The Empire Slate: Yankees Should Be OK, But Are Jets Overrated?

Bronx Bombers still have encouraging odds, while Jets and Giants offer futures opportunities
giancarlo stanton swinging
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“The Empire Slate” is a weekly look at betting angles and trends involving New York sports.

The Yankees are fine.

That’s not going to come across well to a fan base furious over the team’s recent play, such as this particular native of the Bronx:

Leave aside, for the moment, that Stephen A. Smith thought Hank Steinbrenner is still alive (he died two years ago). There’s another problem with this rant. Namely, where was Smith when the Yankees were building up such a massive lead that they can afford to go on a 3-11 stumble like they’ve been on?

Unless these struggles continue for another month or so, it’s probably going to barely dent the Yankees’ chances of winning their first World Series in 13 years.

Here’s why: In the 2022 playoff format, it’s all about grabbing a first-round bye. This season, the two division winners with the best record get to skip the three-game wild card series that start the postseason on Oct. 7. The Yankees, barring seven more weeks of poor play, are practically assured of getting one of those two spots.

Not only do the Yankees have a 10-game lead in their division (with only 48 games left), they have a 10-game advantage over the Guardians for the second-best record among division winners in the AL. That’s all that really matters, particularly since home-field advantage is such a nothingburger traditionally in the MLB postseason. The home team has won 54% of postseason games over the years, the lowest of the big four U.S. sports.

Sportsbooks aren’t expecting collapse

Are those leads blowable? As the 1951 Dodgers and 1964 Phillies can attest, yes, it’s possible to blow such a massive lead.

But consider for a moment that, despite going 9-17 since the All-Star break, the Yanks have dropped just two games in the AL East standings. FanGraphs gives the Yanks a 100% chance of reaching the postseason and a 94.7% chance of clinching the first-round bye. Oh yeah, and Giancarlo Stanton should be back next week.

If you’re still not convinced the Yankees are fine, you might want to expedite your next visit to a mobile sportsbook. You can get 40/1 odds at DraftKings if you bet on them to miss the playoffs, which, by the FanGraphs projection, is like flushing those dollars down the toilet. Conversely, if you want to bet on them to qualify for the playoffs, you’d have to wager $200 to win a buck.

To translate those odds into a probability, DraftKings is saying there is a 99.5% chance of the Yankees making the playoffs, which, for all intents and purposes, is what the projection systems have to say. The fans’ anger might be justified based on the past couple of weeks, but the anxiety about dire consequences is probably a little overblown.

Jets drawing summer action

Jets supporters are proving, once again, that absence makes the heart grow fonder.

The team that has gone 22-59 over the past five seasons, tied with the Giants for the worst record in the NFL over that stretch, has been bet heavily all summer. When NFL future lines were released a couple of months ago, ESPN pointed out many of the four-figure bets pouring in on Gang Green to win the Super Bowl and noted that more bets and money had been placed on the Jets winning more than 5.5 games than any other team over-under total.

Is the confidence bettors are putting in the Jets justified?

Well, the team did seem to have a strong offseason, with some savvy signings, a few potentially impactful coaching changes, and a draft that netted them well-regarded cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, speedy Ohio State receiver Garrett Wilson, as well as a potential late-first-round steal in pass rusher Jermaine Johnson.

But let’s not get carried away here. While the Jets showed flashes under quarterback Zach Wilson, who is entering his second year (and hoping to return quickly from a knee injury), they showed little consistency on offense and were ranked dead last in defense, both scoring and total yardage.

And due to all the volume pouring in from Jets fans, the odds if you’re willing to short them are appealing. If you take under-5.5, you get +115 at FanDuel (the over is -135). Despite all the happy talk this summer, that’s a pretty good price on a team that has failed to win five games in five of its last six seasons.

Go for value with the Giants?

The sportsbooks seem to be taking a rather optimistic view of the Giants, setting their win total at 7.5 despite the team going 4-13 last season. The reason for that is fairly obvious: Injuries sank the Giants last season, especially the neck injury to quarterback Daniel Jones, after which the team lost its final six games.

But if you’re bullish on the Giants, it might make sense to stretch your optimism even further. See, you get +115 if you take over-7.5 wins, but you get +800 at DraftKings if you bet the Giants to win the NFC East, where they’re the biggest longshot on the board.

Last year, the Cowboys went 12-5 to win the division, but each of the previous two seasons, a team won the division with fewer than 10 wins. So, why not take the far bigger payout on the team winning a couple of extra games?

Books showing deGrom serious respect

Jacob deGrom has looked absolutely fabulous since he started pitching again after recovering from a stress fracture in his right scapula. He’s back out there throwing triple-digit fastballs and low-90s sliders.

In his three starts, deGrom has a 1.62 ERA (great), a 0.72 FIP (incredible), and 28 strikeouts in just 16⅔ innings.

All of which has prompted the books to set an ultra-aggressive line on deGrom’s Thursday night start against the Braves: 9.5 strikeouts.

While it’s not hard to envision deGrom striking out 10 Braves — who are the third most strikeout-prone team in MLB — the under might be the smarter play. For one thing, the Braves just saw him 11 days ago and it always benefits hitters to get a second look at the pitcher in such a short time frame. Plus, deGrom still is building up his endurance and has yet to throw as many as 80 pitches in a start this season.

While his dominance has given the books every reason to set his total that high, it may not be a bad idea to lean under here and lay the -130 (at DraftKings).

Photo: Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY

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