We’ve got a full dance card on Wednesday in Major League Baseball, including three afternoon games to get you through the work day. The majority of the action takes place later tonight, so we have a lot of time to study the matchups and two of the early games have big lines anyway. It’s an interesting card with a lot of close lines, particularly in the West Coast games, so let’s find that value.
Before we dive into the August 3 card, we’ll take a look back at what happened yesterday. It was a bad day. Picks from the article were losers, but we did get a couple of radio show winners on Milwaukee and Washington, which had a huge line move that made absolutely no sense. I’m still sick, so I’m doing the best I can with the analysis here this week. Tune in to today’s edition of BangTheBook Radio for some additional thoughts on today’s card.
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.
Milwaukee (-140) at San Diego; Total: 8
There’s a lot to unwrap with this line. It’s a getaway day game for the Brewers with their most consistent starter, Junior Guerra, on the mound and they’re laying one of their biggest prices of the season. The Padres are countering with Edwin Jackson. The Padres’ have been horrendous against right-handed pitchers this season and I’ve publicized that fact as often as I can.
There are some slight concerns about Junior Guerra here in this start. He went a career-high 8.2 innings last time out. He needed 105 pitches, which wasn’t a season high or anything, but he’s thrown over 100 pitches in six of his last seven starts. He’s blown away his previous high watermark for innings pitched, so I do wonder if there’s a little bit of a letdown coming. It’s hard to see that happening in this game against such a subpar lineup, but it’s in the back of my mind.
Edwin Jackson made two decent starts for the Padres before getting blasted by Cincinnati his last time out. It’s almost like walking more batters than you strike out is a bad thing. Add in some BABIP regression and you’ve got Jackson getting knocked around last time out. He’s a really below average pitcher, as we all know, and that’s a big reason why the Brewers are laying a big number here. Do you want to lay it with the Brewers? That’s the only way I’d go with this one.
San Francisco (-165) at Philadelphia; Total: 7.5
I understand why this line has dropped, but I’m going to caution everybody looking at this game. Aaron Nola sat below 89 mph with his sinker in his last start. He’s had some extremely wide variance over his last three starts and that 88.3 mph from his last start was his lowest since his first start of the season. There’s something going on here. I know Nola has the sexy ERA-xFIP discrepancy that generates a line move, but he’s had no command for a while and now his velocity is down as well?
San Francisco hasn’t done much offensively over the last two weeks, but this could be a team total over spot if you don’t want to lay the big number on Johnny Cueto.
Texas at Baltimore (-110); Total: 8.5
Cole Hamels’s strange 2016 season continues to roll along. His HR/FB% has been dropping steadily, so his 2.84 ERA no longer looks as strange alongside his 4.14 FIP. The problem for Hamels has been the long ball and he hasn’t really had any other problems. The K rate is still solid, he’s pitched around a slightly-elevated BB rate, and he’s worked out of jams like he always has.
For as much power and potential as there is in the Orioles lineup, they are only 25th in wOBA against left-handed hurlers. That’s why Steve Pearce was a Trade Deadline target, but the Orioles are a tough team to back against quality lefties and Hamels certainly fits the bill.
Then, there’s Kevin Gausman. Gausman is having quite an interesting season of his own with some of the most pronounced reverse splits I have ever seen. He’s given up 15 of his 19 HR to right-handed batters and righties are hitting .299/.360/.555 compared to the .229/.265/.360 from lefties. The Rangers have a decent mix of LHB and RHB in their lineup, so we’ll have to see if those splits come into play.
I do like Hamels a little bit more in this spot, mostly because he’s only allowed two homers in his last seven starts. He’s fixed some of those command issues and his HR/FB% regression has come in a pretty big way. The Orioles like to use the long ball to score. If Hamels can suppress that, the Rangers are a good look here.
St. Louis (-130) at Cincinnati; Total: 9
Michael Wacha and Cody Reed are the listed starters for this NL Central showdown. Wacha has a 4.38 ERA with a 3.71 FIP and a 3.96 xFIP. For the first time in his MLB career, his LOB% is below average, so that’s why he’s posting a career high in ERA by a full run. His run of low BABIPs also came to a close this year. With similar K/BB peripherals, I’d expect Wacha to be a “play on” guy the rest of the way. Two of the key numbers for positive regression are well below his averages and that’s reason enough for me.
Cody Reed has missed a lot of bats in his rookie season, but he’s also hit a lot of barrels. The Reds are going to let him figure it out on the job as he looks to lower his 7.07 ERA, 6.05 FIP, and carry his 3.85 xFIP. Reed’s HR/FB% is 32.3 percent right now, which is wildly unsustainable. Ten of the 31 fly balls he has induced have left the ballpark. There’s some regression in that as well and the Cardinals are just 24th in wOBA against lefties at .310.
Since shuffling things around, the Reds have one of baseball’s better bullpens. The Cardinals have some injuries back there, but there are enough arms to get by. I’d look at the under here in this matchup.
Chicago (AL) at Detroit (-135); Total: 8
Chris Sale is an underdog in back-to-back games for the first time in nearly two years as the White Sox face the red-hot Tigers. It’ll be Michael Fulmer for the Tigers. There’s a lot going on here in this game. This is Sale’s first start since he wasn’t traded at the Trade Deadline. His K% continues to drop as he pitches to more contact, which may not be the way to approach this Tigers team.
On the other side, you’ve got Michael Fulmer, who is due for a pretty significant amount of regression. Fulmer has a 2.50 ERA with a 3.69 FIP and a 3.85 xFIP. He’s held opposing batters to a .252 BABIP and has stranded 82.3 percent of his runners. Those seem like extremely high numbers for a guy with a league average K% and a ground ball split north of 51 percent.
This total will probably look a little bit high for public bettors, but an over would not surprise me in this spot. Fulmer has some regression coming and I’m worried about Sale and this pitch-to-contact mindset. I’m also worried about Sale for all the distractions with the White Sox. This doesn’t seem like an ideal spot for either pitcher.
Toronto at Houston (-105); Total: 8
Marco Estrada no longer controls his own destiny in the race for the lowest BABIP in MLB history. Not that he has a whole lot of say in how that stat plays out, but Estrada has hit a little bit of BABIP regression over his last two starts. Positive BABIP regression was coming for Collin McHugh for a little while, but his last start against the Tigers put an abrupt stop to that.
I have concerns about both of these starters here in this one. McHugh has shown pretty bad command all season. Estrada could be running out of magic dust for staving off regression, although, his DL stint in July could be a little bit of a factor. Perhaps he’s not fully healthy. I’ll stay far away from this game, though, because those two pitchers are massive wild cards today and there are better betting options in the marketplace.
Oakland at Los Angeles (AL) (-115); Total: 9
Kendall Graveman seems to be figuring out his identity at the big league level. He’s a guy with a well below average K rate, but he induces quite a few ground balls and can be effective because it’s hard to string hits together. Even with Oakland’s porous infield defense, Graveman has a 3.38 ERA with a 3.64 FIP and a 4.49 xFIP. His K rate in that span is awful, but he’s not giving up home runs anymore. He’s allowed four in his last 13 starts.
The odyssey that is Jered Weaver has been really rough to predict. In his last start, he held a very potent Boston offense to one run on six hits in 5.2 innings. He gave up six runs on seven hits in just four innings his previous time out. Before that, he threw back-to-back games with one earned run allowed. Houston hung a six-spot on him on June 29 and he gave up four to Oakland in 4.1 innings after throwing a Maddux (complete game shutout with under 100 pitches) against the A’s on June 19. There’s no rhyme or reason to Weaver’s season. It’s all a matter of how lucky he’ll get that day with balls in play.
With so much variance and volatility, this is a game that I have no interest in playing. There are going to be a ton of balls in play, so over 9 merits consideration, but those balls may also get hit at people. I tend to avoid games like this.
Be sure to catch today’s BangTheBook Radio with thoughts on Los Angeles vs. Colorado and Boston at Seattle.