It’s a small card on Thursday in Major League Baseball and that’s just fine with us. Many people betting baseball at this point are just looking ahead to the start of football season, which is now less than a month away. Wagering opportunities are still out there for MLB and we’ll keep putting in the hard work and keep plugging away through the end of the year. It’s been a slow start after the All-Star Break, but we’re coming off of a very profitable day and we’ll look to ride that momentum into Thursday.
Yesterday was a better day for us. The under came through easily in the getaway day pitcher’s duel between Stephen Strasburg and Carlos Carrasco. Detroit and Boston was a pass in a back-and-forth game and hopefully you stayed away. The Cardinals were a nice winner for us at a little bit of a chalky price, but it still went in the right column. Arizona gave us the first five over and their team total over, but the full game total was a push. The Houston/New York under hit as well. All in all, it was a good 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 Wednesdays, Thursdays, or Sundays when there are a lot of day games.
Arizona at Milwaukee (-130); Total: 9
I got burned by Robbie Ray in his last start against Cincinnati. He was a pretty big road favorite and some people I respect really questioned that line leading up to the game. I try not to be a slave to sabermetrics. They are a big element of my handicapping, but I deviate when necessary and I do go against the sabermetric grain from time-to-time. Ray is the type of pitcher that gives me fits. He has a 4.53 ERA with a 3.74 FIP and a 3.55 xFIP. He has a 3.65 SIERA. He’s struck out 26.8 percent of opposing batters.
I continually made the argument with Michael Pineda, who has had similar, if not more drastic, types of stats this season, that positive regression assumes a reasonable level of command. Ray hasn’t had that command. It’s hard to post a .362 BABIP against over a large sample size. I’ve talked over the last several days about reevaluating my stance on the Diamondbacks. This is one of those spots. This is a getaway day game to another stop on this long road trip. The Brewers got blown out last night and young teams tend to take that a little bit more personally than an experienced team would.
I’m not big on Zach Davies. His performance over his first 133 MLB innings reminds me a lot of Taylor Jungmann, who is now pitching in Double-A. I do go against myself when it comes to Davies because I talk a lot about how “average” is not a bad thing in baseball. Davies is pretty average. His peripherals are all within a standard deviation of league average. He simply is what he is.
I’m not that interested in laying the chalk here, but Milwaukee is the only way I can go. There’s a lot of uncertainty in that clubhouse right now with the Trade Deadline, but the Brewers are still in a better place than the Diamondbacks.
Baltimore at Minnesota (-115); Total: 9.5
How awful is Ubaldo Jimenez? The Orioles, who lead the American League East, are an underdog against the Minnesota Twins, who are 20.5 games out in the American League Central. To be fair, the Twins are 12-10 in the month of July and they could be even better with a +27 run differential.
I’m having a hard time piecing this line together. Kyle Gibson has been worth 4.8 fWAR over the last two seasons, so he’s probably a bit undervalued in the handicapping community, but he’s really struggled with his command and control this season. He has a 4.67 ERA with a 4.30 FIP and a 4.32 xFIP. He’s still inducing a lot of ground balls, but he’s not pitching out of many jams. That’s the big difference this season for Gibson. Last year, he had a 73 percent LOB%. This season, it’s 65.7 percent.
There’s just no faith in Jimenez. He has a 7.38 ERA with a 4.88 FIP and a 4.94 xFIP. A case can be made, given this line, that Jimenez is the lowest-rated starting pitcher in the American League by the oddsmakers. Who can fault them for that? Jimenez has walked 50 batters in just 81.2 innings of work. He’s given up 111 hits. He’s terrible. Simply terrible.
There are three ways to go about this game. One is that you can respect the oddsmakers on how bad Jimenez is and roll with the Twins. Another is to take Baltimore as an underdog against the second-worst team (by record) in baseball. The other is to give it the 10-foot-pole treatment.
Honestly, it sounds like a cop out, but I don’t think any of those options would be wrong. Obviously somebody has to win the game, but the justification makes sense any way you slice it.
Philadelphia (-125) at Atlanta; Total: 7.5
Aaron Nola is still getting a little bit of respect even though he has an ERA over 10 in his last seven starts. That’s what’ll happen when you’re playing the Atlanta Braves. Nola is one of those guys where his peripherals are excellent, but his results are not. Nola has a 4.75 ERA with a 3.06 FIP and a 2.99 xFIP. His LOB% of 59.2 percent is the lowest in baseball among qualified starters. Some of it is bad luck, but a lot of it is bad command. Nola has a .328 BABIP against and it’s over .450 in his last seven starts.
Nola does everything you’d want a starter to do. He limits walks. He misses bats. He keeps the ball on the ground. He’s seventh among qualified SP in GB% and 16th in K%. That should add up to a great starting pitcher. It doesn’t, at least not lately.
I actually like Matt Wisler, in spite of his year-to-date performance. Wisler has a 4.92 ERA with a 4.72 FIP and a 4.83 xFIP. He’s thrown too many balls in the middle of the plate, but there aren’t a lot of pitchers out there with 38 starts and 226 career innings before the age of 24. One of the biggest problems for Wisler is that he doesn’t have a third pitch. He throws a four-seam, two-seam, and a slider, but he’s lacking something slow like a changeup or a curve ball. He’s experimented a bit with both this season. He throws strikes, but there’s not enough separation in his pitches.
I’m really torn on this game. Part of me says to take the under because these are two guys with good stuff. Another part of me says to take the over because these are two pitchers with poor command right now. Another part of me says to take Philadelphia because Nola can’t keep being this bad. Another part of me says to take Atlanta because Nola has to prove it first. I’ve looked at this game from every angle and I can’t decide, so it’s a pass.
Chicago (AL) at Chicago (NL) (-135)
The Windy City Series continues between the White Sox and the Cubs, as the venue now shifts to Wrigley Field. Chris Sale makes his return from the suspended list after a petulant temper tantrum over the weekend. This will be an interesting dynamic to watch the rest of the season. I’m obviously not privy to clubhouse matters, so I don’t know if the players feel like Sale is speaking for them with this rant and also his Drew LaRoche tirade from earlier this season or if he’s just an immature distraction.
He needs a change of scenery. He needs to get away from this organization and from Robin Ventura, who is actively shortening his career by abusing his arm. The asking price is high, but probably attainable. This could be his last start with the White Sox. It might not be. It’s a weird spot because Sale is a gamer with elite stuff, but I do have to wonder about the distractions and about his relationship with the team and his teammates. I’m not throwing out a conspiracy theory, per se, that he’ll slack off the rest of the way, but I’m really not sure what to expect here.
John Lackey has started to show some chinks in the armor. Since June 25, Lackey has a 6.38 ERA with a 5.40 FIP and a 4.34 xFIP. He’s not pitching out of jams and he’s given up eight HR in 36.2 innings of work. The command and the control are starting to go. Is this a sign of bigger worries with the 37-year-old or just some small sample size variance? His velocity charts are fine and his release point looks okay. There aren’t any big deviations in that. I’ll chalk this up to simple variance. Obviously signs of wear and tear and the aging curve are always hanging there, but this just looks like a rough patch for a good pitcher.
I’d probably look to lay the price with the Cubs here. That being said, Chris Sale hasn’t closed a plus-money dog since April 18, 2015. He worked six solid innings in a 12-3 win. The last time he was a plus-money dog north of +110? September 21, 2013. He threw 7.2 shutout innings and received a no-decision in a 7-6 loss.
Washington at San Francisco (-140); Total: 7
This is a sneaky good line on the nightcap between the Nationals and the Giants. Tanner Roark goes for the Nats against Johnny Cueto for the Giants. The Giants still lead the NL West by 2.5 games, even though they are 2-9 since the All-Star Break. They’ve scored just 38 runs in 11 games.
Tanner Roark has been extremely good for the Nationals this season. Stephen Strasburg gets all the glory and Lucas Giolito gets all the hype, but Roark has really elevated his game this season. He has a 3.05 ERA with a 3.39 FIP and a 3.76 xFIP on the season. He’s been one of the best in baseball at avoiding hard contact, with a ground ball split over 50 percent and not a lot of pull-side contact. He’s mixed his pitches really well and has increased the use of his changeup. Lefties hit .293/.359/.507 last year in 225 PA against Roark. This season, they’re batting .199/.296/.266. That changeup is a legit weapon.
Johnny Cueto has been everything the Giants could have wanted and then some. He’s already a 3.7-fWAR pitcher with a 2.53 ERA, a 2.79 FIP, and a 3.36 xFIP. His K/BB rates are impeccable and he’s working out of jams at the high level that he has sustained throughout his career. He induces a ton of weak contact and doesn’t hurt himself with walks. He’s one of the most underrated pitchers of this generation.
I love both of these starters. Give me the under tonight. The Giants have been at home for a little bit now and the Nationals made the long trip from Cleveland for this one, so I can’t fire on the underdog, but I’d expect a really low-scoring game here tonight.