Happy Sunday, friends and bettors. It will be an abridged version of the MLB picks and analysis article today with so many day games and, therefore, a smaller lead time for the games. There are five games that start at 3:05 p.m. ET or later and those will be the focus of today’s write-up, with the exception of the Dodgers as more than a two-dollar favorite over the Reds.
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The Tampa Bay Rays are in a really bad spot on Sunday. After only getting 4.2 innings from Nate Karns on Friday and having to endure a sixth-inning blow-up from Chris Archer, Drew Smyly returns from the 60-day DL to make his fourth MLB start of the season. The Rangers don’t hit lefties all that well, but Smyly will likely be limited in his return. He pitched 8.1 innings over three starts at Single-A, one 3.2-inning start at Double-A, and three starts over 10.2 innings in Triple-A. That puts the overworked Rays bullpen in a tough spot.
On the other side is Yovani Gallardo, a pitcher I have spoken highly about in the past. Gallardo does show some regression potential with a 3.33 ERA, a 4.05 FIP, and a 4.37 xFIP, so the market will come in against that on most occasions. Given the Smyly return, it’s hard to say where this line will go. The Rays are back to struggling now after a nice little offensive burst for a while.
Given the spot, I’d have to lean Rangers, but the fact that the Rangers, who are 20th in wOBA at .303 with a bottom-five wRC+ against lefties, struggle so much against guys like Smyly is a worry. The first-five under might be a solid play in this one and then let the bullpens figure it out later.
Things are not going well in Washington right now. The Nationals, expected to cruise to the NL East title are now a .500 team and there’s a lot of blame and finger pointing going on in that organization. Matt Williams deserves a lot of it, but injuries and a lack of offensive production have also played a huge part. Joe Ross stayed in the rotation after Stephen Strasburg’s return, which was a good decision. Ross has one of the best fastball/slider combinations in baseball, and a tremendous K/BB ratio over his eight starts.
This is an interesting situational spot for both teams. The Nationals have Monday off and come into this game on a five-game losing streak. They haven’t won consecutive games since last month. The Giants head out for a big series against the St. Louis Cardinals in an NLCS rematch.
Looking at Madison Bumgarner, he’s getting better as he gets older. If it weren’t for Clayton Kershaw in his division, Bumgarner would get a lot more publicity. His strikeout and walk rates are career bests and his numbers are right in line with what we would expect. The Nationals aren’t hitting anybody right now and it’s hard to see them getting after Bumgarner.
I love the under here. Two guys with swing and miss stuff for a day game after a long evening from last night’s game. Both teams with something else to look forward to on Monday. This situation sets up great for an under.
San Diego at Colorado (-110); Total: 11
This one has some offensive potential as Ian Kennedy faces Chris Rusin. Kennedy has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball this season due to bad command, with 25 home runs allowed in 115.1 innings pitched. Kennedy has allowed at least one home run in 11 straight starts, which is obviously cause for concern going into a game at Coors Field. It’s been an odd season for Kennedy, which was derailed in April by a leg injury and he has never really gotten on track. The awful Padres defense hasn’t been much of a help either.
Considering that Kennedy is a fly ball pitcher with a 19.1 percent HR/FB%, it’s safe to assume that he will struggle in an environment like Coors Field. On the other hand, will he get some run support? The right-handed heavy Padres draw left-hander Chris Rusin. Everybody is hitting Chris Rusin well this season, but righties own a .305/.356/.459 slash. Somehow, Rusin has been better at home in his 37 innings than on the road in his 44.1 innings, but he’s a pitch-to-contact guy with a high BABIP against. Rusin is a ground ball pitcher, which helps him a bit at Coors, but there are a lot of worries there as well.
A lot of runs shouldn’t surprise anybody. The Padres should get some good swings off of Rusin and Kennedy’s home run problems have the chance to shine in this game. Because both starters have a chance to be out early, my pick would be the Padres, because they have a much stronger bullpen than the Rockies.
The betting market has taken an interesting stance to this game, with money trickling in on the road team and Hector Santiago. There are a lot of layers to this game on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball and I’ll peel those back here.
Looking at Hector Santiago, I’ve mentioned how he is a guy that can defy the regression suggested in his advanced metrics. Santiago has a lot of pitchability, which is why he’s managed an 86 percent strand rate with a 30.4 percent ground ball rate. His strikeout and walk rates are the best of his career and it has certainly been a good time for that. He has a 2.87 ERA with a 4.16 FIP and a 4.42 xFIP. A strand rate of 86 percent is well out of the normal range and only extreme strikeout pitchers can usually be significantly higher than the 72 percent league average. Santiago is not an extreme strikeout guy, but it’s when he is getting the strikeouts that matters. With the bases empty, Santiago’s K% is 21 percent. With men on, it balloons to 24.6 percent and then with RISP, it goes up again to 27.3 percent. He’s also really fortunate to have a .221 BABIP against with runners in scoring position.
Yordano Ventura has been the opposite this season. People have been asking what is wrong with Ventura all season long. Injuries didn’t help, but it’s also a matter of sequencing and batted ball luck. With the bases empty, batters are hitting .205/.292/.314. With men on, that slash balloons to .335/.388/.571 and with RISP it is .312/.364/.528. His strikeout percentage is five percent higher with the bases empty compared to with men on base. His BABIP against is .253 with the bases empty, .374 with men on base, and .362 with RISP.
If you asked 10 people who the better pitcher is between Santiago and Ventura, I’d say at least eight would respond “Ventura”, if not more. But, this is a prime example of what sequencing and batted ball luck can do. Now, it may be a case of mechanics from the stretch for Ventura and that’s why he hasn’t been able to command or locate. It may also be variance. I haven’t watched closely enough to know. What I do know is that when you get two extremes like this, you have to look for regression from the one that is most likely to regress. That, in this case, is the performance of Santiago.
The Royals are an elite defensive team, so the high BABIPs with men on should normalize somewhat throughout the rest of the season. With Santiago, he has a lot of “lucky” stats. Fifteen of his 20 HR allowed are solo home runs. The strand rate is abnormally high. With all eyes on the Royals in this primetime spot, these are the games that they get geared up for. Take the Royals.