With each new day, a new set of betting opportunities arises. That’s the blessing and the curse of Major League Baseball season. Last night’s losses can become an afterthought or they can be the catalyst for a deeper hole. Similarly, last night’s wins can be the start of a winning streak and a bankroll booster. No other sport has the same wagering characteristics of the daily MLB grind, so it’s essential to stay in the right frame of mind and adhere to proper asset management.
Before we look at Saturday’s card, we’ll take a gander at what happened on Friday night. In our picks and analysis piece, the under on the Giants and Yankees was a winner on a day that didn’t feature many strong write-ups. On the Bettor’s Box, though, we honed in on three games with two strong opinions and a lean. Those that followed along scored a marathon winner in 16 innings on the St. Louis Cardinals on one of our strongest plays of the season. The Royals took care of the Rangers for our lean, but the Rays, who closed a favorite as expected, lost in extras by a 1-0 score to the A’s.
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.
San Francisco at New York (AL) (-130); Total: 9
The Yankees don’t want to sell. They should sell. Everything’s pointing to them selling to restock the farm system. They’re very clearly the fourth-best team in the AL East, but they keep winning games. Here, we’ve got a pretty big line movement on the Yankees against the Giants. This line has moved about 15 cents with Ivan Nova going against Jeff Samardzija.
There are a lot of reasons why this number is moving. The Giants aren’t playing very good ball right now. Jeff Samardzija has historically been terrible in American League ballparks, including his time with the White Sox last season, so there are some biases about his performance. He’s also not pitching well of late. Since May 30, Samardzija has a 6.14 ERA with a 5.87 FIP and a 4.91 xFIP. In his previous 11 starts, Samardzija had a 2.84/2.97/3.60. His true talent level is somewhere in between, but the market has been fading him with regularity here of late.
Ivan Nova has made 13 starts and six relief appearances and has struggled. He has a 4.92 ERA and FIP with a 3.99 xFIP. His 55.2 percent ground ball rate hasn’t been enough to stem his large amount of home runs allowed. Nova has given up 16 dingers in 86 innings of work. The problem here for the Giants is that they are 22nd in SLG against right-handed pitching.
At this point, the price is too high to take the Yankees and confidence is too low in Samardzija to take the Giants. You can bet that a lot of executives around the league are rooting for the Giants, though.
Philadelphia at Pittsburgh (-175); Total: 8.5
Just as I started writing today, a number opened up on the battle of Pennsylvania. This is a game I touched on in yesterday’s edition of The Bettor’s Box. We’ve got Aaron Nola, who looked like a reinvigorated pitcher in his first start out of the All-Star Break against Tyler Glasnow.
Zach Eflin did a number on the Pirates on Friday and it shouldn’t be a surprise if we get a little bit of a bump from the Phillies rotation over the next couple of weeks. Young arms get tired as they go through the grind of the big league season. The additional days between starts for the All-Star Break are incredibly helpful. I feel like Nola is one of those guys.
I don’t know if the Phillies can score enough to make Nola a winner, but I’m fully expecting a quality outing from him. This is Glasnow’s second career MLB start and he threw the ball pretty well in his first one. Arquimedes Caminero didn’t help him by giving up a big three-run HR, in which two runs were credited to Glasnow.
This total is too high. I’m not going to say it’s a full run too high, but I’d have it more along the lines of 8 under -115, not 8.5. I feel like there’s some value there on that number.
Cleveland at Baltimore (-135); Total: 9
The market struck early, so hopefully you were able to as well. The Orioles opened a -120 favorite, but the market correctly isolated a bad number and piled on the home team. This is a bad spot for Josh Tomlin. Tomlin shows some significant signs of regression and some lineups are simply bad matchups. This is a bad matchup. The Orioles are hyper-aggressive in the strike zone and hit for a ton of power. That negates Tomlin’s elite control and exacerbates his existing home run problem.
There’s probably still another 10 cents worth of value on Baltimore, as the Indians looked pretty bad on Friday night. After this series ends, 29 of their next 41 are at home. There are some regression candidates offensively and in the pitching staff, so things may be a struggle for the Tribe over the next few weeks, but at least they’ll be back home for most of it.
New York (NL) at Miami (-150); Total: 6
Jacob deGrom and Jose Fernandez are getting mad respect from the oddsmakers and the betting market and they deserve every bit of it. Since May 27, deGrom has a 1.92 ERA with a 2.88 FIP, a 2.77 xFIP, over 10 strikeouts per nine innings, and a sterling walk rate. His LOB% of 90.3 percent is in line for some regression, but almost all of his runs allowed have scored via home runs, so there’s nobody left to strand.
Jose Fernandez is really special. He has a 2.53 ERA with a 2.07 FIP and a 2.19 xFIP in his 113.2 innings. Fernandez has struck out 37.7 percent of opposing batters, which is an incredible rate for a starting pitcher. In fact, it is currently the highest K% ever in a season for a qualified starter. The record Fernandez is tracking down belongs to Pedro Martinez during his 1999 season.
In this spot, as excellent as Fernandez is, deGrom can go pitch-for-pitch with him in some respects, so the value is definitely on the road team. If you have the stomach to go against Fernandez, the Mets at +140 isn’t a bad look.
Arizona (-125) at Cincinnati; Total: 9.5
Robbie Ray has a 4.49 ERA, but his advanced metrics are a lot better and this seems like a pretty good spot for the southpaw. Ray has a 3.80 FIP and a 3.65 xFIP. His 26 percent strikeout rate is quite good, but a .359 BABIP against and a few too many home runs have hurt his traditional metrics. He has only allowed three HR over his last six starts, however, so maybe Ray is starting to make some adjustments.
The Reds are 24th in wOBA and wRC+ on the season against lefties, so this is a pretty good matchup for Ray. It should help that he will get some run support as well. The Reds are sending Keyvius Sampson to the hill. Sampson has made nine starts at Triple-A with decent numbers, but he’s only made seven relief appearances in the bigs with a 5.51 ERA, 7.91 FIP, and a 6.28 xFIP.
Sampson will be on a pitch count here, which means a steady diet of the atrocious Reds bullpen. This price is way too short on Arizona. It’s short by probably 15 to 20 cents in my mind. You know what to do.
Los Angeles (NL) (-130) at St. Louis; Total: 8
I’m not sure I understand the line move on this game. The Dodgers are playing Game 8 of a nine-game road trip and just played 16 innings on a sultry night in St. Louis. The Cardinals got 53 pitches from Tyler Lyons, while the Dodgers were forced to use eight relievers. For Los Angeles, two relievers have worked three straight days and it all started because of a Kenley Jansen blown save, as he worked for his second straight day. The Dodgers bullpen is in shambles for today. The Cardinals bullpen is actually in decent shape, all things considered.
After starting the season with one earned run allowed over his first four starts, Kenta Maeda has a 4.14 ERA with a 3.68 FIP and a 3.82 xFIP over his last 15 starts. He’s still averaging better than a strikeout per inning, but teams are starting to get a better feel for his stuff and what he’s throwing. Those numbers are still solid, but his overall performance is inflated a bit by that four-start sample.
All of the sudden, Mike Leake looks like a different guy. Over his last two starts, Leake has 21 strikeouts and two runs allowed on 12 hits over 13 innings. Leake had 66 strikeouts in his previous 17 starts. He’s increased the usage of his slider in these last two starts and it seems to have made a difference. It doesn’t seem as sustainable as Matt Shoemaker’s gains when he started throwing his splitter more, so I’m taking it with a major grain of salt.
St. Louis still has value at this price, though, in my mind. The Dodgers bullpen won’t be much help and the Cardinals are among the league leaders in offensive performance against right-handed pitching. The Dodgers have to be more fatigued than the Cardinals given the schedule and the long road trip. Also, a spoiler alert, the Cardinals are worth a look at just about any price on Sunday as Los Angeles wraps up this trip.
Texas (-110) at Kansas City; Total: 8
Operation: Fade Texas continues here again as Cole Hamels has gone from -125 to -110 against the Royals. The Royals are countering with Yordano Ventura.
I talk about playing against extremes. The Rangers have hit a ton of regression over the last 20 games and all of it was coming to them. The odd thing about this regression is that all it has done is make the team’s BaseRuns and Pyth W-L records look even worse because their run differential keeps dropping. As it was, they were overachieving by 10 or more games in both of those metrics.
The Rangers got Cole Hamels for starts like this. They need him to be a stopper. They need him to step up and lead this awful starting rotation. He has a 3.00 ERA with a 4.31 FIP and a 4.04 xFIP on the season because he’s given up a lot of home runs, but they’ve mostly been solo shots. I’m trusting him here. I think the Rangers can scratch one out.
A big part of it is that I have zero confidence in Yordano Ventura. I don’t know if two straight years with a significant workload have done irreparable damage, but Ventura’s completely uninspiring this season. He has a 4.97 ERA with a 4.66 FIP and a 4.69 xFIP. His K/BB rates have improved a bit over the last six weeks, but the command is still an issue. If he’s not missing bats, he’s not going to be effective. His swinging strike rate is down over two percent from last season. Hitters aren’t chasing, which is a sign of working behind in the count and also a drop in effectiveness of his secondaries.
I understand the desire to fade the Rangers. I’ve been doing it for a while and I told you to do the same. Today, I don’t think it’s a good idea.