All 30 teams are in action on Friday, with one afternoon game at Wrigley Field between the Chicago Cubs and the Colorado Rockies. There’s not a whole lot of incentive one way or another to play that game, though it wouldn’t be a big shocker to see that line come down as people buy in to what the Rockies have been doing offensively and the expectation of some mild regression for the Cubs.
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. With a lot of night games on the slate, we’ve got a lot to talk about, so let’s dive right in.
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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.
Milwaukee at Pittsburgh (-145); Total: 8
This is the second time I’ve felt that Jimmy Nelson was getting some respect from the oddsmakers. It’s entirely possible that this is indicative of what the oddsmakers think of Jeff Locke, but Nelson was only a +120 home dog to Johnny Cueto in the second game of the season. I realize that Nelson is the brightest bulb in the box, so to speak, in that Milwaukee rotation, but it has been a little bit surprising. He’s been pretty fortunate to post a 2.70 ERA through two starts because all of his runs allowed have come via the home run. His strikeout rate has jumped a little bit. But, that being said, I didn’t see any clear signs of positive regression from 2015 to 2016, so I’m not sure why he’s getting respect.
The Pirates are scuffling a bit, but they played a good offense in the Detroit Tigers this past home-and-home series. I also realize that the Pirates were a team pegged to take a step or two back. This line just seems low to me. Nelson is a league average starter and the Pirates are a pretty good team. No, Jeff Locke isn’t good. However, Locke owns a 3.91 ERA with a 3.96 xFIP at PNC Park. He’s at least useful at home. Certainly useful enough against a poor Brewers lineup.
I’d call this game a stay away, because it’s possible that I’m missing something here through just a couple of starts. I will keep watching Nelson’s prices in his starts, however.
Seattle at New York (AL) (-145); Total: 8.5
Nate Karns and Luis Severino both had similar debuts to the 2016 season. Karns worked five innings, struck out six, and gave up four runs on seven hits because of a .429 BABIP against. Severino worked five, punched out five, and gave up three runs on 10 hits with a .526 BABIP against. The Yankees are getting some home respect here as Seattle heads east for the first time this season. Karns is no stranger to Yankee Stadium after spending last season with Tampa Bay.
It’s incredible how similar these pitchers are for their careers. Both had some reverse platoon splits last season, in that righties hit them better than lefties. Does that help either pitcher in this spot? It may. The Mariners are built for hitting right-handed starters, while the Yankees have the ability to hit any starter. The Mariners have really struggled defensively at the outset and I expected them to be a lot better. I rarely have high expectations for the Yankees defense, though it should be better than it was last season.
This is an interesting game. I don’t believe the Yankees are -145 better than the Mariners, maybe somewhere in the -135 range, but a 10-cent overlay probably isn’t enough to make me pull the trigger.
Toronto at Boston (-120); Total: 9
These are the games I love in the early going. RA Dickey was blasted for seven runs by Toronto last weekend. Rick Porcello’s command was terrible against these same Blue Jays in his start last Saturday. These are two guys that are coming off of subpar seasons, so bettors were probably looking to fade both of them early on. Here they are facing each other yet again. In the first meeting last week in Toronto, Dickey opened a -125 favorite and here Porcello is in about the same range.
For me, this game is all about Rick Porcello. I know what I’m going to get from RA Dickey and it’s probably not good at Fenway Park. What does Porcello come up with? The ball was up way too much last game, particularly with his secondary stuff. The sinker had some decent life. His velocity is a little bit worrisome right about now as well. He threw a lot of sliders to the Blue Jays and it didn’t work. I’d expect him to go with more of a sinker/changeup arsenal here in this one.
Porcello can adjust. Dickey cannot. He just needs that knuckleball to not flatten out as much. I’m not sure that happens. Boston would be the side here with the hope that Porcello realizes the error of his ways from that last start.
Chicago (AL) (-120) at Tampa Bay; Total: 6.5
Chris Sale is licking his chops to take on a Tampa Bay lineup that was basically shut down by Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar. Terry Francona left Kluber in a couple batters too long in the series opener on Tuesday and it may have cost the Indians a win. Sale, obviously, throws left-handed, so that is a big change from that group of starters. The Rays, over the long haul, should be a lot better against lefties this season than they will be against righties. Last year, the Rays were fifth in wOBA against southpaws and have a lot of the same batters this season. I don’t think this game is as cut-and-dry as it seems and neither do the oddsmakers.
Jake Odorizzi draws a good matchup here. The White Sox certainly aren’t winning games because of their offense. They’re hitting a timely home run or two and doing nothing before or after. They’re a team I would look for some regression from in the coming weeks here after this hot 7-2 start. They’ve also played some really bad teams so far. Odorizzi has the secondary stuff to keep Chicago’s power bats off-balance and the Rays have a pretty interesting bullpen with guys like Erasmo Ramirez and Alex Colome.
It’s a tough play to make, but I truly think Tampa Bay is the right side here. Chris Sale is elite, but the Rays may actually have the better chance against him than the White Sox have against Odorizzi, as borderline insane as that sounds.
New York (NL) at Cleveland (-125); Total: 8
The Mets can’t hit anything right now and every run seems like a struggle for the Indians. Bartolo Colon will return to the place where it all began back in 1997. Bartolo Colon turned 40 before Francisco Lindor made his MLB debut. It’s incredible to still see that guy out there on the mound doing work.
It will be interesting to see how Colon fares here in this interleague start. Since joining the Mets in 2014, Colon is 4-4 with a 5.67 ERA against American League competition. The extra hitter definitely plays a big role. He still doesn’t walk a lot of guys, but everybody knows what’s coming and he doesn’t have the pitcher or some #8 slap hitter to kill a rally. The margin for error is very thin for Colon in games like this.
Cody Anderson pitched okay against the White Sox last week, but Bryan Shaw and the Indians bullpen left a big steaming pile on the mound to cost him a win. The big story, however, is that Anderson still couldn’t put MLB hitters away. Even with the increase in velocity, Anderson only struck out two. Yet again, however, he managed to induce a good amount of soft contact. He’s a mystery at this point.
Gun to my head, I’d consider the over here because there are going to be a ton of balls in play. It’s entirely possible that both starters face 25 or so batters a piece and only combine for five or six strikeouts. As far as a side goes, it’s a toss-up, really. The Indians should have a slight advantage because they’ve been somewhat competent offensively. Overall, this is probably another game to avoid, particularly because Anderson is an unknown and you know what Colon will probably do.
Baltimore at Texas (-110); Total: 9
Ew. Vance Worley and Martin Perez are two guys that I’m not overly interested in, but it’s on the slate, so we’ll talk about it. Worley is a replacement-level guy in every sense of the expression. If the Orioles had any concept of minor league development or how to keep pitchers healthy, they wouldn’t be in this situation. But, here they are, and here’s Worley going to a park that could be pretty bad for him. When he was in the AL in 2013, it was like batting practice. Ray Searage’s magic dust saved him for a short time in 2014, but the shine came off pretty quickly.
Martin Perez certainly has more upside, but I have a hard time with guys that don’t miss bats. The nice thing about Perez is that his ground ball rate is spectacular and that allows him to limit damage as much as he can. The downside to not striking guys out is that you wind up with poor LOB%. That was his problem in last season’s 14-start sample with a 62.8 percent strand rate, about nine percent below average. That’s why he had a 4.46 ERA to go with a 3.40 FIP and a 3.99 xFIP.
The Orioles offense is cause for concern against any pitcher, Perez included, but the Rangers should get their runs as well. A slight lean to the Rangers here, who have the better pitcher on the mound and a comparable offensive upside given the matchup.
Los Angeles (AL) (-125) at Minnesota; Total: 8
It’s pretty telling when a team as bad as the Angels is a clear road favorite over anybody. The Twins are now 0-9 and their offensive performance has been putrid to say the last. It’s unlikely that a visit from Garrett Richards will do much to help the bottom line. It also doesn’t help that a soft-tossing southpaw like Tommy Milone is the team’s option to avoid falling to 0-10.
Many considered Richards to be a pitcher to watch very closely here this season, coming off of a second consecutive good season. The stuff is so good, but the execution has been kind of hit or miss. Against a Twins lineup that hasn’t hit anything yet this season, this seems like a pretty terrible matchup. Richards has 13 strikeouts in 11.2 innings and nobody has struck out more than the Twins this season.
Tommy Milone isn’t awful. He’s got a below average strikeout rate, but soft-tossing lefties go through stretches where they frustrate the opposition by inducing a lot of weak contact. That’s Milone. The problem this season is that the Twins are pretty bad defensively and Milone, and the rest of the low-strikeout guys, are going to run into trouble with that.
Given how Minnesota has started the season, this price seems low on Richards. That’s an indictment of the other guys on the Angels, however. Richards has the ability to be dominant, so a lean to the Angels is the best you’ll get here.
Kansas City (-115) at Oakland; Total: 7
Edinson Volquez and Rich Hill. Two guys that nobody thought would be in a starting rotation in 2016 if you had asked back in 2012. Here they are. You already know about Volquez, who has benefitted greatly from a couple years under Ray Searage and a couple years working to an elite Kansas City defense. Hill is a little bit different. A four-start September sample got him $6M guaranteed from the Oakland A’s. Hill really carved up the Mariners in his last start, striking out 10 over six innings. Is it possible that the 36-year-old really found something?
His arsenal is actually quite interesting. He’s basically a three-pitch pitcher with heavy SL/CU usage and below average fastball usage. Somehow he’s been able to spot those breaking balls in areas that force hitters to swing. Kansas City likes to be aggressive and attack the strike zone. Their lefties were great against lefties last season, but Hill is capable of using their aggression against them in this outing.
I still feel like Oakland has some potential against right-handed pitching and I think this is a tough matchup for the Royals, who will get into the Bay Area late after playing Houston on Thursday night. Oakland is a small play here.
San Francisco at Los Angeles (-175); Total: 6
We get Madison Bumgarner vs. Clayton Kershaw Part Deux already early in the season here. Kershaw was a road favorite when these two met at AT&T Park on Saturday and the Dodgers prevailed 3-2 in extra innings. The Greek only opened Kershaw -125 and the market closed this number around -140. Is pitching at home worth a 35-cent adjustment? As great as Kershaw is at home, I would say no. Kershaw’s great no matter where he pitches.
San Francisco is the value side here. It’s up to you if you want to go against Kershaw.
Arizona (-120) at San Diego; Total: 6.5
You know perception is very low on San Diego given what the Phillies just did to them. Charlie Morton, Jerad Eickhoff, and Vincent Velasquez looked like Cy Young candidates against this awful Padres offense. Now they face Zack Greinke, a legitimate Cy Young candidate. The Padres will counter with James Shields.
Both guys are off to slow starts this season. Greinke has faced the Rockies and the Cubs and hasn’t thrown a quality start yet. Shields, who struck out everybody early in the season last year, hasn’t had the same bite to his stuff as of yet. That makes this a tough handicap. The Diamondbacks are clearly a better team and Greinke is a better pitcher overall. The Padres are coming back from Philadelphia, but they did play a day game on Thursday, so travel isn’t all that bad. The Diamondbacks will get in late from Los Angeles, but it’s a short trip in the same time zone.
Arizona is probably the side to look at here. The Padres are not good in any facet of the game and Arizona at least has some bright spots. It’s not an ideal game to pick, but those desperate for some late-night action can throw a few pennies on the Snakes.