Plenty of day games are on tap for Sunday’s MLB card, so we don’t have a lot of lead time for the picks and analysis piece today. Many of the 1 p.m. ET first pitches are the lines that we like to break down, but there’s enough further down the card to investigate that we can have a slightly shortened version of the write-up today. It’s an interesting day around the diamond, especially with the rumor mill really heating up in anticipation of the August 1 Trade Deadline.
Before looking ahead, we’ll glance back at yesterday’s outcomes. Yesterday’s top plays hit at a good clip, but the other plays were a disaster. The Orioles were an easy winner over the Indians, covering run lines as well for players that gambled on that. The Rangers were a big winner for us. Arizona was embarrassing on the road and I’m beginning to think that the only way to approach that team is to fade them. St. Louis lost, as Mike Leake was human again. If you were selective, you had an okay day. If you played the whole card, it wasn’t.
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.
Detroit at Chicago (AL) (-135); Total: 9
Things are not going well in Chicago. With Chris Sale’s blow-up, one of a handful directed at the front office this season, the White Sox are in a major state of flux. Sale is definitely going to be traded at this point, which will leave Sunday’s starter, Jose Quintana, as the ace of the staff. Quintana can handle it, but things have to be really uncomfortable in that clubhouse right now.
That’s probably part of the move on the Tigers here in this one. There are some signs of regression from Quintana, but this is where I need to remind you of something very important. Remember that xFIP is calculated assuming a league average home run rate. Jose Quintana has never been close to the league average HR/FB%. He has a 3.13 ERA and a 4.03 xFIP. Some line moves occur solely on ERA-FIP or ERA-xFIP discrepancies. Quintana’s numbers are basically in the normal range across the board.
Anibal Sanchez actually made a good start last time out. He struck out 10 over six innings, but he still fought with his command. He’s not good. At all. But, the market sees a value side here because the Tigers are so much better than the White Sox and Chicago is in shambles right now.
While I understand the ideology and the philosophy, I can’t back Anibal Sanchez against anybody. I don’t see this as a rallying cry moment for a White Sox team that has fallen off the pace dramatically, though, so I’ll have to stay away from this one.
Chicago (NL) (-145) at Milwaukee; Total: 8.5
Overshadowed by the presence of Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester has been solid again this season for the Cubs. His ERA to FIP and xFIP discrepancies are a little bit concerning, but he hasn’t posted a HR/FB% like this at any point in his career, so the FIP doesn’t bother me all that much. Keep in mind that pitchers can outpitch their advanced metrics with a good defense. You won’t find one better than the Cubs this season. That’s why Lester has such a low BABIP against and a low ERA.
Junior Guerra is my focus here. The Brewers are a weird team defensively. They’ve done very well in defensive runs saved, but rate really poorly in UZR. I’m not sure which metric I trust more, so I don’t know how to interpret that. What I do know is that Junior Guerra has now worked 112.1 innings this season between Triple-A and the big leagues, which is a career high by a pretty large margin for him. He’s carrying a .238 BABIP against and a 77.9 percent LOB%, two stats that I expect pretty significant regression from the rest of the way. He won’t have a league average HR/FB%, but I do think his 3.75 FIP is pretty suggestive of his rest-of-season performance.
I’m looking to fade Guerra, particularly against good teams. The Cubs are unquestionably a good team, even with some recent struggles. Guerra should start to struggle against teams seeing him for a second, third, and fourth time, as I wonder how deep the arsenal actually is.
I’m looking at the Cubs here, especially at a more attractive price. -160 was a little bit expensive for me, but -145 fits the bill and I do like this matchup for the Cubs.
Texas at Kansas City (-115); Total: 9
Cole Hamels did exactly what you want an ace to do on Saturday. Now, AJ Griffin gets the ball for the Rangers, who are spiraling out of control. Once again, though, they are big players at the Trade Deadline and are considering Chris Sale. We’ll have to see if that happens, but it could be a boost for the clubhouse that they are buying big at the Deadline once again.
The Rangers still show lots of signs of team regression and now injuries are really coming to the forefront. Griffin is an extreme fly ball guy and Kauffman Stadium has some spacious gaps. The ball can carry well there in the summertime, but Griffin would hardly be the first fly ball pitcher to have success there. Since returning from the DL, Griffin has a 6.17/6.14/5.23 pitcher slash. Either he’s not fully healthy or he’s not feeling very good mechanically. He’s averaging nearly a strikeout per inning, but he’s allowed six HR in 23.1 innings of work.
Edinson Volquez has been going in the wrong direction, which the Royals could ill afford with their patchwork rotation. That’s a big reason why they’ve fallen off the pace this season. Volquez has a 4.72 ERA with a 4.14 FIP and a 4.38 xFIP on the year. His K/BB peripherals are about the same, but he’s not working out of as many jams. He has some pretty significant reverse splits, with a .281/.346/.410 from righties and a .232/.307/.351 against lefties. Will that be an advantage for the Royals in this spot? It could be.
If I had to go any way with this game, though, I’d look at the over. The Rangers bullpen isn’t very good and the Royals pen hasn’t been as dominant as it has been over the last couple of years. I think both bullpens get some extensive work here because the starters will exit early. Texas’s bats have slowly picked it up recently and the Royals have a favorable matchup against Griffin. The total of 9 is a little lofty, but it could very well hit.
Tampa Bay (-120) at Oakland; Total: 9
Blake Snell was excellent in his first start at Coors Field to lower his season totals to a 3.11 ERA, a 3.17 FIP, and a 4.37 xFIP. His xFIP is through the roof because he has a 2.9 percent HR/FB%. One of Snell’s top traits coming up through the minors was his command. He gave up 25 HR in 485 minor league innings. It’s not sustainable in the sense that no pitcher can carry that rate, but Snell will be a guy that keeps the ball in the park.
He’s really impressive and he’s going to continue to be. Snell has had some walk issues, but he has 36 K in 37.2 innings of work. The biggest asset for the A’s against lefties is that they hit for power with guys like Danny Valencia, Khris Davis, and Marcus Semien. Snell’s biggest asset is that he doesn’t give them up. Which angle do you trust?
Jesse Hahn has been recalled to make this start for Oakland. Hahn is a guy that I’ve always liked, but injuries have not allowed him to reach his potential. This season, in seven starts, Hahn has been pretty bad. He has a 6.49 ERA with a 5.77 FIP and a 4.86 xFIP. He hasn’t missed bats and he hasn’t missed barrels. There’s a case to be made here that Hahn can have success against a Rays lineup that can’t hit righties.
If Tampa Bay was going home or travelling far, I’d fade them today. They’re not. They visit Dodger Stadium after a day off on Monday. With that in mind, they have the edge in this game, even if they can’t hit righties well. They do hit for power against RHP and Hahn’s command has been subpar this season. I’m looking at the Rays here today as Snell continues to be one of the few bright spots of the season.
Los Angeles (NL) (-145) at St. Louis; Total: 9
Tyler Lyons was supposed to make this Sunday Night Baseball start for the Cardinals, but Mike Mayers will make his Major League debut instead. Lyons was forced to work in relief during the 16-inning marathon earlier in this series, so Mayers heads to the show. Kiley McDaniel described Mayers as a “potential fifth starter with a solid average sinker.slider combo, but inconsistent fastball command and changeup” in his pre-2015 write-up of the Cardinals system at Fangraphs. Dan Farnsworth didn’t even mention him pre-2016, so he’s a non-prospect.
Mayers has a 2.94 ERA with a 4.70 FIP in nine starts at Triple-A this season. There doesn’t seem to be anything special about him. He’s a college arm drafted in 2013 that only has 10 starts at the Triple-A level and has missed some time with injuries. It’s easy to see why the Dodgers are laying a price like this tonight.
Scott Kazmir goes for the Dodgers. Kazmir gutted out seven innings of one-run ball on Tuesday against Washington, while dealing with what seemed like a couple of minor ailments throughout the game. At least, that seemed like the case if you follow Andy McCullough on Twitter (and make sure that you do). Kazmir has a 4.30 ERA with a 4.27 FIP and a 3.97 xFIP on the year, largely due to his home run rate. He’s struck out 25.4 percent of opposing batters on the year.
The Dodgers are really the only side you can take here. The Cardinals are struggling a little bit here of late and there’s no telling what Mayers will give them. If he runs into trouble, an overworked bullpen has to come in early. The Cardinals are also awful against left-handed pitching, ranking 24th in wOBA. Kazmir should be in decent shape here today.
There are no great situational wagering angles coming out of this game. Los Angeles heads home to host Tampa Bay on Tuesday. The Cardinals will get into New York very late to battle the Mets on Monday. The Mets are sending Noah Syndergaard to the mound, so there’s a chance that you can jump on that line early and get a little bit of value on Thor, but it could be a little bit chalky.