We’ll look to get back on the horse and ride it to some winners here on Saturday after a miserable Friday. Sometimes things just don’t work out the way that you want them to. That’s why bankroll management awareness and a short memory are two of the best assets a handicapper can have. Fortunately, the MLB season format gives us a chance to get our losses back right away. No matter how great a game looks, it’s still called gambling for a reason, as hard as it can be to swallow.
There are six day games and nine night games on the slate today. 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 (-140); Total: 7
I’ve had this game circled for a couple of days. Recent losses on games that I’ve really liked have made me a little bit hesitant with my reads, which is a reminder that confidence is such a big thing in handicapping. If you believe in your process, you can adapt, or make minor changes, but you never want to reinvent your own wheel. I believe in my process and I’m going to apply it here and hope that things start to bounce the right way.
The Nationals should be in a pretty good spot here. Joe Ross hasn’t had the same strikeout success as last season, mostly because he’s been forced to work from behind in the count so often. Of the 62 batters that Ross has faced, he’s only gone strike one to 31 of them. His best weapon is his slider and it becomes a far less effective weapon with the count in the hitter’s favor. Ross’s best start came against Philadelphia when he went 7.2 shutout innings, scattering three hits, with five strikeouts and two walks. He threw a first-pitch strike to 55.2 percent of the batters he faced. That’s still below average, but it shows why he was effective. Ross hasn’t worked in 10 days after leaving his start against Miami with a blister. He’s a guy I’m still buying stock in because I think the strikeouts can come back.
The reason I’m fading the Cardinals here is because this is not a great spot. They came home to face Stephen Strasburg last night after a very late night in Arizona on Thursday. This is their second game in 18 hours, so fatigue has to play a role. I like Jaime Garcia and he’s been extremely good when he’s been healthy. I believe in what he’s doing this season, so this is a fade of the Cardinals hitters, who have been really good this season. I also like the price given the spot.
Hopefully this one works out for us. Even if it doesn’t, the process and the rationale are solid and these situational spots should work more often than not.
Houston at Oakland (-110); Total: 7.5
A Houston bullpen meltdown cost us this one last night as Mike Fiers had one of his best starts in quite some time. Everything worked out the way we wanted it to, but the Astros bullpen failed to hold up its end of the bargain. There are a lot of unknowns for Saturday’s game. Christopher Devenski makes his starting debut for the Astros, continuing the tradition of promoting pitchers straight from Double-A. It’s worked out with Lance McCullers and Vincent Velasquez, but Devenski doesn’t have the same overpowering stuff.
Devenski has worked six times out of the bullpen, covering 13.2 innings. He’ll be on a pitch count, so that awful Houston bullpen will be front and center once again. Devenski has shown terrific control with a 12/1 K/BB ratio. I’m not bullish on Devenski’s prospects as a starter, given what I’ve seen. He’s a fastball/changeup guy, with over 85 percent of his pitches falling into one of those two categories. As a starter, you need a third pitch, even if it’s a token pitch to give a hitter something different. He does throw a slider and a curveball, but he’ll have to get a feel for them in order to use them. Dan Farnsworth echoed the same things in his preseason look at Houston’s system, which is loaded with position players.
Jesse Hahn is no sure bet either. Hahn, however, is a guy that had me a little bit more optimistic about the Athletics than most. He’s your prototypical Oakland starter that pitches to contact with a plus curveball designed to keep the ball in the park. He’s a strike-thrower that mixes in four pitches and his best asset is that he lets his defense work behind him. The strikeout rate in San Diego wasn’t bad, but it dropped a lot with Oakland last season. I still like his projection and I think he’s a good fit in Oakland.
I’d look to the A’s today. I’m actually not sure why this line is where it is, but Hahn has more depth to his arsenal to get through the Houston lineup and Oakland finally found an opponent with a worse bullpen than theirs.
Toronto at Tampa Bay (-140); Total: 7.5
What a difference a start makes. Everybody, me included to an extent, was ready to jump and run screaming from the Chris Archer bandwagon. Then he found his changeup and everything changed. It’s a nice luxury to be struggling as bad as Archer was, yet still have 29 strikeouts in 20 innings. Now he has 39 in 26.1. He still has elite-level stuff. Hitters used to be focused on the fastball and the slider and now the change gives them something else to think about. We’re talking about a guy with three plus pitches now. The list of guys with that same distinction is really small. We’re basically talking Kershaw, Sale, Carrasco level.
I look at JA Happ and I see regression potential. He has a terrible strikeout rate, but good defense and fortunate sequencing have allowed him to have a 2.42 ERA with a 4.00 FIP and a 4.66 xFIP. His 86.1 percent strand rate is going to tumble with a low strikeout rate. We’ll see if it’s the Rays that are the team to make it happen. We’ve missed the boat a tad on the line movement, but Tampa still has value here.
Chicago (AL) at Baltimore (-140); Total: 8.5
It didn’t come as easy, but Phase Two of Operation: Fade the White Sox was a success. Phase Three comes today. Mat Latos is EXACTLY the type of guy we want to go against throughout the season. I don’t even need to look at who the opponent is or who the opposition starter is. Latos is 4-0 with a 0.74 ERA. His strikeout rate is 13.8 percent. His BABIP against is .167. His strand rate is 96.9 percent. His xFIP is 4.96 and his SIERA is 4.88.
Once again, I hope this works out, because we’ve had games that have looked like this recently that haven’t. But everything about Mat Latos says that he’s going to run into some problems very soon. I trust Baltimore to do it.
Cleveland (-130) at Philadelphia; Total: 8
I’m not going to say that the wrong team is favored, but this line makes less sense to me than a book on quantum physics. Trevor Bauer takes the mound for the Indians against Jerad Eickhoff, who has been terrific this season and has the type of arsenal that teams facing him for the first time are going to struggle with. Bauer is back in the rotation with the injury to Carlos Carrasco and he’s the same pitcher he’s always been. He can strike out a lot of hitters and has exceptional stuff. But, he also issues a lot of walks and when he makes a mistake, it goes a long way. Citizens Bank Park was suppressing home runs last night and that’s a rarity.
The Indians bullpen is also a disaster right now. Cody Allen has been brutal and every inning Zach McAllister pitches is an adventure. I wouldn’t expect Bauer to work deep into the game and the National League rules will force the Indians bullpen into a lot of work yet again. I’d expect we see the first MLB appearance of the season for Tommy Hunter today.
I’m buying Jerad Eickhoff. The fastball is good enough to get by and the secondaries are excellent. His slider, which he hasn’t used as much this season, is a legit plus pitch and his curveball has great depth and separation from his other pitches. He’s throwing the hammer 32.7 percent of the time this season. That’s a tough arsenal for hitters to dissect in their first crack against a pitcher. With the Indians striking out at an absurd rate this week, Eickhoff has the chance to rack up some K’s.
The Phillies are way underappreciated here yet again. We’ll be able to fade them when oddsmakers buy in, but, for now, Philadelphia is an excellent pick.
Miami (-115) at Milwaukee; Total: 8.5
Unfortunately, we’re not getting the value we wanted on this play. It’s the same story as last night. Those that still played Milwaukee were treated to the Adam Conley show, as he flirted with a no-hitter. Don’t be surprised if Milwaukee does get no-hit at some point this season. In theory, this is a great spot for Milwaukee. The Marlins are playing that dreaded second game after a bad travel spot, but we’re finding that these travel spots aren’t as great as they seem when bad teams have to hold up their end of the bargain.
I have to stay off of this play. Wei-Yin Chen is a guy I like, though not at Miller Park. Chase Anderson doesn’t miss a lot of bats. The Marlins seem impervious to bad situational spots right now and just went about their business in light of the Gordon suspension.
If you want to play the system and take Milwaukee, I understand. It should work, but I wanted a better price to try it.
Los Angeles (AL) at Texas (-115); Total: 9
I’m not sure that I understand this line. There’s nothing about Matt Shoemaker’s 2015 performance or his start to 2016 that leads me to believe that he’s this close to Derek Holland. Holland’s not a star by any means, but he’s been a pretty useful starter when he’s been healthy. There are a lot of things about this line that seem off.
Friday’s game was interesting. Mike Scioscia overplayed his hand and Hector Santiago failed to get through the sixth. Colby Lewis gave up nine hits over seven innings, didn’t strike anybody out, and only gave up two runs. Very little about the game made sense.
Shoemaker has become even more extreme of a fly ball pitcher and that’s not good going into Texas. Holland is a regression candidate with a .239 BABIP against, a 77.6 percent strand rate, and a 3.13/3.77/4.65 pitcher slash. I’d look at the over here, but the Angels lineup is not good.
It’s a stay away game for me, even though the line certainly makes me want to take Texas.