The MLB card for April 23 is not pretty. There are a lot of inconsistent question marks listed as pitching probables, but we do have a nice split with six day games and nine night games. It’s going to be a tough day on the diamond, but there’s always value to be found. Unfortunately, the timeline for today’s article has been pushed back a little bit because of some late line postings and a full bottle of Delirium Tremens last night. Mostly the late lines, but that’s a really good beer.
Fortunately, we made some good profits and good plays yesterday. Those that opted for the over instead of Tampa Bay were rewarded, but we had some solid underdog winners on Philadelphia, Oakland, and San Diego. Those profits did well in overshadowing some of the totals losses. I’m not a big totals player for MLB, so it’s best to take those with a grain of salt.
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.
Tampa Bay at New York (AL) (-140)
The big story in this game is the MLB debut of Blake Snell. It’s a one-shot deal for Snell, as the Rays are unwilling to move Erasmo Ramirez from the bullpen until Brad Boxberger returns. Snell has really explosive stuff. The lanky left-hander has posted excellent strikeout rates in the minors, particularly in the high minors, which is good. Control is a bit of a problem right now, but the stuff is more than enough to overcome it.
No thoughts on this game, but I would definitely read Dan Farnsworth of Fangraphs for some analysis on Snell.
Cleveland (-110) at Detroit; Total: 7.5
This is a rough game to play. I did some digging on Corey Kluber earlier this week and found some disturbing trends. His home run rate has shot up quite a bit over his last 107.2 innings and his ground ball has dropped. But, the problem is that there was a late-season stint on the disabled list for a strained hamstring last year and he was clearly trying to pitch through the problem as the Indians were trying to climb back into the playoff picture. This season, the velocity is down, along with the cutter/slider usage, but he’s also gotten unlucky with balls in play and sequencing.
On the other side is Anibal Sanchez, a guy I am not high on at all. Like Kluber, his velocity is down, but that’s likely a side effect of all the DL time last season. His low chase rate is a pretty good indicator that his strikeout rate is going to be coming down in the near future. His command was non-existent last year and he’s already given up three dingers in three starts this season.
The easy thought is to try the over, but a day game after a night game on a chilly day in Detroit is a hard sell, even with these two pitchers. This is a stay away game, but you’ll want to watch these guys closely for future opportunities. Mostly with Kluber. He peaked in 2014 and will never reach that level again, but he’s still a very good pitcher. Pricing him will be tough to do in his next several starts.
Boston at Houston (-130); Total: 8.5
You already know my thoughts on Mike Fiers, Houston’s listed starter for today’s action. Fiers “won” last week, but gave up four runs on seven hits, including three home runs, in 5.2 innings of work. Remind me to go on a rant about pitcher wins someday. We’re up to 12 starts and one relief appearance for Fiers in the American League and all of his numbers have trended negatively since coming over from the National League. That’s not a big surprise. As I’ve mentioned, the standard is to expect a 10 percent decrease. That’s about what we’ve seen in most things, with the exception of his home run rate, which has blown up quite a bit. He went from a 3.61 FIP in the NL to a 4.85 FIP in the AL.
The strikeout rate is down quite a bit this year. The chase rate is down and the contact rate is up. Are hitters adjusting? Maybe. His fastball command has already been poor this season. Early money came in on Fiers and I just don’t get why.
The early returns for Clay Buchholz haven’t been great, but I like this matchup for him. He throws four different variations of fastballs, a slow curve, and a good changeup. The aggressive Astros hitters are going to be off-balance and Buchholz can have some success pitching backwards. He’s a guy that can throw any pitch in any count and probably should because his velocity is not what it once was when he was a young pup.
The walk rate is the big thing here for Buchholz. If he doesn’t hurt himself, the Red Sox should score an underdog win. If he does, Fiers won’t have to be all that good. I’ll take the value on the Red Sox, since I’m conducting the Fade Fiers train.
Philadelphia at Milwaukee (-140); Total: 8.5
Charlie Morton is really nothing more than a veteran arm to use and abuse in order to protect the arms of young pitchers in the Phillies organization. He’s actually been pretty decent so far for the Phils, especially after a disastrous start against the Reds to open the season. He’s a very extreme ground ball guy, which is going to lead to some issues because the Phillies are not a great defensive team around the horn. Nevertheless, he’s given up one run on seven hits over his last two starts against one awful lineup and one good one. The Phillies are about league average defensively so far, so that’s a pretty good performance for them.
Chase Anderson has thrown the ball well thus far. Facing a lineup with a pitcher hitting, Anderson hasn’t given up a run over 11 innings. He gave up five runs on 11 hits against the Twins in his last outing. His K/BB peripherals are a little bit misleading right now. His swinging strike rate is terrible and he’s not working from ahead in the count. In terms of usage changes, he’s throwing more curveballs this season, which likely contributes to the lack of pitches in the zone.
He’s given up a lot of hard contact through three starts and his .347 BABIP and 37.3 percent hard-hit rate are two concerning stats. Basically, Chase Anderson shouldn’t be a -140 favorite over anybody, but this is one of those games I talked about on the radio show last week where saying a team is a value side isn’t always an endorsement. The Phillies are the value side, but they’re not a strong pick.
New York (NL) (-145) at Atlanta; Total: 8
Steven Matz and Jhoulys Chacin are the pitchers on the bump for Saturday’s NL East affair between the Mets and the Braves. Matz has one good start and one bad start on the season and one would assume that facing the Braves would add another one to the good side. Chacin is the guy that I want to focus on here.
I didn’t think much of the signing. He was in the Indians organization and was passed over for a promotion, so he asked to be released and the Indians fulfilled that request. If you look back at his career, it’s fairly impressive, given that he was pitching in the hell that is Coors Field. The strikeout rate has never been there. Through two starts this season, Chacin has 14 K in 11.1 innings and he hasn’t walked a batter. There aren’t any dramatic usage changes in his arsenal, save for an increase in two-seam fastballs and a decrease in breaking stuff across the board.
The big thing for Chacin is simply that he’s throwing strike one with more regularity. His career first-pitch strike rate is 57.9 percent. This season, it’s 69.1 percent. His chase rate is in line with his career average, but hitters aren’t touching anything outside of the zone. I’m not sure how sustainable these developments are. I would say that they probably aren’t anything that I would put stock in.
In fact, I think Chacin’s start to the season gives Steven Matz and the Mets some value here. If Matz had Chacin’s numbers and Chacin had the ones belonging to Matz, I’m guessing we see a -160 or a -165 line here. I’d be content with going above my -140 rule to lay it with Matz and the Metz tonight.
It doesn’t hurt that the Braves have the lowest wOBA in baseball against lefties at .229. The next lowest is the Phillies are .235. Next is the Blue Jays at .269.
Los Angeles (NL) (-130) at Colorado; Total: 11
I like this game a lot between the Dodgers and the Rockies on Saturday. Kenta Maeda gets his first taste of what it’s like to pitch in Coors Field and Tyler Chatwood has a chance to build off of his excellent start to the season. Maeda has excelled with deception, which is a hallmark of most Asian pitchers. Not many possess elite velocity, but all of them seem to have some form of deception in their deliveries and have effective secondary pitches.
Maeda has been no different. Hitters are chasing at 34 percent of the pitches outside the strike zone and have a low rate of contact in the zone. Maeda sits 89-91 with the fastball, so it’s not like he’s overpowering guys with his 11.9 percent swinging strike rate. It’s about mixing pitches, changing speeds, and changing eye level. Things are a little bit different at Coors Field. Spin rates lower and pitches become more hittable. There’s a learning curve to Coors Field. I’m not ready to go against Maeda because of it, but it will be interesting to see how he handles these unfamiliar conditions.
Tyler Chatwood was showing signs of putting it all together in 2013 and then Tommy John reared its ugly head. This season, he’s done everything you want a pitcher like him to do. He’s kept the ball on the ground, hasn’t hurt himself with walks, and has stayed out of the middle of the plate. If Colorado pitchers can avoid free passes, they can succeed.
I’d lean ever-so-slightly to Colorado here, with another minor lean to the under. These two bullpens are a worry, especially with Yimi Garcia leaving hurt for the Dodgers last night, but this could be a game full of weak contact.
Pittsburgh at Arizona (-115); Total: 9
There are some instances when you don’t understand a line movement. This is one of them for me. The Pirates, small sample size acknowledged, have been the second-best offense in baseball by wOBA against right-handed pitchers. They face a subpar one in Rubby de la Rosa on Saturday. RDLR lost his rotation spot to Archie Bradley and his last two appearances have come in relief. He hasn’t started in 10 days. That’s a raw deal for a guy still working to build up arm strength and refine command in the first month of the season. I would expect de la Rosa to be very rusty in this outing.
People are looking to fade Juan Nicasio and I get why. His first start was great, but his last two haven’t been all that special. I would point out that his worst start came in Detroit, so there was a DH involved. The latest Ray Searage project does have 17 K in 15 IP and pretty decent peripherals. They didn’t show up in his final line, but Nicasio made some adjustments and worked down the zone more against Milwaukee last time out, which will elevate Pittsburgh’s defensive upside.
I would expect a decent start from Nicasio and less of one for de la Rosa. Mark Melancon may be unavailable tonight for the Pirates after throwing 30 pitches in two days, but that’s not a worry for me. I like the Pirates here.