Don’t expect a lot of line moves on the 4th of July. With a lot of day games and the holiday, the public will be preoccupied and the professionals have already made overnight moves on the games that they are interested in. It will be a rather slow day in baseball from a betting standpoint. One game, San Francisco vs. Washington, actually begins at 11:05 a.m. ET. There’s a chance that we’ll see some public action in the late games, but for the most part, don’t expect to see a lot of substantial moves on Saturday. With that, let’s see if we can find some value to celebrate the holiday.
There was a small line movement on the overnights on Detroit and starter David Price. Toronto will counter with RA Dickey. We’ve likely seen an adjustment in this line with the news that Miguel Cabrera will go on the disabled list with a calf strain. The Blue Jays absolutely own left-handed pitching this season. The Jays are hitting .309 against lefties, which is the best in the league by 34 points. They have a .380 wOBA, which is 40 points higher than the next best team and 54 points higher than the team in third.
But, David Price is a different kind of lefty. Price has a 2.62/2.87/3.43 pitcher slash on the season, but there are some interesting developments in his stat line. His K rate is down quite a bit from last season and he is inducing more fly ball contact. Price is throwing more fastballs overall this season than he did over the last two seasons. He may be looking long-term with a free agent payday coming soon, which had led to the usage changes. The Blue Jays maul fastballs as a team. Will Price adjust?
On the other side, RA Dickey has not been good this season. A drop in velocity has effectively ruined his value as a pitcher. He has a 4.85/5.11/4.79 and injuries and Dickey’s contract situation have forced the Jays to keep him in the rotation. He has eaten innings, so there’s that, but his command has been an issue since he made the move to the AL and his K and BB rates are trending in the wrong direction.
A lot of variables have influenced this line. The Tigers have a huge starting pitching advantage, but the Jays lineup is excellent against lefties. Miguel Cabrera being out has probably caused an adjustment in the line of a few cents, and also a public adjustment. I still think the Tigers are the play in this one because Price isn’t your run-of-the-mill southpaw.
Collin McHugh is not getting a lot of respect on Saturday. He’s taking on a pitcher that I have advocated a lot lately in Clay Buchholz. McHugh has a 4.51/4.01/3.87 pitcher slash, so there are some positive signs for regression there. As mentioned on Thursday’s edition of The Bettor’s Box, mechanical problems with the slider have been the biggest influence on McHugh’s inflated ERA. His drop in strikeouts is a little bit surprising since his swinging strike rate is only 0.4 percent lower than last season and his chase rate is higher. These are positive signs.
On the other hand, Clay Buchholz has seen steady improvement in his run prevention metrics with a 3.48 ERA, 2.66 FIP, 3.17 xFIP. The strikeout stuff is back and he’s starting to sequence better with men on base. The LOB% of 69.9 percent has been rising and he’s one of the lone bright spots in the Red Sox rotation. His .332 BABIP against is a little concerning, but he has only allowed five home runs in 101 innings pitched, which is a key stat against the Astros.
I like the under and the Red Sox in this game. I like, and believe in, Collin McHugh, but I like Buchholz more in this particular spot. Buchholz has strikeout upside and limits home runs.
You know a pitcher is elite when people start wondering what’s wrong with him in the midst of a season like the one that Felix Hernandez is having. The Mariners ace is 10-4, 3.05/3.42/3.06, and people are starting to ask questions. Looking at the month-by-month splits, it’s easy to see why there’s some cause for concern. The King posted a 5.51 ERA with a 29/16 K/BB in June. What’s important to point out here is that his SLG against was .344, LOWER than the previous month, when he had a 2.00 ERA. Hernandez’s LOB% in June was just 59.3 percent, which has to be one of the lowest of his career. June appears to be a fluky month, unless there is an underlying injury affecting Felix’s control. Control is obviously a big deal against the Oakland A’s.
Kendall Graveman threw seven shutout last start against the Rockies to lower his ERA to 2.01 since he was recalled on May 23. Over those eight starts, he has gone at least six innings seven times and has not allowed more than three runs. Also, five of those eight have been away from the friendly confines of O.co Coliseum. He’s a guy dependent on batted ball luck, with a low strikeout rate.
In this one, I think the A’s are the play. They’re playing pretty well again this week and Graveman has been locating and sequencing really well. Felix is always capable of a dominating outing, but he has shown some problems lately and I’m concerned that there’s something more to it. He acknowledged cramps in his last start against Anaheim, but it may be more than that. His velocity is also down a little bit from last season.
This is terrific matchup for the Indians, which means they will probably lose, since I don’t normally go out on this far of a limb. The narrative that the Indians can’t hit lefties has been dead and buried for about six weeks now and it’s clear in this line. Cody Anderson is not going to sustain this type of performance, but this is a very different team defensively for the Indians. With Gio Urshela and Francisco Lindor on the left side of the infield, the Indians are climbing back towards average in defensive runs saved. That helps a guy like Anderson, with a heavy sinker and a terrific changeup. The Pirates’ speed may come into play in this game, as Anderson has allowed some very weak contact that could lead to infield hits, but he’s been very good this season at three different levels.
Jeff Locke has spotty control and that’s something that the Indians can exploit. The Indians are tied with the Blue Jays for the highest walk rate against lefties at 10.2 percent. As left-handed heavy as they are, their 107 wRC+ ranks fourth among the 30 MLB teams. Only the Blue Jays strike out less against lefties than the Indians. Locke has a 4.55/3.94/3.97 pitcher slash with poor control and a lot of hard contact.
The Pirates weren’t going to be a home dog against a pitcher making his third Major League start, but you can make a case that they should be.
In his first full season in the Majors, Jimmy Nelson hasn’t been able to put it all together. With a below average K% and below average BB%, his 69.5 percent LOB% has yielded a 4.48 ERA, with a 4.26 FIP and a 4.02 xFIP. It’s not quite there yet for the right-hander, who has some of the worst fastball/sinker command in the Majors this season. In looking at the Brewers rotation, a lot of guys have struggled with fastball command, so there may be something to the way they attack hitters or the way their pitching coach addresses mechanics. There’s something to be said about Nelson’s high swinging strike rate and chase rate, but they haven’t translated into success. His secondaries have improved, but everything works off the fastball for a pitcher and his hasn’t been good.
I think this line tells you everything you need to know about Nelson. The Brewers enter with six straight wins and are facing a pitcher making his third Major League start. The first two haven’t gone well. Josh Smith has a 5.64/6.96/6.90 in his eight innings, because he has walked 10 and struck out six. His ERA could be even worse, but two of the runs are unearned. He showed pedestrian stuff in his minor league career once he got into the higher levels and it clearly hasn’t translated to the Majors. Smith has only thrown a first-pitch strike to 36 percent of batters faced. That’s really bad.
I don’t have a pick on this game, but I thought the line was really interesting and it probably suggests that the Reds are the right side. The public, if they get involved, will see how bad Smith has been in his first two starts and that the Brewers are on a six-game winning streak. It’s hard to back Josh Smith given what we’ve seen so far, but a two-start sample isn’t very significant.
Hector Santiago opposes Wandy Rodriguez in this one. Hector Santiago keeps spitting in the face of sabermetrics with his 2.58 ERA, 4.22 FIP, and 4.45 xFIP. Is Texas the place where regression starts? The extreme fly ball hurler with the low HR/FB% better hope not. He’s been a guy that has done this type of thing throughout his career, though not to this extreme. The saving grace this season has been the best K/BB ratio of his career. That and some fortunate batted ball luck with runners on and RISP.
Wandy Rod puts a huge strain on the bullpen and the Rangers struggle in middle relief. He has a 3.91/3.93/4.13, which is more than anybody expected after how his six starts with the Pirates went last season. There isn’t anything that stands out in an ugly way to signal that regression is coming. The only issue is that he’s basically a five-and-fly guy and those are really hard to bet on.
I’m a bigger believer in Santiago than I am in Rodriguez. Oddsmakers know that pitchers with Santiago’s stat profiles have been bet against with regularity and they had no problem lining the road team as a favorite. Because of that, I like Santiago and the Angels in this one.