One random day game is on tap for Friday’s MLB betting slate. All 30 teams are in action and there are some compelling pitching matchups to discuss. Yesterday’s picks analysis was a mixed bag, with a couple of tough losses in the Mets/Giants game and the Rockies/Marlins game. Easy winners on the Indians/Mariners under and the Angels probably broke us about even for the day. The results are important, but the process matters as well, especially if you are a novice handicapper. Learn something from every bet you make and get better the next day.
If you haven’t checked it out yet, give a listen to Thursday’s edition of The Bettor’s Box. The Monday and Thursday night picks are the only time-sensitive portion of the show, so those episodes have a long shelf life.
Let’s get into the games on June 12:
There aren’t a lot of situations in which we see Johnny Cueto lined as a dog unless opposed by another star pitcher, but the Reds are an underdog to the Cubs in this one. Early money has moved the line down a few cents on the Reds. Cueto has been his usual outstanding self this year, but better. His sequencing luck has changed a little bit as his LOB% has dropped about four percent to turn his ERA from 2.25 to 2.64, but his xFIP is nearly identical to the last three seasons of performance. He has the best walk rate of his career and the strikeout gains he made from 2013 to 2014 have stayed.
It took a little while, but 32-year-old Jason Hammel seems to have figured it out. Over the last two seasons, his strikeout rate has ballooned and his walk rate is currently elite at 3.1 percent. The reason why Hammel became a more polished pitcher is because he increased his slider usage and abandoned his curveball. He has had one of the league’s best sliders over the last two seasons and his plate discipline statistics show it with a low contact rate on pitches out of the zone.
The under would be the way to go with this one, depending on wind conditions and the total, but it is likely to be a very low number. The Reds rank 16th in wOBA against righties and the Cubs are 18th, with the league’s highest strikeout rate at 25.8 percent. This is a pass, but keep a close eye on Cueto because he’s likely to be traded over the next month and a half.
Not surprisingly, the betting market is all over Michael Pineda in this start. Pineda has the American League’s top K/BB ratio and has thrown the ball extremely well this season. Ubaldo Jimenez, the enigmatic right-hander, has actually been pretty good this season. He’s back to inducing ground balls, which can mitigate some of his walks, and his mechanics from the stretch have been more consistent.
Pineda hasn’t pitched since June 1, as the Yankees skipped his last start in an attempt to protect him and limit his innings. He has a 25/0 K/BB ratio in two starts against the Orioles this season, which is probably what everybody betting on the Yankees is paying attention to. I have some reservations about the crispness of his stuff in this start after going so long between outings.
On the other hand, Jimenez is always a tough pitcher to back. The Yankees are living on power this season and Oriole Park at Camden Yards is a solid hitter’s park. All of Jimenez’s pitches have been graded as average or better according to PITCHf/x this season. Having seen him firsthand with the Indians, I know the frustrations that come with his starts. As this number continues to climb, the Orioles are going to be the value side. Whether or not you want to take the leap of faith is up to you.
Overnight money came in on the road team here with Danny Salazar on the mound against David Price. These two offenses have really struggled of late. The Indians were 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position on Wednesday before scoring six runs on Thursday. The Tigers, as amazing as this is, were below league average by wRC+ for the entire month of May. They’re back to having a high team BABIP in June at .344, so the offense has come back around.
Some of my thoughts on this series were discussed on Thursday’s edition of The Bettor’s Box. It’s a tough spot for the Indians, who have really scuffled lately and have been awful against the Tigers over the last few seasons. But, the line move on the Indians shows that the narrative about how they can’t hit left-handed pitching has finally gone away. It will be interesting to see how Salazar incorporates his new third pitch, a curveball, to keep the Tigers off-balance. It’s mostly a show pitch right now, but it’s a good change of pace offering that flashes potential.
The lean in this one is on the Tigers.
This is my favorite pitching matchup of the day from a sabermetrics standpoint. Drew Hutchison and Joe Kelly both show positive regression on the horizon. Hutch has a 4.91 ERA with a 3.62 FIP and a 3.64 xFIP. Sequencing luck has not been on his side with a 65.3 percent strand rate and a larger sample of balls in play has hurt due to a .317 BABIP against. As for Kelly, he has an ugly 5.40 ERA with a 4.14 FIP and a 3.91 xFIP. Like Hutchison, Kelly has been the victim of sequencing, with a 64.3 percent strand rate.
With two guys due for positive regression, it’s important to dig deeper. I’m not worried about Hutchison’s small sample size road performance. He gave up six runs in back-to-back road starts earlier this season and that destroyed his ERA. One concern is that he has a 41/5 K/BB ratio from the windup and an 18/12 K/BB with runners on base, generally pitching from the stretch.
Kelly’s heavy fastball usage, specifically his two-seamer that induces ground balls, has to be a concern against an aggressive, powerful Toronto lineup. No team in baseball has done more damage on fastballs than the Blue Jays. Because of that, the Blue Jays would be the pick for Friday night. Toronto’s bullpen has been good enough for the most part and the Boston lineup still can’t seem to get it together.
A bullpen meltdown cost the Nationals the first game in this series and they have gone from a small road favorite to a small road dog at most shops. Pinnacle, one of the sharper offshore books, has had almost a 20-cent move on this game. Jordan Zimmermann is a guy I told you to sell on last week’s show and he struggled against the Cubs. Mike Fiers has been backed by sharp money over his last few starts and this line move should not come as a surprise.
The Nationals lineup has really scuffled since Bryce Harper came back to earth. The Brewers lineup is always a question mark, especially against right-handed pitching. The Brewers are 23rd in wOBA against righties and 28th in wRC+. For that reason, I don’t agree with the line movement in this instance. The automatic line movements on pitchers whose ERA and advanced metrics like xFIP and SIERA show regression are not always right.
Zimmermann’s swinging strike rate is down, but the Brewers swing and miss quite a bit and this looks like more of a pitch sequencing issue for Zimmermann, since he’s not keeping hitters off-balance. His fastball command hasn’t been as impeccable as it was last season, but he has responded by throwing it less and increasing his slider and curve usage. Those are two very effective pitches against this Brewers lineup. Go against the line move and take the Nationals.
Here’s another automatic line move on a pitcher whose ERA looks due for positive regression. The market has been backing Yordano Ventura, who has a 4.62 ERA, a 4.02 FIP, and a 3.72 xFIP. The home run rate and a big drop in strand rate have hurt Ventura. He’s pitching to more contact this season, which would normally be a problem, but with the Royals, it’s not. Their elite defensive team can help Ventura out and the fact that he is limiting walks is a good thing for the future. A little bit of a velocity drop has led to an 11.6 percent increase in pulled balls in play. Hitters do more damage on balls that they pull. But, despite all of that, Ventura’s SIERA (3.74) is better than last season’s (3.87), when everyone called it his breakout season.
Jaime Garcia is such an effective pitcher when he’s out there, but he’s never healthy. Garcia has made 20 starts over the last three seasons, the same number he made during the 2012 season. He’s always been reliable with an average K/BB ratio and a good ERA in the mid-3.40s. His stuff doesn’t have the same bite this season. He’s never been a big strikeout guy, but he’s been a double-digit swing-and-miss guy since 2010, ranging from 10.1 percent to 12.2 percent. Small sample sizes are in play with these numbers, but his chase rate has dropped 10 percent this season, which means that his secondary pitch command is lacking.
Take the Royals and Ventura in this game. He’s going to pitch better over the course of the season and the Royals are going to put a lot of balls in play against Garcia. Their left-handed heavy lineup has not been fazed by southpaws this season and Garcia has been living in the middle of the plate quite a bit.
Bettors are backing the Angels in this start given Oakland’s terrible record against southpaws this season. Both pitchers show some negative regression in their advanced metrics, though Jesse Chavez’s stats are influenced a bit by his four scoreless relief appearances. Chavez has a 2.76 ERA, 2.93 FIP, 3.69 xFIP as a starter this season. He’s actually a pretty underrated pitcher with one of the game’s most effective cutters.
Hector Santiago is a guy I mentioned on my pitchers to sell segment a couple of shows ago. He has a 2.55 ERA with a 4.15 FIP and a 4.66 xFIP, due in large part to a .244 BABIP against and an 85.8 percent strand rate. I don’t think either of those are sustainable. His BABIP against with runners on is .229 and with RISP is .158. Hitters have a hard time centering on his assortment of breaking stuff and foul off a lot of pitches. This season, the contact rates are down with more swings and misses, so maybe he’s simply figuring it out. I remain skeptical. With the Angels coming off of a long road trip, I’ll take the A’s in this one and look for some of that Santiago regression.
Colorado at Miami