It’s Monday and that means two things. First, it’s back to work for most of you. But, second, it means that there is a new episode of The Bettor’s Box for your listening pleasure. A week from now, the league will be enjoying the All-Star Break and you will be checking out an extended edition of our MLB betting podcast.
Eleven games are on tap for Monday night, with some very interesting series and pitching matchups. We’ve already seen some line moves on the overnights and some of them should pique your interest. Let’s take a look at the Monday card and see what we can find.
This line is all over the place as the Padres and Pirates get ready for an early-week series. This is a rather interesting series because there is a huge gap between these two teams defensively. The Padres have played a lot of overs this season because their defense is terrible. Most of their starters have high BABIPs against and good strikeout rates. In this one, James Shields opposes AJ Burnett.
Shields has seen his strikeout rate drop lately, but the bigger concern for him is the highest HR/FB% of his career at 18.3 percent. A velocity drop coupled with bad fastball command has left Shields with an ERA that is a full run higher than his xFIP. The thing about this is that Shields has never been a great fastball guy. His secondaries are normally his best pitches. For the second straight season, his changeup is below average. This may simply be a case of a heavy workload catching up with a guy. Shields has thrown at least 203 innings in each of the last eight seasons and has thrown 227 or more in each of the last four. Perhaps the deep playoff run with the Royals also affected him.
Statistically, it’s a bit of a strange season for AJ Burnett. He’s outpitching his advanced metrics by quite a bit thanks to an 81 percent strand rate. He has a 2.05 ERA with a 2.57 FIP and 3.14 xFIP. His control and command have improved after pitching through a sports hernia last season. Despite a 56/9 K/BB ratio against righties, they are batting .285/.312/.360 off of him, while lefties are hitting a paltry .215/.297/.291. The difference is that righties have a .374 BABIP off of Burnett. The Pirates employ a lot of defensive shifts, but they don’t do it nearly as much against right-handed batters.
This would appear to be a good matchup for Burnett on the surface because of San Diego’s collection of righties. I’m not so sure. Shields is in decline and the Padres are terrible defensively. I’m not sure I can take either side here, but the plus-money price on Shields is kind of intriguing. The issue is that the Pirates are a vastly superior team.
After throwing a no-hitter for 8.2 innings, Carlos Carrasco is back on the bump for the Indians. He threw a season-high 124 pitches in that game, as he racked up 13 strikeouts. It’s fair to wonder whether or not that will be an issue for Carrasco, working on regular rest. On the other side, regression should be coming for Dallas Keuchel. Working with an average infield defense (+3 DRS), Keuchel has held opposing hitters to a .238 BABIP against and has a strand rate of 82.4 percent. His 2.03 ERA is accompanied by a 2.92 FIP and 2.77 xFIP.
The Indians have a top-five offense against left-handed pitching, despite the early-season narrative that the Indians can’t hit lefties. Keuchel is one of the best at his craft, however. The Astros are 20-20 on the road despite a +27 run differential, which is rather interesting. The Indians have not been good at home, but Carrasco is the type of pitcher you would want against the Astros. He has terrific control and very good command. His 3.88 ERA is BABIP-inflated from earlier this season. He has a 2.77 FIP and a 2.72 xFIP, so he is certainly in line for some positive regression.
In this series opener, look to the Indians to start things off on the right track. The bullpen has not worked much lately and Carrasco is a terrific matchup to back against a dangerous Astros lineup.
We’ll have to wait on the wind conditions for a total at Wrigley. The Cubs were swept in St. Louis a few weeks ago, but they had plenty of chances in that series. The Cubs were 2-for-27 with RISP, so that series could have gone either way. There are a lot of storylines to this one. The Cubs have a lot to prove in this series. The Cardinals took three bases against Jon Lester in the first game and none in the second game. Teams run at will on Lester and David Ross.
Cardinals are a much better defensive team than the Cubs, which is another factor. John Lackey has a 3.30/3.44/3.96 on the season, with a 76.2 percent strand rate. Jon Lester has a 3.74/3.44/3.27 because of a .325 BABIP against. But, over his last 12 starts, Lester has a 3.01 ERA with a .297 BABIP against. Seems like he just had some trouble adjusting.
This line certainly seems high, which is why the Cubs are probably the right side. If it looks like oddsmakers want money on one side, there’s a reason for it. It looks like they want Cardinals money here.
This is the most interesting game on the card. The Toronto Blue Jays and their historic offense against left-handed pitching draw the best left hander in the American League in Chris Sale. It’s hard to put into words just how good Chris Sale has been this season. Working with no run support and the American League’s worst defense, Sale has a 2.87/2.09/2.28 with 141 strikeouts in 103.1 innings of work. His 6.41 K/BB ratio is among the best in baseball and his 34.6 percent strikeout rate leads all starters. Oh, by the way, Sale has struck out at least 10 in eight straight starts and nine of his last 10. That’s a ridiculously good run.
Lost in the shuffle here is Mark Buehrle, the longtime White Sox hurler, who is still finding a way to be an effective starting pitcher. His 3.64/4.07/4.04 isn’t far off of his career numbers and he is on pace for his 15th straight 200+ inning season. The White Sox can’t hit, which has to be factored into this game.
This has must-see TV written all over it. The crafty veteran against the flame-throwing, unhittable, lanky lefty. I don’t know what to take on this game, but it’s going to be fun to watch two guys that go about things in very different ways carve up the opposition.
Be sure to listen to Monday’s edition of The Bettor’s Box for thoughts on this game, as it was the podcast free pick for today.
Philadelphia at Los Angeles (NL)