After an exciting day on the diamond that included a walk-off balk, things return to normal in Major League Baseball. Only two teams will be participating in interleague play, as the Minnesota Twins host the Chicago Cubs. Some key division series begin on Friday, which will include some matchups where the teams have a lot of familiarity with each other. Here’s a look at some MLB betting thoughts for June 19.
Did you ever think we’d see a world in which Adam Warren was favored over Justin Verlander? I’d argue that Justin Verlander’s reputation precedes him into this start, which is the only reason why he’s only a small underdog. The Tigers have been a pretty pedestrian team for a while now, while the Yankees lead the AL East. Since starting the season 11-2, the Tigers are only 23-30.
Verlander was pushed back due to rain in Cincinnati and that’s the last thing that a pitcher coming back from injury wants. He’s ready to get into a rhythm. A veteran like Verlander should be able to handle the minor speed bump, but it could have an impact because of what happened in his first start. He held the Indians to two runs over five innings, but gave up a home run and didn’t have the same explosive stuff. The velocity was on par with 2014, which was the lowest of his career. He’ll never be the same Verlander and a 2014 version isn’t all that great.
As for Adam Warren, I’m still waiting for the bottom to fall out. His 3.78 ERA is accompanied by a 4.54 FIP and xFIP. With men on base, Warren has a 13/14 K/BB ratio and has allowed a .360 on-base percentage. Unlike other Yankees starters, the defense has actually helped Warren with a .257 BABIP against. I’m admittedly baffled as to how Warren has been around league average as a starter. Pitches classified as fastballs have been battered to the tune of a .326/.436/.543 and his two-seamer is at a .362/.471/.500 clip. The slider and changeup have been effective, if only because of the low BABIPs. The swing-and-miss rates aren’t very exciting.
All the hoopla for this game will be about Alex Rodriguez going for his 3000th hit. I doubt it has any real impact on the game. I have a hard time firing on the Tigers in this spot, but I’m not a believer in Adam Warren. As Verlander’s command has declined, he’s still kept the ball in the park, so I give a slight nod to the Tigers in this one.
This is a strange line move to me. I’m not excited about Marco Estrada, but I’m just as pessimistic about Mike Wright. Regardless, overnight money came in on the Orioles in this one after the line opened in the -150 range. I correctly called out Wright in his last start and he didn’t disappoint us. Looking at this start, he fits all the red flags a pitcher can have against Toronto. He allows a lot of contact, has shown a command problem with four long balls allowed in 28.1 innings, and pitches behind in the count too much. The lone saving grace for Wright is that he shows enormous platoon splits. Lefties hit .304/.371/.509, while righties hit .189/.246/.283. The Blue Jays lineup is stacked with righties.
There was never much shine on Marco Estrada, but whatever shine was there has worn off. He’s posted a 5.01 ERA over 46.2 innings as a starter with a .266/.320/.449 slash against. His heavy changeup reliance may not be a good match for an Orioles team that ranks sixth in pitch type linear weights against the change.
I think there are two ways to go about this game. You can play the Orioles team total over, because the reason this line is moving is likely that the betting market expects Baltimore to score off of Estrada. That would eliminate the risk of Wright getting blown up and you can still win even if Toronto wins. The other is to avoid it. Both pitchers show major blow-up potential. Wright may have the better chance to pitch well, as surprising as that is, given how he fares against righties. But, he has allowed all 13 of his runs over his last 14 innings, so the book is out and hitters have already adjusted.
One of those money line pick ‘em games as I like to call them. I’m not sure why. Oddsmakers have been lining the Minnesota Twins like a team that’s going to fall into the abyss at any given second. A big reason why is because Phil Hughes has regressed in a big way. Kyle Hendricks has seen money from the betting market over his last five starts as he tries to pitch his ERA down to his advanced metrics. He’s getting closer with a 3.80 ERA, 3.45 FIP, 3.44 xFIP, and 3.36 SIERA. What’s not to like about Hendricks? His strikeout rate is a tick above average, his walk rate is spectacular, and he keeps the ball on the ground. He’s been an undervalued commodity in the market and still appears to be.
Phil Hughes is due for a little bit of positive regression per the advanced stats, but I’m not so sure I believe them. Hughes throws a lot of strikes, as we all know, but the strikeout rate and home run rate regression this season has driven his ERA up 1.27 runs from last season. His FIP is nearly two runs higher and his xFIP is just shy of being a full run higher. Why? Well, hitters are slugging 224 points higher on his fastball this season. His secondary pitches are generating basically no swings and misses. It’s fair to say that he was truly a flash in the pan.
This line scares me, because the Cubs should be lined higher. Perhaps it’s a bullpen concern given the late night in Cleveland. If it’s an AL vs. NL thing, then oddsmakers didn’t see what Kyle Schwarber did as the DH in Cleveland. I have no concerns about Hendricks and this power-filled Cubs lineup should hit plenty of missiles off of Hughes. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s not a hippopotamus. Don’t let the line scare you off of this play.
To me, this is the worst line move of the day. Taylor Jungmann has flashed some potential early in his career and the Rockies are really struggling, but Coors Field is a big deal in this start. Jungmann has thrown the ball well in two starts with a 2.25 ERA and a good ground ball split. Jungmann has experience pitching in the altitude since Milwaukee’s Triple-A affiliate is the Colorado Springs Sky Sox. In seven home appearances with the Sky Sox, Jungmann allowed a .326/.421/.442 slash and had just a 29/20 K/BB ratio. That’s a 7.27 ERA and a 1.875 WHIP. Pitching in altitude is hard and Jungmann clearly hasn’t mastered it.
On the other hand, Jorge de la Rosa knows how to pitch in this environment. The results don’t really show it this season with a 6.99 ERA, but he had a 2.92 ERA at home in 2013-14. He gave up seven runs on nine hits in his first start of the season at home against the Padres, which has skewed those home numbers. Because de la Rosa was hurt and couldn’t get into the rhythm of the season, it took him some time. In his last five starts, three at home, he has allowed three runs or less in all five. The Brewers offense isn’t all that exciting this season.
The Rockies are without Corey Dickerson again, which is a problem for their offense, but the line movement is misguided in this game. Jungmann is not effective in this environment and that may become a mental thing for a young pitcher entering this start since he knows how much he has struggled. Now that this line is under -140, it’s in my playable range, so it’s up to you to decide how you want to play it.
I’m not about to step in front of the freight train that is Sonny Gray. The Angels are countering with Matt Shoemaker, who I still believe is a candidate for positive regression. Shoemaker has a 4.85 ERA with a 4.44 FIP and a 3.81 xFIP. His 3.57 SIERA is the clearest sign that better things are coming. There are some concerns about Shoemaker, the velocity drop being the biggest one. His average fastball velo has dropped by one full mile per hour this season and his two-seamer has experienced a similar drop. The two-seamer drop isn’t a bad thing, because it allows the pitch to move a little more and it has been a more effective pitch for him this season. The issue is that his slower fastball has given hitters a few more milliseconds to differentiate between the fastball and the change. Offensive numbers are up on both of those pitches, especially the changeup. After hitters slugged .256 against it last season, they are slugging .533 against it this season. Sample sizes and all that, but he throws his changeup a lot, so it needs to be effective.
Everything has worked for Sonny Gray this season. The control issue he had in 2014 seems to be a thing of the past and he’s sequenced beautifully this season. A six percent spike in pop ups plus an increase in strikeouts has led to a lot of easy outs for Gray. That’s why he has been so much more effective. His curveball and slider are two plus secondary pitches and his fastball command has taken a big leap this season. This kid is legit.
This looks like an under game to me. Shoemaker has gotten progressively better throughout the season and Gray is developing into the front of the rotation monster that he was expected to become.
Well, everything about this line interests me. The slumping San Diego Padres have ace James Shields on the mound and the Arizona Diamondbacks have Rubby de la Rosa on the hill. These are two teams that are tough to line right now because recency bias is playing with the line and the market. The Padres have been awful and they have lost in glorious fashion lately, with some lopsided defeats. The Diamondbacks are morphing into an NL West dark horse.
Let’s start by looking at James Shields, who clearly likes pitching in the NL with a 28.5 percent K%. That’s 4.9 percent higher than any strikeout rate he had in the AL. The strange thing for Shields is that he went to a better park to pitch in and has allowed 16 home runs in 87.2 innings of work, including eight at Petco Park. This is a little bit of a misleading number because he allowed three in a start at home against Colorado and four the last time he pitched at Chase Field. Somebody is going to bet on Arizona based solely on Shields’s last start at Chase Field. Do me a favor. Don’t do that.
The nice thing for Shields is that 13 of the 16 long balls have been solo and he has really buckled down with runners on base, holding the opposition to a .204/.248/.324 slash.
Rubby de la Rosa is a familiar name to listeners of The Bettor’s Box. I’ve isolated him on a few occasions because of the improvement suggested by his advanced metrics. He has a 5.27 ERA with a 4.28 FIP and a 3.32 xFIP. This matchup is particularly good for him because righties are batting .209/.259/.313, compared to a .317/.371/.622 from lefties. The knock on de la Rosa was control. Now it has become command. His mechanics, which have also been red flagged in his scouting reports, are a major issue from the stretch. Hitters are batting .316/.387/.643 with men on base, which is why his ERA is so high.
I’m truly not sure whether to jump off the de la Rosa train in this start or not. The splits against righties give me a lot of hope and he has pitched well in two outings against the Fathers this season. I try not to let that factor into my handicapping, but the Padres are so right-handed that it has to come into play. I think the under would be the only way to play this game.
New York (NL) at Atlanta