We’ve got all day baseball, but we don’t have all day betting options. It looks like a really tough card today with several big favorites on the slate. If you get lucky and pick off one of these big underdogs, it’ll be a good day, so maybe that’s the approach to take. Matt Shoemaker stands out since he’s been pitching so well, but that’s one of the few. There’s still enough for us to talk about, so we’ll take a deep dive into today’s action, but it looks like another day to be very responsible in the MLB investment market.
It was finally a good day for us on the diamond. The under hit easily between Seattle and Detroit to start things off on the right foot. St. Louis cashed a nice underdog ticket over the Cubs in a nail biter. The lean on the Dodgers made up for a disastrous lean in Minnesota, where the Vikings beat the Eagles 14-10. Hopefully we can keep some of that momentum rolling and get some plays with some more conviction here.
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.
Milwaukee at Oakland (-120); Total: 8.5
We’ll skip down the card a bit in the interest of lead time and also because we’ve got some big numbers early in the day. This one is certainly intriguing between the Brewers and the Athletics. It’s a 3:35 p.m. ET start time and the Brewers are wrapping up a nine-game, three-city trip. They are 1-7 on the trip so far and have gone from a respectable 30-33 to 31-40. It’s hard to see the Brewers getting fired up for this one. They haven’t had a day off since June 6 and have played some very good teams lately.
This line surprises me. I like Junior Guerra and I’ve been following him pretty closely, but it’s a bad spot for the Brewers. Guerra had his worst start of the season last time out, which I’m not all that worried about. He gave up five runs on five hits in 5.1 innings of work, but he had a little regression coming anyway. His neutral ground ball/fly ball split should play fairly well in Oakland. Non-pitchers are batting .243/.310/.422 against him, so that’s a little bit of a problem in an interleague start with a DH.
Daniel Mengden has been impressive in his first two starts. He’s struck out 12 in 12 innings and has really only been victimized by a couple of long balls. The Brewers are 15th in wOBA against RHP, but they have a wRC+ of 90, which puts them in the bottom third of the league. They also have the highest K% against RHP. Mengden has shown some decent strikeout rates in the minor leagues, so maybe there’s some validity to what he’s done in this short sample size.
As far as I’m concerned, this line was about 10-15 cents off before the market hit it just before posting. This is a bad spot for a slumping Milwaukee team that just wants to get home and end this awful road trip. Hopefully Mengden holds up his end of the bargain.
San Francisco (-110) at Pittsburgh; Total: 8
It’s kind of crazy, but we really need to reevaluate the Pittsburgh Pirates. At 34-37, they are a long shot for a wild card and the division is already out of reach. Is it possible that the Pirates become major sellers at the trade deadline in an effort to re-work the team? Or, do they add on because there’s a good, young core of position players in place? It’s an interesting dilemma and one that will play out over the course of the summer.
Looking specifically at Wednesday’s matchup, Jeff Samardzija and Francisco Liriano are slated to go. It’s been a tale of two very different seasons for these two hurlers. Samardzija returned to the National League and he’s seen improvement in his numbers across the board. He’s got a 3.14 ERA with a 3.54 FIP and a 3.80 xFIP. His ground ball rate is up over eight percent and he’s giving up fewer homers.
On the Liriano side, his control is worse than ever, which is hard to believe because he had tons of control issues pre-Tommy John. Liriano has a 5.03 ERA with a 5.63 FIP and a 4.60 xFIP. He could actually be in worse shape, but his strand rate is 75.4 percent because he’s given up 14 HR in 73.1 innings to blow up his ERA. The combination of bad control and bad command is way too much for any pitcher to overcome.
Are there signs that Liriano could see some improvement? He’s throwing more pitches in the zone this season because he’s been behind in the count so much. His first-pitch strike percentage is the lowest it has been since 2011. But, hitters aren’t chasing much out of the zone at just 27.2 percent and they’re making a ton of contact in the zone. By virtue of working behind, Liriano has had to throw his fastball a lot more and has cut back on the usage of his changeup and slider.
If he can work ahead, he can still have success. To exacerbate the problem, Liriano has given up nine home runs from the stretch and has walked more batters than he has struck out. So, it looks as if Liriano is simply a mechanical mess. He has been better at PNC Park, so maybe that’s a silver lining here today.
For me, it’s San Francisco or nothing here, but it’s probably nothing. The Giants are obviously the better team, but I’m wary of them against lefties without Hunter Pence. They are 23rd in wOBA at .310. They have a 99 wRC+, so park-adjusted, their performance has been about average, but that’s with Pence for most of the year. I’ll stay away, but the Giants are tempting.
Seattle at Detroit (-130); Total: 8.5
Perhaps I wrote off Hisashi Iwakuma too quickly. The Mariners right-hander told the media that he had made some mechanical tweaks and they seem to have helped. He’s posted a 23/3 K/BB ratio over his last five starts, though his command still isn’t quite there. Over that span, he’s allowed eight home runs. But, he’s gone at least seven innings in each of those five starts, so he’s giving the Mariners length and keeping the team in the game. You can live with solo dingers.
The big thing for Iwakuma is that he’s basically stopped inducing ground balls. In his first four MLB seasons, Kuma had a ground ball rate of at least 48.7 percent. This season, it’s 38.9 percent. Fortunately, his pop up rate has gone through the roof, but the increase in fly balls is why his home run rate has shot up. He may simply have to learn to adjust. For whatever reason, his pitches have less downward action this season, as evidenced by the classifications. His splitter usage and his sinker usage are both down. I don’t think that’s from a lack of throwing them. I think that’s from a lack of movement to correctly classify them.
If it’s a spin rate issue, then maybe Iwakuma is pitching hurt. The Dodgers had problems with his medicals and backed out of the contract they had offered him. The Mariners were fine with it, since they know Iwakuma, but maybe it is worse than we’re being led to believe. This is another year with a velocity drop for Iwakuma.
Michael Fulmer has been so good that regression is probably coming for him. You don’t post a long scoreless innings streak without some luck. Fulmer’s 86.5 percent strand rate is definitely going to see some regression and it wouldn’t be a surprise if his .263 BABIP did as well. He has a 2.43 ERA with a 3.78 FIP and a 3.97 xFIP.
The weird thing about Fulmer is how he’s been able to keep lefties at bay. He has a 16/12 K/BB ratio against lefties, but they are only batting .202/.311/.247 on the season. Righties have hit all six home runs that he has allowed. At some point, these walks are going to come back to hurt him. He’s posted a 0.36 ERA in 25.1 innings in June, with a 21/12 K/BB ratio. He has a BABIP against of .159. Not many guys can sustain that over a large sample and Michael Fulmer is not one of them.
I’m looking at the over here. I don’t really trust Iwakuma enough to take the Mariners with Fulmer’s impending regression, but I think we’ll see some runs in this one.
Chicago (AL) at Boston (-115); Total: 9.5
I think the oddsmakers tried to get too cute with yesterday’s line. The White Sox won behind Chris Sale, who was dominant, and the road team closed a favorite once the lineups came out and David Ortiz wasn’t in it. We have a bit of a similar situation here today. I think Eduardo Rodriguez is better than Clay Buchholz. I’m not sure how much of a drop-off 2016 Jose Quintana is against 2016 Chris Sale.
Quintana has been spectacular. He has a 2.63/2.59/3.57 pitcher slash, but the xFIP doesn’t concern me because he hasn’t been close to the league average HR/FB% in the last three seasons. He’s posting the best K and BB rates of his career this season. He may not do it with the explosive, electric stuff of Sale, but that makes it more impressive in my mind.
The Boston offense is clearly elite, but they have a .328 BABIP against lefties, which is one of the best marks in the league and their park-adjusted wRC+ is 110, so they have been 10 percent above league average. There’s a lot to like about the Boston offense, but I’m not sure about their numbers against left-handed pitching. Overall, the Boston offense is due for some regression. A guy like Xander Bogaerts has a .390 BABIP, for example. Their entire offense is loaded with guys that have insane BABIPs. I think they’ll hit a bit of a wall soon.
Eduardo Rodriguez gets back at it today. He hasn’t been good in four starts with a 6.97/7.04/6.15. He’s faced Baltimore twice, Toronto, and Minnesota, so he has faced good lineups in three of his four starts. The White Sox are not a good lineup. Chicago is 18th in wOBA against lefties and five percent below league average by wRC+. One thing that they have done well against LHP is draw walks. If they can get some sequencing luck in this one, they can scratch out a few runs against Rodriguez. There’s a chance that all Quintana needs is that.
I’m leaning White Sox here. It’s tough to back their offense, but Quintana can handle this Boston lineup.
Tampa Bay at Cleveland (-115); Total: 8
Chris Archer takes on the team that drafted him here in this one. Trevor Bauer will go for the Indians. This is a really interesting game on a lot of levels. The Rays are horrendous defensively right now. The outfield is full of bad defenders and guys playing out of position due to injuries. The infield defense isn’t great outside of Evan Longoria. Fortunately, Chris Archer is a strikeout pitcher, but he’s allowed some walks and dingers this season.
Archer hasn’t been able to work out of enough jams or miss enough barrels this season. He has 103 K in 86 innings, but he’s given up 15 home runs and has allowed 87 hits. You don’t normally see that from an elite strikeout pitcher, but it’s been a strange year for Archer. He has a 4.60/4.28/3.54 pitcher slash, so the hope for positive regression is there, but he has to throw more quality strikes first.
Trevor Bauer has been locked in. For whatever reason, Chris Gimenez handles him wonderfully in his starts and the duo has provided a strong battery for the Indians. Bauer has given up three runs or less in nine of his 10 starts and has mixed in some really good strikeout totals. He looks more confident than ever and he’s being far more efficient. Bauer has worked at least seven innings in each of his last four starts, which is something we haven’t seen over the last few seasons. The Rays are terrible against right-handed pitching, so Bauer has a favorable matchup here.
I’m looking at the under in this one, because the Indians do have some swing and miss guys in the lineup. Rain is also in the forecast for tonight with some thunderstorms possible. With this being Tampa’s only visit, there’s no curfew for this game, so it may finish deep into the night.
Tune in to today’s edition of BangTheBook Radio for thoughts on the Washington vs. Los Angeles Dodgers matchup and more baseball betting analysis.