07/20/2013 01:58 PM
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Today's Free Picks for Jul 20, 2013
Baltimore @ TEXAS
Baltimore +105 over TEXAS
A quick glance at today’s starting pitchers will reveal R. Wolf starting for the Rangers. We’re sure some of you are going to think that the Rangers are using long-time major-leaguer Randy Wolf but they’re not. This is Ross Wolf, a career minor-league journeyman. In 2010, the Athletics acquired Wolf from Baltimore in a June '10 trade and they promoted him to the majors for the first time since '07. Wolf pitched 12 innings with the Marlins in '07 and posted an 11.68 ERA. He's a low upside pitcher who pitches primarily off of his high 80s sinker. He’s worked primarily in relief this year and in 33 innings, Wolf has just nine K’s. In fact, it’s safe to say that he’s been the Rangers mop-up man, as he’s entered games when Texas was losing 14-5, 6-1, 6-1 again and 9-2 among others. He got a start last time out when Yu Darvish was placed on the DL and sure enough that start came in Baltimore against these same Orioles. Wolf caught lightning in a bottle that day by allowing just three hits (2 of them bombs) in six innings and picked up the win. Lightning will not strike twice. Wolf is 30-years old with 58 career ML innings and he’s not about to go R.A. Dickey on anyone. One of the stalwarts on the surprising 2012 Orioles was Miguel Gonzalez, who went 9-4 in their second-half playoff drive. After missing 2008 and 2009 with arm issues, Gonzalez worked his way up the minor league ladder in the Boston system before coming over to Baltimore. Gonzalez’s skills are consistent with last year. He’s not piling up huge strikeout numbers, but he does a good job of avoiding free passes, as his command will attest to. After a slow start (4.60 ERA in April), he’s pitched better of late. Gonzalez was 4-1 a 2.88 ERA in five June starts. He’s allowed three runs or less in seven straight and while he may not fare as well today at this unforgiving park, he’s a much better option taking back a tag than Ross Wolf is spotting one.
Baltimore +105 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.10)
Chicago @ COLORADO
Chicago +138 over COLORADO
The Cubbies took the opener last night 3-1 and have now won 12 of their past 19 games. Chicago continues to get timely hitting, good pitching and contributions from several different sources each night. They were undervalued yesterday and they’re undervalued again today with another pitching matchup in their favor. Carlos Villanueva is no stranger to starting games. He started a game before the break against St. Louis and went six solid innings (four hits, two runs). In his career, Villanueva has started 66 games in over 300 appearances and he’s been effective no matter what role he’s in. Villanueva was one of the NL's biggest surprises in April (2.29 ERA, 0.82 WHIP). He has a nice 9.0% swinging strike rate. While his 87.8 mph average fastball velocity does not leave any room for error, he has used it with his 80 mph change-up to keep hitters off balance. Hitters managed only a .128 BA and .308 Slg against his change-up. He’s also using a good sinker to induce plenty of groundballs. Villanueva has a strong arsenal of pitches. He comes in with a solid xERA of 3.77 and another strong start here would be of no surprise. The Rockies have lost five of Juan Nicasio’s last eight starts. Nicasio has just five pure quality starts in 17 tries this season for one of the worst dominant starts/disaster starts splits in the majors. Micro-fracture knee surgery last July ended his season, curtailing his comeback from a fractured vertebrae that ended 2011. Nicasio has spent 177 days on the DL over the past three seasons and his 88 innings pitched this year is a career high at this level. In those 88 frames, he has just 59 K’s but has also issued 31 free passes. Nicasio’s 4.89 ERA is fully supported by his ugly xERA of 5.09. Nocasio’s current combination of a middling strikeout rate, shaky command, poor durability and allowing too many runners to cross home plate all conspire to make him a very risky and unappealing favorite.
Chicago +138 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.76)
Tampa Bay @ TORONTO
Tampa Bay +100 over TORONTO
BEST LINE: Pinnacle +100The Jays began the second half the same way they began the first half. Toronto has now dropped two in a row and four of its last five games. It’s also worth noting that the Rays have won six of the past nine games against Toronto and this might be the Jays worst matchup of them all. Mark Buehrle was crushed in his last start in Baltimore in which he was tagged for three jacks and eight runs in six innings. Buehrle occasionally throws a lucky game when all those hard hit balls are right at people. However, his skills keep deteriorating with age and he’s missing fewer bats than ever. Buehrle comes into this start with a 5-6 record, a 1.37 WHIP, a 4.89 ERA and a .277 BAA. At home his numbers look much better (4-1 with a 3.30 ERA) but he’s been the exact same pitcher at home as he’s been on the road in terms of poor skills. That tells us that ERA regression at home is inevitable and these Rays have plenty of weapons to start that regression today.
Jeremy Hellickson is the exact opposite of Mark Buehrle. Hellickson owns a 4.67 ERA due to no fault of his own and that’s fine with us, as that hugely misleading ERA has him way undervalued here. Hellickson’s ERA is a direct result of an unlucky 63% strand rate. Hellickson has posted an xERA of 3.06 over his past six starts. That’s an xERA equivalent to Matt Harvey, Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander. Hellickson has outstanding control, a good strikeout rate (26/97 - BB/K in 118 innings), a solid batted ball profile of 49%/16%/34% groundball/line-drive/fly-ball and he has a legit shot to post a 3.50 ERA in the second half. He’s also pitching for a hot team and the fact that Hellickson is a dog to Buehrle is ridiculous. Wrong side favored.
Tampa Bay +100 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.00)
Miami @ MILWAUKEE
Miami +149 over MILWAUKEE
Yovanni Gallardo has been one of baseball's biggest pitching disappointments. The Milwaukee Brewers have been one of baseball’s biggest team disappointments. Now this combination of big disappointments is a -160 favorite? Gallardo’s velocity has continued its trend downward from his peak performance in 2011. His skills in May and June were at least somewhat respectable, but July has been his worst month so far with 11 K’s, 7 walks, 15 earned runs allowed and a 39% groundball rate in 15 July innings. Overall, the Brewers have lost four of Gallardo’s last five starts and that includes a July 1 start in Washington is which he allowed eight runs in three innings. The biggest red flag of all is Gallardo’s 28% line-drive rate over his past 10 starts and there isn’t a pitcher on the planet that is going to have sustained success with a line-drive rate that high. Nathan Eovaldi has started just five games this season and all five starts have been of the pure quality variety. Eovaldi’s stock is still low because he went 4-13 with a 4.30 ERA in 119 IP last year for the Marlins and Dodgers. However, last season, Eovaldi was a rookie that had just 168 IP above A+ ball and was learning on the job. He struggled with strikeout rate and control but made strides in keeping the ball on the ground. In September of last year, Eovaldi posted a 3.72/3.32 ERA/xERA, good command and a 51% GB% in 29 IP. Combine that with this year and these are the seeds of something with very good profit potential. Eovaldi has mid 90’s raw stuff and in his five starts he has a 47% groundball rate, a 16% line-drive rate a 1.04 WHIP and an ERA of 2.93. It’s no fluke either, making him one of the most undervalued pitchers on today’s card.
Miami +149 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.98)