The handicapping starts early on Wednesdays now, as Major League Baseball seems to produce an inordinately high number of afternoon games on Hump Day. There are six of them today and nine more tonight on a full slate. We’ve got just five days until the MLB Trade Deadline and a lot of wheeling and dealing is going to happen in that span. Will any of it affect today’s action? It could, but you shouldn’t worry too much about that. Read and react after the fact. Don’t speculate.
Before diving deep into tonight’s card, we’ll take a look back at yesterday’s results. It wasn’t a good day. The Pirates were a loser, as were the Nationals, and the Astros, a pick suggested on yesterday’s edition of BangTheBook Radio. Milwaukee did win and we were right about the Twins’ price being too high, but it wasn’t a banner day for us. We’ll look to bounce back here today.
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.
Washington at Cleveland (-105); Total: 7
This’ll be a fun one between Stephen Strasburg and Carlos Carrasco. If you like great pitching, this is the game for you. Strasburg has been absolutely brilliant and this is his first start in Cleveland since his second career MLB start back in 2010, a game I was at. The buzz in the ballpark was pretty clear every time Strasburg lit up the radar gun at 99 or 100. He’s definitely become more of a pitcher than a thrower at this stage of the game and he’s among the league’s elites.
Strasburg owns a 2.83 ERA with a 2.98 FIP and a 3.04 xFIP in his 120.2 innings. He’s struck out 31.2 percent of batters and has held opposing hitters to a .199 average with a .267 BABIP. After yesterday’s devastating loss, you just know that Strasburg will be locked in. He gave up six runs last start, but he struck out 10 with one walk, so that was a variance game if I’ve ever seen one.
If I had my pick of Indians starters to go up against Strasburg, Carrasco would be the one. He’s posted a 2.31 ERA with a 3.94 FIP and a 3.58 xFIP on the season. He’s induced a ton of weak contact, except for the home runs he gave up earlier in the season. Carrasco came off the DL from his strained hamstring on June 2. After two starts to get it going again, Carrasco has posted a 1.56/3.33/3.55 pitcher slash with 53 K in 52 innings. In those eight starts, he’s allowed two runs or less in seven of them.
Elite pitching matchups like this are an interesting handicap. It’s a getaway day game, which could mean some early swings. Also, these are two guys that you don’t want to get buried in the count against, so that could also mean some early swings. The bullpens are a little bit iffy, but I’m still looking to go under here. These two starters should go pitch-for-pitch.
Detroit at Boston (-120); Total: 10.5
Michael Fulmer and Eduardo Rodriguez are the listed starters for Wednesday’s series finale at Fenway. Fulmer has been absolutely outstanding this season. If this was a night game, I’d peg him for regression and fade him at almost any price. We’ll have to see what Boston’s lineup looks like with a day game after a night game. Fulmer has a 2.41 ERA, but a 3.52 FIP and a 3.86 xFIP. I’m not so much worried about the xFIP, as he’s shown good changeup command and that keeps hitters from going yard. The 3.52 FIP and the 3.99 SIERA are bigger worries. He’s held opposing hitters to a .255 BABIP, something he never really did in the minor leagues.
I don’t have an xBABIP calculator handy, but Fulmer doesn’t induce a whole lot of pop ups and has league average marks in line drive rate and hard-contact rate. Add in a ground ball rate above 50 percent and we’re probably looking at a .310 or .315 projection. That’s a lot higher than what it currently is. Almost 60 points higher, to be exact. Fulmer will probably run into some troubles here soon.
Eduardo Rodriguez has had a rough season. He went to the minors and didn’t miss too many bats and also dealt with some knee issues coming out of offseason surgery. He has a 6.70 ERA with a 6.21 FIP and a 5.34 xFIP. And yet he’s a pretty clear favorite over one of the better pitchers in the American League.
This tells me a lot of things. For one, it tells me just how highly the Red Sox are rated by the oddsmakers. For another, maybe the idea of Fulmer regression is built into the line. Maybe it’s the getaway day factor. Maybe it’s the fact that the Tigers won the first two games in this series. I think it looks like a trap. I think the books want you to take Detroit. I wouldn’t. I’m not playing this one, but it’s a fishy line for a lot of reasons.
St. Louis (-125) at New York (NL); Total: 7.5
The oddsmakers have officially taken notice of what Adam Wainwright has been able to do since the middle of May. After allowing seven runs in five innings to the Angels, Wainwright has a 2.58 ERA with a 2.59 FIP and a 3.39 xFIP in 12 starts. He’s actually got 73 K in 80.1 innings of work as well. It was only a matter of time until Wainwright turned things around. He’s such a smart pitcher and he made the necessary changes to get back on track. It’s not like he has any numbers that are out of whack either. His K/9, BB/9, and BABIP are all very reasonable. He stopped allowing home runs and he started pitching out of jams. He’s given up three runs over his last four starts.
Logan Verrett makes his fourth straight start for the Mets. After a couple of rocky starts earlier in the year, Verrett has done everything you’d want a swingman to do in this role. He’s given up four runs over his last 11.1 innings of work as a starter. That’s all the Mets are looking for. Is that going to be enough in this spot? I’m not sure. The Mets don’t project to do much with Wainwright and the Cardinals own right-handed pitching.
Even with a doubleheader yesterday, the Cardinals bullpen is in pretty decent shape overall. I’d roll with the chalk here. The perception of the Mets as a team similar to last year’s NL champs has had a hard time leaving my mind because the rotation is so good. They seem to have quite a few offensive flaws this year and I may need to reevaluate them.
Arizona at Milwaukee (-140); Total: 9
Archie Bradley takes on Jimmy Nelson in this matchup of bottom-feeders in the National League. The Diamondbacks are a team that I’ve addressed a few times here of late because they are going in the wrong direction in a hurry. The Diamondbacks were 36-40 after their June 24th win. They are 5-19 since. A variety of problems, ranging from awful starting pitching to front office/coaching staff dysfunction, are to blame. I’ve been focused on playing against extremes over the last several weeks and this is an extreme for Arizona.
That being said, is it going to stop anytime soon? Who knows. The Diamondbacks are going to give Archie Bradley every opportunity to prove himself through the rest of the season and he’ll probably need most of them. He’s got a 4.44 ERA with a 4.70 FIP and a 4.30 xFIP in 75 innings this season and a 4.88/4.78/4.57 in 110.2 innings at the big league level.
Bradley hasn’t turned 24 yet, but he’s had all kinds of control and command issues at the upper levels and I really don’t trust the Diamondbacks to develop pitching. Bradley has given up a significant amount of hard contact since making the leap to the big leagues and the Brewers, when they aren’t striking out, have actually been pretty decent offensively for a rebuilding club.
Oddsmakers and/or the market have been higher on Jimmy Nelson all season long than I have. I’m looking for regression from him the rest of the way. Nelson has a 3.40 ERA with a horrible K rate, an equally bad walk rate, a 4.70 FIP, and a 4.84 xFIP. His 4.94 SIERA is a pretty good indicator of his performance for the rest of the season. He’s been exceptionally fortunate with balls in play. The Brewers rate well in defensive runs saved, but poorly in UZR, so there may be regression coming overall defensively. That certainly won’t help Nelson.
There are a lot of ways to play this game. The first five over makes sense. Arizona team total over. The full game over. Maybe Nelson’s just a weird statistical anomaly. I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ve had success with my handicapping methodology and the data I use points to Nelson falling off pretty big in the second half.
New York (AL) at Houston (-130); Total: 7
Masahiro Tanaka’s strikeout rate has dropped for a second straight season, but it hasn’t hurt his effectiveness. Tanaka opted to pitch to more contact and the end result has been really impressive. His BABIP is up, but that’s a byproduct of his home run rate getting cut in half. He has a 3.00 ERA with a 3.26 FIP and a 3.61 xFIP on the year, so there may be some minor signs of regression, but he doesn’t hurt himself with walks and mixes his pitches so well.
Tanaka is not a great matchup for the Astros. His stuff is still inducing a lot of swings and misses, even with his declining strikeout rate, and he doesn’t walk guys. He’ll force the Astros to put balls in play. Houston is at its best when they can draw walks and hit dingers. Tanaka, so far this season, isn’t allowing that to happen.
I wouldn’t expect the Yankees to do much offensively here either. Lance McCullers has posted a 3.33 ERA with a 2.74 FIP and a 3.27 xFIP in his 70.1 innings. McCullers has ignored a 13.7 percent BB% because of a 29.3 percent K% and an extremely high ground ball rate. The combination of strikeouts and ground balls makes it very hard for the opposition to score. On the season, 57.2 percent of balls in play are on the ground. That means that you have to string hits together with a guy striking out nearly three of every 10 batters.
Add in the Yankees bullpen and there’s a good chance that this game goes under. Aroldis Chapman is gone, but the Yankees need to keep winning games, so Joe Girardi has to go all out in these spots. With two great pitchers that match up well against these two lineups, I’d expect a low-scoring affair.
Catch today’s edition of BangTheBook Radio for analysis on the Los Angeles Angels vs. Kansas City Royals matchup!