I’m not entirely sure when the Wednesday day game craze began, but we have seven more of them here this week. Fortunately, we don’t have to worry about too many of the afternoon contests because there are some big numbers and some lopsided pitching matchups. It’s a good reminder, however, to think on Tuesday night about those Wednesday situational spots. We’ll touch on a couple of them here today before really digging into the nighttime slate.
Checking back with yesterday’s outcomes, we had a really good day. The stay away games played out in weird fashion, but all three games with picks or leans came through. The Cardinals and Red Sox were both winners in very comfortable fashion. The Dodgers also came through for us, though it certainly got very dicey in the late innings. The line got away from us, but the Mariners were an easy winner from the radio show, so if you laid the price, took the -1, or the -1.5, all of it hit. It was good to pick up a solid day and roll into Hump Day with a little bit of momentum, not that momentum is really a thing in handicapping.
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.
Chicago (NL) (-210) at Cincinnati; Total: 9
There are a lot of ways to go about this game, even with a line over two dollars. The -1 is an option and the -1.5, even at -130, probably isn’t a terrible play. It’s a terrible play in a philosophical sense, but this is one of the worst spots of the season for a team in my mind. The Reds aren’t playing for anything except individual development and moral victories. You’re not worried about those after a 15-inning game with a 12:35 p.m. ET start time the next day against the best team in baseball.
To be fair, the Cubs, who have a monster lead in the NL Central, may not care much either. I’d like to think that they would and I like Kyle Hendricks a lot. You can probably look at the Reds team total under as an option as well. The only worry about the full game under is the Reds bullpen, but it’s probably worth consideration as well.
Miami at Detroit (-120); Total: 9.5
Tom Koehler is having a Tom Koehler season. An ERA around 4.00 and higher advanced metrics. He’s like clockwork at this point. Of course, this season, he’s been really fortunate not to post a higher ERA because his walk rate has ballooned to a career high. I’m a little bit skeptical of Detroit’s ability to work counts in a getaway day game, but an extra hitter in the lineup could exacerbate that walk rate.
Koehler’s home/road splits are also extremely well-documented. Last season, he had a 3.29 ERA with a .235/.314/.363 slash against at home and a 4.82 .265/.347/.448 on the road. The year prior it was a 3.00 .224/.292/.341 against a 4.63 .263/.346/.400. So, the MLB highway has not been kind to Koehler.
Taking the Tigers means buying stock in Daniel Norris, though. That’s not very easy. Norris has a 3.96/5.09/4.77 pitcher slash in his 72.2 MLB innings and hasn’t shown great peripherals in that time. The Marlins have had some struggles against lefties here this season, ranking 17th in wOBA, which is very unlike them.
This is a little bit of a strange spot for the Marlins because this was a two-game interleague stop and then they play four against the Atlanta Braves this weekend. The Tigers have to keep pace with the surging Indians if they can and hit the road for Tampa Bay after this one to finish the first half on the road with an 11-game trip. Hopefully this game is a point of emphasis.
I’d lean Tigers here in this one. Hopefully they come to play, since that seems to be in question some days.
Los Angeles (NL) (-115) at Milwaukee; Total: 9
You don’t find MLB debutants favored on the road very often, but that’s the case here with Brock Stewart up against Junior Guerra. Stewart started the season in High-A, made a nine-start stop at Double-A, made three starts at Triple-A, and now he’s in the big leagues. It’s been a rapid ascent for the Illinois State product. He’s racked up 247 K in 221.1 innings at various minor league levels with plus control and solid command.
This is a pretty significant leap, but this is a good lineup to debut against. The Brewers are 16th in wOBA against right-handed pitching, but, again, like their lefty splits, a lot of it has to do with drawing walks. They don’t really do a whole lot with those baserunners. Stewart will have to fight off some nerves and jitters pitching fairly close to his Normal, Illinois hometown. The upside seems to be there.
Junior Guerra has been a really good find for the Brewers. In 10 starts, he has a 3.67 ERA with a 3.89 FIP and a 4.18 xFIP. Unfortunately, regression seems near. He has a .262 BABIP against despite a 37.7 percent hard-contact rate. There’s only so long you can get lucky with hard-hit balls going in the direction of fielders and I do feel like Guerra will be north of that 3.89 FIP here in short order. Hitters are already making some adjustments given the big SLG increase from May to June. That may just be simple variance, but I’m going to assume that it has to do with better advance reports. The Dodgers are the first team to see Guerra twice, so we’ll see how he adjusts.
It’s tough to take a kid making his MLB debut as chalk, but it seems like the side here.
Minnesota (-110) at Chicago (AL); Total: 9.5
I love these ugly pitching matchups for some reason. Ricky Nolasco goes for the Twins and James Shields goes for the White Sox. One of the things that I have been preaching about lately is trying to pick off value when teams/pitchers are at rock bottom or at the top of the mountain. James Shields is at rock bottom. Shields hasn’t made a good start in over a month.
Since May 31, Shields has an 18.73 ERA with a 10.75 FIP, and an 8.14 xFIP. He’s given up 35 runs on 37 hits in 16.1 innings of work. He’s walked 17 and struck out nine. It’s hard to find a five-start sample size worse than that. Jeff Sullivan took a detailed look at Shields and found some telling indicators as to why things have gotten so bad. If there’s an end in sight, you’d want it to be in a game like this. The Twins are not a good lineup. In this five-start stretch, Shields has faced Seattle, Washington, Detroit, Cleveland, and Boston. Four of those five teams are in the top 10 in wOBA against RHP. The one that isn’t is Washington and that was his first start with his new team.
Ricky Nolasco still shows some signs of regression with a 4.95 ERA, a 3.73 FIP, and a 4.16 xFIP, but his 63.5 percent LOB isn’t getting that much better. I do see a concerning trend with Nolasco. He’s starting to lose the strikeout gains he had earlier in the season. Over his last four starts covering 25.1 innings, Nolasco has 14 strikeouts. Prior to that, he had 60 in 65.1 innings of work. If he’s not going to miss bats, it’s going to make that LOB% regression very difficult to obtain. His velocity has been way down over his last two starts, down around his April velocities.
I think Ricky Nolasco is hurt once again. His release point was erratic and he was pulling a lot of pitches across his body and missing away. Maybe it was a mechanical flaw. Maybe it can be corrected. What I do know is that I’m not laying anything on the road with Nolasco.
Sometimes you have to make tough bets. James Shields is a tough bet. I think James Shields and the White Sox are the right side here tonight.
San Francisco (-110) at Oakland; Total: 8.5
Last night’s Battle of the Bay Area was insane. A San Francisco 4-1 lead after five innings became a 5-4 deficit heading into the bottom of the sixth. Four runs later, the Giants were back on top 8-5. Oakland scored eight runs in the final two innings to win 13-11 in a crazy, crazy game.
So, moving ahead to today, yesterday’s trainwreck is fresh in our minds. Oakland closer Ryan Madson is unavailable after throwing 43 pitches. The Giants used seven different relievers, though the best reliever, Hunter Strickland, faced one batter, which makes no sense, but whatever. With pitching changes and mountains of runs, the game took nearly four hours to play.
So, we get another chance for both bullpens to get taxed tonight. Jake Peavy goes for the Giants and Sean Manaea goes for the Athletics as the series shifts to the American League park. Jake Peavy is barely averaging 5.1 innings per start this season with his 5.22 ERA, 3.86 FIP, and 4.80 xFIP. Sean Manaea is coming off of the disabled list and has had a lot of trouble being efficient this season. There are so many strange factors in play with this game.
San Francisco certainly deserves to be favored because they are undoubtedly the better team. They are a league average offense against lefties with a 100 wRC+, so that’s a feather in their cap heading into this one. Oakland is still just 26th in wOBA against righties.
I don’t know what to think about Peavy, who has gotten progressively better as the season has gone on. Maybe he’s made some mechanical adjustments on the fly or has learned to pitch with a continued decline in velocity. His command and control have improved over the course of the season. I’m going to tentatively buy Peavy in this spot, for a variety of reasons and look to take the Giants.
Tune in to today’s BangTheBook Radio for more analysis and a look at the Pittsburgh vs. Seattle matchup.