A new day begins on the diamond at 2:10 p.m. ET and goes all the way on through to Sunday morning for those in the Eastern Time Zone. Thirteen of today’s 15 games start at 4:05 p.m. ET or later, so there’s still plenty of time to get those thoughts together to bang the books here on this MLB Saturday. There are quite a few big favorites out there in the market today, so we’ll do what we do best and look for short dogs and short favorites to come through.

Glancing back at yesterday’s results, it wasn’t a good day. Our top two side plays went down on the Tigers and the Red Sox, but our total look on the Rockies/Marlins game came through nicely. There are a lot of peaks and valleys during the MLB season and we seem to be in a little bit of a valley right now. It’ll pick back up, but approach with caution until it does.

Our focus, as it always is, will be on the games that provide a lot of line value and those that give us the opportunity to dig deep and find the wagering angles and betting tips that will produce winners.

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Per usual, the games with big lines will be overlooked, unless there is something particularly noteworthy about them or a play on the underdog is a possibility. Also, day games are usually skipped due to the lead time of the article. That will not be the case on Thursdays or Sundays when there are a lot of day games.

 

Toronto (-115) at Baltimore; Total: 9.5

We’ll start with an ugly pitching matchup in Maryland as RA Dickey takes on Yovani Gallardo, who is returning from the disabled list to make his first start since April 22. Dickey has been rather effective lately, lowering his ERA to 4.16 with a 4.80 FIP and a 4.65 xFIP. Dickey has given up three runs or less in each of his last four starts. As a general rule, I try to stay away from knuckleballers because predicting single-game performance is even harder than normal with them.

Since May 2, Dickey has a 2.97 ERA with a 5.09 FIP and a 4.71 xFIP. He’s been extremely fortunate on balls in play with a .225 BABIP and with stranding runners. He has an 81.6 percent strand rate over those 57.2 innings. The stats aren’t impressive, but knuckleballs have a way of inducing weak contact. Usually not to that extent, however.

Gallardo worked 13 innings between High-A and Triple-A in some rehab appearances and gave up seven runs on 12 hits with 14 K and six BB. He wasn’t pitching all that well when he was in the big leagues with a 7.00 ERA, a 4.02 FIP, and a 5.67 xFIP. It’s hard to project what Gallardo will do here against the Blue Jays, who seem to have gotten the bats going of late and their lefties are really contributing in a big way. The obvious thing to do here is lean towards the over, which certainly makes some sense.

 

Cincinnati at Houston (-275); Total: 8.5

No play on this game, obviously, but some quick notes on Reds starter Cody Reed. Reed was one of the pieces in the Johnny Cueto deal and he’s had some mixed results at the minor league level. He’s been a big erratic, but he has missed a lot of bats with 123 K in 114.1 IP in the Reds system so far. Dan Farnsworth had the 6-foot-5 lefty ranked third in the Reds system before the season with a plus fastball that has good life and improving secondaries. He’ll be a guy to watch closely as the Reds have really loaded up on some talented young arms.

 

Colorado at Miami (-135); Total: 8

Another day, another line movement on Wei-Yin Chen. The Marlins left-hander is getting some betting market love once again as he looks to improve on his 4.68 ERA, 4.70 FIP, and 4.11 xFIP. Chen is showing signs of positive regression and yet he seems to keep going in the wrong direction this season. Chen has given up seven home runs in his last 11.1 innings to the Padres and the Twins.

I’ve mentioned this before, but Chen’s extremely low IFFB% is a major problem. At 3.3 percent, it’s among the lowest in the league and inducing pop ups used to be a valuable skill for him because they are effectively strikeouts. His command is all out of whack this season with a 16.5 percent HR/FB%, a 22 percent line drive rate, and a 36.3 percent hard-contact rate. With a 4.08 SIERA, bettors are expecting positive regression, but I just don’t know if we’re going to get it. His command is so bad right now.

Tyler Chatwood shows the hallmarks of a guy that the market bets against. Chatwood has a 2.89 ERA with a 3.84 FIP and a 4.13 xFIP. He’s not missing many bats at all, but he’s gotten fortunate to post a .262 BABIP against with a 58.7 percent ground ball rate and a 76.4 percent strand rate. It’s easy to see why the market wants to go against him.

I’d contest that you have to look at the nature of the batted balls. Chatwood is not allowing much pull-side contact, so his ground balls are easier outs because they’re going to the shortstop and second baseman. He’s staying out of the middle of the plate and he’s mixing in a cutter this season, which seems to be a separator for a lot of guys. Chatwood’s kind of the new Doug Fister in that he may have a “bad start”, but that start will still keep his team in the game.

I’ve gone against the market here recently without good results. I’m hesitant to do it here, even though I don’t think Chen should be laying this big of a price. I’ll lean Rockies, but I’m not doing it with as much confidence as I would like.

 

San Francisco at Tampa Bay (-125); Total: 8

Albert Suarez bounces back to the rotation after a relief appearance in his last outing on June 13. Suarez has made two starts this season and has given up six runs on eight hits in 11.1 innings of work with a lot of balls in play that were converted into outs. Suarez is a bit of a rarity for relievers because he has been credited with six different pitches this season. That’s why he’s been able to work his way through the lineup a couple times over in his starts. He’s been pretty effective, particularly inducing ground balls at a 56.5 percent clip. His nine percent swinging strike rate would also suggest that some modest K gains could be in the works, but he’s never shown that.

He was actually signed by the Rays way back when and spent six seasons in their system, never making it above Double-A, so this is an interesting start for him. The Rays, as we know, have really struggled against right-handed pitching this season. They rank 21st in wOBA with the highest K rate in the league.

Matt Moore is on the hill for the Rays as he looks to build off of his last start. He struck out 10 Astros and worked seven scoreless innings. It was his best start in quite a while and he sits with a 5.05 ERA, a 4.62 FIP, and a 4.20 xFIP. Moore still has the ability to miss bats, but he has hit a lot of barrels this season with a .318 BABIP against and 14 HR in 76.2 innings of work.

There’s some hope for Moore in this start. He’s taking on a Giants team that is 18th in wOBA at .313 and just one percent above league average in the park-adjusted wRC+ metric. The Giants have a .398 SLG against LHP, which ranks 20th. One of their top contributors against LHP is Hunter Pence, who is out of the lineup. Moore made a little bit of an adjustment with his horizontal release point in his last start and maybe that will be successful for him.

I like Moore here, but probably not enough to lay the price. Suarez is kind of intriguing because it seems like he induces a lot of weak contact. Maybe the under is in play here.

 

Detroit at Kansas City (-140); Total: 8.5

Matt Boyd and Edinson Volquez are the listed pitchers for Saturday night’s battle at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals are doing that Royals thing where they win games despite all kinds of things going against them, so that’s a tough spot for bettors to be in. Volquez didn’t look all that great last time out against the Indians and yet he threw seven shutout innings against them. He walked more than he struck out, but balls in play happened to be hit at guys. He’s got a 3.90/4.01/4.31 pitcher slash on the year, but it is worth pointing out that he has the best ground ball rate he’s had since 2010.

Even with that good start on June 13, Volquez has a 4.50/4.80/4.64 slash over his last eight starts with 35 K and 22 BB in 48 IP. He’s not the type of guy I’d trust with a -140 line, but, again, the Royals still have that standing deal with the devil.

Matt Boyd isn’t a guy that inspires a lot of confidence. He has a 4.91/5.39/4.78 pitcher slash on the season with below average peripherals across the board. He’s made a slight usage change that involves throwing his changeup less and his fastball more, which can’t be good. Up until he got blasted in his last start, he had thrown the ball okay, but consistency is still a big issue for the 25-year-old.

Runs could be possible here tonight. The Royals (and Red Sox) lead MLB in batting average at .270 on ground balls, hence that Royals devil magic thing. No other team is higher than .260 and most are clustered between .245 and .225. Boyd’s inducing more grounders this season. I think the Tigers can have more success against Volquez, even though they’re missing JD Martinez.

It’s really not a great slate in Major League Baseball today, so do yourself a favor and enjoy the nice weather. Limit your plays and look to get after it tomorrow.