Monday was not a good day for betting on baseball. A lot of really big favorites took the field on Monday, so there were not a lot of opportunities to make money. Some underdogs blew some leads and lost with some juicy plus-money prices on the line. Underdogs generally carry value in the month of April, but they are not easy bets to make. Tuesday’s slate brings us 10 games with some more reasonable lines and some really fascinating pitching matchups. It’s all about isolating the proper games and that’s what we’ll look to do here with the April 12 set of games.
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Pittsburgh at Detroit (-130); Total: 8
The latest project for Ray Searage is Juan Nicasio. He’ll take the mound on Tuesday against Anibal Sanchez and the Detroit Tigers. It’s hard to put money on either one of these guys right now because you have no idea what to expect. Nicasio shined in Spring Training and threw an excellent game in his first start, but he’s also a guy with a 4.03 career xFIP. It’s fair to point out that Nicasio had to deal with the Colorado conditions for most of his career. Also I don’t really want to go against Ray Searage.
On the other side, you’ve got Anibal Sanchez, whose health has been his biggest hurdle for quite a while now. He fought with his control a little bit in his first start of the season and may have some similar issues here this time around. The PIrates are definitely a team that can benefit from an extra bat in the lineup, as seen by how they handled Justin Verlander on Monday in an early start.
I’m not buying Nicasio, but I’m probably selling my stock in Sanchez with a little bit more fervor. He’s a guy that gave up 29 home runs in 156 innings last season, setting a new career high. If the K/BB rates struggle and the command doesn’t come back around, here’s a guy that is going to really underachieve, especially relative to the money he’s getting paid.
A small lean to the Pirates in the first game.
Arizona at Los Angeles (NL) (-160); Total: 7
The Diamondbacks will send Patrick Corbin to the hill against Japanese import Kenta Maeda. This is a pretty interesting line because we’re seeing Maeda getting a lot of respect in his second career start. Corbin was excellent in the second half of last season with 70 strikeouts in 75.2 innings of work. His first start wasn’t particularly solid this season, but he’s a guy that certainly has some upside. One thing about guys with Tommy John is that they are often pitching hurt long before they decide to have surgery. That can really hurt a guy’s effectiveness. Tommy John generally isn’t a one-shot deal. It’s about sustained wear and tear over a large sample size.
Speaking of Tommy John, Kenta Maeda is heading for it. For now, however, the Dodgers are going to do everything they can to milk production out of him. His first MLB start was a success with six shutout frames and no walks allowed. The Diamondbacks are a pretty interesting offensive team here in the early going, although the loss of AJ Pollock has definitely watered down some of their projections.
In what should be a low-scoring game, the Dodgers have a bullpen edge, but Maeda could show more inconsistency in this start. The Diamondbacks seem to have a tiny bit of value, but this is a game to follow along with and see some tendencies for the future.
San Diego (-110) at Philadelphia; Total: 8
Robbie Erlin and Charlie Morton. Those are two names that are really going to excite MLB bettors. Okay, they aren’t, but these are the games I love because nobody wants to bet on games like this. That, inherently, will create value on somebody. In this spot, we see a virtual money line pick ‘em game, with Erlin getting a little bit of respect against Morton, who was awful in his first start.
There are a lot of variables here. For one thing, Erlin was working in relief and now he’s starting in place of Tyson Ross. Erlin worked 3.2 innings in his first appearance, so don’t expect him to work deep into the game. Erlin doesn’t miss a lot of bats and has had a pretty spotty injury history. It’s important to realize that guys like this are really hard to gauge. They can step up and do some great things or they can continue to show that inconsistency that has kept them from securing a roster spot.
Charlie Morton may be in for a long year since a lot of his value was probably tied to his ability to pitch to the shift as an extreme ground ball guy for the Pirates. The Phillies don’t do that and don’t have the same level of infield defense that the Pirates have. They do, however, have a pretty decent outfield defense. Unfortunately, that’s not all that significant for a guy like Morton.
So, we have the questions, but do we have the answers? I would lean Phillies here. One thing about travel is that a lot of players say that the second and third days are tougher than the first day. This is a long trip east very early in the season for the Padres and they clawed out a win on Monday. Tuesday may go a little bit differently.
New York (AL) at Toronto (-115); Total: 8.5
This line is a little bit surprising overall. The Yankees have Masahiro Tanaka on the mound against Aaron Sanchez, who barely made his way into the Blue Jays rotation. Toronto’s lineup always gets respect, and they’re getting some here. The Yankees weren’t going to be a road favorite under any circumstance, but they are close to a money line pick ‘em because of the perception of Tanaka.
For me, I’m out on Tanaka this season. The stuff is good and the K/BB ratio should be quite strong, but the command issues that he has been having are very noticeable for me. Tanaka is a ticking time bomb from an injury standpoint and that’s something that has to be considered in each and every start. There’s a reason that he gave up some many dongs last season and it may be hard for him to keep the ball in the yard against the Blue Jays.
Aaron Sanchez pitched well in his first start, so he validated the decision, at least through one outing. We’ll see how outing number two goes. It was a stunningly good start for Sanchez because he has some major platoon splits and the Rays are a team that utilizes platoons as often as they can. But, he had really strong results and is looking to build off of that.
Oddsmakers seem to have pegged both the side and the total for this one. I’m not ready to crown Sanchez a middle of the rotation starter and Tanaka is enough of a wild card for me to stay away. I wanted to fire on the over in a game where I think the offenses will have some success, but I was looking for an 8, so this is a tough spot to play anything.
Cleveland (-130) at Tampa Bay; Total: 7
Corey Kluber ran into a couple of issues on a bitter cold Opening Day against the Boston Red Sox and he’ll look to get that first win of the season here. He’ll be opposed by Matt Moore. Kluber allows a lot of hard contact with that sinker, but the one recurring issue he’s had in recent starts is that he gives up some home runs that really hurt him. The ball doesn’t carry all that well at Tropicana Field, so this should be a good park for him. Also, that hard contact on the sinker might get slowed down a little bit by the turf in Tampa.
Matt Moore has a tough assignment here because the Indians can throw eight right-handed hitters at him. Jason Kipnis is the only left-handed regular with Michael Brantley out of the lineup. Moore doesn’t have any major outliers against right-handed pitchers, but he’ll have to earn his outs. Moore is a guy with subpar control and the Indians are working pitchers in a big way this season with a lot of veteran hitters.
The Indians are a strong look here. Their schedule has pretty brutal, with three postponements already, but they have a really big advantage in a lot of facets here in this game.
Miami at New York (NL) (-135); Total: 6
One book is even showing a total of 5.5 for this game between Jose Fernandez and Noah Syndergaard. There’s a ton of pitching talent in this game and that’s something special to behold. In this matchup, it’s hard to find a value side. The Mets probably have the better bullpen, but the Marlins have the better offense right now.
Don’t bet on this game. Just watch it. And savor it. And cherish it. These two guys are extremely special.
Kansas City at Houston (-140); Total: 8
We’ve seen a lot of Royals distrust in the betting market so far this season. The oddsmakers are clearly out on Kansas City, like most of the baseball media. Houston is also one of the favorites for the American League crown and it’s hard to see a reason to dislike them, especially since they strengthened the bullpen in a big way with the Ken Giles acquisition. Kris Medlen gets the call here in this one against Mike Fiers. The Royals are going to be your value side here. I’m out on Mike Fiers because the control and command profiles don’t really add up against American League hitters in my mind. I can’t get over how Fiers has struggled in his 10 AL starts. It’s a lot to overlook because there’s just not enough depth to the arsenal to help him multiple times through a lineup. That’s especially true of a team like Kansas City that features a lot of contact hitters that like to be aggressive in the zone.
Kris Medlen isn’t great, but most of the Royals rotation can be described in that way. Kansas City does have an elite defense and they certainly use that to their advantage to elevate a really pedestrian pitching staff. Medlen is a replacement-level number five starter in the AL and this is his first start of the season. Maybe Medlen pitches well. Maybe he doesn’t. Kansas City is the side with the value at this price.
San Francisco (-125) at Colorado; Total: 11
Jeff Samardzija’s command problems are at the forefront of the breakdown for this NL West showdown at Coors Field on Tuesday night. Tyler Chatwood will take the mound for the Rockies. It’s pretty clear that oddsmakers aren’t going to give Samardzija a whole lot of credit, especially at the outset, because we know San Francisco is a much better team with a better lineup, yet the Giants are a small favorite.
Tyler Chatwood missed most of 2014 and all of 2015 at the big league level, so this is definitely an important start for him. Chatwood showed good command of his sinker in his first start and did a strong job inducing ground balls. If he can do that with regularity, he’ll have success at Coors. It’s pretty clear to me that the oddsmakers are hoping you bite the carrot with the Giants at this low price. That makes Colorado a play today.
Los Angeles (AL) at Oakland (-110); Total: 7.5
This is a pretty tough game to gauge. Hector Santiago is a massive regression candidate dating back to last season, but the A’s are terrible against left-handed pitching. Kendall Graveman is a young, pitch-to-contact starter that a really weak Anaheim lineup can handle. However, as I just said, Anaheim’s lineup is really weak. Neither one of these teams has been lighting up the scoreboard with any regularity, hence the low total with two pitchers that allow a lot of balls in play.
My lean here would be the Angels, simply because Santiago has shown the ability to be a competent starter with his high fly ball rate in good pitcher’s parks. There aren’t many that are better for pitchers than O.co Coliseum.
Texas at Seattle (-130); Total: 7.5
Derek Holland draws a Seattle lineup that is going to ride the struggle bus against left-handed pitching this season. However, Wade Miley is a good fit for Safeco Field and the Rangers are also going to have some troubles against lefties. Recent call-up Nomar Mazara had some pretty ugly splits against lefties in the minor leagues, so he may not be a big factor in this game. The Rangers are without Shin-Soo Choo right now and that really takes away a key cog in the lineup.
A slight lean to the under here in this one, even though neither one of these pitchers is dominant and there will be a lot of balls in play. I keep saying that Seattle’s defense is improved, but they haven’t really shown it yet. Defense will be very important with Miley, since he doesn’t have the same strikeout upside as the others in the rotation.