Happy Major League Baseball Trade Deadline Weekend! This is an exciting time of year for fans of teams that are buyers, for fans of teams that are rebuilding, and for fans that simply like chaos. From a handicapping standpoint, it won’t mean a whole lot overall, though we could see some teams that decide to sell or teams that lose “heart and soul” players struggle a little bit coming out of Monday’s deadline. Keep it tuned to BangTheBook Radio and keep reading this article. We’ll let you know if there are any situations that merit handicapping adjustments, aside from the obvious starting pitching changes.
Before we look ahead to Friday’s card, we’ll take a glance at Thursday’s results. It was a small card and we didn’t have a lot of strong opinions. Small leans on the Cubs and the Nationals/Giants under gave us a couple of winners on what was a very interesting day in the betting market. The most surprising outcome could be that Jered Weaver and the Angels beat David Price and the Red Sox. Of course, you should see how that game ended.
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 Wednesdays, Thursdays, or Sundays when there are a lot of day games.
A quick note:
Before I get into specific games today, I want to point out that unders, per SportsInsights, are +37 units since the All-Star Break. I have a few theories. One is that oddsmakers readjusted totals based on weather and the increased home run rate. On the season, home runs are at a 12.8 percent HR/FB%. In July, the number is 12.6 percent. In June, the number was 13.7 percent. As home runs increased, so did scoring, so oddsmakers adjusted. It seems that they have over-adjusted, so unders are doing well. Another theory is that public bettors have nothing else to do and they’re getting involved in the sportsbook scene again with football coming up soon. They’re playing overs for fun.
The weather is definitely playing the biggest role in the adjusted numbers and the profitability of unders. The under is +49 units since July 4, so watch and see if oddsmakers start to adjust the totals as a result.
Baltimore at Toronto (-130); Total: 9
Marco Estrada’s quest for the lowest BABIP in a season in MLB history is still on. Regression has started to come over his last three starts. Opposing teams have posted BABIPs of .318, .300, and .286 over his last three starts. He nearly tied his season-high in hits allowed last time out when he gave up seven knocks to the Mariners. He gave up eight hits on April 16. Estrada spent some time on the DL over the All-Star Break and came back to hurl a quality start against the Mariners.
This is his third start of the season against the Orioles. In both starts against Baltimore, he issued four walks and threw a significant amount of changeups. Of his 17 starts, his CH% against Baltimore ranks third and seventh, which explains the walk rate. In his first start back against Seattle, Estrada threw his second-highest percentage of fastballs this season. Does he not have a feel for that offspeed stuff yet? Was that part of the gameplan? The Mariners are loaded with lefties and his changeup usage was a couple percentage points below average. This could be reading too deep into the situation, but I do wonder about the effectiveness of Estrada’s CH here today.
Unfortunately, I also really worry about Kevin Gausman in this start. Righties are torching Gausman to the tune of a .291/.345/.514 slash. He’s given up 12 of his 16 home runs when he’s supposed to have the platoon advantage. That brings Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Melvin Upton, and Troy Tulowitzki all into play. Also, for whatever reason, Gausman has been terrible away from home. Sometimes it’s just variance. Sometimes it’s a comfort factor of the mound at home or the backdrop or whatever else.
I’m looking for some runs in this game. I think there’s more BABIP regression coming for Estrada, particularly if he’s going to fight with that changeup here. Gausman’s splits are concerning all the way around. This is could be a big slugfest at Rogers Centre. As far as a side goes, I still trust Estrada a bit more than Gausman, and I’m looking for some team regression from Baltimore over the next couple weeks.
Houston (-130) at Detroit; Total: 9
It doesn’t seem to be getting a whole lot of buzz, but the Detroit Tigers are red hot right now and have cut Cleveland’s lead to 4.5 games in the AL Central. They’ll welcome the hotter Houston Astros to Motown this weekend. Collin McHugh will take the hill for the Astros against Matt Boyd.
Fastball command means everything for McHugh and it’ll be the focus in this start, as the price on his team has gone from -115 to -130. McHugh has been terrific recently, dropping his ERA to 4.18, which is closer to where his peripherals have sat most of the season. He has a 3.78 FIP and a 4.05 xFIP, but he’s not a big home run guy, so it’s the FIP that makes sense to look at. Since May 19, a sample of 12 starts, McHugh has 80 K in 73.2 innings and has a 3.42/3.44/3.69 pitcher slash. Due to a lack of run support, he’s only 3-3, but we don’t care about that stat.
This will be an interesting start for Matt Boyd. He’s given up four runs, two earned, since he was recalled from the minor leagues on July 9. He doesn’t issue a whole lot of walks. He has 38 K in 44.2 innings of work, with 36 K in 40.2 as a starter. Two horrendous starts have blown up his run metrics, so we shouldn’t really look at those right now. Boyd seems a lot more comfortable at the big league level. Perhaps there were some organizational changes when Al Avila took over for Dave Dombrowski, because Boyd and the breakout season of Michael Fulmer seem to be a little bit out of nowhere, especially for an organization that hasn’t done well developing arms.
I love Houston, but this price seems to be getting a little bit out of control. Neither bullpen is any good, so that’s a wash. I feel like some perception bias regarding Boyd has driven up this number. I think he’s better than people are giving him credit for and that may have added just enough value to take Detroit.
New York (AL) at Tampa Bay (-120); Total: 7.5
It’s pretty clear that Jake Odorizzi draws high marks from the oddsmakers based on this line. The Rays really have no business being favored over any decent team when the opposition is throwing a right-hander. Nevertheless, that’s the spot we’re in here. I don’t like Ivan Nova at all, but he’s thrown the ball well in three of his last four starts. He’s been a really weird pitcher this season. In six of his 14 starts, he’s allowed only one run. In seven starts, he’s allowed four or more runs. I guess it all depends which version of Nova you get.
Odorizzi has a 4.10 ERA with a 4.14 FIP and a 4.23 xFIP. He’s got good peripherals and a good strand rate, but home runs have really cost him. He’s allowed 18 home runs, seven with men on base. Odorizzi has a .231/.281/.408 slash against from the windup and a .267/.330/.455 from the stretch. That’s why he’s struggled.
I’m not convinced that this is the right line. The Yankees weren’t going to be favored and I certainly don’t think much about their long-term prospects. Odorizzi has been better at home, which is factored into the line, but I’m looking at these two starters canceling each other out and the Yankees bullpen has an edge here.
Kansas City at Texas (-130); Total: 9
Will Edinson Volquez make this start for the Royals? Kansas City is on the verge of selling (which they should do) and Volquez is one of the guys drawing some buzz. The team most interested seems to be Friday night’s opponent, the Texas Rangers. The Rangers will counter with AJ Griffin.
Things seem to have leveled off for Texas at this point. Regression hit like a ton of bricks and now they’re 4-2 over their last six games. Interestingly, the Rangers are facing Volquez for the second straight start. They did nothing against him on Sunday, but that doesn’t seem to be influencing the oddsmakers at all. AJ Griffin had his best start in a while in that game and isn’t getting a whole lot of love either.
This is a weird game because AJ Griffin hasn’t worked more than five innings since May 2. That means that the Rangers bullpen will be tasked with throwing at least four innings, if not more. That’s a hard handicap because the Rangers bullpen is bad, but it might be better than AJ Griffin facing the lineup for a third time. I think that leads to a lot of uncertainty. The Royals are going in the wrong direction and will likely sell, so things in that clubhouse have a much different feel after back-to-back World Series appearances.
I’m staying away from this game and likely this series as a whole. I’m not a supporter of either team and I think there are way too many variables to consider.
Washington (-145) at San Francisco; Total: 7
The Giants are in freefall mode and it continued when Tanner Roark beat Johnny Cueto on Thursday night. Now, the Giants face Max Scherzer. They’ll counter with Jeff Samardzija. Scherzer is doing usual Scherzer things, which is good. Samardzija is doing usual Samardzija things, which is bad. Samardzija is now running on 18 months of bad starting pitching and the Giants really have to wonder what they can salvage out of that contract at this point. Since May 30, Samardzija has a 6.32/6.00/4.90 pitcher slash in 10 outings with 35 K in 57 IP. It doesn’t seem like an injury, but we’ll see.
Since Scherzer gave up four HR in a start against the Cubs on May 6, he has allowed 17 HR, but just 32 runs, in his 103.2 innings. He’s racked up 142 K in that span. Solo home runs have really been Scherzer’s only issue this season and you can definitely live with those. As a result of the homer barrage, Scherzer has a .224 BABIP against and an 87.8 percent strand rate. If all he is going to do is give up solo and two-run HRs, he can carry both of those metrics for a little while.
The Nationals have some bullpen issues in the closer’s role, but their middle relief and setup guys are very good, so they’ll just need to reshuffle the deck a bit. This line opened -160 and came down, which makes sense, because it was a little bit high. That being said, I have a hard time playing the Giants when they haven’t scored since June and they’re facing Max Scherzer. The only thing I’d consider here is that Washington team total over, which has to be very reasonable with a game total of 7.
Tune in to today’s edition of The Bettor’s Box for Trade Deadline thoughts and analysis and free picks on St. Louis vs. Miami, Chicago White Sox vs. Minnesota, and Pittsburgh vs. Milwaukee.