Five of today’s 15 games are afternoon contests as teams gear up for days off or travel days on Thursday. Other teams are playing the middle game of a three-game set before heading into the weekend. For the first time in what seems like a while, there are not many big numbers out there on the board today. Only Pittsburgh and Washington are favored in the -160 or higher range. Cleveland is in the mid -150s after a pitching change turned Justin Verlander into Buck Farmer as the Indians look to avoid a sweep. Small favorites and small dogs are my favorite teams to bet, so there should be some value on today’s card.
It would make perfect sense for the Yankees to score 14 runs over the first two games of the series and have the finale against Cole Hamels represent their only win of the series, right? That’s a possibility on Wednesday as the Phillies vie for a clean sweep of the Yankees. Philadelphia has scored 22 runs in the first two games and they get Ivan Nova on Wednesday, making his return from the DL after Tommy John surgery. This is Nova’s first start since April 19, 2014.
Nova made three rehab starts, one in Single-A and two in Triple-A. Teams generally aren’t worried about results in these outings. They’re only worried about pain management. Nova allowed eight runs in 15.2 innings with a 10/3 K/BB. Given how common the procedure is nowadays, velocity is often the first thing to come back, followed by control, and then command. Nova will be on a pitch count, so keep that in mind after the Yankees have used a lot of relievers over the last two days.
Cole Hamels has gotten no run support this season. In his 14 starts, the Phillies have scored 27 runs. Only Lance Lynn, Jake Odorizzi, Jose Quintana, Corey Kluber, and Matt Garza have gotten less help. Hamels has been hampered by a hamstring issue that caused him to miss his last start. He has a 2.96/3.55/3.19 pitcher slash, so the numbers are good and the strikeouts have gone up this season. The Yankees rank sixth in wOBA against lefties.
Given how this series has transpired, the under is the right play in this game. It’s a getaway day game after two long games on Monday and Tuesday. Tuesday’s start was delayed by rain, so the game ran deep into the night. The Phillies have an off day at home tomorrow before Washington comes to town, so they’ll be ready to get back to their families. The Yankees may struggle with Hamels. Play the under, even with the offense of the first two games.
Another game that could have a lot of quick at bats is the one between the Astros and Angels. Lance McCullers takes the ball for the ‘Stros against Matt Shoemaker. This is an interesting game to handicap because of Shoemaker’s command issues and the Astros’ propensity for hitting dingers. The small overnight move on the Angels is perplexing, because his weakness this season plays right into Houston’s strength.
Shoemaker is one of those pitchers that the betting market has sided with this season because of his ERA-xFIP discrepancy. Shoemaker’s 5.20 ERA is accompanied by a 4.72 FIP and 3.93 xFIP. His HR/9 is double what it was last season and his strand rate has fallen by nearly 12 percent. At this point, bettors should be asking themselves if Shoemaker’s 2015 is a better indicator of his talent than his 2014. Shoemaker’s strikeout totals are still better than they were in the minors, but the high home run rate is more in line with what he did at Triple-A from 2011-13. Command problems seem to have been an issue in the minors.
McCullers isn’t averaging six innings per start, but he has been very effective in his rookie year. After making the jump from Double-A, McCullers has a 2.45/2.34/3.20 pitcher slash and has struck out over 28 percent of opposing batters. He has a great fastball and an above average hammer, but he’s lacking a third pitch. It remains to be seen if that will catch up with him soon, but this is Anaheim’s first look. McCullers struggled in his second straight start against Seattle and struggled in his second outing against the White Sox of the season. Because the Angels haven’t seen him yet, he should be fine in this start.
However, with the justifiable line move, I can’t take a side. This is an early getaway game for an Astros team that is heading home after an eight-game road trip. I’ll lay off a side here with a very minor lean to the under.
This is what happens when you take a pitcher due for regression and subtract a team’s best hitter. Freddie Freeman is on the disabled list with a wrist injury and Shelby Miller has a 1.99 ERA with a 3.98 xFIP and a 4.10 SIERA. Those aren’t good numbers for predicting future performance. On the other hand, SIERA heavily weighs strikeouts in its calculation and Miller’s arsenal changes have yielded more ground balls. The low home run rate is due to hitters not being able to center on his newfound cutter.
It’s sort of interesting to compare the two pitchers, because Jordan Zimmermann’s K/BB is right in line with Miller’s, but he has a 3.75 ERA with a 4.04 xFIP. Zimmermann isn’t inducing ground balls at the same rate, but a .337 BABIP against has been hurtful. Miller’s BABIP against is .240.
Taking a Braves lineup without Freddie Freeman is terrifying, but this line does seem a little bit inflated. That being said, just because there appears to be value on a line doesn’t mean you have to take it.
Things aren’t going well for the Marlins again. They have lost five of their last six and have scored 15 runs in those six games. We see the impact that facing a left-handed pitcher has on their lines in this game. The Cardinals send Jaime Garcia to the mound against Mat Latos. Miami comes in with the second-best wOBA against lefties as a team at .340. Bettors will also point to some of the small sample size regression present in Garcia’s peripherals, with a .246 BABIP, a 1.76 ERA but a 3.04 xFIP, and an 82 percent strand rate with a low strikeout percentage. Two-thirds of the battle is simply being healthy enough to pitch for Garcia. His two-seamer has been really effective so far with a 66 percent ground ball rate. In terms of pitching to the defense, St. Louis is a good team to do it with.
Latos comes in with some positive regression on the horizon. His 5.37 ERA comes with a 3.22 FIP and a 3.73 xFIP. His strikeout rate has jumped up considerably. Small sample size bias is playing tricks with his home ERA of 7.90, since he has starts of six, five, and seven earned runs allowed, two of those starts against the Braves. That’s where I get worried, though. Latos has allowed a .330/.377/.486 slash to lefties. The Cardinals have a balanced lineup overall, but some of their best table setters hit left-handed.
I think we get value on the Cardinals because of the perception and results of the Marlins against left-handed pitching. The Marlins are struggling in a lot of facets of the game and their bullpen, which was a strength, is now a bit shaky. Take the Cardinals in this one.
This is an interesting line here. Oakland’s terrible record against left-handed pitching is certainly a consideration. Given how oddsmakers have been lining the Rangers, like a team that could rattle off a 20-game losing streak at any time, Wandy Rodriguez as essentially a pick ‘em against an improving team is worth discussing. The A’s are 3-13 against left-handed starters this season. It’s easy to see why. The A’s have a .287 wOBA against lefties this season, which ranks 28th. But, there’s more to it than that. They have a .268 BABIP as a team and the third-best BB/K ratio against lefties. That would suggest some positive regression in their performance.
Rodriguez has a 3.20 ERA with a 3.77 FIP and a 4.18 xFIP. It’s rather surprising what he has been able to do this season, especially from a health standpoint. He has given the Rangers some quality innings to help cobble together a rotation in light of all the injuries. Rodriguez has allowed three or fewer runs in nine of his 11 starts. The thing is that his control is very suspect at this stage of his career. The A’s, for all of their problems, are still one of the most patient teams in baseball.
How about Kendall Graveman? Has anybody noticed how good he has been since he went to Triple-A and sorted some things out? Over his first four starts, Graveman had an 8.27 ERA and allowed a .343/.434/.514 slash. Since returning on May 23, he has a 2.27 ERA with a .247/.292/.380 slash in six starts. The profile isn’t very sexy with a sinker/cutter arsenal and a suspect infield defense, so that’s why it can be hard to back Graveman. He also has some issues with control to lefties.
Because of that, the over looks like a decent play in this game, with a small lean to the surging Athletics.
Danny Duffy returns for his first start since May 16 against Roenis Elias and the Seattle Mariners. The Royals were shut down by former Royals prospect Mike Montgomery, a lefty, on Tuesday. Their left-handed heavy lineup gets another lefty in this game. First, we’ll look at Duffy, who was clearly hurt before he went on the DL. Duffy allowed 14 runs in 9.2 innings over his last three starts and walked 10 over his final 8.2 innings before the DL stint.
Duffy may be better suited for a relief role, but he’s also a guy that can’t stay healthy. His rising 94 mph fastball does get swings and misses and was one of the better ones in the league last season, but his secondary stuff doesn’t have enough bite and he can’t control it. The Mariners do have several left-handed bats, but they do utilize platoon advantages enough to be right around league average across the board against lefties. The status of Nelson Cruz is still up in the air after needing his pelvic bone popped back into place earlier this week.
As for how the Royals match up against Elias, this could be a tricky matchup for them. Elias uses a couple different release points and will occasionally drop down against lefties, which is why they have a .250/.311/.321 slash in 61 PA this season and a .221/.308/.340 slash overall in 213 PA. He showed some signs of growth as a pitcher in his last start. After getting shelled by the Astros for eight runs on seven hits over 3.1 innings on June 14, he struck out 10 Astros without a walk in his last start on June 19.
The Mariners look worthy of a play tonight. The line is a little bit surprising, given the situation both teams are in, but Duffy is prone to control issues on a regular basis, let alone his first start back in the bigs. He dominated in his two rehab starts, but they were short bursts and his erratic nature would play up in Triple-A. Elias is inconsistent, but so is the Royals offense lately.