Rays vs. Red Sox: Regression To The Mean


Brett Phillips #35 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates with Brandon Lowe #8 and Wander Franco #5.   Greg Fiume/Getty Images/AFP
Brett Phillips #35 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates with Brandon Lowe #8 and Wander Franco #5. Greg Fiume/Getty Images/AFP


The Tampa Bay Rays are the obvious choice for your Tuesday MLB picks when they visit the overpriced Boston Red Sox.


Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox

Tuesday, August 10, 2021 at Fenway Park

Regression has come for the Boston Red Sox. After spending most of the 2021 Major League Baseball campaign on top of the American League East standings – despite a run differential that ranked third in their division – the Red Sox (65-49, plus-9.39 betting units) have finally seen their bubble burst. They’ve lost nine of their last 11 games to fall into second place behind the Tampa Bay Rays (68-44, plus-13.44 units), the reigning AL champions. Conveniently enough, the Rays will be at Fenway Park this Tuesday to open a pivotal three-game set, and they’re a compelling choice for your MLB picks after Caesars Sportsbook opened them as +120 road dogs. Boston do have home-field advantage, and the projected pitching matchup should be in their favor, with Eduardo Rodriguez (3.38 FIP) slated to start opposite Luis Patino (4.31 FIP). But Tampa’s strength elsewhere on the diamond makes this matchup a virtual coin flip.

Mean Business

It was only a matter of time for the Red Sox. Even when you factor in their recent slump, Boston’s 21-14 record in games decided by one run, and 6-3 in extra innings, suggests they’ve been quite lucky against the MLB lines. Good relief pitching helps, of course; Sox relievers rank fifth overall with plus-4.0 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) at FanGraphs. However, Boston’s plus-33 run differential works out to an equivalent Pythagorean record of 61-53, leaving plenty more room for negative regression. Compare and contrast to the Rays, who have outscored their opponents by a combined 121 runs this year. They have a Pythagorean record of 69-43, almost identical to their actual won-loss record, and their 16-16 record in one-run games is much closer to what you’d expect from any team in those situations. Tampa’s 5-10 record in extra innings even suggests they’ve had a little bad luck along the way. Don’t blame their bullpen, either – the Rays lead the majors at plus-5.9 WAR.

El Gualo vs. El Electrico As for Tuesday’s pitching matchup, Rodriguez has been both lucky and unlucky on the mound. He’s only thrown four quality starts this year, but the veteran southpaw has been Boston’s most profitable pitcher, racking up 6.20 units in earnings on a team record of 14-7. His teammates have helped out quite a lot, driving the Over to an 11-9-1 record; at the same time, Rodriguez’ 5.33 ERA has been inflated by a remarkably high .367 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play), and a career-low 65.7 percent of runners left stranded. Patino’s case is much different. The rookie northpaw was part of the haul the Rays received from the San Diego Padres in last year’s Blake Snell trade; Patino has only made seven starts for Tampa, dropping 1.34 units on a team record of 3-4, but overall, he’s pitched fairly well in this small sample size. Tuesday will also be the first time Red Sox hitters (aside from Enrique Hernandez, who’s 0-for-1 with a strikeout) have ever faced Patino at the major-league level. That’s an advantage for the pitcher, and yet another reason to think the Rays can beat the MLB odds in this contest.

MLB Pick: Rays +120 at Caesars

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