Only eight games are listed on the MLB board for Thursday and two of them are not worthy of any consideration. The Cubs are a massive favorite against the Brewers with Jake Arrieta on the bump and the Red Sox could throw me or you at the Braves and probably win 7-6 or something. It’s a bit of a limited card, but we’ll do the best we can to extract value from the six games. It was a busy card on Monday, so it’s not a big surprise that Thursday is a weaker schedule.
Hopefully you were able to take advantage of the Baltimore win because it was a mixed bag otherwise. Houston and Seattle scored some runs, but some of the other leans failed to come through. It wasn’t a great card, but hopefully you’re seeing what my process is like and you are finding things that could work for you.
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.
Oakland at Detroit (-130); Total: 8.5
I will not back Anibal Sanchez in any capacity. I wish this was a night game because I’d be all over Oakland, but the A’s are in a terrible spot. Once teams secure a .500 or better road trip, the last game can be a little bit of a throwaway. The A’s swept the Yankees and won four straight to kick off this trip. Right now, they are 5-4 and that’s an excellent road trip against some pretty quality teams. The long flight back to Oakland awaits and they host Houston and Seattle.
In a big look-ahead spot, it may be important to point out that the A’s come back east once again in early May to face Baltimore, Boston, and Tampa Bay. Keep an eye on their bullpen usage and their team health over the next three weeks. That’s a really rough road schedule early in the year. But, it also helps, because they won’t go any farther east than Cleveland the rest of the season.
Anyway, Sanchez is terrible. The velocity is way down and the command of the secondary stuff is pathetic. He has now given up 33 HR over his last 175 innings of work and he’s on pace to set a career-high in walks. This isn’t just a bump in the road or an anomaly. This is a two-year trend. His medical history reads like a Tolstoy novel, so that’s a concern at this point. There may just not be enough there.
Chris Bassitt hasn’t gotten it done this season through four starts. He was a guy I wanted to get a close look at early in the season. He’s a stuff and deception guy. Neither is working right now. The walks have been a killer because hitters are not chasing outside of the zone. One thing I do notice is a big discrepancy between his chase rate per Baseball Info Solutions (21.5%) and PITCHf/x (26%). That leads me to believe that he’s been close to the edges, because Pf/x is a little more generous with strikes. It doesn’t surprise me to see that Stephen Vogt is one of the worst framers in the league so far. Backup Josh Phegley is a little bit better.
I can’t play anything here. The over makes sense, but it’s a getaway day game. The A’s make sense, but it’s a getaway day game. All I know is that if this was last night’s matchup, I’d fade Sanchez without a second thought.
Pittsburgh at Colorado (-105); Total: 11
The market and the oddsmakers don’t seem concerned that Juan Nicasio should have an advantage as a road pitcher at Coors Field. Opposing batters hit .271/.332/.456 against Nicasio in 864 PA at Coors Field when he was a member of the Rockies. There’s not a whole lot to like about Nicasio, but the Pirates offense has been firing on all cylinders this season and they are also one of the best defensive teams in baseball.
Like Oakland, however, this is getaway day baseball for the Pirates. They head back home to open up some National League play against the Reds and Cubs. After a 0-2 start to the road trip, the Pirates are now 6-3. Last night’s game went 12 innings, so I have to think that the Rockies are the side here. The Rockies bullpen sucks and it’s taxed just as much as Pittsburgh’s, but the Pirates have to be tired. This is the end of a 10-game road trip and last night’s game went deep into the Mountain Time Zone night. This has all the hallmarks of a situational throwaway game.
Tyler Chatwood’s also a pretty decent pitcher. Chatwood doesn’t walk people and that’s the best asset that a pitcher can have at Coors. You go in with the expectation that your ERA will be terrible and that you will give up hits and runs. But, not walking people is the best way to minimize damage. That’s what Chatwood is doing this season and that’s going to be a good reason to back Colorado. The Pirates will have to hit their way on, with a little bit of fatigue to deal with.
I’d roll with the Rockies here. This is a situational play more than anything, but it makes a lot of sense.
Philadelphia at Washington (-170); Total: 7.5
If you want to throw some beer money down on the Phillies, I don’t blame you. This line is inflated because of two factors. The Nationals are looking to avoid a sweep and Tanner Roark struck out 15 last time he pitched. Some people like to play solely on the fade the sweep wagering angle. I’ll admit that I don’t know the success of that, but people do it. I think it’s silly. Every game should be treated as an independent event unless there’s something particularly telling about a team.
I like Aaron Nola a lot. He has been fortunate to draw three of the four worst lineups in the National League and his worst start came against these same Nationals, so it’s not an easy case to make. This number is at least 10 cents too high in my mind and maybe more like 15. Tanner Roark is not some dominant starting pitcher.
There’s underdog value on Philadelphia, though I wouldn’t recommend it as a play.
Chicago (AL) at Baltimore (-130); Total: 8.5
Time to put my money where my mouth is, right? I said that I’m looking to fade the White Sox in the near future and a John Danks start seems like a good place to begin. Danks seems to be on fumes. I still like the depth of his changeup, but he’s far too predictable with effectively two pitches. His fastball command has been so awful over the last three seasons that it has eliminated the value of his changeup. Hitters basically sit changeup now and react to the fastball because of declining velocity.
There’s not a lot to like about Tyler Wilson, both in his limited MLB sample and also his MiLB career. But, he’s always been a guy to have a low BABIP against even though he allows a lot of contact. There’s probably still enough to get by against a bad Chicago offense.
Regression is coming for Chicago. After Jose Quintana twirled a gem last night, the White Sox now have a team .252 BABIP against and a 80.5 percent strand rate. Their 5.6 percent HR/FB% is the second-lowest in the league. Only the Mets and their elite rotation is lower. It starts now against a strong Baltimore lineup. The Orioles should be in good shape here today, even with a lackluster SP on the bump.
St. Louis (-115) at Arizona; Total: 9
The market is not interested in backing Michael Wacha against Rubby de la Rosa, which is surprising to me. RDLR is one of those guys that has raw stuff that is projectionable, and then it never comes to together. He could probably be an elite relief ace with a little bit of development in that role, but Arizona is hellbent on keeping him in the rotation. It does make sense, but I’ve been burned by barking up that tree too many times in the past.
This looks like one of those traditional spots where the market fades a guy with an ERA significantly lower than his xFIP. Wacha has a 2.82 ERA with a 4.14 xFIP. He hasn’t given up a home run yet this season and has a low strikeout rate, once again, so that’s why the xFIP is high. There are competing signs of regression. His BABIP is .347, which is very high, and his strand rate is 69.7 percent, which is a little low, but he’s also going to give up some home runs at some point and his strand rate might be lucky given the K rate. His swinging strike rate is way down from last season and he struggled to strike out guys out last year as well.
On the flip side, de la Rosa is one of those spots where the market backs a guy with an ERA significantly higher than his xFIP. RDLR’s ERA is 5.94 with a 3.76 xFIP. Unfortunately, he’s had some pretty big ERA-xFIP disparities over the last two seasons, so this may just be the norm, not the exception. His strand rate is terrible, particularly for his strikeout rate.
So, I get it. It’s a lot of the same theories and stats that I use to put together a play. It also needs to be said that only half of de la Rosa’s six appearances are starts. He xFIP in his 2.2 relief innings is 0.13. He xFIP as a starter is 4.45, so that cuts into that disparity a little bit. His K rate as a starter is just 16.9 percent. These are all small sample sizes.
I’m not going to say that the market is misguided here, but I don’t know if the auto pick on Arizona is smart. I’m staying off of this game, in part because St. Louis heads back home to host Washington tomorrow. With a late start here tonight and a visit from Stephen Strasburg on Friday, Washington may be a strong situational play. These have been some very long games in Arizona on this six-game trip.
Miami at Los Angeles (NL) (-125); Total: 6.5
It’s a shame that his game is so late because it would have been fun to watch Jose Fernandez and Kenta Maeda. If you want to stay up, feel free. We’re seeing some control issues from Fernandez, but I wouldn’t worry about that, nor would I worry about the high BABIP. Guys that throw hard and strike out a lot of batters can sometimes have high BABIPs because they allow hard contact. Fernandez should see some regression in that .347 BABIP and also in his 66.4 percent strand rate. One thing that is a bit strange is that he hasn’t gotten a lot of ground balls thus far.
Hitters are chasing less, so that probably explains that and it would suggest that his breaking stuff maybe isn’t as sharp as usual here in the early going. I still wouldn’t worry. He’s an elite starting pitcher.
Is he elite enough to top Kenta Maeda? I’m going to say no. The Dodgers are in some disarray right now, especially with some bullpen troubles and some injuries, but Maeda is going to be worthy of backing in some capacity every time he faces a new team. Asian pitchers are known for good stuff and a lot of deception in their pitching motions. There’s a reason that Maeda is 3-0 with a 0.36 ERA, with one run allowed on a solo home run over 25.1 innings. It’s very hard to hit a guy you have never seen and one with as many wrinkles as Maeda. The stuff is good and the control has been impeccable.
Looking ahead, Miami is in a terrible spot on Friday night against Milwaukee. They might actually be road chalk with Adam Conley against Zach Davies, especially if they pull off the four-game sweep of the Dodgers tonight. The Marlins wrap up their nine-game trip in Milwaukee and I’d be looking to fade them on both Friday and Saturday because of the bad travel. They’ll get into Milwaukee at probably 5 a.m. local time with the two-hour time difference and the long flight from LA. And after two series in California, the 8:10 ET first pitch will feel like 5:10 to them, so that’s a terrible spot, even if Milwaukee is awful.