We’re back to a full MLB betting card on Friday and that means it’s time to dig deep and find the best plays of the day in today’s picks and analysis article. Yesterday was definitely a slow day on the diamond, as I didn’t have any strong plays from the night games on the card. That’s not the case for Friday, so let’s get after it and bang the books heading into the weekend.
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Pittsburgh at New York (NL) (-115); Total: 8
I won’t add to the thoughts I gave out on The Bettor’s Box at the end of Thursday’s show, so make sure that you check those out for my insight into that game.
Same with the game between the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox and also the games between the Oakland A’s and Baltimore Orioles and the San Diego Padres against the Colorado Rockies.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have been pretty up and down all season long, but the one thing that they have done consistently is hit. We can’t say the same about the Atlanta Braves, who do a decent job against righties, but struggle mightily against lefties. The Braves draw another southpaw in this one with Robbie Ray. The Diamondbacks will face Julio Teheran.
As I, and other smart baseball people, have said in the past, win-loss record is a terrible way to evaluate a pitcher and that’s the case with Ray. Ray is just 3-7 in his 13 starts, but he owns a 3.13 ERA with a 3.17 FIP and a 3.83 xFIP. Remember that advanced metrics like xFIP and SIERA don’t look favorably upon fly ball pitchers. Ray is a fly ball pitcher. It’s a bit surprising that he has had this level of success with a home park of Chase Field, but his strikeout-to-walk ratio is strong and his BABIP and LOB% are well within the normal ranges.
Turner Field is a pretty good park for fly ball pitchers, which is exactly what it continues to be for Julio Teheran. Teheran is having a bad year. An increase in walks and a substantial increase in BABIP has turned a 2.89 ERA into a 4.57 ERA. He has also struggled with his command, allowing 18 HR in 138 IP, after allowing just 22 in 221 IP last season. There are a few reasons for the BABIP increase. One is that the Braves gave away two good defensive outfielders and the replacements aren’t as good. Another is that his ground ball rate and line drive rate are both up this season. A drop in fastball command has been the biggest culprit, but his SL and CU have regressed as well.
Teheran is good at Turner Field, with a 2.52 ERA and a .200/278/.282 slash against. That’s compared to a 6.75 with a .321/.397/.563 on the road. In this one, I like the under and I also look to the Diamondbacks. Teheran’s working behind in the count more this season, which is another contributing factor to the lack of command. But, the Braves’ right-hander also pitches well in this park. Robbie Ray should thrive in this environment and the Diamondbacks have one of the best defenses in the league. Because the Braves are 28th in wOBA, they could get a good start from Teheran and still lose. Plus, they have one of the league’s worst bullpens.
Tampa Bay at Texas (-125); Total: 9
The Tampa Bay Rays have the league’s best offense in the month of August. It’s a fairly small sample size of 14 games, but they own a .297/.356/.507 slash with a .371 wOBA. The Rangers have played a bit better of late, but the wrong team is favored in this game. The Rays should be road chalk. First, let’s look at Martin Perez. The Rangers’ left-hander is enjoying some recency bias in this line. Perez allowed 15 runs in 12 innings in his first three starts back from Tommy John surgery. He has allowed four runs over his last 14.1 innings, including a start against the San Francisco Giants.
But, the left-hander doesn’t miss many bats and the Rays, for all of their offensive shortcomings earlier this season, rake to the tune of a .327 wOBA against lefties. That’s good for fifth in a significant sample size of 1,151 plate appearances. Their 113 wRC+ ranks third, since Tropicana Field is not much of a hitter’s park.
Nate Karns is on the other side for the Rays. Karns has not been dominant of late, but there are no stats in his line that are out of whack. He has a 3.52 ERA with a 3.88 FIP and a 3.78 xFIP. He’s around a strikeout per inning and has a little bit of a walk issue, but the Rangers don’t walk a whole lot as a lineup. Karns has stranded 78 percent of his runners, which is out of range, but he also has better K/BB rates from the stretch than he does from the windup. That’s a big help.
This is my strongest play of the day. Take the Rays.
Los Angeles (AL) at Kansas City (-130); Total: 8
I’m torn on this game because I feel like this is the type of lineup that Jered Weaver can have success against. The junkball right-hander can barely break a window with his fastball, but his assortment of breaking stuff could be tough for an aggressive Kansas City lineup. On the other hand, Jered Weaver is terrible now. With declining command, declining velocity, and declining health, Weaver owns a 4.69/4.61/4.63 pitcher slash over 16 starts. This is just his second start back off of the DL. He’s the same pitch-to-contact righty with a fly ball split that he’s always been, but he’s not missing barrels as much.
On the other side is Dan Duffy. The Angels were shut down by Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and John Danks in their series with the White Sox and draw another lefty here in Duffy. As a team, the Angels have fallen to 24th in wOBA against lefties this season. Duffy isn’t a very good lefty, with a 4.19/4.70/4.92 pitcher slash this season that includes declining stuff and poor control. Duffman hit the DL on May 16 with a 5.87 ERA. In nine starts since then, he owns a 3.00 ERA with a .246/.319/.393 slash against.
But, that also includes a 26/19 K/BB ratio and a 28 percent line drive rate. It would seem that there’s regression coming for those numbers. As hard and as ugly as it is, Weaver may be the value side in this one, but I can’t, in good conscience, back Jered Weaver the way the stuff looks right now.
Cincinnati at Los Angeles (NL) (-170); Total: 7
John Lamb will make his MLB debut on Friday night for the Cincinnati Reds against a very tough Los Angeles Dodgers lineup. The Dodgers will counter with Alex Wood. Lamb was acquired in the Johnny Cueto deal with the Kansas City Royals. Opinions on Lamb seem to be mixed. He was one of the casualties of Tommy John surgery, as his stuff didn’t return to form following the procedure in 2011. He lost some velocity and fell out of favor in scouts’ eyes because he had to turn into more of a control arm with pitchability.
That’s his biggest asset entering this start. He has a good feel for pitching, how to change speeds, and keep hitters off-balance. On the other hand, the stuff isn’t great and there’s no third pitch for when he goes through the lineup a second or third time. There’s not as much extension to the delivery as you would like from a lefty without a deep arsenal because Lamb is only 6-foot-3, so it’s not like the fastball is jumping or the ball is hidden behind long arm action.
The Dodgers will send a trade deadline lefty of their own to the mound in Alex Wood. Wood found a good landing spot with the Dodgers. He went from a horrible defensive catcher in AJ Pierzynski to a very good one in Yasmani Grandal, at least from a pitch framing standpoint. He’s also in another good pitcher’s park for when he elevates the ball. Command continues to be an issue, not from a home run standpoint, but from a BABIP standpoint. Wood’s line drive rate is up this season, which is a sign that too many pitches are center cut over the plate. The Reds are a top-10 offense by wOBA against lefties, though their park factor brings their wRC+ to league average.
Look to the over in this one. The Reds hit lefties pretty well and the Dodgers should get some good swings against Lamb, who can outfox MiLB hitters, but will have trouble against MLB teams with a shallow arsenal of pitches.
Washington (-150) at San Francisco; Total: 7
Max Scherzer is elite and we all know it. His K/BB ratio is pristine, his 2.44/2.53/2.87 pitcher slash is even better than you would expect with a move from the AL to the NL. Scherzer has been great, but he is only 11-8 in 23 starts because the Nationals offense has dealt with injuries and isn’t very good.
Scherzer is great, but -150 on the road for the Nationals against one of the top teams in the NL seems like a stretch. On the other hand, who knows what to expect from Matt Cain. A promising career has once again been derailed by injuries, as Cain hasn’t been healthy since his very good 2012 season in which he accumulated 3.7 fWAR. He has made seven starts this season and has allowed four or more runs in five of them. He shut out the Mets over six innings at home before the Break and gave up four runs on eight hits against Milwaukee at home on July 28.
If the Nationals are going to hit anybody, Cain seems like the guy to hit. He walked five last time out after having good control in his previous five starts. Perhaps the injury problems are flaring up yet again. The stuff is pedestrian, the command is subpar, and the arm is on the verge of falling off. However, I can’t lay -150 against the Giants, regardless of the pitching matchup. This is a pass, but if you want to back the Nationals, I think it’s reasonable.
Chicago (NL) at Chicago (AL)
New York (AL) at Toronto
Pittsburgh at New York (NL)
Philadelphia at Milwaukee
Cleveland at Minnesota
Miami at St. Louis
San Diego at Colorado