With everybody focused on college football, it looks like a tough day to bet the bases. A lot of big favorites are once again out there in the market and there are a lot of moving parts with the pitching probables. September is always tricky with call-ups, pitching changes, etc., so make sure that you are being smart with your money during the last month of the regular season. With that in hand, let’s try and find something to back for Saturday.
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Charlie Morton is a sizable dog to Jaime Garcia on Saturday. That line should come as no surprise. Morton is reliant on batted ball luck and sometimes things just don’t go his way. Part of the problem for Morton is that his ground ball split is so extreme that it hurts his ability to strand runners. What do I mean? Well, the Pirates do a lot of defensive shifting on the infield. With runners on base, the fielders can’t shift as much. Because Morton doesn’t get many strikeouts or fly ball outs, he has to hope that the ball gets hit at a fielder. A drop in strand rate has been exacerbated by a home run spike this season, leading to a 0.50 run increase in Morton’s ERA.
Jaime Garcia is also an extreme ground ball guy, but he’s been living real well this season. Garcia has a .249 BABIP against, which has coincided with a spectacular BB rate to produce a 2.03 ERA over 93 innings. When healthy, Garcia is extremely productive. He only made 16 starts from 2013-14, but has made 14 starts this season. The question that bettors have to ask is whether or not Garcia can keep such a high strand rate and low BABIP. The Cardinals are obviously an elite defensive team, but these numbers are a little bit out of control.
Frankly, I lean ever so slightly to the Pirates in this one. They’re not hitting much recently and the Cardinals are the best team in baseball, but Garcia has to hit some regression sometime soon. I’ll gamble on it being in this game with the +145 price. Also, you can wait this line out and probably get a better number.
The White Sox are stuck trying to win as a big underdog anytime somebody not named Chris Sale is pitching. That’s the case on Saturday against the Royals. Jose Quintana is a pretty quality pitcher and has fallen victim to the awful White Sox defense on more than one occasion. A .343 BABIP against has basically neutralized a BB% improvement for Quintana. His advanced metrics look good, but he can only control so much. The Royals dropped below league average against lefties with a 99 wRC+ prior to getting shut down by John Danks on Friday night. There’s some upside in Quintana here.
Another element of the Royals, one that I have cautioned listeners of The Bettor’s Box about, is that they can be prone to taking nights off at this point in the season. They have a commanding lead for home field advantage and have some distractions, namely a rash (no pun intended) of chicken pox in the clubhouse. From a matchup standpoint, the White Sox are atrocious against lefties. By atrocious, I mean the worst offense in the AL. But, Danny Duffy is a well below average left-hander. Duffman has a 4.11 ERA with a 4.53 FIP and a 4.93 xFIP. It’s safe to say that the Royals defense has helped Duffy on a lot of occasions, just like they did last season.
To be honest, this feels like another night where the Royals roll over. Quintana has a pitching matchup advantage and the White Sox are capable of a surprise performance every now and then. If dogs are going to bark, perhaps Saturday will be the night.
The oddsmakers don’t know what to do with this line and who can blame them? The Giants offense struggled mightily again on Friday night at Coors Field and the loss of Hunter Pence is still quite obvious. Jake Peavy goes in this one against Chad Bettis. Peavy has a neutral GB/FB split for the most part, but that’s definitely not the batted ball distribution you want for a start at Coors Field. As it is, Peavy has allowed seven of his nine home runs this season on the road and owns a 4.81 ERA over 39.1 innings of work.
I actually like Chad Bettis. I’ve said this a few times and he was throwing the ball pretty well before he went to the DL. He has a 4.78 ERA, but a 4.14 FIP and a 3.88 xFIP, which seems pretty passable at Coors Field. The strikeout stuff is back. Unfortunately, the control and command are still inconsistent. I can’t back either side in this game, but if I was forced to as one of the reasonable lines of the night, I’d have to go with Colorado. San Francisco is playing like a defeated team. The Rockies aren’t very good either, but they always have a chance at home.
Oddsmakers are still holding out hope that Jered Weaver is a serviceable pitcher at home. The Rangers will counter with Derek Holland. As a general rule, I look for any reason I can find to go against Jered Weaver. The skill set is declining so quickly that he’s nearly impossible to back at any price. Unfortunately, his home park is so good for pitching that he can find a way to be effective with his assortment of garbage with movement. In 50.2 home innings, Weaver has a 3.02 ERA with a .270/.305/.389 slash against. On the road, after getting bombed by the Indians last time out, Weaver owns a 6.24 ERA with a .262/.313/.508 slash.
Derek Holland is still a bit of an unknown. He’s only made four starts this season, one way back in April that he left early. Since returning from the DL on August 19, Holland has a 20/1 K/BB ratio over 21.1 innings of work. His FIP is out of control because he has allowed four home runs, but the stuff seems to be pretty good thus far. This is his first start away from home this season, but for a pitcher with a pretty neutral GB/FB split, he could do a lot worse than Angel Stadium.
The Angels are one of the worst offensive teams against lefties in all of baseball. The Rangers The Rangers, quietly, have a top-10 offense against right-handed pitching. Their wRC+ suggests that it is a little bit park-inflated, but the Rangers aren’t that much below average on the road. Still, this seems like a trap game. I really like Holland entering 2016. I’m not sure about now. I want no part of Weaver, but I also need Holland to prove it to me another time or two before I fire on him.
Arizona at Chicago (NL)
Milwaukee at Cincinnati Game 2