Twelve days until the Trade Deadline and the rumor mill is starting to get fired up. You’re going to hear a lot of things over the next couple of weeks, many of them with very little validity. Teams, sources, agents, and media members will all be playing the game and it may have some effect in the betting markets. Public players may be overly influenced by the rumors and that could net some line value on certain games later in the day. Overall, aside from teams with a lot of parts to sell, there isn’t a lot of handicapping impact until a deal is actually made. Keep that in mind as we move forward because it will come up.
Before we get into the Wednesday slate, we’ll peer back at yesterday’s action. We did some early passing on a couple of tough handicaps and were probably better off for it. The Pirates were winners, as were the White Sox. Unfortunately, the Nationals were a loser and Blake Snell, a fade from Monday’s edition of The Bettor’s Box, conquered Coors in his first start in that awful environment. It was a mediocre day all around, so it’s time to be 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 Thursdays or Sundays when there are a lot of day games.
Tampa Bay (-115) at Colorado; Total: 11.5
There are a lot of layers to this getaway day tilt in the mountains. The Rays opened a slight dog, which was incorrect, and the market properly put this line in its place. Chris Archer has really struggled all season long, but he’s vastly superior to Jorge de la Rosa, even in this Coors Field environment. The Rays have also mauled left-handed pitching pretty much all season, despite a long list of injuries. Currently, they are sixth in wOBA at .341, only .008 behind the Cubs, who are setting the pace in that metric against southpaws.
This is one of those games about playing against extremes. Chris Archer has been bad and many have faded him throughout this stretch of terrible command. Colorado always gets a bump at home, but that bump should have made them around a money line pick ‘em or a slight dog, not a -120 favorite. With a line move of this size, it’s tough to back the Rays and pile on. It’s also a getaway day game with a trip to Oakland. It’s a good reminder that the early players bet numbers, not teams. The number was off here. It makes sense. From a matchup standpoint, the Rays are a decent look, but that getaway day factor and the possibility that Archer completely blows up are reasons why I’m not going to play this one with the value gone.
Houston (-125) at Oakland; Total: 8.5
I’ve talked about Doug Fister quite a bit here in these write-ups, and with good reason. He’s not a sexy guy to back. His traditional numbers and his peripherals don’t inspire a lot of confidence. The thing that you have to remember about pitching is that two earned runs over five innings is a 3.60 ERA. Three earned runs over six innings is a 4.50 ERA. Three earned over five is a 5.40 ERA. Two of those are considered bad. In a practical sense, though, they’re not all that terrible. If a pitcher is consistently keeping his team in the game and there’s a good offense or a good defense or whatever, then it’s okay.
That’s the case with Doug Fister this season. The oddity for Fister is that his ERA is pretty good at 3.64. A 78.5 percent strand rate will do that. A .257 BABIP against is also helpful, though there’s probably some regression coming in that number. Fly ball pitchers can carry a .257 BABIP. Ground ball guys generally can’t.
There are a lot of reasons why this number came down. For one, Fister shows signs of regression. For another, the Astros suffered a pretty devastating loss last night. For another, the market has been a little bit bullish on Daniel Mengden. The A’s prospect has struck out 39 in his 39 innings, but his strand rate of 63.2 percent has blown up his ERA to 5.54.
As far as I’m concerned, though, the market is just giving us value on Houston. The Astros are a much better team than the A’s, who will be selling very soon. If Mengden’s going to have control issues, the patient Astros are going to take advantage. Quietly, they’re now a top-10 offense in wOBA against right-handed pitching after a very slow start to the season.
I’m taking the Astros, a team that I’m looking to buy a lot here in the second half.
Miami (-140) at Philadelphia; Total: 8
The Marlins and the Phillies are going in opposite directions this season. Miami is on the upswing and the Phillies, who started unsustainably well, are going to keep falling off the pace. We’re seeing some love for Wei-Yin Chen here in this one against Jeremy Hellickson. This is a mental hurdle that I have to get over. I was really high on Chen and that free agent signing coming into the season and it hasn’t worked out at all. Chen has been pretty poor throughout the season and he’s actually been so bad that his peripherals have been regressing.
It’s a pretty simple answer, really. In his first four seasons, Chen posted infield fly ball percentage numbers of 10.1, 11.6, 10.9, and 14.0. This season, he’s at 5.3 percent. It has been regressing in a positive way lately, as it was below four percent for most of the year, but Chen still hasn’t been trustworthy. His command has been all kinds of awful, with a career high in hard-hit rate, a career low in soft-contact, and a lot of home runs. That wasn’t supposed to happen in the National League.
Here, Chen draws the worst offense against lefties by a significant margin. The Phillies are 11 points behind the Braves in wOBA and have a 64 wRC+, which is 10 percent worse than any other team. That’s a pretty big reason for the line move. The Marlins are also a much better team than the Phillies.
On the Phillies side, Jeremy Hellickson has been pretty decent and is drawing some trade interest. Expect some scouts on hand for this start. Hellickson has been unable to sustain the strikeout gains he saw earlier in the season, but he just had a string of five straight quality starts snapped. He’s kept the opposition to three runs or less in 13 of his 19 starts, so he’s given the Phillies a chance.
I’m not ready to take the Phillies, but if this number keeps climbing, they’re going to be a value side for me. If we get another 15 cents or so, Philadelphia moves into playable range. For now, it’s a stay away, but it is nice to see the market backing Chen, since I’ve been so wrong on him.
Los Angeles (NL) at Washington
At time of writing, no line was available for this matchup, but I wanted to address it anyway. Bud Norris goes for the Dodgers against Gio Gonzalez for the Nationals. It’s worth pointing out here that the Dodgers are 28th in wOBA against left-handed pitching on the season and have a lower weighted runs created count than the Atlanta Braves.
I would expect some Nationals money to hit this opening number, depending where it comes out because of that and because Gio has a 4.70 ERA with a 3.96 xFIP. As you know, line moves often hit those starters due for positive regression, almost blindly. It’s deserved here, depending on where this number opens.
San Francisco at Boston (-220); Total: 10.5
This number is entirely too high. The market hit Drew Pomeranz and Boston right away in this spot, but I don’t like it. Matt Cain’s return from the DL doesn’t really help those of us looking to play San Francisco, but I don’t think that this is a good situation for Pomeranz.
The 27-year-old, who has never pitched in a pressure-packed environment, now goes to Fenway Park and jumps right into a pennant race. That’s a major departure from the current culture in San Diego, where the only questions about the team are about who won’t be there on August 2. This is also a really difficult park for pitchers, as we all know. I don’t know a ton about Pomeranz’s mental makeup, but I do know that this is a spot that would affect almost any pitcher. This is his first start in this iconic ballpark and it comes against a team that has some familiarity with him. He has to get used to a new catcher.
There are a lot of factors as to why the Giants are worth one of those half-unit plays tonight.
Texas at Los Angeles (AL) (-125); Total: 8.5
Operation: Fade Texas is still a thing. The Rangers could have seen their division lead cut to 3.5 games if the Astros hadn’t blown a great opportunity on Tuesday night. Texas was 51-27 on June 28. They are 55-40 now. I told you that this was going to happen. I wasn’t sure it would happen in such dramatic fashion, but here we are.
This is a really fascinating game, even though the Angels aren’t going anywhere this season. Hector Santiago opened a -140 favorite, which, in and of itself, takes some time to digest. The market wasn’t having any of it, since this line dropped 15 cents and it’s showing signs of going down.
The total is what stands out to me here. Perhaps I’m going to get burned, but I really don’t like either of these pitchers. Martin Perez has one of the lowest strikeout rates among qualified starters. At this point, in 113.1 innings, his K/BB is 53/48. He has a 4.05 ERA with a 4.80 FIP and a 4.95 xFIP. The Angels, as unimpressive as they are, have cracked the top 10 in wOBA against lefties. There’s some potential for them to score runs here.
The same can be said about the Rangers. Santiago owns a 4.27 ERA with a 4.85 FIP and a 4.97 xFIP. Everything from the last four seasons seems to have caught up with him, when he outpitched his peripherals with regularity. The Rangers, albeit park factor-inflated, are a top-10 offense in wOBA against lefties.
I’m not sure I get this total. These are two subpar bullpens as well. Both starters will go 6 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 3 K and the game will find a way to go under, but if that happens, I’ll just laugh and shake my head. Play the over and don’t look back.