We’re starting off a new week in Major League Baseball and it should be one of the most intriguing weeks to date. There are a lot of storylines this week because of the MLB Trade Deadline on August 1 and the additional wild card has really done a lot to increase the likelihood of teams going for it. It’s a seller’s market out there with a lot of teams looking to buy. That being said, there are a lot of dominoes left to fall this week and how the next seven days play out for certain teams could dictate the trade market.
From a handicapping standpoint, the trade rumors and the distractions aren’t going to affect the play on the field all that much, nor will they affect the lines. Vigilant bettors do need to remember these things, more as a wagering angle than as a reason to play on or against a team.
Before we break down Monday’s card, we’ll take a look at how things went for us on Sunday. A little bit of a late start to the day wiped out the early games, but the afternoon/evening slate was a downer for us. The Cubs scratched out a win at a very chalky price. The Rays lost a tough one and the Rangers and Royals both failed offensively. The Dodgers won on Sunday Night Baseball to give us a winner to finish out a frustrating weekend that could have gone better.
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.
St. Louis at New York (NL) (-145); Total: 6.5
My initial thought is that this line is too low. The Cardinals played Sunday Night Baseball and it was a 9-6 final that ended 3:49 after it started. So, the Cardinals lost an hour traveling out east and probably got into the New York around 5 a.m. and probably more like 6 a.m. by the time they got settled.
With that whirlwind of an evening, Noah Syndergaard awaits. Thor is one of the league’s best pitchers and has some of the best pure stuff of anybody in baseball. He has a 2.43 ERA with a 1.99 FIP and a 2.43 xFIP on the season. He’s struck out 30.5 percent of opposing batters and has only walked 4.5 percent. That means that the Cardinals will have to work hard for all of their offensive opportunities and this is a tired team right now. That was a very long series against the Dodgers. St. Louis lost two high-scoring games and a 16-inning affair. They also played a doubleheader on Wednesday in the last series, so they have played six games in five days.
The silver lining here is Carlos Martinez, who has been the ace that the Cardinals needed. Martinez has a 2.83 ERA with a 3.52 FIP and a 3.78 xFIP on the year. Martinez hasn’t allowed more than three runs in a start since May 25 against the Cubs. He has a 1.61 ERA with a 2.99 FIP and a 3.31 xFIP over his last nine starts. It’s worth pointing out that he has an 89.3 percent strand rate, so regression is coming.
Another element about this game is the bullpen usage for St. Louis. Mike Mayers made his MLB debut last night and didn’t last very long. In the last three days, the Cardinals bullpen has made 282 pitches. By comparison, the Mets pen has thrown 168 pitches.
I’m liking the Mets tonight.
Philadelphia at Miami (-130); Total: 8.5
Will Jeremy Hellickson simply switch locker rooms before or after this game? The Miami Marlins have been very interested in the right-hander and seem to be one of just a couple of suitors for his services. They’ll get a bird’s-eye view to scout him today.
Hellickson has been pretty solid this season thanks to a K rate spike that he hasn’t been able to replicate in any previous season. His 21.6 percent K% this year is the first time that he has been over 20 percent in a full season. Because of that, he owns a 3.84 ERA with a 4.21 FIP and a 3.78 xFIP. Hellickson has had some home run issues, with 19 allowed in 119.2 innings of work. That’s the driving force behind his high FIP. It’s worth pointing out that Hellickson has only struck out 41 of 232 total batters faced for a 17.7 percent K% since the start of June. He has a 4.02/4.57/4.15 slash in that span. I’m very wary of him here in this outing.
The problem is that the Marlins are countering with Jarred Cosart. Even though he has pretty excellent raw stuff, Cosart owns a 3.74 ERA with a 4.23 FIP and a 4.37 xFIP in his 324.2 Major League innings. He’s never been able to put it all together. He’s coming back from an oblique injury here for this one. In 10 starts at Triple-A, Cosart hung a 4.09 ERA with a 6.13 FIP by walking far too many guys and giving up too many home runs. This is his first MLB start since April 22.
Obviously, there are a lot of things in Miami’s favor here. They have the better offense, the better defense, and the better bullpen. I’m not ready to lay -130 with Jarred Cosart, though. Even the lowly Phillies have a chance against him if they are patient. They aren’t very patient, though, and have the second-lowest BB% against RHP this season.
I’ll have to avoid this game, probably treating it like the plague. It will be interesting to see how Hellickson fares against the team looking to acquire him.
Detroit at Boston (-150); Total: 10
Justin Verlander and Drew Pomeranz are the pitching probables for this series opener at Fenway Park. Normally I start with the road pitcher, but Pomeranz is the guy in the spotlight for me. I correctly predicted that Pomeranz would struggle in his first start for the Red Sox. The problem is that Matt Cain struggled a whole lot more and Boston produced a lot of runs.
I wouldn’t expect much different from Pomeranz in this outing. On one hand, you can say that he should be a little bit more comfortable in his second start. The nerves are gone and he’s had a few days to settle into his Boston apartment and get acclimated to the area. On the other hand, that’s only one element of this whole equation. Pomeranz was able to pitch around his walk rate because he missed a lot of bats, stranded a lot of runners, and held opposing batters to a .240 BABIP. All of those things should regress in the DH League.
He looked uncomfortable in his first start, with five earned over three innings on eight hits. He’s an upgrade to what Boston had, but I still feel like it’s going to take him some time getting comfortable throwing to new catchers and pitching in a new, hitter-friendly environment. I think there’s some value in going against him here today.
Justin Verlander’s stats don’t jump off the page, but he’s really pitching well this season. Verlander has a 3.74 ERA with a 3.71 FIP and a 4.04 xFIP. He’s struck out 139 in 132.1 innings of work and has pretty solid peripherals across the board. His ERA almost seems unfair, but it’s due to 17 home runs allowed in 132.1 innings of work.
One worry in this outing for Verlander is that the Red Sox absolutely decimate fastballs. By PITCHf/x data, they are 14.8 runs better than any other team against fastballs and they are the second-best offense at hitting sliders. This is a spot where Verlander’s bread-and-butter might get eaten by the opposing lineup.
I’d say that there’s a little bit of value on the Tigers and some value on the over as well. I do think that at least one of the two comes through, so it’s up to you which one you like more, or you can attempt to free roll on the Tigers by taking the over and then the Tigers.
Arizona at Milwaukee (-125); Total: 9.5
A fun little game in Beerland between Arizona and Milwaukee features a kid making his MLB debut and a former Diamondback facing his old team. Arizona will send Braden Shipley to the hill and Milwaukee will send out Chase Anderson. As you can see, the market has been pretty down on the D-Backs for a while and I’ve been too high on them. They’re a really bad baseball team with one of the league’s worst front offices and it’s affecting just about everything.
As far as Shipley goes, the 2013 first-round pick is making his debut after 19 starts at Triple-A with a 3.70 ERA and a 3.81 FIP. He hasn’t missed a whole lot of bats at the upper levels of the minors, so that’s something worth watching here in his debut. One interesting fact about Shipley is that he didn’t start pitching until his sophomore year of college and then was drafted a year later. That may explain the lack of punchouts because he’s still learning how to pitch.
He’s regularly been one of Arizona’s top prospects in lists and a lot of people seem pretty high on his projections. I’ve never seen him and most of those prospect guys know better than I do, but I’m skeptical. Arizona hasn’t done well developing pitching. Shipley is a guy that needs some TLC when it comes to learning how to pitch. I’m guessing that he’s gotten by on pure talent and athleticism so far. When it comes to the big leagues, refinement is the name of the game. Shipley had a good walk rate in Triple-A, but I’m curious to see how this apparent pitch-to-contact style works.
It’s not like Chase Anderson has been any good for Milwaukee. He has a 5.50 ERA with a 5.51 FIP and a 5.06 xFIP. The Brewers got Isan Diaz in that deal with the Diamondbacks and he’ll be the prize of that trade, but it’s safe to assume that they wanted more from Anderson. He’s given up 18 HR in just 90 innings this season. Anderson hasn’t pitched into the sixth in five straight starts and hasn’t gone more than six innings in nine of his last 10 outings.
The over would seem to have some value here, but I don’t really know. This looks like a game to stay away from.
Oakland at Texas (-150); Total: 10.5
Oddsmakers still seem to have more faith in Daniel Mengden than I do. Either that or they have no faith in Martin Perez, which is fine with me. Mengden started out with four pretty decent outings to open up his MLB career, but he’s allowed 20 runs in his last 18.1 innings with an 18/14 K/BB ratio. He’s flirted with some decent strikeout rates in the minors, but his start to the big league portion of his career looked unsustainable to me and that has proven to be true.
Mengden draws the Rangers here in this one, a team that has really struggled over the last three weeks. This is a good chance for the Rangers to get back on track. By the end of this series, the A’s could look very different because of trades. Young pitchers often struggle in leverage situations. With the bases empty, opposing hitters are batting .233/.288/.291. With men on, they are batting .292/.449/.478. All of these are small sample sizes for Mengden, but he has a 13/15 K/BB ratio from the stretch. That’s an issue that rarely goes away quickly.
Martin Perez isn’t very good, but I don’t think he’ll need to be all that good for Texas today. He has a 4.37 ERA with a 4.86 FIP and a 5.03 xFIP on the year. His extreme ground ball rate can be a blessing and a curse, but he allows an incredible number of balls in play and still manages to walk too many guys. There’s not a whole lot to like about him moving forward, but the A’s are 23rd in wOBA against lefties on the season. Oakland hits for some power against lefties, but not much else. They don’t walk and they haven’t had a ton of success with balls in play.
Texas is on the fringes of our playable range, but we’re all about playing against extremes. I’m still not high on Texas’s chances the rest of the way and don’t think that they’ll win the division, but the market has soured on them for the last month or so and there’s been some value on them lately. There’s a small amount of value on them here tonight, but wait on this number, because there’s a good chance it will go down a little bit.
For more analysis on today’s MLB card, take a listen to the July 25 edition of The Bettor’s Box, with thoughts on New York vs. Houston, Los Angeles vs. Kansas City, and Cincinnati vs. San Francisco.