After a small card on Monday that didn’t yield a whole lot of value, we’re back at it on Tuesday with a full set of games. A couple of heavy favorites go in today’s “early” games, a 1:10 p.m. ET first pitch from Target Field and a 6:10 p.m. ET first toss from Progressive Field. Our focus will be on the nighttime games, where there seems to be quite a bit of value present. Some nights, it’s just hard to find plays to make. That’s not the case tonight at all. We’re getting into the “overreaction” period of the season and there are some plays to go with that should have some success today. It won’t be a big card, as we’ll continue to stay selective, but there are some edges out there to be excited about.
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.
New York (NL) at Philadelphia (-115); Total: 7
We’ve got one of those plays right out of the chute. I like Vincent Velasquez. I’ve said that since Houston called him up last season. Guys with raw stuff like his are really special and he should be a good starter, or, worst-case scenario, a dominant relief ace for a good portion of his 20s. After his dazzling start against a horrible Padres team, the wrong team is favored here in the City of Brotherly Love on Tuesday. Throw wristbands at me if you’d like, but the Mets should be favored here.
Logan Verrett is making another spot start for the Mets, as Jacob deGrom tries to get back in the right frame of mind after his newborn son had some complications after birth. Verrett is a really valuable guy for the Mets because he’s been good as a starter in a small sample size. In his five career starts, Verrett has a sub-3.00 ERA and 25 strikeouts over 28.1 innings of work. He’s given up one run of less in three of those outings. The Phillies are not a good offensive team, ranking 26th in wOBA and 29th in wRC+ early in the season here.
Velasquez has thrown 15 shutout innings with 25 K thus far, which is very impressive to be sure. He’s also facing the Mets for the second time in 10 days. Pitchers with overpowering stuff are going to have the opportunity to mow through first-time opponents. It’s how they adjust that makes all the difference. The Mets offense is pretty top heavy, with some really strong hitters batting 1 through 5. The hype train is really rolling for Velasquez, and deservedly so, but he threw 113 pitches in that last start. Last season, he topped out at 104 pitches. He gave up three runs on seven hits in his next start last year. There’s a ton of promise here, but there’s still risk involved with a guy like Velasquez.
The Mets are the play to make here.
Toronto (-140) at Baltimore; Total: 8.5
Marcus Stroman and the slumping Toronto Blue Jays offense is a big favorite against Mike Wright and the Baltimore Orioles. Entering play on Tuesday, Toronto’s offense is 17th in wOBA and they own the highest strikeout rate in the league. One would assume that a guy like Mike Wright, who doesn’t miss a lot of bats, would be a good matchup for the Jays. That’s probably true. Wright is also going on a couple extra days of rest because of Sunday’s rainout. In 49.2 innings, Wright has allowed 10 HR.
I’m a big Marcus Stroman fan, but I’ve got some minor concerns. Over his last seven starts, covering 48.1 innings, the strikeout stuff hasn’t come back for Stroman. He has 30 punchouts in that span and 12 walks. It’s not a significant enough sample size to be predictive, but he’s not going to strike out a lot of Orioles here, so balls are going to be put in play off of both pitchers.
These are two good defensive teams, but these are also two good offenses. I’d look for some runs tonight.
Los Angeles (NL) (-130) at Atlanta; Total: 7.5
Alex Wood will be in the visitor’s clubhouse at Turner Field, which is sure to be an interesting situation for him. The Dodgers take on Julio Teheran and the Braves tonight. It’s rare that I have a hard time drawing conclusions about a pitcher after 450 Major League innings, but I’m still not entirely certain of what Alex Wood is. He was almost a strikeout per inning start in 2014, but hasn’t come close to replicating that rate since. He doesn’t induce as much soft contact as your standard-issue 89 mph lefty would. But, he manages to be an effective starter, all things considered.
He should be effective enough to get a win here. Something is wrong with Julio Teheran. Over his last 36 starts, his command and control seem to have abandoned him. He’s given up 31 home runs over his last 217.2 innings after allowing 22 home runs in 221 innings in 2014. The walk rate spike is really concerning and his velocity is slow to rise this season. It’s entirely possible that we saw the best that the 25-year-old has to offer during that 2013-14 span.
Lefties did a ton of damage against Teheran last season with a .297/.387/.507 slash against. He had a 64/47 K/BB ratio. The Dodgers definitely have some lefties capable of doing damage. The Dodgers have to be the play in this game.
Colorado at Cincinnati (-110); Total: 8.5
I don’t recommend this betting strategy to a lot of people because you can get in trouble. However, any time I see Alfredo Simon’s name listed as the starter, I’m looking for a reason to go against him. Reasons aren’t that hard to find because he’s terrible. Since the All-Star Break in 2014, Simon has a 5.07 ERA with a 4.71 FIP and a 4.64 xFIP over 273.1 innings of work. Clearly that’s not good.
The only thing holding me back here in this one is that Jorge de la Rosa somehow manages to pitch better at Coors Field than he does on the road. Over 649 road innings, JDLR has a 4.55 ERA with a 4.55 FIP and a 4.28 xFIP. Last season’s road performance was pretty decent with a 3.26/3.89/3.76 pitcher slash, but that was the shining star of the last few seasons.
Very quietly, the Reds have done well against lefties this season. Among teams with at least 100 PA against lefties, they actually have the highest wOBA in baseball this season. Small sample size alert, to be sure. But, there’s something to work with here. I was high on the Reds heading into the season. I’m still fairly high on them. Just not sure if I am today. This game is set up for runs to be scored, so a slight lean to the over, but it’s not the big play I was hoping it would be.
Tampa Bay at Boston (-110); Total: 8.5
Joe Kelly opened a small favorite at home and some influential money in the market disagreed with that position. This line is hovering around a money line pick ‘em. Joe Kelly isn’t very good. As Grandma from Rounders would say, there’s not a lot of faith in him out there in the business community. I like Drew Smyly a lot, but I have this perception of him that he’ll struggle against good lineups. I’m thinking that it’s an unfair stance and a bias that my mind keeps playing out for no good reason.
To be fair, Smyly did allow righties to slug .448 in 219 plate appearances last season. That’s worrisome against a lineup with guys like Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, and Mookie Betts. Of course, Smyly also struck out 24.2 percent of the RHB he faced. So, I don’t know. He may be one of those guys that I should just stay away from because I can never get a clear read on him. The clear read I do have here is that Joe Kelly isn’t very good. Because of that, a slight lean to the Rays, but probably nothing I would advocate a play on.
Washington (-140) at Miami; Total: 7.5
I don’t have an opinion on this game, but I did want to talk about Adam Conley. You probably don’t know who he is. He was actually pretty good over a 67-inning sample size last season, posting a 3.76/3.81/4.21 pitcher slash. This season, Conley has one awful start, against these same Nationals, and one tremendous start against the Mets. Increased velocity from Conley could really be a separator for him. He’s climbed a full mile per hour and it’s early April, so that’s a really good sign. If he can hover around a 15 percent K%-BB%, which would be the numbers he posted in the low minors, there could be something here and that’s worth monitoring. He’s got a good defense to pitch in front of and a good environment to pitch in, despite the fences coming in a little bit.
Conley is a guy to keep an eye on, especially if the Marlins struggle and create some value.
Detroit at Kansas City (-150); Total: 7.5
The top underdog play in my mind today is Detroit. I don’t really think of the Mets as an underdog when you’re still paying a little bit of vig at most shops. This number is at least 10 cents too high, if not more. Shane Greene showed his true colors as the season went on last year, but he’s a serviceable starter. Greene has seen a velocity spike so far this season and it popped up in Spring Training. He had some injury issues last season and seems to be healthy this year. The velocity on his two-seamer is up 2.2 mph so far. Another byproduct of a harder two-seamer is that it’s going to be more effective in inducing ground balls. Monitor that throughout the early part of the season for Greene.
There are some interesting trends with Yordano Ventura. For one thing, his percentage of zone-contact jumped by about five percent per Baseball Info Solutions (3.4 percent per PITCHf/x) from 2014 to 2015. That’s not good. For as good as his stuff is, his chase rate is about average, so he does need guys to swing and miss in the zone a little bit. Last season, most of his swings and misses came on balls. Hitters eventually adjust. Ventura’s velocity is down a tick from last season, which is probably just an April thing, but we’ll watch it.
One big arsenal change I’m seeing that may be nothing more than PITCHf/x noise is a big drop in two-seam usage and a major increase in changeup usage. This may be some sample size bias, but, again, it’s a trend worth watching. Changeups are actually one of the best pitches from a swing-and-miss standpoint, so it may be a good thing for Ventura. Then again, his changeup rated as his worst pitch last season.
The Royals are overpriced here. Detroit is definitely worthy of your consideration and probably even a play.
Chicago (NL) at St. Louis (-125); Total: 7.5
If the Cubs were sending out anybody but Jason Hammel, they might be worth a look today. Jaime Garcia is overpriced on the strength of his last start. This is still the guy that failed to throw a quality start against Atlanta in his first start of the season and the guy that has an injury history that reads like a Tolstoy novel. To his credit, Garcia has been really effective when he has been able to take the mound every five days.
Jason Hammel’s velocity is coming up very slowly. We often think of velocity loss as being something that benefits hitters in terms of hitting home runs or other forms of hard contact. Another byproduct of velocity loss is that it becomes tougher to command pitches. The longer a ball takes to get to the hitting area, the more time it has to more. That makes it difficult to control and, more importantly, to command. It’s not necessarily a thing about a hitter’s reaction time. It’s more about locating with new movement patterns. That’s the issue Hammel is facing right now, with seven walks in 12 innings.
The Cardinals offense is firing on all cylinders right now and the Cubs offense has been a little bit unimpressive through the first couple of weeks of the season. I’d roll with the Cardinals here, particularly if you can get a little bit better of a price.