06/29/2013 01:25 PM
Chicago -107 over SEATTLE
In five June starts, Jeff Samardzija has posted an ERA of 4.54 and he’s precisely the reason you buy skills and not ERA results. Samardzija skills in June were just as good and even better than they were in April and May but he was hurt by an unfortunately low 67% strand rate. Samardzija has some of the best skills in the game the first and second times he goes through lineups, as his BAA of .136 will attest to. Samardzija has 115 K’s in 106 frames, a strong 48% groundball rate, a 3.39 overall ERA with an xERA of 3.15. This is true value in that we get the vastly superior pitcher laying less than a dime against the weak-hitting Mariners.
Aaron Harang has a 5.29 ERA after 65 IP with an xERA of 4.07. Pitching at Safeco, that xERA is not a ringing endorsement. Harang has blown up in four of 12 starts and many other have been of the mediocre variety. One of his problems has been gopheritis with guys on base. He has an ugly 3.1 HR/9 in that scenario and that should come as no surprise given his ugly 29%/47% groundball/fly-ball rates over his past nine starts. Harang’s margin for error is razor thin. His control has improved but with a .278 BAA, he remains one of the most hittable pitchers in the game and he usually gets worse as the season progresses.
BALTIMORE -1½ +157 over N.Y. Yankees
You think the oddsmakers erred when they made T.J. MacFarlane a slight favorite over C.C. Sabathia yesterday? The public ate up that line and it cost them when the Yanks could not deliver the knockout punch early. New York scored three runs in the first three innings but it probably should’ve been twice that, which has been a constant problem for the Yanks. New York is seeing BB’s right now and the oddsmakers knew it when they posted that enticing number on Sabathia. Since June 1, the Yankees have a .219 BA and .604 OPS, which are both worst in MLB. Now New York will have to face Zach Britton’s nasty stuff. As long as Britton is throwing strikes he’s almost unhittable. Britton’s stuff is sick. When batters make contact, it’s usually weak or on the ground, as his elite 58% groundball rate and 16% line-drive rate will attest to. His problem has been control but when facing a team that is pressing like the Yanks are, batters tend to help pitchers out by swinging at pitches they have no shot of hitting. Britton has a great chance to thrive here.
David Phelps is a mid-rotation, starting pitcher for an average team. His skills are average, he walks too many batters (30 in 75 innings) and he’s been asked to switch roles for years. Phelps has appeared in 16 games, 10 as a starter. In his career, he’s appeared in 49 games, 21 as a starter. He’s been more consistent since the Yanks told him he’d be starting every fifth day but he’s heard that before. Phelps has an xERA of 4.75 over his last five starts and his fly-ball rate is trending the wrong way. In fact, over his last seven starts, Phelps has produced more fly-ball outs than groundball outs in all of them and that includes a start in Tampa in which he produced just six GB outs against 20 fly-outs. That’s a warning sign and he now has to face an Orioles team that leads the majors in HR’s with 109. Some of those fly-balls will likely go straight over the wall today and it should all add up to another O’s victory, only this time by more than a run.
MIAMI +109 over San Diego
Eric Stults is a popular guy these days. He's seen his ownership in fantasy baseball rise to over 65% in the last two weeks and his 2.23 ERA over the past 30 days is a good reason. Of course fantasy baseball is not wagering but many bettors play fantasy baseball. In other words, Stults’ stock is higher than it’s ever been and like we always say, that’s usually the best time to sell. Eric Stults is a 33-year old soft-tossing lefty. His command is very good but that's all control driven. His 67 K’s in 100 IP isn't that exciting and it's actually a step up from his historical skill level. Stults has an xERA of 4.07 and a slightly below average 42% groundball rate. Stults is simply a very average pitcher that has outpitched his xERA so far due to an extremely low 5% HR/F rate. With a 41% fly-ball profile, some balls will be leaving the yard very soon on this guy and as the chalk on the road, he’s just not very appealing. Stults is overvalued.
Meanwhile, Jacob Turner has gone unnoticed but continues to deliver the goods start after start. Turner has started just five games this season but has allowed two runs or fewer in four of them and that includes starts at Philly and Arizona, both extreme hitters’ parks. Turner has an elite 51%/18%/30% groundball/line-drive/fly-ball profile. Remember, back in 2011, Turner was the Tigers #1 pitching prospect. Turner has the goods to be a dominant strikeout pitcher but he’s focusing on fastball command and improving his change-up. His fastball sits between 90-95 mph, but he uses his 6’5” height well to pitch on a downward plane. The fastball exhibits nasty late life and he gets hitters to pound it into the ground. Turner operates with a smooth delivery, which enhances the look and feel of his secondary offerings. He has excellent polish and pitchability and knows how to sequence his pitches to keep hitters guessing. The Fish have won three of Turner’s five starts and that probably should be four of five after he threw a gem in his last start in San Fran. Turner’s 1.97 ERA this season comes with full skills support and now is the time to buy low on this potential ace because the window of opportunity is going to close quickly.