There are 12 games on the Thursday slate and more than half of them will start during the afternoon hours, so this could be a little bit of a tricky day for us with the lead time of this article. We’d definitely like to build off of a solid day yesterday, so that’s the hope as we dive into today’s set of matchups. The one nice thing about day games early in the season is that both teams are invested. Sometimes you have to try and guess and put on your amateur psychologist cap and analyze what a team’s effort level will be for the day game after a night game. At this time of the season, everybody still feels like they have a chance and that leads to quality efforts.
One thing you do want to consider, however, is that some players will sit, especially if some of the bench players haven’t gotten any action recently. Managers want everybody to get some plate appearances and some defensive innings as quickly as possible in April and day games following night games present that opportunity. Make sure you check out the lineups before wagering on today’s card.
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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.
San Diego at Philadelphia (-110); Total: 7
It’s rather surprising to see money coming in on San Diego during the overnight and the early morning. This is a very early game for an East Coast team, playing basically at 10 a.m. body time. Drew Pomeranz takes the mound for the Padres against Vincent Velasquez. This line movement seems to be a fade of Velasquez, who was brilliant in his Phillies debut. Pomeranz threw five competent innings in Colorado and struck out seven, so maybe there’s a bit of recency bias in the move on him. Velasquez threw six shutout against the Mets with nine punchouts.
At this price, the Phillies are the side I would take. Velasquez’s start against the Mets was hardly a mirage. This is a kid that has really dynamite stuff. There’s good separation in pitch speeds and the Padres don’t have a lineup that can exploit his lack of a quality third pitch. There’s good life and good velocity on the fastball and the Padres have been an awful offense outside of their series at Coors Field.
The Phillies have struggled against lefties, but 69 plate appearances isn’t enough of a sample size to pull a lot of data from. Pomeranz had some trouble keeping the ball down in Coors Field and did issue some walks. Citizens Bank Park isn’t Coors Field, but it is a good power park for hitters. A day game will yield warmer temperatures and a little bit more carry.
Chicago (AL) at Minnesota (-105); Total: 8.5
Here we go again, as the Minnesota Twins try to pick up a victory. The Twins are 0-8 on the season and readers of my Minnesota Twins season win total piece have to be excited right now. The Twins won’t continue being this bad, but this is not a good team. Against Mat Latos, they have a chance. Latos is not a big strikeout guy and the Twins have struck out in 31.7 percent of their plate appearances against righties on the season. I’m a believer in Latos under the tutelage of Don Cooper, but he only struck out two batters in his first start and relied heavily on a subpar White Sox defense to get that win.
Servin’ Ervin Santana will be throwing balls to the plate against the White Sox. This will already be his third start of the season and he has thrown the ball pretty well with a 10/4 K/BB over eight innings. He had a start shortened by weather in Baltimore in the first series of the season. Santana has been a guy that has struggled with lefties throughout his career, which is significant in this start because the White Sox don’t have many LHB that can hurt him. Over the last two seasons, Santana has held righties to slash lines of .227/.314/.363 and .243/.297/.355.
The Twins are the side to look at today. They’re going to see some positive regression after this horrid start. It will either be gradual or come all at once, but it will happen. It’s hard to pick up a lot from their current statistical data because it’s so influenced by strikeouts, but they’ll be a worthy bet against low-strikeout pitchers while their perception is so low.
Cleveland at Tampa Bay (-120); Total: 7
Once again, the Indians are a team to stay away from, as they were gifted some runs on Wednesday night. The Indians only scored four runs against Drew Smyly and the Rays bullpen, with two of them coming on a pop up sac fly. Jason Kipnis hit a solo bomb. They enter this game with 65 PA against right-handed pitchers on the season. The next closest team to that mark is the Detroit Tigers with 155. The right-hander they draw today? Chris Archer.
Danny Salazar goes for the Indians. He’s got tremendous raw stuff and should be just fine against this Rays offense. I’d look to the under here if you have to play anything. The Indians aren’t hitting anybody right now, due in large part to a lack of games played and some timing issues. The Rays aren’t a great offense anyway and will end up better against lefties than righties yet again this season. This should be a low-scoring affair. Hopefully the bullpens hold up, since both of these starters can run up some pitch counts.
Baltimore at Texas (-135); Total: 8.5
Will it take Cole Hamels to slow down the Baltimore Orioles? That’s what oddsmakers seem to think. I’ve been very surprised with Baltimore, who finally lost last night against the Boston Red Sox. Sometimes teams coming off of a big streak will struggle for a few games before righting the ship. We saw it a couple times in the NHL where the Chicago Blackhawks and Florida Panthers won 12 in a row and then hit the wall for the next five or six games.
In a way, this is a decent situational spot for Texas. Baltimore is making its first long trip of the season and it comes without an off day and following a night game. Texas played extra innings in Seattle, but that was a day game, so they were back in Texas before it got too late. Hamels has fought with his control a little bit this season, but Baltimore, as a team, does not walk a whole lot. Their small sample size doesn’t suggest that big walk gains are coming. They’ve been living large with the long ball, which is something that they will do throughout the season, but they also have a .335 BABIP to go along with those 14 dongs. Regression is coming in that area.
Chris Tillman is a guy that I’ve never really been a fan of and that holds true here. He’s got mediocre stuff and he’s going to an environment where mediocre stuff can hang a pitcher out to dry. An uptick in velocity to start the season is pretty interesting and it could make a difference over the long haul. With bad pitchers, you want to look for differences like pitch usage and velocity. Tillman’s throwing more cutters/sliders, depending on whether or not you use Brooks or Baseball Info Solutions for your tracking. He’s throwing fewer curveballs so far, which is good because that’s his worst pitch by a large margin.
Tillman may be a guy with some value moving forward based on these changes, but I don’t like the spot for Baltimore tonight. Coming off of the first loss with a road back-to-back with travel against a guy like Cole Hamels is not ideal. The Rangers would be a good look tonight.
Kansas City at Houston (-115); Total: 7.5
Ian Kennedy takes on Doug Fister here in a battle of veteran right-handers to wrap up this series at Minute Maid Park. I’m on record as saying I like the Kennedy move for Kansas City. Some regression was going to come in that home run rate and this is a great fit for him defensively, as it would be for any pitcher. Kennedy threw 6.2 really good innings in his debut start after being felled a bit by a hamstring late in Spring Training.
The home runs were everybody’s fixation last season, but Kennedy got hurt early on and basically had to go through a Spring Training-esque regimen again to try and build up arm strength for the season. As a result, his command suffered. He gave up 20 HR in 359 PA in the first half and 11 in 354 PA in the second half. The bigger development, in my mind, from last season was his increased strikeout rate. He probably won’t sustain that in the American League, but he could see good K numbers against an Astros team that strikes out a lot.
Doug Fister’s five-and-fly was a step in the right direction for him and the Astros in his first start. Fister was limited to 15 starts and 10 relief appearances last year. The velocity wasn’t quite there in his first start, which is something to monitor, but eight of the 13 balls in play were hit on the ground and that’s how Fister can have success. The Astros have a pretty decent defense around the horn.
In this start, however, I like the Royals to have some success. Fister won’t strike out six Royals here and this is a much better lineup than the one that Milwaukee trotted out. Sinkerball pitchers tend to have problems with lefties because they can get out around the baseball and hook it to the pull side with some good exit velocity. It’s an extremely small sample, but Brewers lefties were 3-for-7 with a home run in his first start. Lefties don’t have eye-popping numbers against Fister in his career, but there are a lot of negative trends in his profile that a good lineup like Kansas City’s can exploit.
Arizona at Los Angeles (-140); Total: 7.5
Here’s an example of recency bias from the oddsmakers and sharp players taking the value in a number. The Dodgers are sending Ross Stripling back to the bump after he flirted with a no-hitter in his first start. This number opened about 20 cents higher at most shops but early players got in on Arizona. The Diamondbacks are using Robbie Ray.
There are a few things at play here. The Dodgers were terrific against left-handed pitching last season, ranking fourth in all of MLB in wOBA. With so many lefties in the lineup, perception would probably be that they would struggle here in this spot. Robbie Ray had a good season last year in his first go-round with the Diamondbacks and the National League. He also happens to throw left-handed.
On the other side, Stripling had that impressive debut, but this is a guy that never pitched at Double-A, missed an entire season due to Tommy John surgery, and popped up in the bigs with 161.1 innings of Double-A experience. That’s no knock on him and he’s a great story for being in the Majors. Credit to Dave Roberts for not getting caught up in the attempt at history and for doing the right thing to preserve the kid’s arm. Stripling allowed 17 balls in play and not one of them managed to find a patch of green. That’s not happening again. He only had four strikeouts and also walked four hitters.
Now, to be fair, Stripling does have some stuff, even if it comes with marginal velocity. But, this price definitely came out way too high. At the current number, it’s hard to see value on either side. I just wanted to explain the line move and remind you to analyze pitchers for the future, even if you don’t have a play on the game.