is required of him.

The Angels aren’t a bad baseball team, it’s just — relative to having the best record in baseball — they aren’t as strong as three or four other clubs in the eight-team field. Offense is great, and it’s going to be fun watching Mike Trout, but Kansas City has the power arms to neutralize their lineup, and I’m not sure the Angels can do enough to thwart the strengths of the Royals.

Tigers (-145) over Orioles in four

Max Scherzer. Justin Verlander. David Price. Rick Porcello. It’s not that the Tigers have the better #1 starting pitcher; it’s that every Detroit starter is significantly better than any the Orioles have to offer. Detroit Tigers are built for the postseason. The only hope I have for Baltimore is keeping these games close and maybe stealing one later from a Tiger bullpen that isn’t overly vicious.

Dodgers (-190) over Cardinals in five

Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn. Those are four very good starting pitchers, with Kershaw and Greinke and Wainwright being excellent. Since Kershaw is going in Game’s One and Five (if necessary), the Cardinals will have to knock him off at least once. It’s doable, obviously, but if they can’t they’ll have to sweep the Dodgers in Game’s Two, Three and Four. Both teams have respectable offenses, but this series comes down to starting pitching, and I give the Dodgers the slight (Clayton Kershaw) edge.

Nationals (no line) over Giants in four

There’s no magic science or explanation behind this. I just think Washington is the better team, top-to-bottom. Better rotation, better offense, better bullpen.

Playoff baseball!

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