We’ve got a busy MLB slate on Wednesday with three day games and a big collection of night games. A lot of games are hovering around the money line pick ‘em range, with prices around -110 or -115. These are the days in which we try to find value. My approach is usually to look for small favorites or small underdogs and to see where I can find edges to push me one way or another. There are reasons why teams are heavy underdogs and laying big prices is not profitable. As a result, this is exactly the type of card that I love to dive into and look for value. Following a mixed night of results, it’s time to get some momentum rolling.
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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.
Los Angeles (AL) at Oakland (-110); Total: 8.5
What will two bad offenses do with two bad pitchers? That’s the question at hand for this matinee matchup at O.co Coliseum between the Angels and the Athletics. Matt Shoemaker, who has shown flashes in the past, will take the ball with the Angels. Eric Surkamp, who has been a journeyman minor leaguer for most of his career, will go for the A’s.
After a really impressive 2014 season without any significant outliers, Matt Shoemaker has just fallen apart. He went from a 3.04/3.26/3.28 pitcher slash (ERA/FIP/xFIP) in 2014 to a 4.46/4.59/4.16 in 2015. His first start of the season was not pretty, as he allowed a six-spot over three innings with more walks than strikeouts. The A’s are 29th in wOBA against righties, so it hasn’t just been tough lefties that have shut them down. It has been everybody. This will be a test for Shoemaker. If he can’t shut down the light-hitting A’s, he may find himself in Triple-A.
Eric Surkamp has managed some decent MiLB strikeout totals, but he’s only worked 61.1 innings at the big league level for a reason. Injuries have played a role, as he missed all of 2012 and hasn’t worked a lot of innings since 2011. There’s not a lot to like here, but O.co Coliseum is a decent fir for him, since he tends to swing more towards the fly ball side of the ledger.
There’s a slight lean to Oakland here because they will have some platoon advantages and Surkamp’s stuff may play up just enough to allow him to be a competent pitcher in home starts.
San Diego at Philadelphia (-120); Total: 8
A pitcher’s duel ensued last night between Robbie Erlin and Charlie Morton. We were on the right side of this one with the Phillies taking care of business in a 3-0 win. Today, Colin Rea gets the ball against Jerad Eickhoff in a battle of second-year big leaguers. Rea was on the fast track last season, beginning in Double-A and he finished the season with six starts in San Diego. He threw the ball pretty well in those outings with a decent strikeout rate, a slightly below average walk rate, and good command, leading to a 4.26/3.45/3.93 pitcher slash. His first start didn’t go well, but it came in Colorado.
Jerad Eickhoff was impressive in his first eight starts, but that probably won’t be very predictive of how his first full season will go. He gave up a lot of hard contact last season and he doesn’t have a particularly deep arsenal of pitches. Hitters take time to adjust, but they always do. Pitchers can only adjust if their talent and stuff allows them to. This won’t be a good representation against a bad offense, but we’ll hope that Eickhoff wins and looks good doing it so we can go against him in the future. The slider is good, but the rest of his stuff isn’t.
This is a stay away game, but you want to follow pitchers like this for the future.
New York (AL) at Toronto (-125); Total: 8.5
The Yankees got very lucky to win Tuesday night’s game. A lineup built to do damage against Aaron Sanchez did very little and a lineup built to do damage against everybody failed to take advantage of Masahiro Tanaka’s wildness in the early innings. In this matchup, Michael Pineda goes against JA Happ. Pineda turned in a decent season last season, but the underlying numbers told more of a story. Pineda was 12-10 with a great K/BB rate and a 4.37 ERA, which we can attribute to a poor strand rate, but look deeper. He gave up a lot of hard-hit contact and gave up some home runs.
Houston hit three off of Pineda in his first win of the season, a game in which Collin McHugh was worse than he was. It’s all well and good that Pineda should post good K/BB rates again, but command is a problem area. Having poor command is not a way to have success at Rogers Centre against a lineup that feasts on mistakes. Toronto is off to a slow start, whether it’s from a bad start or a bad offensive performance. Is there value here because of it? There very well could be.
Of course, you have JA Happ on the other side, whose miraculous 11-start run with Ray Searage was enough to pick up a $36M deal. Happ is not a guy I’m high on, particularly back in the AL, where he has struggled over the course of his career. Toronto was confident enough in his improvements to bring him back, as he was there for parts of three seasons. If you take Happ for what he is, a starter with probably a 4.00 ERA and a slightly lower xFIP, then he’s probably worth a look here as a short favorite. Pineda has major blow-up potential against this lineup.
Cleveland at Tampa Bay (-110); Total: 7
With a fresh Cody Allen ready to go, Terry Francona let Corey Kluber throw 110 pitches on Tuesday night. It was the 110th pitch that was the deciding factor in the game. Logan Forsythe went yard and the Indians fell to 2-3 on the season. It’s important to realize that the Indians have three postponed games on the schedule already and two of them need to be made up. There hasn’t been a lot of consistency in their schedule and it shows from the lineup to the relievers.
The last time Carlos Carrasco pitched in Tropicana Field, he worked 8.2 no-hit innings before Joey Butler robbed the Indians of history. That’s not predictive, but it is a not-so-fun fact for this Tribe fan. In any event, the Indians are a stay away team until further notice and I wouldn’t play against them either. The lack of consistency in the schedule means that anything can happen and it’s best to stay away from that.
Baltimore at Boston (-120); Total: 9
You know things are bad when Ubaldo Jimenez is getting market-moving money for a start at Fenway Park. That’s the case here as sharp players were unwilling to lay -135 or -140 on Joe Kelly. Jimenez was tremendous against the Minnesota Twins in his first outing, though we’ve found out that the Twins simply aren’t very good here at the outset of the season. Regardless, Jimenez is still capable of generating swings and misses. It’s the walks that hurt him and it always has been.
The Red Sox aren’t walking much this season. They rank 17th in BB%. They were 16th last season. Maybe it’s time to reconsider what we think of this Red Sox offense, which used to work a ton of walks. They’re putting a lot of balls in play now and are trying to generate offense with hits and dingers. Jimenez will give up the dingers, but, traditionally, he’s done a decent job with batting averages against because he throws so many pitches and keeps hitters off-stride.
Joe Kelly is the Jarred Cosart/Nate Eovaldi of the Red Sox. He has a tremendous arm with good velocity and a heavy sinker, but there’s not much else to work with. All three guys seem to have untapped potential and could hit various levels of it this season. Kelly was blasted by Toronto in his first start. I’m not sure Baltimore can have that same level of success. Both lineups have a lot of similarities, but Baltimore does seem more reliant on power. Kelly can suppress home runs if he keeps the ball down.
I’m not interested in playing either one of these guys, but I’d lean Baltimore. The line move has taken away the value on the O’s, but I’m not ready to trust Kelly against a free-swinging team that can generate some big exit velocity.
Kansas City (-115) at Houston; Total: 8.5
Yordano Ventura battles it out with Scott Feldman in this matchup at the Juice Box in Houston. We were on the right side with this game yesterday as Kris Medlen bested Mike Fiers. It looked like Fiers was going to get blasted, but he really got his stuff together after a bad first inning. It’s hard to figure out what to expect here. Ventura walked six and struck out six in his first start. Feldman did what he does best. He managed four innings and gave up four runs. Ventura obviously has more upside and the line move reflects that, but Houston works a lot of counts and that means that Ventura will have to be much sharper.
I’d lean to the over here, rather than a side. Ventura may struggle a bit at the outset because he’s a rhythm pitcher. When he’s going well, he’s going really well. When he’s not, he has some mental hurdles to overcome. Feldman isn’t going to shut down a talented lineup. Most of the key players worked out of the bullpen in yesterday’s game, so they will be working back-to-back days. It took Wade Davis 33 pitches to get through his inning last night. Runs could be on the menu this evening.
San Francisco (-115) at Colorado; Total: 11.5
Jake Peavy and Jordan Lyles get to embrace all of the fun that is pitching in Colorado on Wednesday night. Peavy continued to be very hittable in his last start with 10 hits allowed against the Dodgers. This is a good defensive team, but it’s tough to defend against declining command. His fly ball stylings are worrisome in a park like Coors Field, so that has to be a consideration for anybody thinking about backing the Giants.
Jordan Lyles only made it 3.1 innings in his first start, but the ground ball stuff was there. Unfortunately, so was his subpar control. There’s nothing to like about Jordan Lyles pitching in Coors except that he won’t get beaten by the long ball. San Francisco has a lot of ways to score, however, so they aren’t dependent on the long ball.
I understand the line and Colorado always gets respect at home, as they should, but Jordan Lyles is going to have a lot of problems with the speed and contact approach that the Giants bring to the table. Even with my reservations about Peavy, the Giants are the side to look at for this one.