As mentioned last week in my DFS article, Tuesday nights are my favorite nights for baseball because all of the games are at night and everything has a good structure to it. All 15 games do begin at 7:05 p.m. ET or later on August 18 to make it nice and simple and there are some very interesting pitching matchups to discuss. Let’s dive right in and see where the value lies.
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As I mentioned on Monday’s edition of The Bettor’s Box, I liked the Orioles at plus money in this game. A few books are still showing a plus-money price on the home team, with some initial line action on the Orioles. This is an interesting pitching matchup between Jacob deGrom and Kevin Gausman. There are a lot of layers to this game, including deGrom and the Mets playing in an AL park and the recent play of the Orioles.
Let’s start with a look at the Mets and deGrom. The Mets had a terrible offensive weekend against the Pirates and really needed Monday off to catch a breath and re-focus for the week ahead. The Mets are just 21-34 away from the pitcher-friendly conditions of Citi Field. Mets pitchers own a 2.94 ERA at home and a .283 wOBA against. On the road, those numbers inch up to 3.52 and .290. Jacob deGrom’s ERA is more than a run higher on the road, but it’s mostly relative because he has a 1.46 ERA at home, which is incredible. The big difference for deGrom is that he has allowed five extra-base hits at home and 18 extra-base hits on the road for a .122 point SLG against increase.
Taking on an American League lineup in a fine groove right now, this is a tough start for deGrom. He’s obviously one of the game’s elite pitchers and the stuff is fantastic, but facing an additional hitter does present a challenge. I’ve been upset with the Orioles’ handling of Kevin Gausman and his numbers are suffering as a result. The Orioles have moved him from rotation to bullpen and through all four levels of the minor leagues this season. His biggest flaw on the year is allowing home runs with men on base. That’s why he owns a 4.47 ERA as a starter with a .412 SLG against.
Gausman lacks good secondary stuff because his slider is poor and the Orioles don’t let their pitchers throw cutters. As a result, Gausman is over 70 percent usage on fastballs and most of the rest are splitters, labeled as forkballs by PITCHf/x. With a limited arsenal, Gausman could get by against the Mets because they’ve never seen him and aren’t really equipped for adding another bat to the lineup.
I’m still on board with the Orioles in this one, even though I am a huge deGrom fan. This isn’t an ideal spot for the Mets.
I’m very surprised to see a little bit of underdog money trickling in on Trevor Bauer at some shops. I talked about Bauer on The Bettor’s Box on Monday as a guy that has been tirelessly working to figure out why he keeps giving up home runs and what is wrong with his command. It’s great that a player has such a strong desire to better himself and Bauer’s ways of going about it are incredible. The son of an engineer, Bauer goes deep into spin rates, release points, trajectories, and so on.
As much as I love Bauer’s unconventional approach, there aren’t a lot of results this season. In a recent interview with Eno Sarris at Fangraphs, Bauer talked about how he feels better as a pitcher, but knows that it hasn’t shown up in his performances. Unfortunately, performance is all we have to go on as handicappers. Bauer, who actively works up in the zone to induce aerial contact, has to go into a tough park in Boston for that type of thing. His walk rate has regressed a bit this season as well. The Red Sox offense had a big weekend against the Mariners that they won’t sustain, but they should get some good swings against Bauer.
On the other side is Eduardo Rodriguez, who was like a bat out of hell in his first three starts and has struggled since. Rodriguez has really struggled with his command this season, allowing 25 extra-base hits and some interesting reverse platoon splits with a .535 SLG against from left-handed hitters. The Indians aren’t nearly as left-handed as they used to be, though I debunked that myth a long time ago. By being an Indians fan, I know that they have a really hard time against lefties that they’ve never seen. Rodriguez falls into that category. On the other hand, it’s usually the soft-tossers that really give them fits. Rodriguez has control and command issues and the Indians are hitting a lot better of late with an influx of players eager to make an impression.
My lean on the side is to the Red Sox, but I have a much stronger lean to the over. It’s high, but it’s high for a reason, with two pitchers that have below average command and two offenses that have seen some early-season bad luck even out.
Kansas City (-125) at Cincinnati; Total: 7.5
The betting market jumped in on Edinson Volquez on the overnight line and I fully disagree with that move. I’ve said in the past that I like the collection of starting pitching talent that the Reds have put together and Raisel Iglesias is one of those guys. Volquez, acquired by the Reds in the Josh Hamilton deal, had one decent year with the Reds before it all fell apart. The Pirates resurrected his career in 2013 and now the Royals defense has continued that renaissance.
At this point in the season, we can stop expecting regression from Volquez. He has a 3.27 ERA with a 3.76 FIP and a 4.26 xFIP. That’s what an elite defense will do with traditional run prevention metrics. Volquez has a below average K rate, a below average BB rate, and a low BABIP against for a ground ball guy.
Iglesias is a pretty fun pitcher. The command profile isn’t great, but the Cuban import has an explosive fastball that sneaks up on hitters and a slider with good life. Since the All-Star Break, Iglesias has a 3.56 ERA over five starts with a 34/8 K/BB ratio and a .198/.276/.351 slash against. It’s a small sample size, but for a 25-year-old in the big leagues for the first time, it’s a major step in the right direction. There are some concerns about his platoon splits, which include a .325/.382/.425 slash from left-handed batters.
But, as I’ve said a few times recently, I feel like the Royals are going to have some spots where they just lay down and take it easy. This is one of them. In a National League park, against a team of zero consequence and off the heels of a huge series win over the Angels, this feels like a spot where the Royals are ripe for a sloppy game. They’re running away with the AL Central and any defensive laziness will hurt a guy like Volquez. This is a hard game to get up for. Meanwhile, the Reds are welcoming the top team in the AL to town.
The Miami Marlins and Milwaukee Brewers are largely playing out the string on the season. Adam Conley will take the ball for the Fish against Tyler Cravy for the Beermakers. Conley was a more interesting pitcher before an elbow injury zapped his velocity last season and he went from touching 96 to topping out at 93 with below average secondary stuff per Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs. Scouts aren’t crazy about his arm action and delivery and that’s not going to play at the MLB level.
When you talk about pitchers that reach the mid-to-upper 90s in the minors, they’re going to get whiffs simply because minor league hitters don’t have the discipline or recognition skills to lay off mid-90s out of the zone. At the big league level, and in Triple-A this season, the swing-and-miss stuff is essentially gone. The command is still fringe average or slightly better, but hitters are making solid contact against the limited arsenal.
With Tyler Cravy, it’s a similar scenario. Cravy never threw as hard as Conley, but he has a decent sinker with a lack of a third pitch and he doesn’t have what it takes to go through a Major League lineup more than a time or two. He’s still seeking his first MLB win with the Marlins in town and he could get it in this game, though neither pitcher is particularly worthy of your money.
The Brewers took over the mantle as the worst offense in baseball against lefties, which is a concern against Conley, even though he is a below average southpaw. Even with Chicago’s poor showing against Andrew Heaney on Monday, the Brewers stayed in the lead with a .275 wOBA and a 68 wRC+. Only the Rockies rate worse in wRC+. With a .248 BABIP against lefties, the Brewers may simply be getting unlucky more than anything. I wouldn’t lay -140 with the Brewers against basically anybody, but they should win this game.
Tampa Bay at Houston (-125); Total: 8
This is your Tuesday night winner for strangest line. I don’t like Scott Feldman and a lot of people don’t, but the Astros are only -125 at home in this matchup. Of course, the Rays hung nine on the Astros last night and got quality work from Erasmo Ramirez. The Astros are in one of those lulls that teams reliant on power can fall into. Jake Odorizzi draws this start for the road team.
Odorizzi is coming off of an awful start against the Braves, but he has fine numbers throughout the season with a 3.09 ERA, 3.35 FIP, and a 3.83 xFIP. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is solid and being a strikethrower is a good way to match up with the Astros. He also has the type of arsenal that will match up well with a lineup that swings and misses. Odorizzi’s go-to pitch is a split-change that he will throw in any count because he has tremendous confidence in the pitch. He’s added a little bit more cut and sink to his fastball this season in an effort to induce more ground balls and the returns have been very positive so far. Going into a start against a powerful lineup in a good hitter’s park, I feel a lot better about Odorizzi given the arsenal changes that have taken him from an extreme fly ball guy to an average ground ball guy.
Scott Feldman isn’t very good, but he eats innings and that’s what the Astros like about him. He also doesn’t issue many walks, which is certainly a skill. There are a lot of balls in play with Feldman, which is why he has a 4.17 ERA and a 4.22 FIP. He hasn’t been particularly good at home this season with a 5.56 ERA and a .314/.347/.514 slash against. Last season he was solid at Minute Maid Park, so it’s hard to say if this is something we should consider or not. Feldman throws a lot of cutters, but the Rays are one of seven teams to post an above average batting runs mark against cutters this season.
The Rays are the play here. Odorizzi has the right kind of pitch selection to face this lineup and the Rays are quietly a top-five offense over the last 30 days.
Toronto at Philadelphia
Detroit at Chicago (NL)
Seattle at Texas
San Francisco at St. Louis
Washington at Colorado
Atlanta at San Diego