Yesterday was extremely frustrating. We had some good spots that simply didn’t work out and that is a tough lesson that every handicapper has to learn. There’s a reason that the best in the world hit at a 55 to 56 percent clip with regularity. No matter the edge you think you have, it’s still gambling for a reason. Sometimes you can whip a lot of good ingredients into a really disappointing dish and that’s what happened for us on Monday. Baseball can be a very frustrating sport to bet. Money line sports generally are. The best thing we can do is learn from it and keep moving onward.
I’ve always said that you should learn something from every bet you make. Not every losing bet is a bad bet and not every winning bet is a good bet. Applying context so that you can learn and improve is how you truly get better as a bettor. Simply counting up wins and losses or looking at the win/loss statements for your bankroll isn’t enough. There’s always another day when it comes to sports betting. Like today.
A couple of quick notes: For those that want to reach out and ask about my thoughts on a game or to elaborate on anything here, you can reach me @SkatingTripods on Twitter or via the @bangthebook Twitter account. Also, the individual MLB game previews are not written by me, so if they go against a pick in this article, that's the explanation with that. Different writers provide those individual previews. There was some confusion about that yesterday, so I wanted to clear it up.
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) (-115) at Toronto; Total: 8
What a fascinating game this is. Chris Sale, the best left-handed pitcher in the American League, takes on the Toronto Blue Jays, the lineup loaded with the most right-handed power in the American League. Sale is going to get himself a Cy Young Award one of these years. Perhaps this could be the one. His strikeout rate is down a little bit here at the outset, but his command has been impeccable and his control has been even better. After a couple of years with less use of the slider and more use of the changeup, Sale has readjusted his arsenal. He was throwing the slider less than 20 percent of the time over the last two seasons, but he’s back up to over 23 percent. He used to throw the slider about 28 percent of the time.
The lower changeup usage is probably why he’s striking out fewer hitters. Hitters had a swinging strike rate of 18.9 percent last season on 863 CH. This season, on just 92 CH, it’s just 6.5 percent. Maybe he hasn’t had a feel for the pitch yet. My guess would be that we see more of it here against a Blue Jays lineup that loves to attack the zone. He’s also gotten more out of his two-seamer over the last four seasons, with more lateral movement. It’s become quite a dominant weapon for him.
Toronto isn’t really hitting yet, but the White Sox aren’t hitting at all. Their spot in first place is surprising, given that they rank 25th in wOBA. Only the Angels have a lower wOBA among American League teams. That should mean good things for RA Dickey, but we’ll have to see. Dickey is what he is. He’s really lost control of his knuckleball since he came to the AL and that has hurt his bottom line with the Jays.
A couple things stand out about this line. One is that the oddsmakers seem to think that Toronto will have a bit of success against Sale, because the White Sox haven’t hit anybody this season. Another is that expectation of success has lowered the price on Sale.
Do you agree with that stance? This is a stay away game for me, but I find the line very interesting, particularly with the suggestion that Toronto is the right side.
Boston (-170) at Atlanta; Total: 7.5
Atlanta was in the best possible spot on Monday night and got shutout in a 1-0 loss. That was a frustrating game, as we attempted to use Circadian Rhythm to cash in on the Braves. Unfortunately, Fredi Gonzalez batted his best hitter sixth and the Braves were done in by a Jackie Bradley Jr. solo home run.
I’m not looking at this game today, but I will be ranting about the Braves on today’s radio show.
Oakland (-115) at Detroit; Total: 9
This wasn’t a fun line for oddsmakers to set. Rich Hill’s effectively wild nature makes him really hard to evaluate. We’re now talking about a sample size of eight starts and Hill has struck out a ton of batters in that span. Sixty-five in 48 innings to be exact. The Tigers bring a lot of right-handed power to the table, so there are some platoon advantages here for the Kitties.
On the other hand, you have Mike Pelfrey, who is terrible. Absolutely horrible. He didn’t get lefties out last season and hasn’t this season and we know Oakland’s affinity for platoon opportunities. Some people will back Detroit because Miguel Cabrera had a good day yesterday and that automatically means that he’s coming out of his early-season funk. Others have preconceived notions about Oakland based off of last year or past bad experiences. They’ve also struggled offensively this season.
I don’t know what’s going to happen here. I’m passing on this game as well, but I will be interested to see how long Rich Hill can keep this up. It’s not like it’s normal for a pitcher to suddenly become a dominant starter at the end of his age-35 season.
Baltimore at Tampa Bay (-125); Total: 7.5
Chris Archer made an impressive adjustment last night and shut down the Baltimore Orioles over 6.2 spectacular innings. Now, the Orioles draw Jake Odorizzi. The thing about Archer is that he used his changeup more than ever before on Monday night. The thing about Odorizzi is that his changeup is probably his best pitch, even though PITCHf/x pitch values don’t back that up.
Odorizzi’s been good here at the outset, posting a spectacular K/BB rate with more than a strikeout per inning. His .348 BABIP against and 68.7 percent strand rate have hurt his ERA. He’s had two very good starts and two mediocre starts. One of those mediocre starts came against Baltimore on April 10. How will Odorizzi adjust? He’s been good in two starts at Tropicana Field, which is a park where the ball does not travel all that well. There may be something to that. The adjustment probably comes with trusting his four-seam command a little bit more. We’ll see how that works out.
Ubaldo Jimenez is still an enigma. As a rule, I tend to stay away from his starts because you never know what you’re going to get. This season, you’re getting a guy that has been very fortunate in higher-leverage situations with a 78.5 percent strand rate. But, he’s struck out 20 in 17 innings, so that makes it easier to strand runners. The velocity is down again and so is the swinging strike rate. Even though we don’t see traditional signs of regression, like a low ERA and a high xFIP, we do see some signs that his strikeout rate should come down and that has provided the bulk of his value, particularly with RISP.
With the bases empty, hitters are teeing off at a .406/.457/.656 clip. From the stretch, Jimenez has limited hitters to a .177/.282/.265 slash. Sequencing has been big for him. I think we see some regression soon. I don’t know if Tampa Bay does it, but I’d look to fade Jimenez over his next handful of starts.
New York (AL) (-120) at Texas; Total: 9
Here’s a classic case of what I look for as somebody mindful of sabermetrics. You have Luis Severino. Through three starts, he has a 4.86 ERA with a 3.50 FIP and a 2.86 xFIP. He has a .397 BABIP against. There are some signs that the problem is more about command than about bad luck. His line drive rate is high and his hard-contact rate is also high. So, he does need to throw better pitches.
On the other side, you have AJ Griffin. A great story and a decent starting pitcher. Griffin has a 3.18 ERA with a 4.61 FIP and a 5.33 xFIP. It’s important to remind readers that fly ball pitchers rarely get favorable marks in FIP and xFIP because they are often low-strikeout guys that give up home runs. In Griffin’s case, he’s been able to parlay his high fly ball rate into a .220 BABIP, which has limited the damage his walks should have created.
Griffin has also drawn some favorable assignments so far. His first start came at Angel Stadium and his second was at Safeco Field. Those are both excellent parks for pitchers like him. His third start was against Houston at home. He scattered four hits and played Houston’s aggressiveness against the team. Will the Yankees be able to make some quick adjustments? Griffin may also be fortunate that nobody has faced him since 2013 because of injury.
I want to see Severino throw better quality strikes. Even though it goes against what I usually believe, my pick would actually be Texas in this spot. Globe Life Park is not a place to have bad command.
Cleveland at Minnesota (-115); Total: 8.5
I hate everything about this game. Cody Anderson doesn’t walk guys, but he doesn’t have a deep arsenal. Ricky Nolasco is not a particularly good pitcher, but he has been making some arsenal changes. He’s more of a two-seamer/slider guy now and has completely abandoned his changeup. He’s actually inducing ground balls at a pretty good clip. Per PITCHf/x classifications, his two-seam rate has increased every year of his career. His slider rate is currently the highest of his career.
This game is going to be decided by defense. Whichever defense plays better will win the game. Nolasco has eight strikeouts in 14 innings against American League teams using the DH. His strikeout rate is inflated a bit by shutting down a bad Milwaukee lineup last time out. Anderson now has 54 strikeouts in 105.2 innings in his career. I tend to stay away from games that are dependent on batted ball luck and the inherent volatility of that. I need to see a clear advantage. I don’t see one here.
In theory, you could look at the over, because there are going to be a lot of balls in play here. The Indians bullpen hasn’t been great and the Twins bullpen has now worked 31.1 innings over the last seven days. Neither of these starters should work all that deep into the game.
Kansas City (-120) at Los Angeles (AL); Total: 7.5
Per PITCHf/x, Edinson Volquez is actually throwing with the best velocity of his career right now. With just a little bit of extra separation between his sinker and his changeup, he’s experiencing good early-season strikeout success. This is a pretty interesting development to watch. His four-seam fastball is up .3 mph from last season and his sinker is up .1 mph. These may not seem like big differences, but when you’re talking about milliseconds to make a decision as a hitter, any gains are important. That’s why velocity losses are talked about so much.
That being said, some regression is coming for Volquez in the near future. The frustrating thing about knowing regression is coming is that you can’t pinpoint exactly when. Volquez has an 89.8 percent strand rate with a high ground ball rate, so balls are just getting hit at guys. If the strikeout rate regresses, you’ll see the LOB% come down with it. I don’t know if it happens tonight, especially with a bad Angels lineup, but it will happen soon.
Jered Weaver. What a guy. He’s sitting 81-82 with the fastball and he’s still effective somehow. He mixes pitches and changes speeds and eye levels really well. Is he a good matchup against the Royals? Possibly. I would think that patient teams would have more success against Weaver. The Royals are not a patient team. They’re in their usual spot near the bottom of the league in BB%. That could lead to some weak contact and some easy outs.
This is not a great MLB card tonight, as I’m sure you’ve noticed from my write-ups today. There are a lot of things that are really interesting, but are not great from a betting standpoint. This is another game like that. If I had to lean one way, I’d actually lean Weaver, because Angel Stadium at night is good for him and the Royals like to dive out and be aggressive in the zone. Also, there’s that impending regression for Volquez.
Houston (-130) at Seattle; Total: 7
At least this Circadian Rhythm spot worked out in our favor last night, so we split with those. The Astros should be in good shape here with Dallas Keuchel against a left-handed heavy Mariners lineup. I do have some concerns about the travel spot for Houston. Some athletes have said that adrenaline can get you through the first day in a new time zone. It can get you over that hump with regards to fatigue. They suggest that the second day is actually worse. This would be the second day for Houston.
I think I’d look at the under here. Houston’s offensive strength of hitting home runs doesn’t play as well at Safeco as it would at other parks. Also, Nate Karns has some pretty good swing-and-miss stuff and the Astros hitters are probably still a little bit tired from the poor scheduling hand that they were dealt. I also don’t expect Seattle to do much of anything against Keuchel. I’d look for a low-scoring game here. Maybe the first five innings, so you can take the bullpens out of it.