A full menu of Major League Baseball betting options is available for tonight and only two of the games start after the 9 p.m. hour ET, so it should be a good night to get profit and sleep tight. Or go out and party. Whatever the kids are doing these days. Unlike the last couple of days, there are a lot of lines set at reasonable prices, so bettors can dive in and not worry about big chalk or big dogs. That’s a nice feeling. Hopefully we can do something with it.
Looking back to yesterday’s small card and short write-up, the Padres were, indeed, a winner for us on the only real strong pick of the day. Those that got in early on the Giants game also picked up a win. It was a weird line movement in that one, but the Giants closed a dog in the +130 range and won. Not getting the best of the number may be a little frustrating, but it hit. The over was a lean in Oakland/Anaheim and that hit as well. So, depending on how you wagered on yesterday’s write-ups, you could have enjoyed a 3-0 day.
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.
Tampa Bay at Baltimore (-135); Total: 9.5
The Rays absolutely limp into Baltimore for this series. Tampa Bay is down several starting outfielders and their defense is disastrous. Add in the team’s season-long struggles against right-handed pitching and this is why we see the line that we do, even with Yovani Gallardo on the mound.
Matt Moore goes for the Rays, looking to improve his 4.90 ERA, 4.65 FIP, and 4.21 xFIP. Home runs have been the biggest issue for the left-hander. He’s given up 15 of them in 82.2 innings. Since returning from Tommy John last season, Moore has allowed 24 HR in 145.2 innings of work. He gave up 34 in his first 347 innings as a Major Leaguer. The Orioles have had some issues with lefties on the season, ranking 23rd in wOBA, but they are 15th in SLG. Their .274 BABIP and 19th-ranked BB% have lowered their ability to do damage against lefties.
Yovani Gallardo makes his second start off the DL against the 25th-ranked offense by wOBA against right-handed pitching. Gallardo is basically a five-and-fly guy where you hope he gets out of the game with only two or three runs allowed. He doesn’t miss bats anymore and his velocity is way down this season. Injuries have been a big contributor to his low GB% and high BB%, so it’s fair to wonder if we should take this with a grain of salt or if this is a pitcher falling apart just on the other side of 30
Gallardo’s usage through five starts is rather interesting. His slider usage is at 46.9 percent and his changeup usage is 17.6 percent, the highest it has ever been by a very large margin. It seems like this may be a classification error because of the lost velocity. That’s not a good sign.
This game is a tough handicap. The Rays are dealing with so many problems right now, but laying -135 with Gallardo seems extremely difficult. Is it possible that this game could actually wind up going under the total? That’s a hold your nose bet, but it’s about the only thing I’d consider here.
San Diego at Cincinnati (-120); Total: 9.5
Colin Rea and Cody Reed are the listed starters for the matchup between the Padres and the Reds on Friday night. Rea has made 13 starts and one relief appearance and owns a 5.02 ERA with a 4.35 FIP and a 4.63 xFIP. Rea has not missed enough bats, has walked too many hitters, and hasn’t been able to get out of enough jams. He has a 62.8 percent LOB%, so he’s one of those guys with problems from the stretch. With the bases empty, Rea has a .213/.318/.327 slash against. With men on base, it balloons to .305/.366/.473. Is there some regression coming in those numbers that would allow Rea to have more success? It’s tough to say. The Padres aren’t a good defensive team, so that’s problematic, and young pitchers just have problems working out of jams.
Cody Reed’s MLB debut went pretty well. He gave up four runs, but he also struck out nine over seven innings of work. That was against the Houston Astros and it was a typical stat line against the Astros. Lots of strikeouts, three walks, and two dingers. That’s pretty status quo from that lineup. Reed draws a Padres lineup in the top six in wOBA against lefties, so that’s something that we have to consider.
We also have to consider that the Padres should start to see some regression in that performance. Their .338 BABIP leads all teams in the split vs. lefties, so there’s going to be some regression there. It wouldn’t surprise me if they started to fall down the rankings and wound up eighth or ninth by the All-Star Break and then kept falling after the Break. The nine-highest guys in wOBA against lefties all have BABIPs of .320 or more. That doesn’t seem sustainable.
Is Reed a guy capable of slowing them down? Maybe. He had some decent K/BB ratios in the minor leagues, but he bounced around quite a bit from level to level, so the sample sizes aren’t overly significant. He made 11 starts in Triple-A this season and posted a 63/17 K/BB ratio. One of the reasons I liked the Reds this year is because of guys like Reed in the system. I think there’s some value on the Reds here at this short price because the Padres can’t keep doing this against lefties at the rate that they’re doing it.
Cleveland (-110) at Detroit; Total: 8
This should be a fun series in Motown. The Indians and Tigers are both rolling right now and have combined for 10 straight wins. The Indians are up three in the Central and the Tigers are in third place, but only four back. Realistically, the Indians should have a much bigger lead. They are +67 in run differential. The Tigers are +2. Those are the only teams on the plus side.
In this series opener, a couple of regression candidates are on the mound. Danny Salazar goes for the Indians and Jordan Zimmermann goes for the Tigers. Salazar owns a 2.23 ERA with a 3.16 FIP and a 3.63 xFIP. His walk rate is concerning, but he’s been able to work around it because of an elite strikeout rate and a really good ground ball rate. His .250 BABIP and 86 percent LOB% are two numbers that I’ll be watching closely. The ground ball increase has been an integral part of Salazar’s success because it keeps the outfield from making too many plays.
Jordan Zimmermann’s impending regression is a little bit less pronounced, but it’s still there. Zimmermann sports a 3.24 ERA with a 3.63 FIP and a 4.49 xFIP. He’s never been anywhere close to the league average HR/FB%, so he’s not going to get anywhere near that xFIP. But, a .278 BABIP is 14 points lower than his career average and his strikeout rate is at an all-time low. He does have one of the lowest line drive rates in baseball, so that has helped, but some batted ball luck should run out soon.
Normally, there’s about a 10 percent decrease in performance going from the NL to the AL. Zimmermann hasn’t had that. Maybe he can sustain this and keep laughing in the face of regression. He’s very efficient and pitches to weak contact. This is the first time the Indians will be facing him. It’s worth pointing out that the White Sox, Twins, and Royals have all faced him twice. The Royals scored no runs on seven hits with eight strikeouts in the first start and scored one run on four hits with five strikeouts the second time. The Twins scored one run on six hits with seven strikeouts the first time, but scored eight runs on 11 hits in seven innings the second time. The White Sox scratched out two runs on five hits in 5.2 innings the first time and six runs on eight hits in seven innings the second time.
Teams are adjusting the second time they see Zimmermann. The first time, however, hasn’t gone as well. With the Indians seeing him the first time and impending Salazar regression, I’m looking at Zimmermann and the Tigers here in this one.
Houston (-125) at Kansas City; Total: 8.5
Dallas Keuchel and Edinson Volquez get together in a battle of two teams with very different stock prices. The Astros are rising in a hurry, as they’ve rattled off five straight wins and eight in their last 10. The Royals had a little blip where they swept the Indians, but this is a bad ballclub and they should gradually fall off the pace again. It’s only one game, but this line seems to be a microcosm of that school of thought. Keuchel, like the Astros, is a guy that should keep getting stronger. His peripherals are really solid, but his 5.32 ERA really stands out. He has a 3.78 FIP and a 3.32 xFIP. His 64.6 percent strand rate is the biggest culprit, with a .331 BABIP hopefully starting to regress a bit.
Part of the problem for Keuchel is that the infielders, including pitchers and catchers, are -2 in defensive runs saved and the outfielders are +14 in DRS. He’s such an extreme ground ball guy that he’s gotten a bit unlucky with batted balls. We’ll have to see if that starts to regress.
Edinson Volquez is a very interesting pitcher. His velocity gains from last season have stayed, so his strikeout rate is up a little bit. With so many injuries for the Royals, and the dramatic drop-off in Eric Hosmer’s defense, Volquez has seen his ERA bounce from 3.55 to 4.12, while his FIP and xFIP have largely stayed the same. His strand rate isn’t off by that much.
I’m not laying it with Keuchel here, but this line makes some sense, even if I think it might be a little bit high in a one-game sample. I think the bigger takeaway is that oddsmakers have taken notice of what the Astros are doing. I talked on BangTheBook Radio about how I felt that they were ready to go on a run. The value might already be gone.
St. Louis (-135) at Seattle; Total: 8
Wade LeBlanc is back in the big leagues. The Seattle Mariners are skipping over Taijuan Walker and opted to acquire LeBlanc from Toronto rather than promote somebody from within. LeBlanc was solid in Triple-A with a 1.71 ERA and a 2.49 FIP in his 89.2 innings of work. He’s been all over the place, with stints all over the minor leagues and also in Japan. He’s actually made 123 career Triple-A starts.
Does any of it mean anything? I have no idea. What I do know is that the guy has three MLB starts since 2014 and that makes him well below average in my mind. The Cardinals, however, are 25th in wOBA at .309 against lefties on the season because they haven’t hit for any power. LeBlanc is, of course, a special case because he’s not really a MLB-caliber starter. That may mean good things for St. Louis, even with the ugly split. Also, they have enough bats to utilize a DH better than most NL teams.
Seattle is in the tank lately. They’ve dropped six straight, three of them by one run and they lost three times via walk-off in extra innings on their 10-game road trip. They had to be ecstatic to get back home. They are 2-10 over their last 12 games. So, as we know, lines are built largely on recency bias in MLB and the Mariners are at the lowest point they’ve been at all season.
A matchup with Carlos Martinez probably won’t be the best thing for them. Martinez has a 3.17/3.63/3.89 pitcher slash on the season. There could be some regression in his .251 BABIP against, but he’s actively pitching to more contact this year and has increased his ground ball rate as a result. Overall, he’s been really good this season as the Cardinals’ de facto ace with Adam Wainwright’s struggles and Lance Lynn’s injury.
The Mariners are fifth in wOBA against RHP and fourth in wRC+, so they have been a solid offensive group when they have some platoon advantages with their left-handed-heavy lineup. Righties are betting .179/.239/.192 against Martinez, but lefties are batting .236/.326/.382, with all six home runs he has allowed and six of the seven doubles.
I don’t know if I can pull the trigger with how bad Seattle is playing, but they’re the value side for me in this game. If you can stomach it, the Mariners should be the right side, so hopefully it plays out like that.