Monday brings us a small card in Major League Baseball. With bad weather a possibility through the month, April has more built-in off days than any other month (outside of July because of the All-Star Break), so we do get some days like this. The Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays play the annual 11 a.m. first pitch Patriots Day game, so that game will not be part of today’s write-up. Seven games will start tonight at 7:05 p.m. ET or later, so those are the ones that we will be looking at.
A couple of those games don’t have lines at time of writing, but they will still be considered and bettors can act accordingly based on the thoughts in today’s piece. It’s a good day to keep things small and simple.
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) (-170) at Philadelphia; Total: 7
The Mets roll into Philadelphia with a little bit of momentum after a good offensive showing against the Cleveland Indians over the weekend. This game isn’t in our price range, but there’s a topic/wagering angle I do want to mention here. Jerad Eickhoff was brilliant last start against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Pitchers making their rounds for the first or second time have this type of upside against teams that have never seen them. Scouting reports are one thing, but standing is the batter’s box is an altogether different thing.
Eickhoff has made 10 Major League starts. Four of them have been against the New York Mets. After today, 45 percent of his big league starts will come against the same team. There’s only so much that a pitcher with a decent, but not spectacular, arsenal can do in that situation. Keep an eye out for things like this with young pitchers.
Colorado at Cincinnati (-115); Total: 9
Jordan Lyles is what he is. Dan Straily is different than what he was. Will either guy have success today? We’ll have to see. This is a rather interesting line given that the Rockies offense has been really fantastic so far this year. Lyles has not been fantastic in his two starts, but he may be an underpriced commodity on the road. All things considered over the last two seasons, Lyles has posted a 3.98 xFIP and a 3.79 FIP, respectively. He’s a pitch-to-contact ground ball guy that has posted FIPs and xFIPs near 4.00 during his time with the Rockies in road starts. It’s slightly below average for the NL, but obviously better than his home performances.
Straily has been training at the Driveline Baseball facility in Washington with Kyle Boddy, who has become a household name in the baseball community. This is his first start of the season, as he takes the spot of Tim Melville in the Reds rotation. Straily’s velocity has returned, which is pretty big. It’s back up to 2013 levels after sitting below 90 in both 2014 and 2015. Are these velocity gains enough to make Straily a decent pitcher once again? Maybe. But the command profile needs to improve as well.
Lyles is the value pick here as a small dog. Straily could be a guy to watch as the season progresses, but that little velo bump may be nothing more than being in the bullpen. If he can sustain it over five or six innings, then we’ll take notice. For now, Colorado has a decent price here in a battle of two replaceable starters.
Washington at Florida (-160); Total: 7
All I’m going to say about this game is that Washington almost always has value at +140. Jose Fernandez is elite and if you want to bet against him, go right ahead. Tanner Roark isn’t great and I like this Marlins offense, but the surging Nationals shouldn’t be +140 against anybody right now.
Los Angeles (AL) at Chicago (AL) (-135); Total: 8.5
Hector Santiago faces his former team here as the Angels continue their Midwest swing against the White Sox. Carlos Rodon will take the ball for the home team and we’ve already seen a 10-cent move on the Pale Hose. That should come as no surprise and this line will probably keep climbing.
Santiago is a guy that probably won’t experience too much regression based off of last year’s stats. He’ll still be a 3.75 ERA guy with a 4.50+ FIP and xFIP. Advanced statistics do not look favorably on fly ball guys that have below average walk rates. That’s Santiago. But, in a practical sense, it’s not a terrible framework for posting a reasonable ERA, so long as the park factor helps. Angel Stadium is a good park for a fly ball pitcher with a decent strikeout rate.
This start, however, comes at US Cellular. Opposing batters hit .255/.324/.502 off of Santiago on the road last season and he owned a 5.10 FIP and a 5.01 xFIP. Two years ago, he posted a 3.41 ERA, but a 4.13 FIP and a 4.40 xFIP. The two years before that, he was with Chicago.
Carlos Rodon has had his share of control problems and the Angels have a good walk rate against lefties in a small sample size here this season. However, this is still a subpar Angels offense with a shallow bullpen and a bad starter on the mound. It would have been nice to get the 10 cents of line value, but that shouldn’t stop you from backing the White Sox on Monday.
Milwaukee at Minnesota (-130); Total: 8.5
Initially, I was all about fading Chase Anderson here. The Twins were a team to stack in my daily DFS article and they’re a team that should run into some positive regression after an awful start to the season. Unfortunately, oddsmakers have priced me out because I’m not laying -130 on Phil Hughes against a Brewers lineup with some power.
Anderson is the type of guy that will have issues in interleague starts. Facing an extra hitter is problematic for an NL starter that doesn’t miss a lot of bats. Don’t look at Anderson’s interleague numbers for his career. He’s made exactly one road start in an AL park in his career and he shut down a bad White Sox offense in 2014. This is a great example of why context is important.
Phil Hughes is still the same guy. The strikeout rate will come down, but he’s not walking people and he’s giving up home runs. His true talent level is somewhere between 2014 and 2015, so probably a 3.90 ERA with a 4.00 FIP and a 3.95 xFIP. Does that play in the American League? Sometimes, if the team he’s pitching for can hit the ball. So far, the Twins haven’t done a whole lot of that.
I was hoping for a better number here, but oddsmakers know better. Unfortunately this is a stay away game.
Chicago (NL) (-120) at St. Louis; Total: 8
This will be pretty interesting. John Lackey faces his former team as a member of the enemy. The Cardinals will counter with free agent signing Mike Leake. The Cardinals are really swinging the bats well this season, ranking third in home runs and second in wOBA. The pitching has been a little bit hit or miss, particularly with Adam Wainwright, but the batting has been on point.
I tried to crowdsource my baseball friends to see if any of them have ever read anything about how pitchers do against their former teams, but we couldn’t come up with anything. It’s hard because a few starts do not make up a significant sample size, but there’s probably something to a pitcher having knowledge of those hitters. On the other hand, the old team has also seen that pitcher quite a bit. It’s best to assume no advantage until something is proven otherwise.
Lackey has given up a couple of dingers this season that have skewed his ERA and FIP, but he’s thrown the ball well and is still showing good K/BB rates. We are looking for some regression on last year’s performance because an 82.6 percent strand rate won’t happen again. That’s going to lead to some ERA regression. Odds are, his ERA will fall somewhere between last season’s 3.57 FIP and 3.77 xFIP.
Mike Leake was not my favorite FA signing in the offseason. But, you already know that I’m not a big fan of guys that fail to miss enough bats. That’s Leake. Leake induced a lot of weak contact last season, but he’s a middle of the rotation starter whose best asset is durability. He’s made 30 starts in four straight seasons and he accumulates value by being a tad above league average over the course of a full season.
I don’t like backing pitchers like Leake. His success depends on whether or not balls are hit to areas where fielders can get them. Unless there’s a big matchup edge, and there isn’t here, he’s a guy I shy away from. That’s the case here as well.
Arizona at San Francisco
No line was out at time of writing for this game, but you can expect San Francisco to be a comfortable favorite, maybe in the -155 or -160 range. That’s a steep price to pay for Jake Peavy, but the Diamondbacks are sending Archie Bradley to the hill for the first time this season.
Bradley was limited to 14 starts and about 65 innings last season due to various injuries and other ailments. He’s got good swing-and-miss stuff, but he also has subpar control. He struck out nine of the 30 batters he faced in two abbreviated Triple-A starts, but his also walked five. The Giants have a really gifted lineup and they’ll force Bradley to come to them and to throw strikes.
Peavy got bombed in his last start, and that’s probably not much of a surprise. Colorado is not a good park for him at all. Command has not been Peavy’s friend so far, with quite a bit of hard contact against. He does have an 8/1 K/BB ratio, so that’s good and that’s something to build off of in future starts. Being back at AT&T Park against a good, but not great lineup may be a chance for him to get back on track.
The Diamondbacks burned up their bullpen on Saturday with an extra inning game and will need probably five, if not more, innings from the pen here today. There’s a good chance that Daniel Hudson and Brad Ziegler, if the game is close, will work three times in four days. Andrew Chafin worked back-to-back days. This is not a great situation for Arizona. If this number opens at a reasonable price (-140 to -145), San Francisco is worth a look.