There are some enormous numbers on the board today, including the lone getaway day game featuring the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants. Gio Gonzalez and the Nationals are -220 chalk against the Phillies. Matt Harvey and the Mets are -230 favorites against the Reds. Jake Arrieta and the Cubs are a growing -360 favorite against the Brewers. Knuckleballer Steven Wright and the Red Sox are laying -180 against the hapless Braves. But, we’ve got value in other places today, so those are the games that we will focus on.
Yesterday wasn’t a strong day of games, but those that followed along with Texas’s blowout win over the Yankees picked up a nice short underdog winner. Leans on Angels and Indians/Twins over came through, but Seattle smashed Houston to hurt the under on that game. This does bring up a wagering angle that was talked about on Tuesday’s edition of BangTheBook Radio regarding the second game following a bad travel situation being worse than the first game. It played out here.
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.
Chicago (AL) at Toronto (-135); Total: 8
I’m all in favor of fading the Chicago White Sox, who have a .253 BABIP against and a 79.7 percent strand rate to start the season. I’m not sure this is the spot to do it. There’s this perception that the Blue Jays are the same lineup that they were last season against left-handed pitching. The faces and names are the same, but, so far, Toronto hasn’t gotten going against southpaws. That shouldn’t be that much of a surprise because they were historically good for a while last season. It’s not easy to have a .307 BABIP and 52 home runs against lefties.
Jose Quintana is a pretty good one. Righties did have a .320 wOBA against him last season, but they also had a .342 BABIP. The previous season, righties had a .290 wOBA, which was lower than the .302 wOBA that lefties put up. Quintana is not a guy that has had lopsided platoon splits throughout his career. This number is too high. However, the impending regression for the White Sox will show up sometime soon. That’s why I’m wary of backing them here, even though I know this line is between 10-15 cents too high.
By wOBA, the White Sox have the 25th-ranked offense in baseball. They have thrived on the long ball, with 20 home runs, while batting .240/.304/.378. There’s not much to like about this offense, except that it has posted a 90 wRC+ with Jose Abreu struggling mightily. It’s a below average offense and the White Sox will run into that defensive and pitching regression soon.
I won’t lay a price that’s too high, but I will look to fade the White Sox in the coming games.
Oakland at Detroit (-120); Total: 8
Justin Verlander is getting some love here after throwing one of his best games of the last three years against the Indians his last time out. He was phenomenal. I had eyes on that game and everything looked good, especially the high fastball. It’s a bit surprising to see so much Detroit steam coming in against Sonny Gray, who is built to face a lineup like this. Gray induces so much weak contact and owns righties to the tune of a .229/.284/.323 slash throughout his career. He wants you to swing hard. He wants you to swing for the fence. When you do, you elevate his stuff that much more.
The concern about looking at the under in this game is that both of these bullpens are a little bit shaky. The first five under is certainly a good look in my mind.
Baltimore at Tampa Bay (-130); Total: 7.5
If you’ll recall, I was interested in keeping an eye on Chris Tillman because he saw a velocity increase and had changed up some of his pitch usage. It hasn’t shown up for him yet, with a .308 BABIP against, but his line drive rate and his hard-contact rate have both dropped this season. Tillman is going with more of a cutter/slider-changeup mix this season. He currently has the best swinging strike rate of his career. These are all really positive changes and something to take note of for future outings. For me, Tillman has gone from being toxic to being a reasonable guy to back.
I like what I’ve seen from Matt Moore so far. The velocity is back and the fastball has great life coming towards the plate. This will be a good test for him, however. The Orioles bring a lot of good power bats, so command will be important. That’s why his hard-contact rate of 35.7 percent and his line drive rate of 24.3 percent are so concerning.
Both of these teams have pretty solid bullpens, but I’m looking at Baltimore here. Waiting on this price may give you a few more cents of value on the Birds, but I think they are the right side here. They have a 114 wRC+ so far against LHP and that’s with a .264 BABIP keeping a league average BB% against LHP from adding even more value.
New York (AL) at Texas (-125); Total: 9.5
Your winner for worst opening line of the day was this one in Arlington. CC Sabathia and his complete lack of command opened around even money or +105 against the Rangers. It’s no longer at that price. I’m not a fan of Martin Perez, but there’s nothing to like about Sabathia right now. It’s sad to see what has happened as the hefty lefty has aged. He’s no longer generating any power from his lower half, leading to a velocity decline, and he can’t finish on his offspeed stuff. Basically, the Yankees are trotting him out there because of his contract.
CC has only allowed one home run, but he’s given up 20 hits in 15.1 innings with a terrible K/BB ratio. It’s just not there for him anymore. This was a bad line and, in some respects, it’s still a bad line.
Martin Perez is not a guy I’m a big fan of either. He’s walked more than he has struck out over his first 24 innings this season, but his extreme ground ball rate is usually enough to limit damage. It’s all about defense for him, and that defense has helped him to a .254 BABIP against on the season. His low strand rate hasn’t helped his ERA and his advanced metrics hate that walk rate.
At this price, I’m not overly interested in Perez or the Rangers. If this becomes a battle of the bullpens, it’s clear which side wins that. It probably will because neither starter should work deep into this game. I’d certainly look at the first five over and take the bullpens out of the equation.
Cleveland (-110) at Minnesota; Total: 8.5
Josh Tomlin, who left his start last Friday with a hamstring cramp, is a small favorite over Jose Berrios, who is making his Major League debut for the Twins. There will be no play on this game, but it’s a good opportunity to pass along some background on Berrios. The Twins top pitching prospect is just 21, but there’s a lot of feel for pitching here. The raw stuff is special, with three pitches that play at the Major League level. The bread-and-butter pitch for Berrios is his split-change, which sounds like it will be his equalizer against left-handed batters.
There are some worries about Berrios here at the outset. He’s young. He’s very young. Like all young pitchers, he can sometimes rush through his delivery. The Indians will have to be patient. I don’t worry about strikeouts because they are just another out most of the time. Most outs don’t advance baserunners or anything and you can’t strike out into a double play very often. They might strike out some against Berrios, but I want to see how the kid does on the big stage.
St. Louis at Arizona (-130); Total: 8.5
Remember last week when we faded Adam Wainwright against the awful San Diego Padres. Bettors were tripping over each other to fade Wainwright in this outing against the Diamondbacks. Bookmaker opened Wainwright a modest -112 favorite. Nobody agreed with that stance, as an avalanche of Arizona money came into the market. Obviously I understand it, since that was the approach I took against San Diego, but this was a rapid move. Wainwright has still walked more batters than he has struck out and the sinker is not staying down in the zone. Wainwright has a career 48.8 percent GB% and this season it’s just 39%. Wainwright walked 35 batters in 241.2 innings in 2013 and 50 batters in 227 innings in 2014. He’s walked 10 guys in 22.1 innings this season.
Now, to be fair, there are some numbers that should positively regress, mostly his LOB% of 59.1 percent. The BABIP should come back to normal once he figures stuff out, but nobody knows when that will happen.
Patrick Corbin hasn’t been great this season. He has two good starts and two bad starts so far and he gave up three home runs in each of the bad starts, including his most recent one against Pittsburgh. The stuff has been extremely inconsistent. He has strikeout totals of six, one, seven, and three in four starts. The defense hasn’t really helped him all that much, but he hasn’t helped himself much either.
I can’t play Wainwright. There might be value on him now, but I can’t do it. The boat was missed with the pre-dawn line movement on this game.
Kansas City at Los Angeles (AL) (-120); Total: 8
I’m a little bit surprised to see the Chris Young fade today, since this is an ideal venue for him to pitch in. He also rick-rolled the Orioles lineup last week with 10 punchouts in six innings. It’s not a surprise that Young had success last start, although that much success was a bit of a surprise. Early in the year, Young seemed to be fighting to get a feel for his slider and was using it a ton, especially against Houston. Last start, he had his highest FA% and it paid off. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see less SL usage here in this one and more weak aerial contact. He has success because he throws from a 6-foot-10 arm slot and that high fastball is enticing. It’s the hardest pitch to lay off.
Nick Tropeano has been steamed for the second straight time. He’s a similar pitcher to Chris Young minus the height and he uses an extra pitch. He’s kind of a strange guy to read. Sometimes there’s strikeout stuff, particularly the first time through the lineup, but there’s also some control issues. From a stuff and deception standpoint, there seems to be something here. In all honesty, he’s a guy I’ll have to pay closer attention to this season.
In this game, I’m not sure which way I’d look, but this is a very good environment for Young. Possibly a small lean to him or maybe a first five under play. Tropeano will face a stiff test from the Royals lineup. I’ll be watching this one closely.
Houston at Seattle (-130); Total: 7.5
When looking for positive regression, take a look at Collin McHugh. McHugh has a .455 BABIP against with a 59.5 percent LOB%. That’s why he has a 7.56 ERA with a 2.92 FIP and a 4.71 xFIP. The xFIP is because he’s suddenly become a fly ball pitcher. His slider is being classified as a cutter now, which may or may not have any significance, but his velocity is down and his fastball command is terrible. Hitters are batting .433/.469/.633 on that cutter and .632/.636/.947 on his fastball. It all boils down to fastball command. I’m not sure what the fix is for that. The Mariners are one of the better four-seam fastball offenses this season in the limited sample size.
Hisashi Iwakuma has had some command issues and the control isn’t where it usually is, but it was a strange offseason for him. His contract was voided by the Dodgers when he failed a physical and then he went right back to Seattle at a lower price. The velo is down, the curveball usage is up, and the swinging strike rate is down. He’s not missing any bats in the zone and his stuff outside of the zone doesn’t seem to have as much bite.
Kuma is a guy that can occasionally give up some home runs, particularly early in the season. His first half HR/FB% is 16.2 percent over his career and it’s 10.8 percent in the second half.
I’d look to the over here. Houston should be more accustomed to the time change now and I think both of these starters struggle a little bit.