After a mediocre day on Monday, we hit it hard on Tuesday and picked up winners on stronger picks in the Tampa Bay Rays, Chicago Cubs, and Chicago White Sox. Leans were a mixed bag, as Arizona/Colorado went over the total and the Boston Red Sox took care of business. At this point in the season, it’s very tough to figure things out because we don’t have good sample sizes to go off of and because we’re constantly playing against the perception and the line moves in the betting market.
However, we’ll keep grinding, because that’s what we do. So far, we’ve done relatively well at the outset and it will be a little bit of time before we feel comfortable with baseball for this season. Hopefully we can ride some of that Tuesday momentum into a Wednesday slate filled with some day games and series finales.
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Toronto (-120) at Tampa Bay; Total: 8
The Blue Jays and the Rays are both throwing unknowns on the mound in this one. JA Happ and Matt Moore have a lot of questions to answer this season. Happ got the magic touch from Ray Searage and turned into a $12M/year pitcher on his most recent free agent deal. Moore is starting the slate clean after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014.
In nearly 400 American League innings, JA Happ has a 4.46 ERA. This is a fun game to digest because both teams rely heavily on platoon advantages to have success. The difference is that Happ should get more run support because Toronto was historically good against left-handed pitching last season. The Rays, however, were quietly fifth in wOBA against southpaws.
Unfortunately, the early start makes the over a pretty hard sell for this one.
San Francisco (-125) at Milwaukee; Total: 8
This is one of the more compelling lines for Wednesday’s slate. Jeff Samardzija is a big question mark for bettors right now after a horrible season in Chicago last year. Samardzija was used and abused by Robin Ventura, who has a knack for overusing his starting pitchers. His command was non-existent and his strikeout rate took a massive tumble. It will be interesting to see how he is perceived heading into this season.
On the other side is Taylor Jungmann, who was pretty solid in his first 21 career starts with the Brewers last season. A 4.10 xFIP, however, will rub some people the wrong way, and deservedly so. Considering the NL average is in the 3.85-3.90 range, you can make a case that he was a below average starter. The numbers won’t line up that way from traditional metrics. How will the market view Jungmann here?
It’s also tough because the Giants are going for a sweep here of Milwaukee and then head home to take on the Los Angeles Dodgers. This is an early start time for the Giants, so that has to be a consideration. There are too many variables here to recommend a play either way.
Seattle (-105) at Texas; Total: 9.5
Some heavy Wade Miley steam turned Seattle from a +110 favorite to a -105 favorite, priced all the way up to -115 at some shops. It’s pretty understandable overall, considering that the Mariners draw Colby Lewis, whose splits against left-handed hitters are pretty poor over the course of his career. Seattle should be one of the better teams in baseball against right-handers this season and could be going for a sweep here if Felix Hernandez and the Mariners defense had not fallen apart in the middle innings of Opening Day.
The value is pretty much gone from Miley at this point, but he would have been the suggested play. If you still want to take it at the lower price, I wouldn’t think any less of you.
Colorado at Arizona (-180); Total: 8.5
As listeners of BangTheBook Radio and The Bettor’s Box know, there’s no reason to lay north of 140 on a game in most cases. This is also one of those cases. I’m high on Patrick Corbin and not high on the Rockies against left-handed pitching, so this is not a game for me.
Detroit at Miami (-140); Total: 7
The Tigers draw Jose Fernandez here. That’s all that needs to be said about this line. There are some more interesting wrinkles regarding this game, like Anibal Sanchez returning to the team that originally had him and also the fact that Sanchez has battled injuries and command trouble over the last two seasons.
The big thing I’m looking at here is the over. In what looked like a nice and easy game last night, it wound up going 11 innings and two very thin bullpens were thrust into some heavy action in the early going. One could make the argument that it was good to get so many relievers into the fray this early into the season so they can get rid of those early jitters and get a feel for the mound and the game conditions. I don’t see it that way at the outset.
Both of these pitchers will be treated with kid gloves. Sanchez is an integral part of Detroit’s hopes this season. Fernandez is one of the game’s elites and the Marlins have already announced an innings limit for him this season. I’m thinking we get a couple of five-and-fly outings and the bullpens decide this one. In that scenario, I like runs to be scored.
Boston at Cleveland (-140); Total: 7
The Red Sox and Indians played one of the coldest Opening Days ever on Tuesday. Rain is in the forecast for Wednesday night, so we’ll see how this one goes, but it’s not going to be a nice night for a game. The Indians have gotten some steam here for this matchup, as Cy Young Award darkhorse (maybe?) Carlos Carrasco makes his first start of the season. Clay Buchholz will take the ball on the other side.
The Indians lineup showed some signs against David Price, but ultimately squandered the majority of the run-scoring chances that they got and never did much of anything against the bullpen. The Indians bullpen had some rough spots. While it’s easy to understand the line move on Carrasco, who has tremendous upside, it’s hard to ignore just how good Clay Buchholz has been when he has been healthy enough to pitch. If, and this is a big if, his strikeout gains and walk improvements from last season are sustainable, this could be a good season. If not, the Red Sox lack starting pitching depth and could struggle.
Boston has become the value side, but with so many market movers buying Carrasco, you may not want to touch this one.
Minnesota at Baltimore (-120); Total: 8.5
Yovani Gallardo was a warm body for this Baltimore rotation and that’s good, because they had a lot of guys that were not noteworthy at all. Gallardo is not a guy that I’m looking to back with any regularity this season. Baltimore’s infield defense can elevate Gallardo into a slightly above average starter, so he did find a soft landing spot in that regard. But, his velocity keeps dropping and so do the strikeouts. At the same time, the walk rate keeps climbing. There are not a lot of positive developments with Gallardo right now.
Kyle Gibson is not inspiring a lot of confidence, but there might be some untapped potential here. Gibson has a really good ground ball split and his individual pitches rate better on swings and misses than his overall strikeout rate would suggest. This is a decent Minnesota offense as well. The Twins made some perplexing rotation decisions by not going with Jose Berrios or Tyler Duffey in the rotation, so Gibson is about the only guy currently in the top five that has upside, at least in my humble opinion.
I’m buying that upside here in this spot. Baltimore is a difficult lineup, but you can see where the oddsmakers put this number and it is definitely suggesting that there are some believers in Gibson.
Houston at New York (AL) (-130); Total: 7
Market-moving money seems intrigued by Michael Pineda here in this start against the Astros. That’s certainly understandable, since Pineda showcased good K/BB rates last season. The stuff has never been the question for Pineda. Health has always been the question. At the outset of the season, he seems to be healthy and that’s the big thing for the Yankees right now.
The thing is, Pineda had nice K/BB rates, but he also showed some poor command. He gave up 21 home runs in 160.2 innings and allowed a .278 average with a .451 SLG. Those are not great numbers by any means and it’s fair to wonder how much improvement we’ll see this season. That health issue is enough to make me worry about his performance over the long haul. Not to mention, the command and home run issues are a bit of a problem against a Houston team that has some pretty good power.
On the other side, there’s Collin McHugh, who put together some pretty strong numbers over a two-season sample size with the Astros. He couldn’t sustain 2014’s strikeout gains, so that could be a concern heading into this season, but I’m still confident in his abilities. Even with last season’s performance, he’s still a quality #3-type starter.
While I like McHugh and dislike Pineda, there’s not a ton of line value here in this particular matchup.
Philadelphia at Cincinnati (-130); Total: 8
For thoughts on this matchup, tune in to today’s edition of BangTheBook Radio.
Los Angeles (NL) (-130) at San Diego; Total: 7
I want to see something from Kenta Maeda before I make the decision to fire on this game. Maeda comes over from Japan with some exciting possibilities, but the MLB game is different than the Japanese game. Andrew Cashner is a solid hurler in his own right, but the Dodgers are by far the better team here. I can’t fire on the Dodgers until I see Maeda, although I think they are the value side.
Chicago (AL) at Oakland (-140); Total: 7
Carlos Rodon is a guy with a ton of upside. Sonny Gray is a guy that has already reached his upside. One big area of concern for Oakland in this spot is that they have really struggled against lefties in this series, posting 15 strikeouts against just one walk with a poor OPS. The Athletics do get their ace on the hill here, but Gray is working with an extended layoff after suffering a food poisoning episode a couple days ago.
Food poisoning can take a lot out of a pitcher and it can be extremely difficult to figure out how a pitcher will fare coming off of the weight loss and the other symptoms associated with such a gross ailment. Rodon is a guy that lacks consistency, so it will be a difficult game to pick. The White Sox are facing the best pitcher they will face in this series, so it is a tough game to fire on.
It’s a pass overall.