There are some interesting MLB lines out there in the market today. College football is dominating the market this morning, but we have seen a small handful of moves on the overnight lines. It’s a good day for betting baseball with a lot of reasonable numbers. As usual, with the lead time of this article, we’ll look mostly at the night games. There will be no article tomorrow, since almost all of the games are played early, but there will be a new edition of The Bettor’s Box tomorrow night.
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No play on this game, because I have no idea what will happen. I just want to acknowledge how awesome it is that the A’s are sending Barry Zito out against Tim Hudson for what is likely to be the final start of his MLB career (unless he pitches once more at home). Everybody likes to focus on how Moneyball revolutionized the game, but the A’s don’t have the success that they had without Zito, Hudson, and Mark Mulder, who is throwing out the first pitch.
The market isn’t backing Hudson, rather Zito, which is a bit of a surprise considering Zito is a much larger unknown than Hudson.
I’ve been surprised with the Tigers in September. As a team with a lot of guys accustomed to success, they’re still managing to look engaged in the game in the midst of their worst season in a long time. They’ve been outscored by 33 runs, but they are 12-11 in September after four straight months with a record below .500. They have Alfredo Simon on the mound against Tyler Duffey in this matchup.
It should come as no surprise that I like the Twins here. Simon has given up at least six runs in a game six times since July 1. He has a 5.21 ERA with a 4.93 FIP and a 4.80 xFIP. He’s even managed to get worse as the season has gone on, with a .514 SLG against and a 6.15 ERA in the second half. He has a 37/33 K/BB ratio in the second half. All of these numbers are awful and Simon is awful.
On the other side, I like Tyler Duffey. In eight starts, Duffey has a 3.15/3.26/3.76 pitcher slash and has averaged almost a strikeout per inning. The stuff is pretty solid and he maintained his strikeout numbers in the upper levels of the minors. The Twins are developing some decent young arms that have middle/back of the rotation potential and Duffey is one of them. He’s predominantly a fastball/curveball guy, but he throws two variations of a curve with different movement and speeds. That makes it really hard to center on him. Fastball command is a concern, but the curveball is a pretty decent offering and his two-seam and cutter have good natural movement. He’s a guy to watch moving forward and a guy to back on Saturday.
Julio Teheran and Justin Nicolino are the listed starters for this matchup. Teheran was recently named one of the biggest disappointments of the season from Paul Sporer at Fangraphs and it’s hard to disagree. His 4.20 ERA, 4.45 FIP, and 4.18 xFIP are all disappointing numbers and his increased walk rate and home run rate have really hurt him this season. Some ugly home/road splits have hurt the numbers, though Marlins Park is a lot more like Turner Field than other road parks. Frankly, it’s a better park for pitchers, especially fly ball guys like Teheran.
It’s interesting that 23-year-old Justin Nicolino’s arsenal rates fairly well with Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs. He slapped a ceiling of 60 on Nicolino’s changeup, which is a plus pitch. He’s only listed as a 45 FV, though, which implies a spot starter or a #5 at best. My issue with Nicolino is that he doesn’t strike anybody out. He’s interested in weak contact and not missing bats, which is fine, and potentially passable in Marlins Park for half of his starts, but the command is not there yet and neither is the control. The weak contact thing is working, given that he’s only allowed 64 hits in 60 innings, but seven of those have left the ballpark. The biggest problem with having no strikeout ability is that it makes it a lot harder to get out of jams. Balls have to be hit at fielders in order to get out of dicey situations.
It scares me that Nicolino is around average (72.4%) with stranding runners and still has a 4.50 ERA. That’s not a good pitcher right now. I’d take the Braves and Teheran here, even though Atlanta is horrible against left-handed pitching. I don’t like betting on pitchers that need extreme amounts of batted ball luck. That’s Nicolino.
After Carlos Carrasco flirted with a no-hitter against Kansas City’s JV lineup, the Indians are getting steamed again today. The Royals sat just about everybody of consequence on Friday night and Carlos Carrasco struck out 15 in a complete game shutout. Josh Tomlin will get the ball on Saturday and the lineup that the Royals send out will determine a lot about this game. Tomlin, finally healthy for possibly the first time in his career, has been outstanding of late. Since joining the rotation in the second half, Tomlin has a 2.43 ERA with a .175/.207/.390 slash against. He has 52 strikeouts in 55.2 innings with just six walks allowed.
Tomlin’s been terrific. As an Indians fan, and a big Tomlin supporter, I’ve been watching him very closely. The cutter command has been razor sharp and his curveball has a lot of bite. Tomlin has a ton of pitchability, which is why a guy with a pretty average arsenal and average velocity for a 6-foot-1 right-hander has been able to survive at the big league level off and on. In 46 PA with men on base, opposing batters have three hits and an .070/.130/.140 slash. I have no delusions about whether or not this is sustainable, because it’s not, but Tomlin can be an effective starter with a good pitch mix and excellent control. Will it continue against the Royals? That depends on what their lineup looks like.
Kris Medlen has given up just two earned runs since he gave up seven runs to the White Sox in his first start of September. Medlen has only four strikeouts against his last 71 batters, so he’s been heavily reliant on the Royals defense. That means that the lineup will matter a lot for him as well. The Indians had just five hits off of him 11 days ago, but they didn’t strike out at all. He got a lot of BABIP luck in that start and that’s not something that can be relied on from start to start.
The Indians will be without Michael Brantley again. Who knows what the Royals will be without. Check the lineups closely before making any play on this game.
This is an interesting matchup. Felix Hernandez will take on Andrew Heaney as the Angels continue their push for the wild card. Hernandez is dealing with some elbow discomfort and he really struggled in his last start against Texas with five walks in 5.2 innings of work. As mentioned a few weeks back, there’s something wrong with Felix Hernandez. Whether it’s workload-related or injury-related, he’s not right. He has a 4.60 ERA since the All-Star Break with a .266/.324/.448 slash against.
I’m taking the Angels and Andrew Heaney in this one. Hernandez has some sharp road splits because his margin for error has progressively gotten smaller through the season. Heaney isn’t overpowering by any means, but he has great control and sequences really well, as evidenced by his .283 BABIP and 77.3 percent strand rate. The Angels have seen Felix a lot in his career and Heaney is just 16 starts into his MLB career with the Angels. He shut out Seattle over seven innings in his first start and could very well do the same again here.