Twenty-four of the 30 MLB teams are in action on Thursday. The day includes a few day games and also includes the latest edition of The Bettor’s Box, BangTheBook’s terrific MLB betting podcast. It will also feature the return of Jose Fernandez as the Miami Marlins take on the San Francisco Giants. There are a lot of interesting lines and matchups throughout the day, so let’s see where the value lies.
Does Thursday seem like a trap line to you? It does to me. Matt Garza has been bad. Not as bad as rotation mate Kyle Lohse, but bad. His strikeout rate has declined for the fifth straight season, and his home run rate and walk rate have also increased this season. His command is basically non-existent. Regardless, Garza is taking on the lowly Philadelphia Phillies and Chad Billingsley. Billingsley is coming off of the DL following a shoulder injury. He made three starts and didn’t pitch particularly well before hitting the DL.
No matter how much Garza has struggled (5.52/4.99/4.24), this line seems low. Billingsley is facing a pretty decent offense, all things considered, and had all sorts of command problems before he got hurt. The over looks like a good play in this one as well, since Garza has a high home run rate on the season and Citizens Bank Park is still a decent hitter’s park in the summertime.
How bad are the Padres right now? Tyson Ross opened a +115 dog against the St. Louis Cardinals against a guy making his second Major League start. Things didn’t go well for Tim Cooney in his Major League debut, allowing three runs on seven hits in 2.1 innings of work. Cooney has been more of a pitch-to-contact lefty at the Triple-A level, after recording better than a strikeout per inning in Double-A in 2013. Fangraphs’s Kiley McDaniel projects Cooney’s upside to be as a fourth starter with above average control and command. That might be enough against a Padres offense that has done next to nothing of value for a while.
Tyson Ross has been trying to do it all himself this season. His strikeout rate is the best of his career, but his walk rate is the worst. It’s understandable why he would try to do it all himself given a .346 BABIP against. Command hasn’t been a big problem for Ross, whose 62.8 percent ground ball rate is one of the best in the league.
Money has come in on the Padres in this one, as the Cardinals have scuffled a tiny bit this week. They’re a hard team to back right now, even in a situation that seems to greatly favor them.
As surprising as it is, this is a matchup for first place in the AL Central. Kyle Gibson, like most Twins starters, is due for statistical regression with a 3.30 ERA, 4.30 FIP, 4.00 xFIP. His saving grace is that he keeps the ball on the ground and has sequenced well with runners on base, with a 78.5 percent LOB%. His pitch-to-contact style may be a feather in his cap against the Royals, but I doubt it. Gibson has seen a rise in strikeouts since April, so maybe the new voices of skipper Paul Molitor and the pitching coach have been helpful. It’s hard to say whether or not Gibson’s recent improvements are sustainable. Kansas City is facing him for the fourth time this season.
Chris Young’s career resurgence continues as he spits in the face of advanced metrics. Young has a 2.71 ERA with a 3.96 FIP and a 5.02 xFIP. He’s also been one of Kansas City’s most effective pitchers because of a .204 BABIP. When he makes a location mistake, it might leave the yard, but nobody in baseball seems to be better at inducing weak aerial contact than Young. The Royals have the league’s best defense by defensive runs saved and it shows in his peripherals.
I don’t normally lay high numbers, but I’m not a believer in Gibson and I think Young can sustain this. With the Royals coming off of a bad series against the Astros, they should step up here.
Two pitchers that aren’t very good will take the mound at Chase Field on Thursday night. Chris Rusin will go for the Rockies and Jeremy Hellickson for the Diamondbacks. Rusin is your standard-issue pitch-to-contact southpaw with marginal command and Hellickson is a righty that hasn’t been able to replicate his 2010-12 magic of outpitching his advanced metrics. Hellickson has more upside than Rusin, though, because he can miss a higher number of bats.
The Rockies have had a tough time with injuries this season to two of their better left-handed bats, Corey Dickerson and Justin Morneau. In this instance, the presence of Hellickson adds some value to the line for the Diamondbacks. I don’t normally lay north of -140, but the Diamondbacks are a pretty good play in this one.