Another day beckons on the diamond. The grind of the Major League Baseball season will tax even the most hardened handicapper and it’s never a bad thing to step away and reassess certain situations. The hardest part is trying to keep the right frame of mind. Overreactions and recency bias play a big role in MLB, but it’s also very easy to miss things with anywhere from 10-15 games on a daily basis. A lot of people don’t bother with baseball or really scale back this time of year and there are a lot of reasons for that.
Like yesterday, for example. It was a terrible day for picks in the write-up. Those that played the early game lost line value because Paul Goldschmidt sat out, but the Diamondbacks won, so that was nice. The Rays, Marlins, and Orioles all lost as suggested selections. It’s been a frustrating MLB season overall, but, things can turn around in an instant with such a volatile sport.
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.
Seattle at Detroit (-130); Total: 8.5
There are a lot of big numbers out there on the board today, but this is a reasonable price. James Paxton goes for the Mariners against Justin Verlander for the Tigers. Paxton has been tremendous in his four starts, a trend that began in Triple-A this season. He’s added velocity and that has made a ton of difference for him. Through 22 innings, he has 29 strikeouts and six walks. The nice thing about velocity is that it can sometimes hide control problems because hitters have to make quicker decisions. Paxton is sitting 97.5 with the fastball and 90 with the cutter. He’s getting lots of swings and misses in and out of the zone. There’s a lot to like about this. There’s also a lot to wonder about.
Justin Verlander has been really interesting this season. In 210 PA against right-handed hitters, he’s allowed a .435 SLG and nine of his 11 home runs. Lefties are slugging just .318 with a .252 wOBA. The big right-hander has some pretty clear reverse platoon splits, which is a little bit surprising, but, it helps here in this start because the Mariners have a lot of left-handed sticks. Verlander struggled through April with a .254/.317/.505 slash against. Since May 3, he’s held opposing batters to a .258 BABIP with a 3.13 ERA, a 2.96 FIP, and a 3.74 xFIP. He’s also got 66 K in 63.1 innings of work.
This is pretty interesting because you would think that pitchers like this would have issues with these opposing lineups. Paxton takes on a right-handed-heavy Tigers lineup that is 11th in wOBA against LHP, which is an upgrade from where they were just a couple weeks ago. Verlander has those reverse platoon splits. JD Martinez was third in wOBA among qualified hitters against lefties for the Tigers and he’s out.
I’d look for a low-scoring game here. These are two guys with good stuff and two lineups that don’t match up all that well.
Chicago (AL) at Boston (-115); Total: 9
Chris Sale hasn’t closed plus money since April 18, 2015, but that looks like it could be a possibility here today. The White Sox are in the +105 range for this matchup against the Boston Red Sox. It’s a pretty telling line, given that Clay Buchholz couldn’t get you or I out this season, yet he’s favored over Sale and the White Sox. Many of the probability simulators, like Fangraphs and SaberSim have the Red Sox as the favorite to win and oddsmakers have followed suit.
I’ve talked about this before that I don’t really love Chris Sale pitching to more contact. His strikeout rate is at an all-time low, but he’s been able to thrive because of a .262 BABIP against and a 79.9 percent strand rate. He’s also posting the lowest ground ball rate of his career. His stuff is elite, so he can sustain a low BABIP like this, but I don’t know if it’s in his best interest. He has a 2.94 ERA with a 3.42 FIP and a 3.68 xFIP. Another thing I don’t like is that he has traded his changeup for sliders once again.
It seemed like it was an injury prevention thing a couple years ago. Now, he’s back to 24 percent usage, which is still lower than it used to be, but it’s back up from the 18.5 percent and 19.8 percent. This is probably an overreaction. Sale is still elite with elite-level stuff and a lot of ways to get hitters out. All three of his pitches rate well above average. There’s just something about it that I don’t like and maybe it comes to light against the league’s best lineup.
On the other hand, Clay Buchholz has to get outs or none of it matters. In 10 starts and five relief appearances, Buchholz has a 5.86 ERA with a 5.61 FIP and a 5.50 xFIP. His K% is at an all-time low, which is especially concerning with relief appearances. His BB% is the highest it has been since 2008. These are a lot of bad things and that’s why the fact that Boston is favored is a pretty telling stance from the oddsmakers.
I don’t have an opinion on this game, but this line definitely stood out to be and I wanted to take the time to explain it.
St. Louis at Chicago (-135)
No total is available for this game as oddsmakers wait out the weather conditions tonight at Wrigley Field. Adam Wainwright takes the mound for the Cardinals and Jason Hammel goes for the Cubs. I’ve talked a lot about Wainwright this season, who sports a 4.78 ERA with a 3.83 FIP and a 4.26 xFIP. Wainwright has given up four earned with a 21/5 K/BB ratio over his last 20 innings. Like I talked about prior to his last start, it seems like he’s figuring it out. Sometimes we just have to adjust our expectations for a pitcher. His days of having that dominant sinker are in the past, but his stuff and his baseball IQ can get him by.
Jason Hammel keeps laughing in the face of the Regression Monster. After throwing seven innings of one-run ball last time out, Hammel’s pitcher slash sat at 2.26/3.53/4.14. He has a .250 BABIP against and an 84.7 percent strand rate. His HR/FB% is still 3.1 percent below his career average. This season, Hammel has made a usage change to throw his curveball a bit more. He’s always been a high slider usage guy, but now he’s mixing in more curveballs after a two-year break from that. It actually hasn’t been a good pitch for him, but his slider has been great and his fastball command has taken a big step up.
One thing that could be interesting for the Cubs here in the next few turns through the rotation is that Willson Contreras will do the catching of Hammel, Kyle Hendricks, and John Lackey, with Miguel Montero catching Jake Arrieta and David Ross catching Jon Lester. Will there be a drop-off from those three with an unfamiliar catcher? Hammel already has regression coming.
For the most part, Wainwright has kept his team in the game this season. In 11 of his 14 starts, he’s given up four runs or less. With St. Louis’s offense, that’s good enough for them to be in the game. Wainwright has given up more than three runs in a start just once since May 12, so he’s been significantly better. With regression looming for Hammel, I’m going to expect some of it to hit here tonight. I’d look at the Cardinals in this one.
Philadelphia at Minnesota (-120); Total: 8
Two pitchers I really like face off tonight at Target Field, but they pitch for two teams I really don’t like right now. I was high on Philadelphia’s chances to be better than people expected, and they have been, but they are now just 30-41 and still have that 15-6 record in one-run games. They were once 24-17. They are 6-24 since. They have lost 15 times by five or more runs. They have scored 57 runs in 19 games this month. That’s a long stretch of playing terrible baseball.
The Twins under was one of my favorite season win total bets. They overachieved in a big way last season and they have regressed in a very big way. Minnesota is just 21-48 on the season, the worst record in baseball by two games over the Atlanta Braves. They’ve been awful in just about every facet of the game, with no signs of slowing down. They need to go 41-52 to avoid 100 losses, but that doesn’t even seem likely right now.
But, somebody has to win this game tonight. Aaron Nola has a 3.51/3.05/2.80 pitcher slash on the season with 94 K in 84.2 innings of work. He’s had a couple of rough starts here lately, with 12 runs allowed over his last 6.2 innings. Overall, though, he’s been very effective, even with some issues stranding runners.
Tyler Duffey is a guy I really like, but he’s making it hard to keep supporting him. Duffey owns a 5.56/4.07/3.79 pitcher slash, as a .355 BABIP and a 63 strand rate have killed him. His K/BB peripherals are good. He has hit too many barrels, though, with a 24.9 percent line drive rate and a 31.4 percent hard contact rate, largely inflated by a 15.1 HR/FB%. There are a lot of bad signs here for Duffey and remember that ERA/xFIP regression only happens with a reasonable level of command.
I’m not sure which way to go with this game. Nola is the better pitcher, but the Twins have the better offense. The under might be in play, but the Twins bullpen is kind of a mess right now due to injuries. Still, gun to my head, under is the pick.
Washington at Los Angeles (NL) (-125); Total: 7.5
Tanner Roark and Scott Kazmir are the listed starters for Tuesday night after we were robbed of Stephen Strasburg vs. Clayton Kershaw last night. Roark has been a pleasant surprise for the Nationals this year. He has a 3.14 ERA with a 3.46 FIP and a 3.67 xFIP. He’s added even more ground balls to his repertoire and he’s paired that with an increase in strikeouts. Roark hasn’t shifted his usage patterns all that much, but he has incorporated his changeup a little bit more again this season and pitching coach Mike Maddux has helped him add more depth to the pitch.
Scott Kazmir’s numbers are pretty interesting. He’s struck out well over a batter per inning and his BABIP and LOB% are pretty reasonable, but he has a 4.64 ERA with a 4.42 FIP and a 4.12 xFIP. Home runs have been the problem, as he has allowed 12 in 77.2 innings of work. If you look at Kazmir’s batted ball distribution, it’s really not that bad. His hard-contact rate is well below league average. His line drive rate is around league average. His 3.95 SIERA is right in line with his career mark. I have to think that some HR/FB% luck will come around for Kazmir. His HR/FB% at home is 8.6 percent and it’s 20 percent on the road.
The Nationals are fifth in wOBA against lefties on the season, while the Dodgers are 23rd in wOBA against righties. Initially, I really liked the Dodgers in this spot, because Kazmir’s been better at Dodger Stadium. But, I believe in what Roark is doing and adding ground balls and strikeouts is the way to have success. Sorry to say, it’s not a strong card today. I’d lean slightly to the Dodgers here, but it might be a night to sit things out.