Everybody is back in action on Tuesday, including a day/night doubleheader between the Kansas City Royals and Tampa Bay Rays, assuming the Royals dugout isn’t still flooded, and a day/night doubleheader in Chicago between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs. It’s a big day for pitching with Johnny Cueto, Max Scherzer, Sonny Gray, Tyson Ross, Francisco Liriano, Corey Kluber, and the recently-dominant Taijuan Walker all on the mound. There are a lot of games to discuss, so let’s dive right in for July 7.
We don’t get many totals of 6 in parks like Nationals Park. More often than not, totals of 6 are restricted to places like Oakland, Dodger Stadium, Petco Park under the old dimensions, and maybe Marlins Park if Jose Fernandez takes on Matt Harvey or Jacob deGrom. But, we’ve got a 6 in this game with Johnny Cueto against Max Scherzer.
Cueto’s numbers aren’t as sexy as Scherzer’s, since he doesn’t have the eye-popping strikeout rate, but Cueto is such an underrated ace. He’s just 5-5, but has a 2.84/3.25/3.24 pitcher slash and a .236 BABIP against. Normally we would look for BABIP regression with a number that low, but Cueto has posted BABIPs against of .249 or lower in each of the last four seasons. He’s a master at missing barrels. This season, he has posted the best walk rate of his career as he approaches free agency. He’s masterful, even if he doesn’t get the credit he deserves.
Scherzer’s numbers are just stupid. He’s playing a different game than just about everybody else this season. He has a 9.93 (!!) K/BB ratio, striking out 30.8 percent of batters and walking 3.1 percent of batters. He has a 1.82/1.93/2.77 pitcher slash, so somebody, somewhere will argue ERA/xFIP regression. That will not be me. He’s increased velocity this season and has really enjoyed pitching in the National League.
As hard as it is to play an under on a total of 6 with bullpens possibly deciding the outcome of a low-scoring game, this is as good a place as any. There might be value on Cueto, but I’m not stepping in front of the Scherzer train.
Sonny Gray is road chalk at Yankee Stadium against Nate Eovaldi and the Yanks. This is a rather interesting spot for everybody involved. Sonny Gray has been dealing with food poisoning and has not started since June 25. I’m not so sure that this is a good spot to back him. He spent time in the hospital with salmonella and that can have a serious effect on an athlete’s body. Odds are he lost some weight and he didn’t start eating real food again until Friday. It’s hard to argue with his numbers on the season and his secondary pitches are developing well. I would just be concerned about his extended layoff.
On the other hand, Nate Eovaldi hasn’t done a whole lot to merit support this season. His 4.52 ERA comes with a 3.75 FIP and a 3.84 xFIP. A .352 BABIP is to blame for his ERA, but he does allow a lot of exit velocity with that hard sinker. Eovaldi is 8-2 on the season thanks to run support and doesn’t walk a whole lot of batters, which takes some of Oakland’s offensive sting away.
I’d lean strongly to the Yankees in this one, even though I hate going against Sonny Gray. This line is about five cents lower than I expected, so I don’t see a lot of line value. This is more of a situational play.
Of all the All-Star snubs, Yovani Gallardo certainly deserves some outrage. Gallardo, like Corey Kluber, pitches tonight, so he wouldn’t have been able to work in the game on Tuesday anyway, which may be part of the reason why he was not selected. In any event, Gallardo has been great this season. As I’ve said in the past, I have a ton of respect for a guy that can reinvent himself as a pitcher and still have success. He set his ego aside and improved his ground ball stuff and control. After being more than a strikeout per inning guy in his younger days with Milwaukee, he deserves a ton of credit.
Gallardo is just 7-6, but has a 2.56 ERA, 3.47 FIP, 3.82 xFIP. His .256 BABIP against will likely experience some regression in the near future because the Rangers are not a great defensive team. He has done such a great job of sequencing, with one of the lowest line drive rates of his career and a spectacular HR/FB%.
However, the Diamondbacks look like a good value for Tuesday night. For starters, they are playing in an American League park, which means they can DH a bad fielder like Yasmany Tomas. For another thing, Robbie Ray has thrown the ball pretty well and the Rangers are in the bottom of the league in wOBA against southpaws. I think there’s some BABIP regression coming for Gallardo and the Diamondbacks have a good combination of speed and guys that hit the ball hard. Also, they have a great infield defense, which is important on the sun-baked dirt of Globe Life Park.
Give me the Diamondbacks on Tuesday night.
How much respect does the Blue Jays offense get against lefties? Felix Doubront is a road favorite. That’s not the whole story, of course, as the White Sox have the league’s worst offense against left-handed pitchers. They beat one on Monday night in Mark Buehrle, but Buehrle threw a complete game with four unearned runs allowed. Chris Sale threw a complete game against the Blue Jays, but gave up two solo home runs.
Doubront had been stretched out as a starter in Triple-A and had actually been throwing the ball pretty well with a 2.44 ERA and a 2.78 FIP. His Major League career has not gone particularly well, but there may be some upside left in the 27-year-old. Doubront seems healthy this season, which is more than half of the battle. The velocity returned in his one MLB appearance, though it was out of the bullpen. The Blue Jays bullpen is in good shape after Buerhle’s CG, so Doubront may not work too long.
The White Sox need to play better behind Jose Quintana. Quintana’s strikeout rate has dropped a tad, but he’s still very effective. His 3.81 ERA comes with a 3.37 FIP and a 3.71 xFIP, so there’s some room for improvement there because of a .337 BABIP. Of course, this is a very tough start for Quintana against a lineup that murders left-handed pitching. Because righties are batting .306/.357/.457 against him this season, the Blue Jays look like the right side, even though they are starting Doubront.
I wish Kevin Gausman would get traded to another organization. The Orioles, who preach arm health for pitchers by not allowing them to throw a cutter, have allowed Jake Arrieta to go to the Cubs and thrive and have also seen arm problems with Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey. They’ve shuffled Gausman back and forth between Triple-A, the bullpen, the MLB starting rotation, and just about everywhere in between. He’s never been able to take the next step because his slider doesn’t have the bite that the cutter he threw in college has. He’s managed to survive with a fastball and a change and splitter. Because of the way that the Orioles have handled him, every start is a question mark.
Kyle Gibson is a guy that I don’t really like, but I may have to start coming around. The 27-year-old missed a year of development due to Tommy John and has been somewhat of a late bloomer. It’s worth noting that Gibson has 35 strikeouts over his last 38.2 innings of work. A regression of command in June stopped what was a pretty nice string of starts, but if this strikeout spike is sustainable, an extreme GB guy with a strikeout rate of league average is really valuable. I’m going to have to watch Gibson a lot closer the rest of this season. He has the best chase rate of his career and perhaps a different coaching staff has gotten through to him.
I’d lean Twins on Tuesday.
I’m not going to say that the wrong team is favored on Tuesday night at Coors Field, but this line is not where it should be. The Rockies are really scuffling without a few key pieces in their lineups, but they take on a fly ball pitcher making his first career start in the altitude. Andrew Heaney threw the ball well in his first two starts and had nice peripherals in Triple-A, but Coors Field is an entirely different animal.
As mentioned before, I’m a believer in Chad Bettis. The Rockies have him on a better development path and Walt Weiss and his coaching staff rebuilt him from the ground up last season because they understood how important he was to the starting rotation. He missed all of 2012 due to injury and was limited to 80 innings last season. The 26-year-old is throwing more breaking balls this season to keep hitters off of the fastball and it has really helped. His fastball, which was batting practice last season, is just a tick below average. I’m buying these improvements and I’m taking the Rockies on Tuesday.