I occasionally mention chess on our sports blog, and not just because chess is the original “war of minds” that would inform how MLB skippers would approach their craft in the modern era.
Chess is also a useful strategy-template for handicapping.
Successful gamblers know that any angle which appears to be simple – the weather, for instance – can get mind-blowingly complex in a jiffy. Wet and windy weather can slow a baseball club’s momentum and even postpone a ballgame altogether. But let conditions turn to a cold drizzle that restricts the opposing hurler’s fastball, and there might be some fireworks from the plate on a rainy afternoon.
It reminds of the complications of chess, checkers, and Go!. A grandmaster will spend 5 minutes on YouTube explaining why a Bishop is worth less than a Queen. But put a clergyman of opposing color next to that royal lady with several other pieces hovering around, and the calculations involved will make those spooky equations from Colossus: The Forbin Project look like kid stuff.
Major League Baseball managers, for all the barflies and armchair coaches yelling “fatso!” and so on at them, are chess wizards in their own way. So are the ‘cappers who are good at predicting which of their clubs will prevail in a given 9 innings.
Note “9 innings” and not “5 innings.” Sure, it’s easy enough to compare a pair of starting pitchers and handicap the first few frames on that basis – hence the popularity of “5-innings” Vegas markets.
But once teams (and especially pitchers) start dealing with fatigue on the diamond, all bets – excuse the pun – are off. Fatigue at the end of a long road series can make the L.A. Dodgers look like the Baltimore Orioles, and starting hurlers tiring in the 6th or 7th inning can help turn a ballgame around for the losing team or help the winning team land a KO with a huge rally. Yet if managers are too aggressive in yanking tired aces off the rubber, they might wear out the bullpen or affect the star’s confidence.
That’s just 1 reason why the MLB All-Star Game is a refreshing event for which to predict an outcome.
Nobody tries to pitch a complete game at the All-Star Game. Nobody suffers from in-game fatigue during the All-Star Break – and no one’s confidence level is particularly vulnerable. After all, a baseballer’s mere presence is enough to boost the mojo – he’s already representing the National League or American League as a top player.
Last but not least, there won’t be any utility players getting worn-out from holding down the fort for 1 or more injured teammates. Massive All-Star lineups and the timing of the summer break itself will see to that. Instead, handicapping the MLB All-Star Game is about the comparing the power, speed, depth and veteran savvy of 2 rosters against each other. That’s it.
We can’t even glean any insight from past All-Star Game performances from the 2019 cast. The once-a-year gala doesn’t produce a big enough sample-size of statistics for produce worthwhile angles. A hurler who has always shined at the Midsummer Classic might be blown away in the Year of the Home Run. A batter who has gone 0-for-2 in consecutive All-Star Games might knock a pair out of the park.
We can, however, look to past versions of the event as an indicator of how things might go in Cleveland on Tuesday night. There’s plenty of “sample size” at hand there.
Last season’s contest in Washington D.C. was thrilling, with the American League producing a 3-run 10th inning rally to prevail after the ballgame went to extra innings for the 2nd consecutive year.
When skippers Dave Roberts and Alex Cora (of the Dodgers and Boston Red Sox respectively) take the dugout for the mostly-ceremonial job of managing NL and AL representatives at Progressive Field, each might have his fingers secretly crossed that 2017 and 2018 don’t happen all over again. After all, they’ve got a lot of stock invested in some of the (healthy for now) commodities on the diamond.
But the dramatic outcomes sent Las Vegas a message – just because the All-Star Game no longer decides home-field advantage in the World Series does not mean the ballplayers won’t try their tails off.
While the last 2 Midsummer Classics have been knock-down, drag-out, nail-biting close calls, I’ve got a feeling that the 2019 clash in Cleveland might be more of a cat-and-mouse game.
Scroll ahead for LegitGamblingSites.com’s roster analysis, updated All-Star Game odds from MLB betting sites, and finally my prediction and pick on Tuesday night’s moneyline.
2019 All-Star Game Rosters Overview
Plenty of outfielders will be swinging for the same fences they’ll patrol for a handful of innings, but contact hitting and baserunning haven’t gone out of fashion – and quite a few infielders on the diamond at Progressive Field will be capable of slugging a game-changing HR out of the park.
A pair of stars from the Chicago Cubs, catcher Wilson Contreras and shortstop Javier Báez, will lead the starting unit for the National League. The sure-handed Contreras is making his 2nd consecutive All-Star start, while Baez leads his club with 22 homers.
1st baseman Freddie Freeman has been Mr. Do-it-All for the Braves, leading the team with 23 home runs, 68 RBIs, and a massive .978 OPS. Josh Bell of the Pirates and Mets’ rookie Pete Alonso have been breakout power-hitters in 2018, combining for nearly 60 dingers while Bell stands as the overwhelming MLB leader in RBIs with 84 baserunners batted-in.
Arizona’s 2nd baseman Ketel Marte is another breakout slugger who blasted a 482-foot home run for the Snakes this season.
Nolan Arenado’s consistency with the Colorado Rockies has earned him a 3rd consecutive All-Star Game start to add to his 6 Gold Gloves.
Don’t forget that Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers might take over at 1st base for the NL. He can bat (ahem) pretty good too.
For the AL, a Yankee duo of Gary Sanchez and D.J. LeMahieu each return to the gala. Sanchez ranks 3rd among sluggers in the AL and has nailed 24 homers.. LeMahieu is the AL’s top hitter with a .336 batting average and has added 63 RBIs on the season.
Cleveland’s Carlos Santana will finally participate in the All-Star Game and is hoping to make a splash after a spring and early summer campaign of nearly 100 hits. and has been instrumental behind the team’s batting attack. Santana leads the team with 19 home runs, 52 RBIs, and 93 hits. Fellow 1st baseman Jose Abreu of the White Sox does more than provide depth at the position.
Golden Glove Francisco Lindor will make a 4th consecutive All-Star Game appearance for the Cleveland Indians at his favorite ballpark.
The reigning All-Star Game MVP, Houston 3rd baseman Alex Bregman, returns to the Midsummer Classic in 2019 with 23 home runs under his belt.
Milwaukee slugger Christian Yelich and Bellinger lead a dangerous group of National League outfielders. Yelich is currently the top-rated power hitter in baseball with a league-best 31 home runs. Yelich is the reigning NL MVP and carries a .707 slugging percentage and .433 OBP.
Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña Jr. completes the starting outfield by making his maiden All-Star Game appearance at 21 years of age.
Depth is ample. Charlie Blackmon of the Rockies makes his 4th All-Star Game appearance and ranks 3rd in the National League with a .330 batting average. Blackmon’s teammate, David Dahl, is making his Midsummer Classic debut with a .308 average. However, those so-called “contact hitting” numbers are juiced by Rox players taking ½ of their at-bats at Coors Field. Dahl rarely makes errors and may come in handy on defense on Tuesday, since the thin air of Denver is “weighted bat” training for fielders too.
Jeff McNeil of the Mets rounds out an NL outfield of tremendous power and plate discipline.
Meanwhile, poor Mike Trout of the L.A. Angels must have forgotten what it is like not to be the most outstanding player on any ballclub…even on a special day in July. Trout has socked an AL-best 28 home runs to earn an 8th appearance in the All-Star Game.
A Space City duo of George Springer and Michael Brantley will completes the American League’s starting lineup. Springer has an incredible OPS of .973 and Brantley carries a healthy .324 batting average that has helped Houston assert itself in the postseason chase once again.
Boston’s Mookie Betts will make his 4th consecutive All-Star Game appearance and is getting on base at nearly a .400 clip. Texas Rangers slugger Joey Gallo makes an All-Star debut on Tuesday after blasting 20 home runs to go along with an OBP of .417 and an OPS of 1.060.
Cora will be hoping that an elite stable of hurlers can hold back the NL’s power. Lucas Giolito of the Chicago White Sox has had a breakthrough season, tying for an MLB-high 11 wins to go along with 120 strikeouts and a debut in the MLB All-Star Game. Texas Rangers sensation Mike Minor must sit out with an injury, but Tampa Bay’s Charlie Morton has stifled batters in 2019 and will be glad to throw a few more pitches than expected if necessary.
The dominant bullpen of the Astros will be represented by veteran Gerrit Cole, All-Star newcomer Ryan Pressly, and former Cy Young winner Justin Verlander. Cole has been the strikeout king with 170 Ks on the year, and Pressly has set an MLB record with 40 consecutive scoreless appearances.
Verlander will make an 8th-straight All-Star Game and appears to be his typical dominant self with 153 strikeouts and a 2.98 ERA. Meanwhile, Aroldis Chapman of the Yankees has been the AL’s top closer with 24 saves and has played in the Midsummer Classic 5 times.
National League aces will bring the heat too. Dodger lefty Clayton Kershaw returns to the fold, while his stablemates Walker Buehler and Hyun-Jin Ryu make their debuts. Buehler leads the team with 113 strikeouts, while Hyun-Jin Ryu has an MLB-best 1.73 ERA.
Washington Nationals veteran Max Scherzer will sit out with an injury.
Kirby Yates of the NL’s San Diego Padres has been the MLB’s premier closer in the 1st half of the 2019 season, posting a prodigious 30 saves on the year. Jacob deGrom of the Mets, the reigning NL Cy Young winner, returns to the All-Star Game after whiffing 138 opposing batters. He’s been striking-out Major League sluggers for quite a few seasons, including this fellow from his own Tuesday clubhouse.
MLB All-Star Game: Monday’s Updated Gambling Odds
I’m literally shocked at the betting odds for the ballgame at Progressive Field. Could an injury to Mad Max be weighing that heavily in gamblers’ minds?
The loss of 1 exceptional pitcher may not mean as much as they think. 50+ All-Stars will be taking the field on Tuesday night, making Max’s status into an only slightly larger-than-average puzzle piece.
Bovada Sportsbook’s action has cast the American League as a slight ML favorite at (-114), while the BetOnline community seems a little more rational, giving the American League (-111) to prevail, but a “reduced juice” moneyline at the book has also made the NL a (+101) underdog.
I’m handicapping a 60% to 65% chance that the National League will win the 2019 All-Star Game. In fact, the NL’s advantage is so great that the 1-night-only ballclub might be the “MLB moneyline pick of the season.”
In fact, it would be nice if the National League wasn’t the “road” team, not because there will be a huge difference in crowd support on Tuesday – except when Cleveland Indians step up to the plate. Not even because of the DH rule that will force the Dodgers’ skipper to adjust his thinking.
It’s the “visitors” Run Line that is cast as the (+1 ½) and I’d love if the number were switched to a minus-figure with a “+” payoff market.
Because the National League is likely to win by multiple runs.
Prediction and Moneyline Pick for the 2019 MLB All-Star Game
2019 is the Year of the Home Run (so far) and it’s important to think about what kind of pitching is most vulnerable to opposing musclemen looking for the long ball.
As I brought up in the intro, fatigue is not a factor in the Midsummer Classic. Speedball and slider-throwing aces are exciting to watch as they strike out the dregs of MLB again and again, but those hurlers can give up home runs to batters like Cody Bellinger. Giving up a homer often just means that a fresh, combative pitcher got overly confident and made a mistake.
“Placement” hurlers who specialize in control have the opposite problem. They rarely give up home runs no matter what, but will allow rallies once tired and unable to precisely steer the baseball.
There’s no such thing as an exhausted pitcher in the All-Star Game, giving a confetti-throwing staff an advantage over a squad of hot-shot strikeout artists when facing immense power at the plate.
Make no mistake, the 2019 American League roster includes some of the best ever to grace the rubber. Verlander and Cole can send elite batters packing with fierce fastballs, while Chapman’s heat has been clocked at 105 MPH.
But the National League brings a batch of crafty pitchers who specialize in deadening contact and putting-out opposing batters with easy plays in the field. Zack Greinke is a versatile and smart hurler, and Ryu does not rely on a blazing fastball but rather a chameleon-like style that keeps sluggers guessing.
I’m expecting those talents and others from the NL stable to give up maybe 1 or 2 runs at a time while the American League aces are subject to big rallies and shots to the yard.
Look for alternate betting lines that give the National League All-Stars (-1 ½) for Tuesday with a hefty payout market. But for now, consider that Tuesday’s moneyline is woefully mispriced.
Hype the American League’s supposed superior level of play all you want. Styles make fights, and some early-inning haymakers from the NL won’t surprise me at all.