Sundays are far and away my least favorite days for baseball betting. There are so many early games and some strange lineups. Some teams have the following day off, so getting a good effort isn’t always a certainty. There’s not a lot of time to prep for the games and the overnight and early morning line moves don’t allow public bettors to come back in and put value back on the preferred sides. Also, there’s not a lot of lead time for this article, which can limit me in terms of looking at selections.
We’ll look for some value today nonetheless, after a pretty strong day yesterday. Outside of a bullpen blowup from Baltimore, we were right on the money with several selections. A couple of nice plus money dogs cashed on Washington and Philadelphia as well. All in all, it was a good day, even with that Baltimore disaster. On the bright side, Operation: Fade the White Sox is going well. Let’s look ahead to Sunday.
Our focus, as it always is, will be on the games that provide a lot of line value and those that give us the opportunity to dig deep and find the wagering angles and betting tips that will produce winners.
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Per usual, the games with big lines will be overlooked, unless there is something particularly noteworthy about them or a play on the underdog is a possibility. Also, day games are usually skipped due to the lead time of the article. That will not be the case on Thursdays or Sundays when there are a lot of day games.
Washington at St. Louis (-110); Total: 7
This is a really interesting game. The Cardinals are looking to avoid a sweep and the Nationals are looking to finish one off after getting swept by the red-hot Phillies. Max Scherzer faces Carlos Martinez here. We’ll start with Scherzer because there are more tangible points to make about him. Scherzer doesn’t look right thus far. His control and command have taken a little bit of a tumble this season. What we’re actually seeing is what Max Scherzer used to be. The low first-pitch strike rate. The low 80s percentile zone-contact rate. Last season was a bit of an exception. This is more like the Max Scherzer we should expect.
We are looking for some positive regression, particularly in the walk and home run rate areas. Scherzer’s high walk rate doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Hitters are swinging a lot, still chasing a lot, and he’s still missing bats. There’s nothing in his plate discipline stats that suggest that this walk rate continues. His first-pitch strike rate is down to 61.5 percent, so that’s part of the problem, but it’s not such a big problem that his BB% should be two percent higher than his career average. The home run rate is just silly right now at 16.1 percent. That’s six percent above his average. He’ll be fine.
Carlos Martinez is one of my favorite pitchers in the NL because his raw stuff is just special. But, Martinez takes the mound with some weight on his shoulders here. Recent reports about a possible domestic assault allegation against Martinez have come to light. We’ll have to see how that plays out, but it is an unwelcomed distraction for the 24-year-old. As it is, there was some regression on the horizon with a .182 BABIP, an 85.6 percent strand rate, and a 1.93/3.52/4.24 pitcher slash.
The strikeout rate will come back a bit and it could happen today, but his batted ball luck will take a tumble soon. I’d lean Nationals here, because I think Scherzer’s positive regression outweighs Martinez’s negative regression, but this is a fascinating matchup on a lot of fronts.
Cleveland (-125) at Philadelphia; Total: 7
The Indians are a clear favorite here yet again and I still don’t understand it. Philadelphia is so much better than most people expected, though I was on this Phillies bandwagon before the season began. Danny Salazar has elite potential to be sure, but Vince Velasquez is no slouch himself.
I’m not going to go into a big breakdown of this game. I’m simply going to say that Philadelphia has value yet again. If the Indians win, they win, but this is the finale of a nine-game, three-city road trip with four frustrating losses in the last five games. Their lone win in that stretch didn’t come easy either. With an off day tomorrow, we’ll see how the Indians come out.
Los Angeles (AL) at Texas (-125); Total: 8.5
Garrett Richards has done about what we expected. The strikeout rate climbed a bit, along with the walk rate, and he’s outpitching his FIP and xFIP. This is Garrett Richards. He is what he is. His ERA will always be better than his advanced metrics because he induces a lot of weaker contact and can outpitch that BB rate that FIP and xFIP despise.
Cole Hamels was dealing with a groin problem and there are some other red flags in his profile, probably stemming from that injury. Hamels is down over one mph on his fastball and his percentage of pitches in the strike zone is by far the lowest in his career at 41.5 percent. The swing-and-miss stuff is there, but he’s working from behind far too often. There’s plenty of weak contact in that mix, which is why the BABIP and the strand rate have managed to stay low.
I’m a little bit worried about Hamels since he hasn’t worked in about 10 days. We’ll have to see how he looks coming off of that minor groin problem and to see if the velo comes back up in this start.
I’m staying away from this game for that reason, but I wanted to explain why the total may look a little bit high to some readers with two pitchers like this on the mound.
Kansas City at Seattle (-135); Total: 7
I love the stuff of Taijuan Walker, but any time it looks like he’s going to have that breakout season, the bottom falls out. In a seven-start span last season from May 29 to July 1, Walker hung a 1.68 ERA with a 51/3 K/BB ratio in 48.1 innings of work. Opposing batters hit .199/.221/.318. Over his next four starts, he hung an 8.02 ERA with 22 runs allowed in 21.1 innings of work. Hitters batted .310/.359/.583.
You never really know with Walker. The pure stuff is excellent. A new pitching coach and a new regime in Seattle may have found the magic formula. He’s been absolutely dominant in his 25 innings this season. His ground ball rate shot up and his control and command have been impeccable. There’s a legitimate chance that this is not a drill and that this could be the real thing.
On the other hand, his swinging strike rate was actually higher last season. He’s only getting ahead of 54.6 percent of hitters. No matter how good your stuff is, pitching from behind is never a recipe for success. He is mixing in the splitter and the curve more, so hitters have been a little bit baffled. I’m not sure what to believe yet, but you can bet that I’ll be watching Walker very closely this season.
Ian Kennedy was good to us for a few starts before he got blasted last time out against the Angels. He lost his control in that start and it wound up costing him dearly. I think Kennedy’s due for some more regression here. His hard-contact rate is just way too high to sustain a .262 BABIP against, even with the Royals defense. He’s got a 2.77 ERA with a 4.17 FIP and a 4.44 xFIP, so regression is suggested in those numbers. Also, he’s working from behind with a lot of hitters.
This is a no-play, but these two pitchers are very fascinating to me, particularly Walker. If I had to lean one way, it would be on Walker.
Colorado at Arizona (-115); Total: 9
How quickly things change. Shelby Miller was the flavor of the season last year and now nobody wants to touch him. Miller’s been awful in five starts with the Diamondbacks. He’s allowed 19 runs on 23 hits in 19.2 innings with a 16/15 K/BB ratio. John Hart and Company sold very high on Miller and this is a deal that could really hurt Arizona for years to come if he can’t get it figured out.
Miller’s velocity is down by a pretty big margin. Nobody is chasing outside of the zone. His zone% is down almost nine percent. His first-pitch strike rate is down 10 percent. His swinging strike rate is 5.6 percent, which is pathetic. For me, there are a lot of injury indicators here and I will not back a pitcher that I think is injured. Any time you get velocity and control downgrades at the same time, you’re looking at a possible injury.
I quietly like Chad Bettis. I think Bettis is the best of the bunch in that Colorado rotation, at least until Jon Gray develops more. He’s capable of average strikeout rates with a decent ground ball split and the control rates are passable. Bettis is basically your prototypical league average starter. He’s throwing the slider more this season, which could be a sign that he feels healthier. He’s getting some more swings and misses in the zone. I’m not sure what that’s all about or if it’s sustainable. My guess is no, so maybe Bettis is a fade guy in the near future.
Today, however, I’ll go against Shelby Miller. There’s something seriously wrong here and I’m not sure how it can be fixed. I don’t know if he’s gone for an MRI recently or not, but if he hasn’t and gets rocked today, expect one very soon.