Sundays are a bit of a tough day for handicapping purposes for a lot of people. There’s usually a lot going on during Sunday mornings, sometimes involving Advil and Gatorade. Overall, though, the hard part about Sundays is that lines move so fast when lineups come out that securing value is nearly impossible. Look at today’s card as evidence. Once lineups came out for the 1 p.m. ET first pitches, the lines were -115, -200, -170, -175, -175, and -175. To be fair, there are some lopsided starting pitching battles, but managers like to get everybody involved when they can.
Today’s look will feature a lot of mid-afternoon ET start times, as most of those lines are hovering around pick ‘em right now. 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.
Texas at Chicago (AL) (-140); Total: 8
Derek Holland goes up against Mat Latos in this afternoon tilt in the Windy City. So far, so good for Holland, who has thrown the ball well over his first three starts. If he can keep this type of strikeout rate and keep getting weak contact, he’ll be just fine. That’s easier said than done for a guy whose command profile has been spotty at best during his injury-plagued career.
But, today, there’s value in the Rangers. Latos takes the mound sporting a 0.49 ERA with a 4.83 xFIP. His strikeout rate is well below average, but his BABIP against is .118 and his LOB% is 91.7 percent. Regression could be swift or it could be gradual, but it is unquestionably coming. It could very well happen today. It’s not a bad idea to look to go against Latos in his next two or three starts. An 8.8 percent K%-BB% is awful. The velocity is still down. Texas is your value side here and is certainly worth a look, especially if we get lucky and see a price increase.
Philadelphia (-110) at Milwaukee; Total: 8.5
Jerad Eickhoff has thrown the ball extremely well this season. Wily Peralta has not. An aggressive, right-handed heavy lineup for Milwaukee should have a lot of problems with Eickhoff’s curve and slider, which are legitimate plus pitches. The Phillies aren’t getting any respect from the oddsmakers, but it’s hard to figure out why Milwaukee is at various points this season.
This is a no-brainer for me. It may not win, because this is still called gambling, but Eickhoff is an outstanding matchup against the current Brewers lineup. It helps that Wily Peralta has been terrible yet again this season and is a guy that would be out of a rotation spot on 29 other teams. There’s absolutely nothing to like about him and he’s squandering some decent raw stuff. He’d be a bullpen arm if the Brewers had any SP depth. They don’t, so he’s being led to slaughter every five days.
Seattle at Los Angeles (AL) (-115); Total: 8
Wade Miley totally lost his control in his last start in Cleveland. As a result, he was knocked out in the fourth inning. That wasn’t out of the norm for Miley, whose BB rate has not been spectacular throughout his career, but he’s been a very effective arm per the advanced metrics. He’s been very hittable this season, though, with 26 hits allowed in 15.2 innings of work. His command has also been a big issue.
Matt Shoemaker’s 2014 season set the bar unrealistically high. He was 16-4 with a 3.04/3.26/3.28 pitcher slash and everybody expected more of the same. Since then, his command and control have both taken a dive. Shoemaker gave up 14 HR in 136 innings that season. Since then, he’s allowed 27 HR in 150.2 innings of work. He’s walked 42 batters compared to 24 during that 2014 season. He’s been a good pitcher to fade and probably will be again here.
Shadows are a concern during the day here at Angel Stadium, which is probably why this total seems a little bit low given the two starters. I’d stay away from the total with a slight lean to Seattle. This should be a good park for Miley and it has been for Shoemaker throughout his career. The lean on Seattle is because they have a little bit more familiarity with Shoemaker and it could take the Angels a little longer to come around with Miley.
Miami (-110) at San Francisco; Total: 8
I love Adam Conley, but this line is really surprising. Even the fact that Matt Cain opened -120 at home against a Marlins team that hasn’t been able to put it together this season is pretty surprising. Conley has been impressive at the outset and has done a good job to build off of his 2015 debut. The strikeout rate gains aren’t going to be this significant throughout the season, but he should see a little bit of a bump. At the very least, they should remain consistent from last season. The unfamiliar lefty angle is something that gets a lot of play from sharper bettors and that’s likely the rationale behind this line move.
I don’t know if Matt Cain has any ammo left in that right arm, but I do know that he’s gotten unlucky this season. Cain’s has only been able to strand 55.6 percent of his baserunners, which is why he has a 6.46 ERA with a 3.52 FIP and a 4.85 xFIP. That xFIP and his SIERA are obviously concerning, but the ERA is going to come down a little bit. He’s still missing bats with the same frequency that he did earlier in his career, but the pitches he’s throwing don’t have the same quality to induce weak contact.
I still feel like San Francisco is the side with value because they’re a money line pick ‘em at home against a team that they are a lot better than, particularly in the bullpen, but this game does present some interesting wagering questions. Lean San Francisco, but seeing how Conley does against a legit lineup that he hasn’t faced is the thing I’m most interested in.
Pittsburgh at Arizona (-110); Total: 8.5
It seems that oddsmakers have taken notice of Robbie Ray. The Diamondbacks face a tough customer in Francisco Liriano and they are priced as a money line pick ‘em for this finale. One wagering angle we often look to with teams playing out west, a long way from home, is to see if we can play against them in the final game of a road trip. The thing here is that Pittsburgh goes to Denver after this, so it does not wrap up the road trip.
Oddsmakers have also taken notice of Francisco Liriano, who is a mess mechanically right now. He’s still striking guys out, but he’s also walking a ton of guys. He has 14 walks in 15.1 innings of work. Pitcher whisperer Ray Searage is working with his mechanics, but this may be a work in progress. On one hand, Liriano has the ability to outright dominate a lineup. On the other hand, he’s all over the place right now.
Because of that, this is a complete stay away game. Robbie Ray has had some control issues of his own, but both of these pitchers have the ability to shut down lineups and the unfamiliar lefty angle is in play here, because these two teams rarely face each other. Both pitchers do have high strand rates, in spite of the walks, so there’s a chance this one stays low-scoring. There’s also a chance that both starters throw 90 pitches in four innings and the bullpens decide it. It’s best to pass.
Los Angeles (-120) at Colorado; Total: 11
Neither Alex Wood nor Jordan Lyles have thrown the ball well this season. Wood does keep the ball on the ground, which should be a feather in his cap for a start at Coors Field, but he also isn’t missing any bats and has walked more guys than he has struck out. Lyles also keeps the ball on the ground and is more accustomed to pitching in Coors Field since this is his third season with the Rockies.
This is a hard game to pick from. After a lack of offense last night, it’s hard to see Coors Field keeping everybody down for a second straight day. This could be a getaway day slow-pitch softball game with these two starters. That would be the only lean here. Alex Wood’s rotation spot may be in jeopardy after this outing.
Boston at Houston (-120); Total: 9
Henry Owens makes his 2016 debut in place of Joe Kelly for ESPN Sunday Night Baseball from The Juice Box in Houston. Owens got his feet wet over 11 starts last season and posted a 4.57/4.28/5.01 pitcher slash in 63 innings. He showed some good things, particularly a 12.2 percent swinging strike rate. He just didn’t work from ahead in the count often enough with a 54 percent first-pitch strike percentage. The raw stuff is there and that’s a good thing against a Houston lineup that swings and misses a lot. His changeup was five runs above average last season, so that will be a bread-and-butter pitch for him tonight.
Scott Feldman is a guy that I want to fade every time he takes the mound, but I’ve been burned a few times because he manages to figure out a way to throw five serviceable innings and then the team wins after he leaves or something else. He is what he is, as a marginal starter there to eat innings and protect higher-upside arms. He’s not going a great job of that this season because he’s walked seven in 15.1 innings and has barely made it through five innings per start.
This one’s going to come down to the bullpens in all likelihood, so the question becomes whether or not you want even money on Boston’s or -120 on Houston’s. So far, the nod would go to the Boston bullpen, with a lower ERA and a lower FIP, but a higher xFIP. Both bullpens are missing a ton of bats, which makes it tough to mount a comeback.
Truthfully, this game is probably a toss-up and it all depends on how Owens does to keep the ball down and spot his changeup. Because people love action on the late game, I’d give out a small lean to the Red Sox. Owens has the neutralizer he needs to shut down this excellent Astros offense.
As far as situational spots for tomorrow, both teams are in action. Boston goes to Atlanta and Houston makes the long trip to Seattle. We could see some value on the Mariners, who return home after a long nine-day road trip.