The Empire Slate: Scherzer Injury Could Spell Trouble (And Fatter Odds) For Mets

We touch on the Mets, Yankees, and Rangers in our weekly look at New York sports betting action
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“The Empire Slate” is a weekly look at betting angles and trends involving New York sports.

The Mets’ TV crew might be the best in the business.

When Max Scherzer threw a slider in the dirt to Albert Pujols and then swiped his hand across his throat while looking at the Mets’ dugout late in Wednesday night’s game, the guys on SNY showed how closely they’re paying attention. Even before Scherzer’s gesture, Ron Darling could tell by Scherzer’s pitch-delivery mechanics that something was wrong with the team’s future Hall of Famer.

“It was not a good slider and he felt something and he immediately was done,” Darling said.

Gary Cohen, the play-by-play man, added some analysis.

“For a Mets team that is already without its No. 1 starter in Jacob deGrom and without its replacement in Tyler Megill, certainly Max taking himself out of a game in the middle of an at-bat has got to be a rather sickening feeling, and we can hope that it’s not something serious,” Cohen said.

How long will Max be out?

Mets fans anxiously awaited word Thursday on an MRI Scherzer had done on the muscles in his left side. It’s hard not to get a sinking “Here we go again” feeling for a franchise that has been snake-bitten with bad injury luck in recent seasons.

Scherzer isn’t one to take himself out of a game unless something is seriously askew. In fact, he tends to glare at any manager who even thinks of lifting him before he thinks he’s done. He said after the game he didn’t think it was a serious strain, but the Mets almost certainly will err on the side of caution with a player of Scherzer’s stature.

Former Giants and Dodgers trainer Stan Conte, who now runs his own injury analytics business, found that pitchers typically need 35 days to recover from a Grade 1 oblique strain, one of the possibilities in play.

Suddenly, a Mets rotation that has been dominant at times and was looking forward to deGrom’s return is in trouble. DeGrom has just begun his throwing progression, meaning he’s unlikely to return until sometime after the middle of June. Assuming Scherzer misses starts, the rotation consists of Chris Bassitt, Carlos Carrasco, Taijuan Walker and … um, well, stay tuned?

The Mets could call up David Peterson from the minors and could patch the occasional start by using relievers, but the quality and depth that helped lift them to the second-best record in the National League has evaporated.

How has it affected their odds?

The Mets soon could have the most talented injured list in MLB, with Scherzer and deGrom’s five Cy Young awards combined and Megill’s status as one of the most impressive young starters in the game. How much of a blow this stretch of bad injury luck makes to their season is TBD, but it’s troubling, to say the least.

So far, the New York’s mobile sportsbooks are taking a wait-and-see approach.  For now, the Mets remain the No. 3 choice to win the World Series behind the Yankees and Dodgers at consensus odds of +800. If Scherzer is out for a month or more, expect that number to rise.

For now, DraftKings still has Scherzer as its shortest price to win the NL Cy Young at +450, followed by Corbin Burnes (+475), Carlos Rodon (+800), and Pablo Lopez (+1200). Now, obviously, would be a rotten time to bet on Scherzer given that missing more than five or six starts could take him completely out of the running.

All season, the Cy Young odds for Scherzer, Burnes, and Walker Buehler have stayed relatively flat, while those of Lopez and Rodon have come crashing down due to their surprisingly strong performances. If Scherzer gets bad news from the doctors, expect his odds to skyrocket, presuming they leave him on the board.

Rangers need another rebound

The Rangers had to survive an adversity-filled series with the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 1 of the NHL playoffs, so they should have a pretty good idea of how to recover from a Game 1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday night. That’s especially true when you consider that the Rangers outplayed Carolina for much of the game before allowing a late-third period goal and then losing in overtime.

Carolina still hasn’t lost a home playoff game this postseason, so the Rangers have a chance to make them uncomfortable by ending that streak Friday night. Still, there’s no denying that a playoff loss significantly affects a team’s chance.

The Rangers opened the series as +1600 longshots to win the Stanley Cup at PointsBet and, at some books outside New York, that number has doubled. Among the books that offer mobile betting in New York, the best price on the Rangers to win it all is +2200 (at Caesars).

Similarly, the Rangers went from +600 to win the Eastern Conference to as high as +1000 (at PointsBet) after the loss. If you still believe, this might be a good time to jump on those beefier odds.

Judge’s bet looks smart

So far, Aaron Judge’s decision not to take the Yankees’ final contract extension offer just before the season looks wise. Judge is finally living up to the “perennial MVP candidate” label he earned after that spectacular rookie season in 2017.

Judge is on target for career highs in batting average, slugging percentage, OPS+, and Wins Above Replacement (WAR). His WAR/162 of 10.53, which ranks third in MLB, is the best of his career.

By now, presuming he stays healthy, Judge is a lock to surpass the 36.5 home run total the books set before the season. He has 14 in 134 plate at-bats, putting him on pace for 57 if he gets as many at-bats as he did in 2017.

By betting on himself, Judge is helping Yankees fans cash bets as well. The only victims in all of this, potentially, are the books that took prop bets on Judge and the Yankees, who could have to write a far bigger check to keep Judge than they would have before Opening Day.

Photo: Wendell Cruz/USA TODAY

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