The Empire Slate: All Hail The Mets! Plus, The NFL Draft And More

The Mets are cruising, the Nets are a mess, and who knows who the Jets and Giants will draft?
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“The Empire Slate” is a weekly look at betting angles and trends involving New York sports.

Lately, the focus around the New York Mets has been the alarming rate at which their hitters have been struck by pitches — 19 times in the team’s first 20 games, more than twice the league average.

Getting drilled by 94 mph pitches isn’t fun, obviously, and on Wednesday in St. Louis, some of the team’s frustration boiled over during a kerfuffle with the Cardinals.

For more on that topic, The Athletic has a good look at the rising rate at which major league batters are being struck by pitches. If you don’t have a subscription, The Empire Slate will summarize for you: The Mets’ hitters tend to stand closer to the plate than most teams’ batters, and analytical front offices’ obsession with velocity is prompting teams to promote their hardest-throwing young pitchers before they have time to harness their command.

It’s probably not the ball’s fault, and it’s not that the Mets’ players are unpopular.

They’re mostly letting their play speak for itself

Let’s not let the latest brouhaha distract us from the fact that the Mets are off to a roaring start behind absolutely dominant pitching. Should they somehow win their next five games, they’d be off to the franchise’s second-best 25-game start ever, just behind the scorching 20-5 start in 1986. As some may recall, that was a pretty good year for the Metropolitans.

Bettors who took the Mets right after Jacob deGrom’s shoulder injury came to light to win more than 87.5 games (at Caesars) or even 88.5 (at DraftKings) are feeling pretty good about their chances. It’s probably too early for any of this nonsense, but they’d need to go 75-67 the rest of the way to get to 89 wins.

Their fast start has gotten the attention of the sportsbooks, not as much because of their record as the action being generated by their fans, who tend to be among the most prolific sports bettors on the planet.

“The Mets are now a top-5 liability to win the World Series and they also have the second-most tickets to win the World Series,” said Chris Youn, senior trader at WynnBet. “Compared to last year, the exposure is greater, but nothing overly unusual.”

Mets fans, like many, tend to see their team with rose-colored glasses anyway, and the typical high volume of action on the team prompted Youn to call this season’s trends somewhat “par for the course.”

WynnBet is among the operators that have shortened the Mets’ World Series odds, moving them from 12-to-1 to 10-to-1 primarily to protect itself against the volume pouring in. Youn also said the sportsbook may shorten the odds further if deGrom returns sooner than expected or if the Mets extend their 3.5-game lead in the division by mid-May, which means you might want to act now if you’re thinking of jumping on this orange, white, and blue bandwagon.

Meanwhile, in Brooklyn …

Far be it from us to pile out of the Volkswagen bug with the rest of the circus clowns to comment on the sweep of the Brooklyn Nets at the hands of the Boston Celtics. Others have said it better:

But where do the Nets go from here? Apparently, they consult the same guy who created so much of the circus atmosphere around the team this year, which he started by refusing to get vaccinated in violation of New York City workplace rules. He had to play on an empty stomach in the playoffs, meanwhile, while observing Ramadan.

Not sure why they would let Irving have anything to do with the trajectory of the team, considering they entered this season as the favorites to win the NBA title at +225. According to NBA writer Josh Eberley, the Nets are the first NBA team ever to start the season as consensus title favorites and win no playoff games. Even after they had to scramble just to secure a No. 7 seed for the playoffs, sportsbooks continued to take massive action on them.

From here, it seems like it might be time to try something new rather than rely on the same personalities who created the latest mess — who all will be a year older next season.

Betting on the NFL Draft remains verboten

New York bettors can’t wager legally on Thursday night’s NFL Draft, which is a shame, since the Jets draft fourth and the Giants pick fifth. In fact, unless the legislature acts quickly starting with the January session or the gaming commission changes the rules unilaterally, which might be possible, it’s unclear whether they’ll be able to wager on the 2023 NFL Draft.

But, of course, there are bridges and tunnels that connect New York to New Jersey, which basically allows people to bet on whatever the heck they want — so let’s throw out a prop play that caught our eye:

Team to draft Malik Willis: Giants +1500 (DraftKings)

Quarterbacks have tended to go higher than most people expected in recent drafts and that could hold true even with this year’s generally lousy class of QB prospects. The value here lies in the fact the Giants are the only team with two of the first seven picks (they got one from the Bears in a draft-day trade last year). Willis seems like a decent candidate to climb the board, and the Giants just might be looking for a Plan B in case Daniel Jones doesn’t pan out. Might be worth a shot, anyway, at 15/1.

Rangers cruise into postseason

Before the season, NHL.com asked 16 of its writers to rank the teams in each division, and 11 of them predicted the Rangers wouldn’t make the NHL playoffs.

So, yeah, it has been a nice season on the ice at Madison Square Garden. Now, it remains to be seen whether the Rangers can win their first playoff series since they embarked on a lengthy rebuild after the 2017 season. If the season ended today (it actually ends Sunday), they would face the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team they defeated in three of four matchups this season.

Sportsbooks are starting to show the Rangers a little respect, with DraftKings offering New York as its No. 7 choice to win it all at +1600 (down from +2200 to start the season) and its No. 5 choice to win the Eastern Conference at +800.

Bear in mind what we mentioned about the Mets, though: The high volume from New York bettors can tend to depress local teams’ odds, but if you’re feeling bullish about the up-and-coming Rangers, go for it!

Photo: Shutterstock

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