We ease back into another work week in the handicapping world with 10 games on the June 20 card. Only one day game is on tap, so we’ll have all day to digest what we see in the other nine matchups. A couple of aces lock horns in Dodger Stadium tonight with Stephen Strasburg vs. Clayton Kershaw and a total of 5.5 with initial juice on the under. That’s the highlight of today’s card from a watchability standpoint, but there are several games with compelling odds and prices.

Hopefully this week brings some better betting options because the MLB cards lately have been terrible for wagering. Yesterday, our strongest lean missed by half a run on the Nationals and Padres, but all of our other leans hit. Jered Weaver threw a “Maddux” for the Angels with a complete game shutout that took less than 100 pitches. The Orioles and Marlins both won as small leans. But, nothing really amounted to a strong play again.

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.


Arizona at Philadelphia (-110); Total: 9

We’ll take a brief look at the early game, as Shelby Miller returns from a stop on the disabled list. He made two rehab starts at High-A and dominated minor league hitters over 12 innings. His Diamondbacks career has been anything but impressive, with a 7.09 ERA, a 6.63 FIP, and a 5.81 xFIP in 45.2 innings of work. He has 30 K and 29 BB in that span.

I rarely look to back guys coming off of the DL. I either stay away or fade them because I’m never quite sure what to expect. For Miller, the time off probably did him some good. No MLB pitcher’s stuff is that bad to hang those types of numbers. This was simply a case where he lost his mechanics or truly was pitching through an injury. I’m tentatively buying him here because he’s not as bad as he’s shown.

Jeremy Hellickson has been really interesting this season. Hellickson has a 4.46 ERA, a 4.65 FIP, and a 3.85 xFIP. He’s given up a lot of homers, but he’s also enjoying the best strikeout rate of his career. Hellickson was with the Diamondbacks last season and made 27 starts covering 146 innings. I’m still skeptical of his command. This is a rare wraparound series, but the Diamondbacks don’t return home after this. They go to Toronto, so that means there aren’t any bad situational spots in play here.

With that, give me the better team in Arizona. Miller is a bit of a wild card, but the Phillies have been in a tailspin for a while now and that’s hard to overlook.


Tampa Bay at Cleveland (-125); Total: 9

It’ll be an interesting dynamic in Cleveland this week as the town celebrates its first major sports championship since 1964 and has a first-place baseball team. The Indians, who certainly basked in the glow of last night’s win, get back at it against the Rays tonight. The Rays series are going to be interesting for the foreseeable future because manager Kevin Cash has a great base of knowledge about the Indians and their hitters.

Drew Smyly takes the hill for the Rays, looking to get back on track. Smyly pitched his best game since April 24 and didn’t factor in the decision last time out. He struck out 12 Mariners in 6.2 innings and his only blemish was a Nelson Cruz dinger. Overall, Smyly has fought with consistency en route to a 4.75/4.16/3.88 pitcher slash. Smyly has 89 K in 77.2 innings of work on the year. He’s got great whiff rates on most of his pitches and the Indians have really scuffled against lefties. They are 20th in wOBA, despite a .326 BABIP.

Josh Tomlin takes on a Rays lineup that is 21st in wOBA against right-handed pitching with a .308 mark. Only the Milwaukee Brewers strike out more against righties than the Rays, but Josh Tomlin isn’t exactly a strikeout pitcher. Tampa Bay has a .271 BABIP against RHP because they’ve hit some home runs, but haven’t gotten many balls in play to fall. Tomlin does have some home run problems, so that’s a factor here.

I’d have to look at Tampa Bay in this one. The Indians have had a lot of peaks and valleys this season, and they’re currently peaking after the sweep against the White Sox, but this isn’t a great matchup for them on Monday.


Colorado at Miami (-115); Total: 8.5

This is a weird one in Miami between the Rockies and the Marlins. Jorge de la Rosa takes the mound for the Rockies against Paul Clemens (no relation), who is making his sixth career start and first since 2013. Clemens was drafted in 2009 and has 48 career appearances. In 14 starts at Triple-A, Clemens posted a 4.30 ERA and a 4.13 FIP. He’s a three-pitch pitcher with below average fastball command at the big league level, so that’s why he’s a fringy type of guy.

For JDLR, things haven’t been pretty this season. He has a 7.61 ERA with a 5.50 FIP and a 4.29 xFIP over his 36.2 innings of work. The strikeouts have been there, but neither the command nor the control has been present. Against a Marlins lineup that historically fares better against LHP, this would seem like a pretty tricky spot for the 35-year-old. He’s been awful in three road starts, but they’ve all come in hitter’s parks. This is just his second start since May 24.

This isn’t much of a game, to be honest. Somebody will have to win, but I have no interest in backing either side. A case could be made for Miami, since the Rockies probably enjoyed the South Beach nightlife to watch the NBA Finals or hit up the beach clubs after yesterday’s game. Nightlife is usually undefeated, so maybe there’s that.


Baltimore (-115) at Texas; Total: 9.5

Today’s biggest mover is the matchup between the Orioles and the Rangers. We’ve had a flipped favorite in this one as Kevin Gausman should take the mound as chalk against Derek Holland. This is a particularly telling line move because the Orioles are 24th in MLB in wOBA against left-handed pitching on the season. They have a .296 OBP, but a .415 SLG, so maybe the thought process is that the hard, fast infield in Texas coupled with the good carry in the outfield can elevate this Baltimore offense.

It probably has a lot to do with Derek Holland as well, who is posting a 5.14/4.94/5.43 pitcher slash in 68.1 innings of work this season. Holland has pitched two straight bad outings after four strong ones, so his mostly up-and-down season continues. It’s worth pointing out that he had an ERA destroyer in back-to-back starts earlier this season when he gave up 11 runs in 2.2 innings to the Blue Jays and four runs in 2.1 innings to the White Sox. Obviously you can’t take away those two outings, but Holland has a 3.41 ERA in his other 11 starts. He certainly hasn’t been as bad as that stat line would suggest.

Kevin Gausman showcases some big reverse platoon splits this season, which may be why he’s getting some love. The Rangers haven’t been a great offensive team this season against righties with a .317 wOBA and a 91 wRC+. Gausman has held lefties to a .222/.262/.367 slash on the season. Righties, meanwhile, are batting .283/.345/.513.

Another thing about the Rangers is we’re seeing the “Philadelphia Phillies Effect”. The Phillies were faded with regularity when they were overachieving and they hit a wall and bettors made a lot of money fading them. The Rangers have the second-biggest lead in baseball at 8.5 games. They are 45-25 with a 39-31 Pythagorean Win-Loss. They are 16-4 in one-run games. They are 14-4 in June with a +17 run differential. Team-wide regression should be coming for this bunch and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the market keep piling in against them until it hits.


Washington at Los Angeles (NL) (-190); Total: 5.5

The best game of the night is this one between the Nationals and the Dodgers. Stephen Strasburg takes the mound for the Nationals against Clayton Kershaw for the home team. This is as good as it gets for a pitching matchup. Strasburg has a 2.90 ERA with a 2.83 FIP and a 2.83 xFIP, so his performance is totally legit. He’s inducing a few more ground balls this season, but his 31.9 percent strikeout rate is what really stands out.

New pitching coach Mike Maddux has made it a point to help Nationals pitchers with their changeups. Strasburg’s has been a little bit harder this season, but he’s held opposing batters to a 7-for-71 performance with an .099/.123/.183 slash on the season. He’s been really special this season in a lot of ways and is the right type of guy to go up against the best.

And Clayton Kershaw is the best. Kershaw has a 1.58 ERA with a 1.64 FIP and a 1.99 xFIP. He’s struck out 133 and walked SEVEN in his 108 innings of work. These numbers are absurd. He’s increased his slider usage a little bit this season at the expense of his fastball and the weak contact has allowed him to carry a .243 BABIP against. His 16.4 percent swinging strike rate is the best of his career. His slider is already 20.7 runs above average per PITCHf/x.

If you look around Kershaw’s stats page at either Baseball-Reference or Fangraphs, everything is ridiculous. I’ve done a double take on everything I’ve looked up, from his PITCHf/x curveball data to his consistency on his heatmaps. He’s the best pitcher on the planet.

We’ve already seen a big move in this game, as the market has climbed on the Kershaw train at -165 and up and it may continue to go up. At some point, there will be value on Strasburg and the Nationals, but going against Kershaw isn’t a way to make money.