The peaks and valleys of a Major League Baseball season are a major test of willpower and bankroll management. For those that only like to dabble in the major sports, the summer months are tough. There are wagering opportunities in golf, MMA, WNBA, Arena Football, Canadian Football, and soccer, but MLB is the only big game in town and it can be really tiring to handicap. Fortunately, we try to guide you down the right path every day here in this picks and analysis piece and attempt to make the handicapping life just a little bit easier on you.
Rewinding the tape to yesterday, we see a very nice winner on the over in the Red Sox/Rays game. This was a number that moved down, still had juice on the under, and hit by the third inning. Respect line moves. Try to understand line moves. But, don’t live and die by line moves. The Nationals were a big winner over the Mets. It wasn’t all roses and sunshine, as the Cardinals and Diamondbacks lost, though Arizona lost so badly that the under hit, so that was a silver lining.
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.
New York (NL) at Washington
At time of writing, no line was posted for this game, but readers know that I like to give them an introduction to new pitchers. Lucas Giolito is the type that needs no introduction, but here comes one anyway. Giolito could be an ace-in-waiting. He has an explosive fastball with premium velocity and great movement, a devastating curveball, and the upside to have plus command. He’s struck out well over a batter per inning at the minor league level and now gets his shot to make his Major League debut.
One thing that does worry me a little bit is that his BB rates have climbed at the upper levels, but nobody can deny the raw stuff or the talent that the former prep arm possesses. Like far too many young arms, Giolito is a past Tommy John guy, so that has slowed his path to the big leagues a little bit, but he’s still making his debut before his 22nd birthday.
With no line, it’s hard to make a concrete pick on this game, but you can bet that there will be a buzz in the ballpark for Giolito’s debut.
Texas (-120) at New York (AL); Total: 8.5
The longer this thing goes on, the less I understand it. The Rangers are 50-27 with a Pythagorean win-loss record of 44-33. They are 17-5 in one-run games with a bullpen that ranks 28th in ERA, 29th in FIP, and 25th in xFIP. Cole Hamels ranks first in ERA-FIP and Martin Perez ranks seventh. Hamels is the one on the mound here tonight. The Rangers are 40.2-36.8 by 3rd Order Win Percentage, a metric you can find at Baseball Prospectus that spits out projected winning percentage based on “underlying statistics adjusted for quality of opponents, using adjusted equivalent runs”.
Look, all you need to know is that the Rangers are massively overachieving and are this year’s Kansas City Royals. We’ll have to see if Cole Hamels’s regression hits in this start at Yankee Stadium. Hamels has a 2.79 ERA, but a 4.60 FIP and a 3.96 xFIP. His home run rate is gradually coming down, but he’s still allowed 15 dingers in 96.2 innings of work. His walk rate is the highest it has ever been, but he has stranded 86.7 percent of runners. Batters own a .238/.338/.422 slash with the bases empty and a .208/.275/.327 with men on base.
Regression should hit soon for Hamels, but it’s always tough to project regression with good starting pitchers like him. He’s inducing quite a bit of weak contact aside from the home runs and he’s struck out nearly a batter per inning. The unfortunate thing here is that the Yankees are 26th in wOBA against lefties, so this isn’t the ideal lineup to deal regression.
CC Sabathia was in a nice little run up until his last start when he gave up six runs on seven hits in 4.1 innings and spoke of an ankle issue after the game. All of the sudden, Sabathia has found his command. After giving up home runs like a pitching machine, he’s only allowed three HR in 69.2 innings of work this season. Up until his last start, he hadn’t given up more than three runs in a single outing. Sabathia does show signs of regression with a 2.71 ERA, a 3.48 FIP, and a 4.62 xFIP.
This line looks about right, sadly. I wanted to go against the regression signs of one of these two guys, but the oddsmakers did a good job here. Kudos to them. We’ll find value elsewhere.
Boston at Tampa Bay (-105); Total: 8
This is another interesting pitching matchup at the Trop tonight. Rick Porcello and Chris Archer lock horns in this AL East battle. The Rays let out a significant amount of frustration last night against Eduardo Rodriguez to snap an 11-game skid, but they go right back to a right-hander tonight. A look at Rick Porcello’s rate stats and you would think he’d be doing better than a 3.93/4.09/4.05 pitcher slash. He’s right around league average in strikeouts with a terrific BB%, but he’s given up 13 HR in 94 IP and that has kept him from posting better numbers. Everything else is pretty much in line with having a good season. The Rays are 25th in wOBA against righties, so this should, in theory, be a good matchup for Porcello.
Chris Archer is the real key tonight, though. The velocity still isn’t fully there and it’s interesting to note that none of his pitches have been classified as two-seamers per PITCHf/x this season. Is the lack of variety with his fastball the root cause for the .295/.397/.564 slash that hitters have against his fastball? It very well could be. Some minor velocity drops may also be to blame. His slider isn’t as dominant as it was last season either.
Archer has expanded the use of his changeup and it has been a pretty good pitch for him, especially against lefties. It’s weird to see a guy with premium velocity and an elite slider posting a .477 SLG against vs. same-side hitters. That’s a pretty big anomaly as far as I’m concerned. Lefties are slugging .412.
Somebody out there in the handicapping industry is going to sell you Archer because he has a 2.62 ERA at home and a 6.65 ERA on the road. The big SLG discrepancy is notable, but Archer has a 28.1 percent line drive rate at home and a 16.3 percent line drive rate on the road. His home BABIP is .264 and it’s .361 on the road. His true talent, as we know, lies somewhere in between. Maybe he does simply feel more comfortable at Tropicana. For me, I think it’s nothing more than small sample size variance and batted ball luck. His road HR rate is still hurting from the four he allowed in his second start of the season in Baltimore. That’s really the biggest difference between the two splits.
I think it’s hard to trust Archer against a lineup like Boston’s at this price. Season-to-date performance would dictate that Porcello is the play because the Rays are so bad against righties. I’d lean that way here.
Miami at Detroit (-115); Total: 9.5
Hmmm. The Marlins send Adam Conley to the mound against Mike Pelfrey and the Tigers. The Tigers are really underwhelming against lefties on the season, even though they have a bunch of right-handed hitters in the lineup. Conley’s season has been really odd. Out of 12 starts, he’s allowed four or more runs five times and has thrown shutout baseball (for at least 5.1 innings) five times. That makes him a really tough handicap because you never know what you’re going to get. He’s posted single-game LOB% of 80 percent or higher in 10 of his 15 starts.
As far as scoreless appearances go, Mike Pelfrey just had his first of the season in a relief capacity on Friday against the Indians. The Indians had already tagged starter Jordan Zimmermann for seven runs and put the game in cruise control, so Pelfrey threw 4.1 shutout innings with three hits allowed. That All-Star-level performance dropped Pelfrey down to a 4.91/5.36/5.08 pitcher slash this season.
The Marlins have been more competent than usual against right-handed pitching this season and will get the chance to add an extra hitter to the lineup. Laying any type of price on Mike Pelfrey seems somewhat insane, but the market has gone that way here in this one and that makes some sense because of Conley’s inconsistency and the fact that he’s facing an American League lineup.
This one, unfortunately, looks like a stay away game.
Los Angeles (NL) (-140) at Milwaukee; Total: 9
I’m really intrigued by this game. If this was a different Dodgers starter, like Kenta Maeda or Mike Bolsinger, I might have been interested in the Brewers. I’m concerned by the upside of Julio Urias against a Brewers lineup that strikes out nearly 24 percent of the time against left-handed pitchers.
Situationally, this isn’t great for the Dodgers. Los Angeles roared back in the middle innings yesterday to avoid a sweep in a terrible spot, but now they go to Milwaukee to continue this road trip. The problem is that the Brewers and Chase Anderson cannot be trusted. Anderson was skipped in the rotation in an effort to let him catch his breath. He’s posted a 5.13/5.36/4.58 pitcher slash in 14 starts.
My gut is telling me to take the Dodgers here. Urias has gotten stronger with each start and the Dodgers had some time to settle in and get a good night’s sleep.
St. Louis at Kansas City (-115); Total: 8.5
I’m thinking that I have underestimated Danny Duffy and that’s on me for yesterday’s game. Today, the Cardinals draw a much better matchup in Yordano Ventura. This is Ventura’s first start back since getting suspended for hitting Manny Machado. The Cardinals will counter with Michael Wacha.
Wacha Flocka Flame still seems off a little bit. For the fourth straight season, his BB% has risen, while his strikeout rate has effectively stayed about the same. This season, he has a 4.41 ERA thanks to a 63.5 percent strand rate. Last season, his FIP, xFIP, and SIERA showed regression, but he stranded 76.2 percent of runners. He seems to have made some adjustments in June. After a 6.75 ERA and a .289/.356/.459 slash against in May, he has a 3.08 with a .192/.265/.326 slash against. It’s all about BABIP variance and rate of hard contact with Wacha.
With nobody on base, hitters are batting .212/.274/.343. With men on base, they’re batting .315/.389/.504. His bases empty BABIP against is .265, but it is .366 with men on base. Is that a problem from the stretch or is that bad luck? That’s one of life’s greatest baseball questions. His hard-contact is up and he hasn’t induced a single pop up, so I’m guessing that it’s a mechanical flaw.
It’s been an ugly season for Yordano Ventura, who lost even more respect from his teammates with the Machado incident and hasn’t pitched well enough to gain back any favor. Ventura has posted a 4.54 ERA with a 4.78 FIP and a 5.03 xFIP. For a while, he had walked more batters than he had struck out. He’s actually living off of a 14.4 percent IFFB% right now to salvage his low strikeout rate. If there’s some variance in that, it’s possible that Ventura will actually be even worse going forward.
The Cardinals are tied for third in wOBA against righties and own a 110 wRC+, which is the best in baseball. With Ventura coming off the suspension, I’m comfortable taking the Cardinals as a short dog here in this one.
Tune in to today’s BangTheBook Radio for analysis of Pittsburgh vs. Seattle and more MLB wagering angles, tips, and tricks.