After a light schedule on Thursday, we crank it back up with a full slate of MLB on Friday. One afternoon game features the Chicago Cubs as a -260 favorite against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Other than that, we’ve got quite a slate of games with a large variety of pitchers and wagering angles. Most of the games start early tonight, so you’ll be able to get your bets in and then enjoy a nice Friday night with a couple of drinks and, hopefully, some extra money in your pocket.
Glancing back at yesterday, it wasn’t a great day for us, but it wasn’t a bad one either. The Nationals kept rolling as our long shot underdog pick on the Padres flamed out. The under failed in the early Mariners/Rays game, but the over hit in the Pirates/Mets game and we also scored a winner on the Tigers with a late barrage against the Royals bullpen.
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.
San Francisco at Tampa Bay (-130); Total: 7.5
I’m a little bit surprised to see that this is one of today’s biggest movers. The Rays opened a -115 favorite and the line has gone up about 15 cents with the market piling in on Chris Archer. It’s still not quite there for archer, who has a 4.61 ERA with a 4.45 FIP and a 3.51 xFIP. Archer has given up at least three runs in 10 of his 14 starts this season and has done so in each of his last five outings. He fits the criteria of having a high ERA and a low xFIP, so the market piles on.
Jeff Samardzija is making a start in an AL park against an AL lineup with a DH, so that probably has something to do with this line. Samardzija was not good with the White Sox last season and that’s in everybody’s mind. This year, he has a 3.36 ERA with a 3.55 FIP and a 3.75 xFIP, so there are a few minor regression signs there. Really, it’s nothing more than a 76.9 percent strand rate. Samardzija actually has worse numbers with men on base, as opposing hitters are batting .274/.319/.468. With the bases empty, he’s allowed a .234/.278/.364 mark. He’s been solid with men in scoring position, hence the high strand rate.
I realize what the market is doing here and I’ve talked about the Giants’ offensive struggles without Hunter Pence in the lineup. The Giants are right in the middle in wOBA against RHP, but they are two percent above league average because AT&T Park is awful for hitters. The Rays are 20th in wOBA because they hammer left-handed pitching, but not right-handed pitching. Tampa Bay probably has a bullpen edge here as well.
I can’t find myself in a position where I’d lay -130 on Archer with the way his season has gone, but the initial line may have been five cents off or so. I’m not playing this game, but I want to see Archer get this thing figured out.
Seattle at Boston (-120); Total: 9.5
Roenis Elias returns to the big leagues to face his former team here in this one as the Red Sox welcome the Mariners to Fenway. Elias hung a 3.54 ERA and a 3.97 FIP in 61 innings at Triple-A with almost a full strikeout per inning. He had some control issues and a high BABIP against, so it’s fair to wonder what Red Sox backers will get from him tonight. He made a relief appearance earlier this season and six of the 11 batters he faced reach base and has a 16.20 ERA.
Elias is an interesting guy because he likes to vary his release point to create more deception during his starts. He’s predominantly a three-pitch pitcher with a fastball he can cut and rise, a heavy-usage curveball, and a changeup. With the Mariners in 2013-14, his offspeed stuff both rated above average, but his fastball command held him back. We’ll have to see what happens here against a left-handed-heavy Mariners lineup that has experience with him.
Hisashi Iwakuma might not be a good fit for Fenway Park. Kuma, who failed a physical to sign with the Dodgers, went back to the Mariners and he’s having the worst season of his career. His K rate is down, his walk rate is up, his HR rate is up, and he’s no longer inducing a good ground ball rate. None of these things are good developments going into Fenway. The Red Sox have the highest wOBA in the league against righties and lead in several other categories.
If Elias can fight his way through five innings, it’s likely that the Red Sox will have a lead against Iwakuma and can take this thing the rest of the way. It’s rare to get Boston at -120 at home, so there has to be value in that. I’d look at the Red Sox tonight.
Colorado at Miami (-105); Total: 8
Jon Gray is one of those pitchers that we would expect positive regression from. Coors Field throws off just about every dynamic, but the Rockies’ right-hander has a 4.70 ERA with a 3.39 FIP and a 3.02 xFIP. He’s struck out 27.9 percent of opposing hitters in 59.1 innings of work this season. He has a decent walk rate and has done pretty well to limit home runs given his home park.
Gray has had some sequencing issues on the road in his 30.2 innings, leading to a 4.40 ERA, but that’s not the big stat. The big stat is that he’s held opposing batters to a .209/.281/.318 slash. He’s gotten unlucky, or has probably had bullpen meltdowns, to lead to that high ERA. Gray has pitched much better than his traditional stats suggest away from Coors Field.
Adam Conley is a tough guy to figure out this season. Conley has a 4.13/3.80/4.45 pitcher slash, but he’s been very inconsistent. Conley has given up four or more runs five times and has thrown shutout baseball four times. He’s all over the place and it doesn’t seem to matter if the game is home or away. The Rockies are ninth in wOBA against LHP, but they have an 87 wRC+, which is park-adjusted. That’s really not a good stat to have.
Because of that, I feel like this total is at least half a run, if not a full run, too high. The Rockies bullpen is a big concern with this total given some of their injuries, but Gray is getting stronger after a rough start to the season that was delayed by injury. I like a low-scoring affair here tonight.
Chicago (AL) at Cleveland (-115); Total: 8
The Indians are a slight favorite at home for this matchup against the Chicago White Sox. They’ll have to solve Jose Quintana to pick up the win and snap their current four-game skid. Quintana has been tremendous this season, as he has shown improvement for the fifth straight year. He’s posting the best K rate and the best BB rate of his career and he’s also got the highest strand rate of his career. His 2.66 ERA matches his FIP and he’s always been a guy that suppresses home runs, so his xFIP is irrelevant.
There are some things that SIERA doesn’t like about Quintana. For one thing, he’s always been a guy with a line drive rate in the 22 percent range and it’s the same this year. He’s also allowing a 32.3 percent hard-contact rate per Fangraphs. His swinging strike rate is actually lower than last season’s, so there could be some strikeout rate regression soon. That would mean more balls in play, which would probably mean more hits.
Trevor Bauer has found a rapport with Chris Gimenez and he has been throwing the ball extremely well. His stuff looks powerful and dominant at times, and yet, it feels like innings are sometimes a struggle for him. Bauer, who used to actively look to induce aerial contact, has a 46.8 percent ground ball rate this season. He’s gotten visibly frustrated when they’ve found holes, but he’s using his defense’s strength to his advantage. As a starter, Bauer has allowed a .234/.298/.359 slash with a 46/18 K/BB in 57 innings this year.
Both of these teams come in with some flaws. The White Sox have been in the tank for a while and their bullpen has been a main culprit. The Indians bullpen has plenty of issues of its own and their outfield defense is terrible. I don’t know which way to go with this game. The Indians have not hit lefties well, but the White Sox don’t really hit anybody well. The Indians have a 96 wRC+ and a .313 wOBA against LHP. The White Sox have an 86 wRC+ and a .302 wOBA against RHP. If you trust those splits, you lean slightly to the Indians. I’m not so sure.
Texas at St. Louis (-110); Total: 8
I’m not going to say that the wrong team is favored here, but it’s definitely a possibility. The Rangers are a strange team this season. They are one of the biggest overachievers in baseball based on Pythagorean Win-Loss, 3rd Order Wins, and ERA-FIP discrepancies for pitchers. One of the biggest is Cole Hamels, who has a 3.14 ERA with a 4.98 FIP and a 3.94 xFIP. Hamels has given up 15 home runs in 83 innings pitched. But, he has 81 strikeouts, so he’s given up a lot of solo home runs. Only 44 balls in play have gone for hits against him this season. His 85.9 percent strand rate stands out in a big way.
Michael Wacha is the opposite. Wacha has a 4.91 ERA with a 3.49 FIP. His strand rate is 60 percent with a .327 BABIP against. Normally, I’m looking to fire on a matchup like that, where the advanced metrics show regression. Also, the Rangers are going to hit a wall here soon and start to see some team-wide regression because what they’re doing is unsustainable for anybody other than the Kansas City Royals.
It’s a weird game to try and handicap, but I do think we’ll see a line movement one way or the other. With Texas losing a hitter due to the DH, I think that makes St. Louis a little bit of a value side, though Cole Hamels is used to having to hit, so it shouldn’t affect him very much.
Detroit (-115) at Kansas City; Total: 8
Sometimes you look at a line and wonder what you’re missing. This is that game for me. The Tigers are a -115 favorite against the Royals, who are still without several key players. The Tigers send Michael Fulmer to the hill against Yordano Ventura. There are a few things to point out. For one thing, the Tigers are missing JD Martinez. With Miguel Cabrera’s un-Miggy-like season to date and Justin Upton windmilling his way through the year, that’s a significant loss. For another thing, Fulmer hasn’t given up a run since the Bush Administration.
It’s actually been just 28.1 innings for Fulmer, but the former New York Mets draft pick and key piece of the Yoenis Cespedes deal has been brilliant. He’s struck out almost a batter per inning and owns a 2.52 ERA with a 3.58 FIP and a 3.87 xFIP. He has a high strand rate and a low BABIP, which are likely to regress for a young starter. But, my buddy August Fagerstrom wrote about Fulmer after his last start and why some of this could continue.
Yordano Ventura is a bad pitcher. I’m not sure why he hasn’t served his suspension yet, but what do I know? Anyway, he has a 4.93 ERA with a 5.04 FIP and a 5.24 xFIP. He’s coming off of his best start of the season after his teammates privately ripped into him for his antics during the game against Baltimore, but I’m not buying any of it. He’s had bad fastball command and his changeup, which was supposed to be his best secondary pitch, has been overrated. He’s not getting people to chase this season and his whiff rate is down by a lot.
I’m taking the Tigers tonight. I know the risks. The lineup looks a lot different without JD Martinez and the bullpen is nowhere near Kansas City’s. But, this Royals team isn’t very good and that should start to show through the dog days of summer.