Sunday means a lot of day baseball and it can be tough to handicap some of those games. Players get days off or look ahead to off days on Monday. In other instances, teams are playing a day game after a night game after some heavy bullpen usage. Major League Baseball seems to have done a pretty good job of scheduling more 4:05 p.m. ET start times for the players this season, but it can still take a toll on a player to come back to the ballpark so quickly.
Cleveland (-135) at Detroit; Total: 7
I have no opinion on this game, except to say that Francisco Lindor has been freed and this Indians fan is like a kid on Christmas morning.
Atlanta at New York (NL) (-120); Total: 7.5
This is a rather interesting spot for both teams. It’s been a bit of a long weekend for the Braves and Mets. The teams have exchanged 5-3 wins and the Braves picked up their win in extra innings after they were shut down by Jacob deGrom for seven innings on Saturday. Mike Foltynewicz is an interesting piece for the Braves. John Hart loaded up on hard throwers during his barrage of offseason trades and Folty fits the bill. Foltynewicz has a 4.72 ERA, but a 3.98 FIP and a 4.29 xFIP. His .340 BABIP against is a sign of a couple of different things. The first is that the Braves outfield defense is mediocre. The second is that his command is a work in progress. This is the first time that the Mets will see Foltynewicz this season.
As for Dillon Gee, he has battled injuries this season and has a 4.50 ERA with a 4.29 FIP and a 4.25 xFIP. Like Folty, batted ball luck has not been on his side. A really scary thing about this start is that Gee has allowed a .338/.378/.526 slash to lefties. It was a lot better last season with a .249/.321/.398 slash, but Gee has not had the same changeup in this season’s smaller sample size. It’s either been sharp or flat, with no in-between.
The Braves are priced nicely here, if you can avoid their bullpen. I think a Braves first five innings wager may be the best way to approach this one since their bullpen has been a trainwreck most of the season. I like this starting pitching matchup for them.
Colorado at Miami (-130); Total: 7.5
I’ve gone on record as saying the Marlins are a good bet against left-handed pitching and I won’t back off of that here against Jorge de la Rosa. This is a bit of a steep price to pay on Dan Haren, but the Marlins have a lot of hitters that excel against southpaws. JDLR is due for some improvement with a 5.53 ERA, but a 3.71 FIP and a 3.50 xFIP. This looks like the type of game where you want to wait on the line to take Miami. The betting market has auto-played pitchers with a big discrepancy between ERA, FIP, xFIP, and SIERA and de la Rosa fits the bill.
Haren is still getting it done. The advanced metrics aren’t real thrilled with his performance to date, but he doesn’t walk hitters and has done a fabulous job of sequencing this season. The velo keeps declining, but the veteran knowhow and pitchability are still there. Hitters are making all kinds of contact, but most of it is weak. He’s basically the National League Jered Weaver with a better walk rate, which is far more sustainable with the pitcher hitting. Strikeouts are great, there’s no doubt about that. But, so are pop ups. Haren ranks 15th in percentage of fly balls that are pop ups, which are effectively strikeouts for control pitchers.
Take the Marlins, but wait out this line. The market will probably come in on Colorado and you can get a better price on the Fish.
Toronto at Boston (-115); Total: 8.5
Is Eduardo Rodriguez the guy that can slow down the Toronto offense? The betting market doesn’t seem to think so with an overnight move on the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays are hitting everything in sight right now and they’re hitting it a long way. Naturally, I’d be concerned about Rodriguez because he has a .149 BABIP against through his 20.2 innings and 77 batters faced. He has better than a strikeout per inning, which could be sustainable. He limited home runs throughout the minors and flashed average or better control at most of his stops. His swinging strike rate is right around average, which is why the Toronto offense could be the first team to get to him.
On the other hand, Marco Estrada is on the mound for Toronto. Estrada has a 4.54 ERA as a starter after a 0.84 ERA in 10.2 relief innings. The problem for him is that his arsenal isn’t deep enough to go through a lineup a second and third time. His .194 BABIP against with men on base should see some regression in the near future.
The mindset of the White Sox has to be taken into consideration here as well. They blew a huge lead on Friday night and lost a tough one in extras on Saturday afternoon. The season is already slipping away and this is an organization that made a huge commitment prior to the year. There are a lot of veteran guys and they may rally here. On the other hand, they may fold the tent. Without an off day on Monday, I think the Red Sox step up, but I can’t tell you to fire against that Toronto offense. The lean is Boston, but the best play is to stay away.
Philadelphia at Pittsburgh (-140); Total: 6.5
The total is 7 at a lot of shops and early money is trickling in on Pittsburgh. That’s not a big surprise. The Phillies are horrible and everybody knows it. Right now, the only reason to watch is Cole Hamels, who has to be hoping for a trade out of the organization. It has been a little bit of a strange season statistically for Hamels, who has benefited from a .262 BABIP against and a 3.19 ERA. His FIP is elevated due to a bad HR/FB rate and his xFIP is at 3.37. Hamels is on pace to have the best strikeout season since his rookie year in 2006.
Hamels has gone back to the hammer this season, with his highest curveball rate since 2008. The end result has been more swings and misses and a great swing-and-miss rate on pitches outside of the zone. Unfortunately for him, the Phillies have scored 27 runs of support in his 13 starts.
The fountain of youth is still on for AJ Burnett, with a 2.11 ERA and a 2.76 FIP, 3.18 xFIP. The control issues he had last season while pitching through a sports hernia seem to be gone and he’s more open to pitching to his defense after having some reservations about Pittsburgh’s defensive shifting. Some regression is coming in the form of his LOB%, but it’s unlikely that the Phillies will be the team to do that. Take advantage of the fact that Hamels is pitching and back the Pirates. There won’t be many non-Hamels opportunities to fade the Phillies. But you can do it here with Hamels on the mound.
Minnesota at Texas (-120); Total: 9
All you had to do was take one look at the pitching matchup in this game and you knew I was talking about it. Phil Hughes has pitched a bit better than his 4.81 ERA, but this is the type of ballpark that can give him fits, much like Yankee Stadium did. There were two major keys to Hughes’s 2014 season. His K/BB rate was exceptional and he had the lowest HR rate of his career. Both of those things have regressed this season. The elite control remains, but the swings and misses have dissipated and the home run rate is up significantly.
Only 13 qualified pitchers allow more fly balls than Hughes, though a large part of that is because Hughes has one of the highest line drive rates against at 25.7 percent. This is where it’s important to differentiate between control and command. Control means not walking hitters. Command means throwing quality pitchers. Hughes isn’t walking people, but that’s because he throws a ton of strikes. His contact percentages are up across the board and a fly ball pitcher in Texas with no command is a major problem.
Nick Martinez is due for regression, still. This has been a running theme throughout the first half given Martinez’s 2.65 ERA, 4.19 FIP, and 4.81 xFIP. There are some positives to his profile, however. He made a major arsenal change by throwing more sliders this season. The result has been an eight percent spike in ground balls, which has been significant because home runs were a problem for him last season. The other benefit to more sliders has been more swings and misses outside the zone. Hitters have chased eight percent more this season than last. When hitters swing at bad pitches to hit, they are less likely to do damage.
While Martinez will regress somewhat, this may be a sustainable trend for him because of the usage change. For this start, take Nick Martinez. The market may be against you with Hughes’s signs of positive regression and negative ones for Martinez, but this seems like it could be new and improved version of a league average pitcher. Meanwhile, Hughes had his flash in the pan season and has now regressed.
Arizona at San Francisco (-150); Total: 7.5
I don’t have a strong opinion on this game, but the reason I bring it up is because you will see plenty of stats, trends, and conjecture about pitchers coming off of no-hitters. I don’t really believe any of them. It wasn’t a particularly taxing start for Heston, who had a manageable pitch count and great life on his sinker and curve.
I have decided that I’m hanging off the side of the Rubby de la Rosa bandwagon. I’m not completely off, but he has replaced his control problem with a command problem and that’s scary. His advanced metrics show much better things in his future, but there seem to be some pitchability concerns. The raw stuff is plenty good enough, but the pitch-to-pitch inconsistency has been too much to overcome. Simply throwing strikes isn’t enough. They have to be good strikes. The home run rate and the sequencing problem – 62 percent LOB% - could see some regression. I’m too skeptical right now to take another shot on him as a dog.
Los Angeles (NL) at San Diego (-110); Total: 7
This line is incredible to me. Mike Bolsinger is effectively a money line pick ‘em against James Shields. Bolsinger has been a great addition to the Dodgers rotation with a 2.08 ERA and a 4-1 record over his first seven starts. The stuff was there with Arizona, but the defense and the park factor were huge issues. His breakout really isn’t all that surprising, all things considered. His 3.07 FIP and 3.51 xFIP do suggest some regression, but he’s never really been a high home run guy. The regression comes in the form of a .246 BABIP and a 56 percent ground ball split.
I was pretty skeptical of Bolsinger and I still see reasons to be. Any zone-contact percentage over 90 percent is a little bit terrifying because hitters are getting good pitches to hit and they are hitting them. Bolsinger also has a 52.7 percent first-pitch strike percentage and consistently working behind in the count is hard to overcome. On the other hand, his cutter/curve combo is very effective and also rather unconventional.
James Shields hasn’t lost yet this season with his 3.79 ERA. The Padres have averaged five runs per start for him to help him overcome an ugly HR/FB percentage. He loves the National League with a 28.9 percent K%, eight percent above his career average. The home run rate is scary. He has allowed 15 home runs in 80.2 innings. Fortunately for him, 12 of those 15 home runs are solo shots. Shields has some huge splits in certain base situations. Bases empty, hitters are batting .273/.344/.545. With men on base, they drop to .215/.259/.341 and he has a 7.2 K/BB ratio.
Righties are batting .168/.243/.266 off of Bolsinger this season and Shields has been pretty good at Petco Park this season. At 7, the under looks like a good look for this game, with two strong bullpens to support these two starters.
Chicago (AL) at Tampa Bay
New York (AL) at Baltimore
Seattle at Houston
Washington at Milwaukee
Kansas City at St. Louis
Oakland at Los Angeles (AL)
Cincinnati at Chicago (NL)