Right off the bat, Sunday’s slate looks pretty difficult for MLB handicapping purposes. There are a lot of games in a reasonable price range, but a lot of them can go a variety of ways because there are a lot of inconsistent starters or a lot of games that look like the bullpens are going to decide the outcome. That won’t stop us from trying to make a profit, but you can bet that we’re going to have a limited card today. The final week of baseball before the All-Star Break can be really tricky, so tread very lightly this week.
Before we look at Sunday, let’s take a look at how Saturday played out. A late start to the day pushed our first pick down to the early evening hours, as the Phillies fell to the Royals. The Pirates cashed a real sweet underdog ticket for us and we followed it up with a winning lean on the Padres and an easy winner in the over between the Orioles and the Mariners.
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.
Texas (-140) at Minnesota; Total: 8.5
The early slate is really intriguing today, but the lead time of the article coupled with a lot of uncertainty pushes us down to the 2 p.m. ET section of the day. Are we starting to see some of that Texas-sized regression that the Rangers were due? The Rangers lost a couple of one-run games in New York and then eked out an extra-inning win over the Twins before getting bombed 17-5 on Saturday. It’s going to be very telling when the Rangers get to Boston on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and are heavy underdogs in every one of those games.
I think people may be confusing regression with being a bad team. I don’t think the Rangers are a bad team. I also don’t think their true talent level is to be 22 games over .500. I talked about the regression coming their way last week and they’ve dropped three of four since. It doesn’t mean they are a bad team. It doesn’t mean they won’t win the AL West. It just means that they aren’t as good as they’ve played.
Anyway, Cole Hamels goes today. Hamels has one of the weirdest stat lines in baseball this season with a 2.60 ERA, a 4.41 FIP, and a 3.89 xFIP. Hamels has stranded 87.5 percent of his runners and has given up 20 of his 35 runs via the long ball. He’s allowed 15 home runs, 11 of them solo, on the season. He has 102 K in 103.2 IP and his walk rate is up a little bit with the full-time league switch, but he’s pitched out of jams really well. It’s fair to wonder how long he can keep that up, but his LOB% regression may come at the same time that his HR/FB% regression comes. His 17.6 percent HR/FB% is 6.3 percent above his career average.
Kyle Gibson isn’t very good. Gibson has a 5.12 ERA with a 4.63 FIP and a 4.78 xFIP. He just threw seven shutout innings to inch closer to respectability. Gibson remains an extreme ground ball guy on a bad defensive team, which isn’t a good combination. He doesn’t miss many bats, so he’s reliant on a lot of batted ball luck to succeed. I don’t like backing guys like that.
We’ve seen this line come down and I understand all the reasons why. It just doesn’t make me want to run and back the Twins. I do think that this is a bad situational spot for the Rangers with a much bigger series on tap tomorrow, but I can’t fire on the home team.
Chicago (AL) at Houston (-145); Total: 8
The seesaw of public perception is looking favorably on the Houston Astros right now. This number opened entirely too high, though. Jose Quintana wasn’t able to fully sustain his early start to the season, but he still has a 3.18/3.10/3.92 slash with brilliant peripherals. His xFIP is low because his HR/FB% is six percent lower than league average, so we have to throw out his xFIP. He’s never been close to the league average HR/FB% and he never will be. Between an increased K rate and an increased pop up rate, Quintana’s getting a lot of easy outs.
Collin McHugh isn’t making anything easy. He has a 4.58 ERA with a 3.90 FIP and a 4.14 xFIP because he can’t stop missing barrels. McHugh has a .344 BABIP against and he’s still allowed 12 HR in 90.1 innings of work after allowing just 19 in 203.2 innings last season. McHugh has thrown the ball well with just five runs allowed in his last 19.2 innings of work, so maybe he’s figuring it out. Even still, he doesn’t deserve to be the -155 favorite he opened against a guy like Quintana.
There’s a tiny bit of value left on the White Sox, but it’s another game to stay away from with a line move.
Pittsburgh at Oakland (-140); Total: 8.5
Today’s head-scratcher comes from the Pirates and Athletics. Every time a line comes out, I put myself in an oddsmaker’s head and try to figure out the mentality. The mentality here is that Francisco Liriano sucks. Liriano has a 5.33/5.46/4.75 pitcher slash on the season. He hasn’t given up less than four runs in a start since May 24. The Pirates are struggling this season because their starting rotation has really let them down, especially Liriano.
As bad as Liriano has been, I think there’s a false sense of what Daniel Mengden is. In four starts, Mengden has been terrific with over a strikeout per inning and a 2.81 ERA with a 3.83 FIP and a 3.74 xFIP. His development path is a little bit erratic, so it may be hard to put his stats into a proper perspective, but it’s hard to say that people were expecting this or that it’s sustainable.
Mengden is pitching from ahead, which is good, but hitters are making a low rate of contact in the zone, which is bad because he doesn’t possess and above average arsenal. That’s a number that will regress as he keeps moving forward. He may not get the run support that people are expecting because the A’s have the league’s lowest walk rate against lefties by a pretty decent margin.
One thing holding me back from the Pirates is that they head to St. Louis for a day game after this. It’s not a great situational spot at all. But, they are playing a little bit better and Oakland simply isn’t a good team. We’re getting Liriano at one of his lowest points, akin to the spot with James Shields. Hopefully it comes through in the same way.
San Francisco at Arizona (-130); Total: 9
The fade against lefties continues today for the Giants. The benefactor today is Robbie Ray. Albert Suarez goes for the Giants. Without Hunter Pence in the lineup, people are realizing that the Giants aren’t a very good offense against lefties. That’s been something that I have been trying to watch in his absence. They are 17th in wOBA at .320, but park-adjusted, they have a 104 wRC+. Pence was a big part of that, though, with a 145 wRC+.
Robbie Ray also fits the mold of a guy that the market will back. He has a 4.69 ERA with a 3.97 FIP and a 3.64 xFIP. He shows those signs of positive regression that sharper players look for. His command hasn’t been great, though. He’s posted a 15.8 percent HR/FB% and a .358 BABIP against. His swinging strike rate is only one percent better than last season when his K% was 3.8 percent lower. I do wonder if some regression is coming in that strikeout rate. The Giants don’t strike out a whole lot against lefties.
Albert Suarez is the new Yusmeiro Petit for Bruce Bochy. He’ll be that swingman type of guy capable of a decent start, but probably better suited for a middle relief role. This could be his last start with Matt Cain coming back next week. Suarez has performed admirably as a starter. He nearly got through a quality start against Oakland last time out, but ran into issues in the sixth. He has held opposing batters to a .204 AVG and a .284 OBP as a starter, but he’s given up 12 extra-base hits for a .448 SLG. Arizona is tied for 10th in SLG against righties.
I agree with the line move here, but the value is gone from the Diamondbacks. Gun to my head, I’d take Arizona, but watch for that Giants fade against lefties this week. Along with today, five of San Francisco’s seven games before the break come against southpaw starters.
Colorado at Los Angeles (NL) (-130); Total: 7.5
The two line moves in this game are interesting. The Dodgers have gone down a few cents and the total has dropped half a fun. The Dodgers are sending Brandon McCarthy to the mound in his first MLB start since undergoing Tommy John surgery. That’s a tough outing for a pitcher. I don’t know what the stats are, but it’s a difficult situational angle to play on or against. Sometimes guys are so jacked that they showcase better velocities and dominate. Other times, the emotions are a lot to overcome and the command simply isn’t there.
I’ll stay away from this game for exactly that reason, but it’s always nice to see guys that worked so hard to come back make another MLB appearance. The success rate of Tommy John is a lot higher than it used to be, but it’s hardly 100 percent.
New York (AL) (-115) at San Diego; Total: 8.5
This is a very strange game to handicap. The line move makes sense, as Chad Green returns to the big leagues to face the Padres. Green throws right-handed, so, the market is going to come in on him against San Diego. Andrew Cashner is returning from the disabled list to make this start. The Yankees had to go all the way out to San Diego just to come back and play the White Sox on Monday. Back-to-back one-run losses haven’t made this a fun trip.
Chad Green has been dominant in the minor leagues. He has struck out over a batter per inning in his 81.2 innings and has a 1.54 ERA and a 2.19 FIP. He’s shown good command in the minors and has premium velocity that allows him to sit in the mid-90s. He’s got a chance to be a pretty decent big league starter if the secondaries develop a little bit more. By develop a little bit more, I mean that he needs to find a third pitch. In his MLB stint, he threw 76.1 percent fastballs, 21.6 percent sliders, and PITCHf/x tracked him for a curveball that may have been a misclassification. It’s hard to live off of two pitches as a Major League starter and that’s what he’s trying to do. You need impeccably elite command to do that.
But, it might be good enough against the Padres, who are the worst offense in baseball against RHP. The Padres have a .284 wOBA in that split, with just a 78 wRC+. Only the Braves have a lower wRC+. Andrew Cashner hasn’t started since he left after recording one strikeout in his June 10 start against Colorado. He has a 4.75 ERA, a 4.75 FIP, and a 4.91 xFIP. Prior to leaving that start, he had allowed at least three runs in each of his previous six starts. He doesn’t give the Padres a lot of margin for error and he’s had all sorts of control problems.
The Yankees still hold some value at this price, even though it’s not a great situational spot.
Miami (-140) vs. Atlanta; Total: 8.5
This is a very special occasion. The Marlins and the Braves are playing at Fort Bragg Field in North Carolina. This is the first pro sporting event to be held at an active military base. This is a 12,500-seat venue on what used to be a golf course. Tickets were only available to those with Department of Defense ID holders. This game here on July 4 weekend should be an excellent event.
As far as the game itself goes, there are a myriad of interesting situational angles here. It’s an unfamiliar ballpark and the only real practice the teams will get for a lay of the land is batting practice. That could make things tricky. It’s 331 down the lines and standard distance to the alleys and center field, but we don’t know if the park will play bigger or smaller.
Adam Conley will go for the Marlins tonight and Matt Wisler for the Braves. Conley has had a weird season. He has a 3.90/3.95/4.57 pitcher slash and I’ve talked about his game logs in the past. Conley allowed five runs last time out against the Tigers and now has six starts with four or more runs allowed. He also has seven starts with one or zero runs allowed. This is the third time he’ll face Atlanta this season.
Matt Wisler probably deserves a little bit better of a fate than his 4.14 ERA, 4.47 FIP, and 4.88 xFIP. He’s an extreme fly ball guy, so his xFIP will never be exciting. He’s given up two runs or less in seven of his 15 starts, but he’s had three bad starts that have skewed his run metrics. I liked what I saw of his stuff against the Indians this past week, as his fastball showed good life and velocity. The problem is that he doesn’t have a viable third pitch and he’s still learning how to pitch. Wisler has over 204 innings under his belt already and he won’t turn 24 until September.
Tonight, I think there’s a little bit of value on the Braves. It should be a very neutral crowd, just happy to see baseball played on a military base, and I feel like Wisler is getting closer to turning a corner.
As far as situational angles for tomorrow, after a really special night and probably some pre and postgame interactions with service members, a lot of media on hand, etc., both of these teams fly to the northeast for day games tomorrow. Atlanta goes to Philadelphia and the Marlins go to New York City to face the Mets. I’d fade both teams if the price is right.