A full slate of Saturday action is on tap with baseball beginning at 1:05 p.m. ET and going right on into the late night hours. With the lead time of weekend articles, it’ll be tough to focus too much on the day games, but there’s not a whole lot of value in those today anyway. We’ll focus on the mid-afternoon slate and right on down through the last first pitch of the night. There are some really compelling pitching matchups today and some games that could go either way.

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.
Kansas City at Oakland (-140); Total: 8

You have to consider that O.co Coliseum might as well have been constructed with Chris Young in mind. His extreme fly ball tendencies really play up in the spacious and cavernous environment in Oakland. All that foul territory coupled with his walls and deep gaps play to Young strengths.

The Astros were able to solve Young, so he’s been decent in one start and bad in the other. Normally, we’ll see oddsmakers overreact to small sample size numbers like Young’s. That’s not the case here in this start and that should probably tell us something.

On the other side, there is Sonny Gray, whose season got off to a rough start with a case of food poisoning. We’ve seen Gray fight with his control a little bit here, but those weak contact skills are still very much in play. The walk rate shouldn’t be a problem here against a Royals lineup that is very aggressive and makes a lot of contact. At that point, it comes down to contact quality and the A’s defense. We know that the Royals have a massive defensive advantage here in this game. Is that enough to back them for the win?

Honestly, it’s tough to say. The A’s are due for a little positive BABIP regression, but fewer fly balls go for hits than ground balls. This is a stay away game all around. Normally I’m all about overs with a lot of balls in play, but these two guys are masters at inducing weak contact. At this price, a clear lean to Kansas City, especially if you can catch the +135s that are out there.

 

New York (NL) (-125) at Cleveland; Total: 7

Matt Harvey’s 2016 is not off to a good start. I’m not willing to read anything in to two starts, but three strikeouts against the Philadelphia Phillies in his last start is a rather concerning development. Harvey has the stuff to be dominant on any given day. The Indians offense is actually better suited to hit against lefties now, with additions like Marlon Byrd, Mike Napoli, and Juan Uribe. The Indians have also struck out in over 25 percent of their plate appearances this season.

The Mets will draw Josh Tomlin. Tomlin’s a personal favorite of mine because he’s willing to challenge hitters with average to below average velocity. I like a guy that will force the issue. Since he returned from Tommy John surgery and shoulder problems, Tomlin has shown some flashes, thanks to a good cutter and a traditional 12-to-6 hammer. In the second half of last season, Tomlin gave up 13 HR in 65.2 innings, but that’s not a big deal because he doesn’t walk guys. Eleven of them were solo home runs. He struck out 57 in 65.2 innings, which is not something you would expect from a guy with his makeup.

The problem here is that Tomlin hasn’t worked in a game since March 29 and that was a Spring Training game. He did strike out 10 over six innings and all 42 of his pitches were strikes, but that was 18 days ago. Simulated games don’t really do a ton.

A slight lean to the Mets here because of that layoff. Guys that don’t have premium velocity to fall back on need a feel for all of their pitches. For Tomlin, that may be tough with the time off. The cutter is more of a feel pitch and we know that curveballs are. If Tomlin had been working regularly, the Indians would present some value.

 

Chicago (AL) at Tampa Bay (-135); Total: 7.5

By no means am I a John Danks fan, but this line is a little out of whack. Danks showcased really good arm action on his changeup in his lone start of the season against the Indians. It was a five-and-fly and he gave up seven runs, but that changeup was a really nice weapon for him. The Rays have dealt with four really outstanding starting pitchers this week in Kluber, Carrasco, Salazar, and Sale, so this is a welcomed change. With their use of platoon advantages, the Rays will throw a lot of righties at Danks. Righties hit .288/.349/.472 against him last season.

Is it really fair to put Erasmo Ramirez as a -135 favorite in his first start of the season? He’s thrown six innings over three relief appearances. Relief work wasn’t for Ramirez last season. He posted a 3.51 ERA with a 3.76 FIP and a 3.91 xFIP as a starter last season. The thing about this outing is that we aren’t sure how long Ramirez will be able to work in this game. The White Sox are off to a really hot start, which has been surprising, so regression is coming. But, does it start here in this game against a guy making his first start of the season?

Chicago is probably the value side here, even though nobody wants to back John Danks. If you have the heart to do that, go for it.

 

Detroit at Houston (-130); Total: 8.5

I won’t go so far as to say that the wrong team is favored here, but this line is probably about 10 cents too high. Overanalyzing two starts from each pitcher isn’t a good indicator of future performance, but each pitcher has one bad start and one decent start. Collin McHugh didn’t make it out of the first inning in his season debut and then shut out the Royals over seven inning in his second start. Justin Verlander was okay in his first start and terrible in his second start.

Let’s take a deeper dive. In Verlander’s bad start, batted balls found holes and he faced a really good lineup. In McHugh’s good start, batted balls found holes, but not at the right time. McHugh allowed eight hits, but managed to work out of jams, even though he only struck out four batters. Overall, both of these guys are off to slow starts, but there’s one guy I trust more to get out of it quicker. That guy is Justin Verlander.

McHugh’s strikeout bump in 2014 proved to be unsustainable. That’s not to say that his 2015 was bad, but a lot of average numbers across the board are probably more of a baseline for him. Verlander reinvented himself as a pitcher last season with the loss of velocity and that’s what I like about him here. He’s got more pitchability than McHugh. He should have a better plan of attack against a really dangerous lineup than his opponent. The variable in all of this is the bullpen advantage that the Astros have, but I see the Tigers having good success against McHugh here. Verlander knows how to play a team’s aggressiveness against itself. Houston is definitely that. As long as he’s spotting pitches, he’ll be just fine.

 

Baltimore at Texas (-115); Total: 9.5

I thought we were in good shape on Friday night to grab another Rangers win, but the Orioles offense had other ideas. Five home runs from the seventh inning on was a pretty big bullpen collapse for the Rangers. Baltimore had a nine-run seventh inning. That’s rather incredible.

In any event, we’re back at it today with Yovani Gallardo against Colby Lewis. I don’t like either of these guys, so my initial inclination is the over. My second inclination is to like Baltimore. The betting masses are siding with Texas on the morning lines, but I don’t see it. Colby Lewis is bad all around. Lefties have a .279/.349/.465 slash and righties have a .247/.301/.428 slash. Normally you see a guy have some sort of platoon success, especially one that has had a long career like Lewis. His numbers against righties aren’t awful given the park factor, but there’s still not much there to fall back on.

Gallardo can have a decent season here with the support of a great infield defense. Through two starts, Gallardo has allowed more fly balls than ground balls and that’s not his style. That’s not his recipe for success. This is, however, a park where he is comfortable and he knows these hitters from being a Ranger last season. I don’t know how much of an advantage that actually gives a pitcher, but I have to think that a guy like Gallardo, who reinvented himself as a sinker/slider guy after his velocity abandoned him, is cerebral enough to use that to his advantage.

I’ll go against the grain and side with Baltimore here.

 

Arizona at San Diego (-110); Total: 7

Oddsmakers and bettors seem unsure what to do with this Shelby Miller vs. Andrew Cashner matchup. Miller came over with a lot of hype after a strong season for Atlanta and has not been impressive in the early going. Cashner has excellent potential when healthy, but some of that potential is dependent on a really horrible defense.

I’m surprised to see this total sitting at 7. Both pitchers have struggled to strand runners thus far and Petco Park is not a pitcher’s haven anymore. In fact, it’s actually become a decent hitter’s park with some dimension changes. The Diamondbacks certainly have a defensive advantage here, but, contrary to popular belief, Shelby Miller doesn’t actually miss that many bats. As a result, we’re going to see quite a few balls in play. The over almost seems too easy here, which is why it’s worrisome. Neither bullpen would be considered dominant.

These pitchers are better than they have shown, so I understand the idea of some positive regression. This is also the best matchup Shelby Miller has seen so far, so there’s a decent-sized lean to Arizona as well, but I’d expect runs here. So, Arizona and the over in this one.

 

San Francisco at Los Angeles (-120); Total: 7

This will be a fun one. Johnny Cueto got a rude awakening to this rivalry with six runs allowed on 10 hits, but he did strike out eight last Sunday against this Dodgers lineup. Scott Kazmir had the exact same outcome, giving up six runs on seven hits over just four innings against this Giants lineup.

Obviously, oddsmakers are expecting a different result here with the low total. A couple of small sample size things stand out to me. Cueto has allowed 10 line drives in his two starts, while Kazmir has allowed three. On the other hand, Kazmir has allowed three home runs to Cueto’s zero. It’s probably a good time to explain the difference between control and command. Control is the ability to throw strikes. Command is the ability to throw quality strikes. Both of these guys have exhibited good control thus far and, for the most part, throughout the last few seasons. This season, both guys have one good start against a bad team and one bad start against a good team.

What happens tonight? Well, for one thing, both starters should be better. My lean in this game would be to the Giants and Cueto. Cueto actually threw the ball pretty well last start. You don’t strike out eight guys over seven innings with bad stuff. Batted ball luck is variable, though it helps to stay out of the middle of the plate. Cueto didn’t do that enough. Neither did Kazmir. I would expect both to be better, but I would expect Cueto to be a little bit better than Kazmir and that could make the difference.