Another work week begins and another work week for handicapping begins with a slightly abridged Major League Baseball schedule. There are only 11 games on the slate today, including one day game. Teams are within two weeks of the All-Star Break, so that push is on to ride into the days off with a little bit of momentum. We’re also five weeks away from the August 1 Trade Deadline, which has been moved because July 31 is a Sunday. Is that a daily handicapping consideration? Not really, but teams that face a lot of uncertainty may show it from time to time.
Looking back at yesterday’s results, things started really well with wins by the White Sox, Marlins, and Reds. Unfortunately, the leans in the later games didn’t hit with the Astros, Oakland, and the under in that AL West matchup between the A’s and Angels. It was a promising day that became a run of the mill Sunday. We’ll get back after it here today with some interesting games.
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.
Los Angeles (NL) at Pittsburgh (-105); Total: 8.5
This was a game I touched on in yesterday’s picks and analysis piece. The Dodgers and Pirates played late last night with ESPN Sunday Night Baseball and then have this quick turnaround to play at 12:35 p.m. ET today. The Dodgers were lined a -115 favorite and some people capitalized on the situational spot to bump Pittsburgh down a few cents.
Beating Clayton Kershaw is a really special thing and it’s exceedingly rare. The Pirates did that last night. The Dodgers head to Milwaukee after this. They’re looking to avoid a four-game sweep and four-game sweeps are hard to do. You’ll have some people solely betting against that happening. For me, I look at how rough of a spot this is for the Dodgers. This is their first trip to the Eastern Time Zone in a month. They’ve been there for a few days to get acclimated, but this is a turnaround of about 12 hours.
It’s hard to expect a mediocre Pittsburgh team to finish this thing off, especially with Francisco Liriano on the bump, but I’m buying this situational spot and I’m looking at Pittsburgh here.
New York (NL) (-115) at Washington; Total: 7
The collective baseball community let out a sigh of relief when it was announced that no structural damage was found in the right elbow of Noah Syndergaard. That being said, something still isn’t right with Thor and that’s worrisome heading into this matchup with the Nationals. Syndergaard’s strikeout numbers have been all over the map over his last six starts. He’s struck out 11 and nine, but also four, five, and three. He hasn’t given up more than three runs in a start since May 1, but I’m worried about those arm problems.
Joe Ross is having another fine season. He’s posted a 3.11/3.70/3.96 slash line and his peripherals have been improving throughout the season. He’s getting fewer hitters to chase, but his plate discipline metrics are about the same otherwise. He’s a solid pitcher and he’s started to mix in his changeup a little bit more to give his arsenal some more depth. That’s beneficial against a lineup that sees him three or four times per season. Surprisingly, the Mets have not seen Ross yet this season, so that should probably give him a slight advantage.
I love Thor, like everybody else does, but I’m going to err on the side of skepticism until I see that his elbow is just fine. I’m going to take the short price on Washington here. I think this is a big series for the Nats with the chance to put some distance in this race. I’m not sure the Mets are viewing it the same way.
Texas at New York (AL) (-130); Total: 9.5
I’ve been waiting for the Rangers to fall off the pace and Monday’s game could be the start of the freefall. The Rangers kick off a 10-game, three-city road trip that concludes in Boston. Chi Chi Gonzalez will be on the hill for this one, bringing his pedestrian profile to the big leagues once again. In 14 starts, Gonzalez has a 5.04 ERA with a 3.91 FIP. He’s not missing many bats and not much has changed since his 67-inning stint in the bigs last year. He has good command, but he’s got suspect control and has not missed many barrels this season.
Ivan Nova has been knocked around in his 64.1 innings of work with a 5.18 ERA, a 4.98 FIP, and a 4.06 xFIP. Oddsmakers have inflated this price a little bit with Texas’s impending regression and the desire to play against the team by sharp bettors. It’s not really worth playing because laying -130 with the Yankees and Nova is not a really great investment. However, I see the mindset here and also believe that the Rangers will be falling off the pace very soon.
Boston (-115) at Tampa Bay; Total: 8
I hate having to wake up on a Monday and look at a line that perplexes me. The sides don’t bother me here. The total does. The Rays are second in MLB in wOBA against left-handed pitching. The Red Sox are taking on Blake Snell, who has good stuff, but has been pretty fortunate not to get rocked in any of his three starts. The Red Sox are third in wOBA against left-handed pitching.
Am I missing something here? The over seems like an auto play with two inconsistent lefties and two lineups that destroy lefties. The Rays have some frustration to let out and Rodriguez could certainly give them an opening to do that. A lot of times, we see struggling teams hang big numbers in a game once they get a big hit to loosen everybody up. I feel like this could be that situation.
St. Louis at Kansas City (-120); Total: 8.5
Hmmm. This is quite a line move. The Cardinals draw yet another lefty in Danny Duffy and this is clearly the worse of their two splits. The Cardinals are 23rd in wOBA against lefties. I’m decidedly higher on Adam Wainwright than most, apparently. It’s not impressive or sexy and the walk rate is still a concern, but the guy hasn’t allowed more than four runs in a start since May 12 and that was because of a random three-homer game. He hasn’t given up a home run since and has only allowed seven runs in 26.2 innings of work. I think Wainwright has found it, even if the control metrics aren’t great yet.
Danny Duffy has been pretty good in eight starts with 50 strikeouts in 40.2 innings. He’s held hitters to a .220/.290/.439 slash in those outings, allowing some solo home runs to give up runs. I still think this Kansas City team is trash. The rotation is awful and the collection of call-ups and semi-prospects in the everyday starting lineup doesn’t move the needle for me. We finally saw this team hit some regression and then they suddenly went on a nice run.
Maybe this is a fade of the Cardinals coming back from Seattle. I don’t know. What I do know is that the Cardinals are worth a look at the current price.
Toronto (-125) at Colorado; Total: 12
If Marco Estrada is ever going to experience regression, it’ll probably be here. Estrada’s changeup won’t have the same type of movement in the altitude and that may make things difficult for him. Estrada has been hampered by a little bit of a back injury here in recent days and those often throw off mechanics.
The big thing for me is this BABIP situation. Estrada now has a .183 BABIP against after a .216 BABIP against last season. If this holds, or something like it, Estrada will have two of the four lowest BABIPs against since at least 1985, and probably even further back. Jeff Robinson of the Tigers posted a .208 BABIP against in 1988. That’s the lowest in that span aside from Estrada’s. Therefore, I really don’t think that his current rate is sustainable.
This could be the spot for regression. It would almost have to be. If not, Estrada may simply be a magician.
Jon Gray goes for the Rockies here in this one. The Blue Jays have been better against righties than lefties this season, which is an interesting development. In this particular outing, Gray takes on a team down a hitter, so that’s a small plus for him. He’s coming off of a rough start in New York, in which he walked five in four innings and had some arm trouble during and after the start. It snapped a pretty good string of starts for him.
As a result, I, unfortunately, have to lay off here until I see how Gray looks. Before the arm troubles on June 22, Gray had given up nine runs on 24 hits in 33.1 innings with 33 K and nine BB in his previous five starts. I have to see him healthy before I buy in.
Philadelphia at Arizona (-140); Total: 9
Vincent Velasquez is back after some downtime and one rehab start in Triple-A. He left after one-third of an inning on June 8 with a strained bicep. It seems like a rather quick turnaround for an injury like that, but the Phillies are in no rush to get pitchers back for a non-contending team, so he must be okay. The thing about it is that Velasquez wasn’t pitching that well before the injury. He hadn’t made it out of the fifth in three straight starts.
Aside from his 16-strikeout performance against the lowly Padres in his second start, Velasquez only has 57 K in 52.2 innings of work. So, it’s still better than a strikeout per inning, but it’s not as dominant as he was early in the season. Arizona doesn’t fare all that well against right-handed pitching, but Velasquez may have some control and command issues here in this return.
On the other side, this is a great matchup for Robbie Ray. Ray has struggled, but the peripherals are starting to come back to earth. He has a 4.59 ERA with a 4.18 FIP and a 3.73 xFIP. He’s struck out over 25 percent of his batters this year and the Phillies are the worst offense in the league by wOBA against left-handed pitchers. That gives the Diamondbacks’ lefty a great chance at a strong start.
I like both the under and the Diamondbacks here. This is the start of Philadelphia’s third straight road series and they’ve been doing a ton of losing lately. They’re ready to get home and then get to the All-Star Break. Arizona probably feels like they aren’t out of it yet, even though they are.
For thoughts on tonight’s Houston vs. Los Angeles Angels matchup, tune in to BangTheBook Radio.