“The Empire Slate” is a weekly look at betting angles and trends involving New York sports.
The Bronx Bombers are finally living up to the nickname.
One of the enduring mysteries of these Yankees for a long stretch of games was how a lineup that stacked with massive men of power could go so long without showing much of it collectively. From the start of the 2020 season through the end of last year, the Yankees of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, then Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo, slugged .417, good for 13th in MLB.
It’s fair to say that’s not how Brian Cashman and the rest of his front office drew it up.
But the Yankees’ power is burgeoning at long last in the early weeks of 2022. Thus far, the Bombers, spurred by long-ball barrages from Judge and Rizzo, lead MLB with 35 home runs and lead the American League in slugging at .422. They’re doing this while most teams have been starved for power, likely because of a dead ball MLB has put into play this season.
Sure, the pitching has been fantastic as well. The Yanks lead the AL with a 2.60 ERA, and only the stacked Milwaukee Brewers staff has a better collective pitching WAR than the Yanks’ 4.2. But great pitching has been the steadying influence on this team for a while. The uptick in power has carried it to the top of the AL East, where New York holds a 2.5-game lead over the dangerous young Toronto Blue Jays.
Online sportsbooks have noticed
Despite getting bounced by the Boston Red Sox in an AL wild card game last year, the Yankees went into the offseason as the AL’s second favorite to Toronto to win the World Series at +900 (at DraftKings). The traders at DraftKings have lowered those odds to +700, same as those for the Blue Jays.
Only the Dodgers, who have been as dominant as everyone thought they would be, have a shorter price in MLB at +450. If you’re shopping for the best title odds on the Yanks, FanDuel is your best option among the New York books at +800, but it might pay to cross the bridge into New Jersey, where SugarHouse is offering them at +1100.
If you were wise enough to take the over on the Yankees winning 91.5 games, you’re in pretty good shape. They just have to go 74-63 (.541 baseball) the rest of the way to reach that number. Not to toot The Slate’s own horn, but in this space right before the season, we wrote that the Yanks had a “clear path” to 92 wins.
Keeping The Slate accountable
A couple of prop bets we’re tracking since we gave our leans in the MLB preseason preview referenced above:
Judge over 36.5 home runs
We pointed out that in the only two seasons of his career in which he has played 115 games, Judge eclipsed this number, mashing 52 homers in 2017 and 39 last year. The usual caveat holds — he has to stay healthy — but this ticket looks good so far. Judge has mashed nine long balls and is tied with Rizzo and C.J. Cron for the major league lead.
He’s also being spurred on by the potential riches he’ll make this offseason since the Yanks and his representatives have not been able to work out a contract extension. If Judge stays on the field, this ticket will cash.
Chris Bassitt under 170.5 strikeouts
We lauded the Mets’ acquisition of Bassitt, but also pointed out he has never been a strikeout pitcher and, at 33, was unlikely to become one now. Well, he’s kind of proving us wrong so far. Bassitt is tied for 10th in MLB with 34 strikeouts in five starts, on pace to give him more than 200 K’s by season’s end.
His previous high for strikeouts was 159, set last year, so clearly he is trending up in terms of getting whiffs. This recommendation is not looking great so far, but we’ll point out that his 9.9 K/9 is dramatically outpacing his career norm of 8.3, so he could regress to the mean. Plus, a lot can happen in the ensuing five months.
Rangers need to bounce back tonight
Despite a painful triple-overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1 of the playoffs, the Rangers are sizable favorites entering Thursday night’s second game at Madison Square Garden. The New York books make them consensus -160 moneyline favorites.
To live up to their favorite status, the Rangers have to play better defense on Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby, who had two assists and seven shots on goal in Game 1. The guess from here is that they do just that, with star defenseman Adam Fox helping lock down on the Penguins in Game 2 after making some adjustments.
It’s tough for The Slate to recommend laying those odds on the Rangers to win Game 2, but here’s a live prop bet being offered by DraftKings: either Kaapo Kakko or Filip Chytil to score a goal at +150. Neither young player has scored a playoff goal yet in 10 games between them, but Kakko had three shots on goal in Game 1, and you’re getting a lot of young talent at the price with this one.
Photo: Danny Medley/USA TODAY