“There was only one night game a year. On the 4th of July, the whole sky would brighten up with fireworks, giving us just enough light for a game. We played our best game because I guess we all felt like big leaguers under the lights of some great stadium. But Benny felt like that all the time.” – The Sandlot
If you’re looking for good baseball, it might be best to re-watch The Sandlot. Because Pennsylvania’s two MLB teams aren’t providing many fireworks for fans.
Baseball is approaching its All-Star break, the season’s halfway point, on July 12. The league’s All-Star starters were just announced Thursday night. And for Pennsylvania’s teams, the Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates, the progress reports are not good.
Statistics reveal the Phillies and Pirates struggles
As of July 1, the Phillies are 37-41 and in fourth place in the National League East. Pitching has been a particular problem. Philadelphia is 11th out of 15 National League teams in ERA.
The Pirates are even worse, ranked 12th in that statistic. And in terms of hitting (based on team OPS), the Pirates are ranked dead last in the entire MLB. The Phillies are 17th in that category.
It’s been a pretty miserable baseball season for Pennsylvania’s teams. In this week’s installment of Penn Sportsbooks’ Pick Play, we’ll preview the rest of the MLB season, examine some of the odds at PA sportsbooks, and look forward to what (if anything) could lead a resurgence for the Pirates and Phillies.
PA sportsbooks predicted Phillies mediocrity
The Phillies win total was set at 80.5 when the season began. So, the team is well within striking distance of that mark despite the mediocre early-season performance. In addition, National League East odds at DraftKings Sportsbook have hit the mark as well. The Phillies were projected to finish fourth in the NL East with odds of +875. Only the Miami Marlins had longer odds (+2500) and they are last in the NL East. The team has slightly underperformed its expectations thus far.Currently, the Phillies are five games behind the New York Mets, who are in first place in the National League East.
Philadelphia Phillies odds July 2021
- World Series: +6600 (opened at +4000)
- National League: +3300 (opened at +2000)
- NL East: +1000 (opened at +875)
However, a bright spot arrived just last week. Pitcher Aaron Nola struck out 10 straight batters in a June 25 game against the Mets, tying a record Tom Seaver set in 1970. Nola has a 5-5 record and a 4.44 ERA this season, but he also has three games with double-digit strikeouts. Nola started the season at +1200 to win the NL Cy Young Award. If he can find a little more consistency in the second half, it would certainly help the Phillies’ chances.
Win total for Pittsburgh Pirates season still within reach
And then, there are the Pirates. Pittsburgh opened the season with extremely low expectations. DraftKings Sportsbook set the team’s total at 59.5 wins. But the Pirates have been bad, struggling to a 29-50 record so far, that their odds have dropped even lower.
Pittsburgh Pirates odds July 2021
(Odds via DraftKings)
- World Series: +100000 (opened at +25000)
- National League: +25000 (opened at +10000)
- NL Central: +50000 (opened at +6500)
The Pirates are last in the NL Central, last in the entire league in hitting and 24th in pitching as well. There are very few bright spots. But second baseman Adam Frazier is second in the National League in batting average (.327). He was named an All-Star starter last night.
The Pirates still have a chance to reach the season total. That might be a best-case scenario for the Pirates. A disappointing season seems almost inevitable. But the win total could still be reached. Some wagers on Pittsburgh could still pay out.
Fans mired in a frustrating rebuilding effort could point to at least a tiny bit of progress.
It sure isn’t exciting. Right now, there are no fireworks for Pennsylvania’s teams.
You can only find those in movies. And up in the sky during one special summer night.
Lead photo by Matt Slocum/Associated Press.