Welcome to October!
After 162 games, six months, 26 weeks, 187 days, only 12 teams remain. Eight of those teams will play a three-game series beginning on Tuesday. The winner of each series will face off against the top seeds in the Division Series. Before we get there, let’s find a winner in this Wild Card series.
This article was supposed to feature two wild card futures. I bet the Brewers at -160 to beat the Diamondbacks. However, we got word that Brandon Woodruff will miss the series and could be out for the playoffs entirely from manager Craig Counsell.
I cashed out of that bet due to the new information. He is arguably the best pitcher in the postseason, so losing him is enormous. The Brewers can still win the series, but the price is not worth it.
We are left with one.
I’m using BetMGM lines only this year. Here’s a link to get started with a first bet offer of up to $1500.
Toronto Blue Jays @ Minnesota Twins
Projected Pitching Matchups:
Game 1: Kevin Gausman vs. Pablo Lopez
Game 2: Jose Berrios vs. Sonny Gray
Game 3: Chris Bassitt vs. Joe Ryan
These are my projections on what I know to this point. The Twins seem pretty set in stone, but Toronto has some questions. The Blue Jays could go with Yusei Kikuchi in game three, but I’d imagine they stick with the three pitchers who have thrown the most innings. Regardless, we should see plenty of Kenta Maeda for Minnesota and Kikutchi/Ryu for the Jays.
Neither team has had much success in the Statcast era (since 2015). The Blue Jays made the ALCS back in 2016, but since then, it’s been early exits in the wild-card round in 2020 to the Rays and in 2022 to the Mariners. The Twins have been even less successful, losing in 2017 and 2019 to the Yankees in the Wild Card and ALDS and, most recently, in 2020 to the Astros. I love betting on teams with the pedigree, but these two teams don’t fit the bill.
How Did They Get Here?
Both teams just missed the 90-game win threshold in the regular season and are built relatively similarly. Starting pitching and the bullpen. Both offenses have ranked near the top ten in most metrics. The Twins are 47-34 at home this season, while the Blue Jays are 46-35. The Twins were 37-36 against teams with a record over .500, while the Blue Jays finished 43-50. Credit to the Blue Jays, they played in a tougher division, so they found themselves in tougher battles more consistently.
The Twins come in playing better baseball. They are 7-3 in their last ten games, while the Blue Jays finished 4-6. However, the Twins got to face the Rockies, Angels, and A’s, while the Blue Jays had to face the Rays and Yankees.
All of this to say, there isn’t an edge on the “hotter” team. There is no real angle on post-season pedigree. There isn’t a strong home-field advantage nor a clear difference in how these teams performed against the best teams in baseball. I love series like these because the team that often wins has the advantage in the numbers.
Toronto Blue Jays
11th in OPS
16th in HR
22nd in SB
Since August 1 (Trade Deadline)
VS RHP: 100 wRC+ (12th)
VS LHP: 117 wRC+ (12th)
7th in OPS
3rd in HR
23rd in SB
Since August 1 (Trade Deadline)
VS RHP: 118 wRC+ (6th)
VS LHP: 135 wRC+ (3rd)
As you can see, the Twins have been the better offense this season and have been better since the deadline. Since August 1st, the Twins rank fifth in Hard-Hit rate while the Blue Jays rank 29th out of 30 teams. The Blue Jays have a marginal edge in stolen bases, but it’s only by a few over the entire season.
Because the Twins have home-field advantage, let’s look at how the Blue Jays have hit on the road and how the Twins have performed at Target Field.
The Minnesota Twins are the third-best offense in baseball by wRC+ (124) against right-handed pitching at home this season. They only trail the Rangers (127) and the Braves (128). Facing right-handed pitchers on the road this season, the Blue Jays sit with a 107 wRC+, still within the top ten teams in baseball but not as prolific as the Twins. If we remove the field of play entirely, the Twins sit with 111 wRC+ while the Jays sit at 106.
The Twins have better power numbers. Minnesota and Toronto are similar in the speed department. Against righties or lefties, the Twins have the better offense.
2nd in ERA
2nd in WHIP
2nd in SIERA
Pablo Lopez: 3.66 ERA, 2.98 xERA, 3.33 FIP, 3.29 xFIP, 3.37 SIERA
Sonny Gray: 2.79 ERA, 3.66 xERA, 2.83 FIP, 3.65 xFIP, 3.95 SIERA
Joe Ryan: 4.51 ERA, 3.51 xERA, 4.14 FIP, 3.76 xFIP, 3.44 SIERA
Kenta Maeda: 4.23 ERA, 3.74 xERA, 4.02 FIP, 3.98 xFIP, 3.76 SIERA
Toronto Blue Jays
3rd in ERA
14th in WHIP
6th in SIERA
Kevin Gausman: 3.16 ERA, 3.82 xERA, 2.97 FIP, 3.22 xFIP, 3.34 SIERA
Jose Berrios: 3.65 ERA, 4.51 xERA, 4.00 FIP, 4.01 xFIP, 4.08 SIERA
Chris Bassitt: 3.60 ERA, 4.01 xERA, 4.28 FIP, 4.21 xFIP, 4.25 SIERA
Yusei Kikuchi: 3.86 ERA, 4.24 xERA, 4.12 FIP, 3.77 xFIP, 3.86 SIERA
The only real advantage the Blue Jays have on the mound is in game one. However, when we look at the peripherals, Lopez and Guasman are not that different. Gausman is also continually left for dead by his teammates.
The lack of run support in his starts is staggering, finishing in the bottom five pitchers in Major League Baseball in RS/9. What makes it even crazier is the bulk of the pitchers at the bottom of the list are on teams with terrible offenses. The Blue Jays are anything but that. Lopez isn’t completely out of the woods, as he’s struggled at home this year, posting an ERA that is a full run higher at Target Field. Kevin Gausman is the superior pitcher to Pablo Lopez, but it isn’t by much this season.
The Twins will have the advantage on the mound in games two and three, no matter who the Blue Jays throw out there. That’s based on the peripherals, but I’m not just a numbers guy. I’m a human being with opinions of my own. I would take Joe Ryan over every other Blue Jays starter not named Kevin Gausman. Sonny Gray is even better than Joe Ryan.
Bassitt and Berrios both have worse numbers while pitching on the road. If I were the Blue Jays, I would consider Kikuchi over Bassitt in game three. However, that puts the Twins in their better split against lefties. So either the Twins get a worse pitcher, or they get to face a lefty that they’ve been able to hit all year.
Even if you give the Blue Jays the advantage in game one, the Twins own the starting pitching advantage overall.
Toronto Blue Jays
8th in ERA
4th in WHIP
2nd in SIERA
15th in ERA
7th in WHIP
10th in SIERA
The Blue Jays have the better bullpen during the entire season. They’ve been better in almost every major statistic, and I would go as far as to say it’s the best unit on their team. However, it’s much closer since the trade deadline.
Since August 1st, the Twins have the second-best SIERA in baseball at 3.72, only trailing the Rays. The Blue Jays rank eighth in that span at 3.96. They have the exact same ERA as well, at 3.85. The Twins own the second-highest K-BB% while the Blue Jays sit in seventh place. The Blue Jays own the edge in FIP, and the Twins have a better xFIP.
The closer for the Blue Jays, Jordan Romano, doesn’t enjoy pitching in the United States. In his entire career, he’s been a full run worse in the ERA department in road games. I feel much more confident at home in Jhoan Duran and his 2.27 ERA.
I’ll give the Blue Jays the edge here because they’ve done it longer, but don’t be surprised to see Romano blow it in a big spot.
Edge: Blue Jays
I think the Twins have the two most important advantages in a short series. They have more power threats in the lineup and superior starting pitching. The bullpen edge is so close that it doesn’t put anything over the top. While I’m not a fan of Rocco Baldeli, the Twins manager, I’m even less of a fan of John Schneider.
When you add in home-field advantage, there is no way the Twins should be underdogs. The home-field advantage isn’t massive here, but I would favor the team that gets to hit in the bottom of the ninth.
Since I started writing, the Twins have flipped to -115 favorites. Still, that’s not giving the Twins enough credit. In game one, the only game where they won’t have the better pitcher, they sit at -110 to win the game. I believe that will be the only time they aren’t the clear favorite.
I make the Twins -140 favorites in this series, so I was happy to jump on -105 when the lines opened. I would play this up to -125.