The Empire Slate: Injuries Mount For Yanks, Rangers Holding Fast

Also, Mets seeing signs their vaunted rotation could be back together again soon
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“The Empire Slate” is a weekly look at betting angles and trends involving New York sports.

It never fails, right? The Yankees put together a dangerous roster only to watch injuries dismantle it slowly but surely, year after year.

That is, of course, a reasonable take if you’ve observed the Yankees’ rotten luck with staying healthy over recent seasons. Giancarlo Stanton, for example, as good as there is at pounding baseballs when he’s healthy, has spent time on the injured list in four straight seasons.

But injuries are a fact of life in Major League Baseball, as in all pro sports, and the Yankees, like all teams, build in enough depth to handle them, at least up to a point. Part of the Yankees’ blistering start — with the best record in baseball, at 31-13 entering Thursday’s game against Tampa Bay — has had to do with their good health compared to other teams (ask a Red Sox fan). In the first five weeks of the season, they used the non-COVID injury list just twice.

They’re being tested with injuries for the first time in 2022, now that Stanton is on the IL with ankle inflammation and Jonathan Loáisiga has been shut down with a shoulder strain. Aroldis Chapman already was on the IL with a strained Achilles’ tendon and both Josh Donaldson (COVID list) and DJ LeMahieu (wrist) have missed games lately. The team lost sixth starter Luis Gil for the season as he underwent ligament-replacement surgery in his right elbow earlier this week.

Holding the line for now

The key for the Yankees is avoiding devastating injuries to key players and, thus far, they’ve been able to do that. Stanton, who played more games last season than in any year since 2018, appears to have a relatively minor ankle sprain. He hurt it on a swing rather than in a collision at the bag or while running with his full weight bearing down on it, so it seems reasonable to expect him back within about two weeks.

Also, remember, the Yankees came into this season with some position-player depth. They’ll rotate the designated-hitter spot to get players rest, something they’re always mindful of as their analytics department has learned how to mitigate the impact of injuries.

Losing Chapman and Chad Green, who is set to undergo Tommy John surgery, count as meaningful blows, but the emergence of Clay Holmes and Michael King means they should be able to handle high-leverage bullpen situations just fine, with guys like Miguel Castro, Wandy Peralta, and Clarke Schmidt capable of handling the middle innings. For now, the bullpen appears to be deep enough to remain a strength, if not the dominant force it was going into Opening Day.

World Series odds remain steady

We could broaden that out to suggest the Yankees appear capable of withstanding this latest barrage of injuries, though any more could put them over the tipping point.

The mobile sportsbooks don’t seem overly worried, or at least they don’t expect bettors to abandon the Bronx Bombers just yet when it comes to laying down futures bets. The Yanks’ championship odds have been among the steadiest in MLB this season, opening at +900 and slowly coming down to +600 as they continued to win. This latest rash of injuries hasn’t changed things much at all, as the Yankees remain +600 at most New York books and +550 at FanDuel.

At the very least, it’s probably worth waiting a couple of weeks to see how these injuries affect the team before jumping in. The Yankees are just 2-3 in their last five games and 1-4 in them against the spread.

An underwhelming play

One of last season’s Yankees betting trends has continued in 2022. Savvy bettors who noticed the Yankees’ lineup wasn’t performing quite as well as its reputation suggested were able to clean up betting unders last season.

Yankees run totals in 2021 finished under at a higher clip than all but one team, with unders hitting 89 times, compared to overs hitting 69 times (and four pushes). The Yankees, with all their pitching, have continued to hammer unders at a 24-20 clip, more tilted downward than all but nine teams — one of which is the Houston Astros, who have hit the under at a remarkable 33-12 rate.

As we noted with regard to futures betting, this is an erratic time for the team and it’s probably best to wait to see where trends go from here, but leaning under has proven lucrative for a while now when it comes to the Yanks.

Rangers looking to get ahead

Never count this Rangers team out. After fighting back from a three-games-to-one deficit against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the NHL playoffs, the Rangers have revived their chances again. They’ve come back from a 2-0 hole to even their series with the Carolina Hurricanes after winning Game 4 at Madison Square Garden 4-1 Tuesday night.

On Thursday night, the Rangers will try to hand Carolina its first home loss this postseason. The best moneyline odds available in New York on the Rangers are at PointsBet (+135), while BetMGM has it tighter, with the Rangers at +125. It will be a challenge, as the Rangers have won only one of their five road playoff games this month.

Meanwhile, the bookies don’t think much of the Rangers’ title hopes, but that has been true for a while. The Rangers went into this series at +1600 to win the Stanley Cup at PointsBet and +1400 at the other New York books.

Among the seven remaining teams, they have the third-longest odds to win it all, shorter only than the Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues, both of which are on the precipice of elimination in their series. The best Rangers championship odds among the New York books is at DraftKings, +1300.

Mets mound matters

While the Yankees have been contending with new injuries, the Mets are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel for their stretched pitching staff.

Jacob deGrom is now throwing off flat ground and the team has said it will discuss when he can get on a mound again in the coming days. Tyler Megill is a bit further along and could get on a mound this weekend, pitching coach Jeremy Hefner told reporters such as the New York Post’s Mike Puma.

It certainly sounds like both pitchers could be back in the Mets’ rotation sometime next month, giving a significant boost to a team that already is off to the fourth-best start in franchise history. Max Scherzer should be back in the vicinity of the All-Star break, restoring the team’s impressive rotation.

The Mets, like the Yankees, have had relatively steady title odds all season, opening at +1000 and quickly settling into the +800 neighborhood at most books, where they still sit. DraftKings is offering them at +900.

Unlike our advice with the Yankees, if you want to jump on the Mets bandwagon, now seems like as good a time as any.

Photo: Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY

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