Thursday brings a smaller MLB schedule and a shorter version of this MLB picks and analysis article. Fortunately, it’s Thursday, which means that another edition of Adam Burke’s MLB betting podcast, The Bettor’s Box, has been posted for your listening pleasure. The latest show includes thoughts on the Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians, Toronto Blue Jays, and recaps what happened this past week and what could happen this weekend in Major League Baseball. Be sure to tune in to each and every episode. Make it easy on yourself and just subscribe on iTunes or player.fm (the links are in the podcast article). Read today’s analysis and then check out The Bettor’s Box.
Lines will be listed as a general price taking into account most of the sportsbooks. Shop around for the best prices. With three day games and a handful of night games, the emphasis will be on the night games, for the most part, just because of the timeframe of the article. However, the piece starts with a quick look at a getaway day total.
JA Happ and Shaun Marcum is the pitching matchup for Thursday’s lunchtime start between the Mariners and Indians. This is a textbook spot to take the under. It’s a day game after a long night game that featured a lot of pitches. The Mariners head to Houston for a big division series and the Indians will enjoy the Cavs game in Cleveland before heading to Detroit early tomorrow.
The Indians have been swinging early in counts in this series and have spent the better part of two weeks leaving everybody from Jason Kipnis to the Pepsi vendor to the little girl in the pink light-up shoes on base. The Indians are in a major offensive funk and so are the Mariners. This total is inflated because of the pitching matchup. Take the under.
Oddsmakers have been burned a few times by mispricing Wade Miley this season. Miley fell out of favor very quickly with bettors after giving up seven runs twice over his first four starts. Since that fourth start of the season, against Baltimore, he has a very respectable 3.33 ERA with a 3.41 FIP and a 4.09 xFIP over his last seven starts. The Red Sox are 4-3 in those outings, and Miley has allowed two runs or less in four of his last five starts.
Orioles hurler Chris Tillman has regularly outpitched his advanced metrics during his tenure with Baltimore. This season, the luck has run out. Tillman’s strand rate has dropped to 68 percent and his BABIP against has jumped 55 points from the last two seasons. Add in an increased walk rate and you have a pitcher that has been beaten around the ballpark. It’s hard to pinpoint an exact cause, except that hitters are chasing less. Most of his plate discipline peripherals are about the same. He’s pitching behind in the count a little bit more, which will make things harder. It’s very possible that there’s an underlying injury here that is affecting mechanics and not velocity, so backing Tillman is out of the question. Unfortunately, backing Miley doesn’t seem like a great idea either. This game is a pass, but it’s worth monitoring to see how these two starters pitch.
The Giants are looking for a road sweep after beating Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey. Tim Lincecum is a regression candidate with a 3.29 ERA, but a 4.17 FIP, and a 4.34 xFIP. He, like many Giants starters over the years, really benefits from pitching at AT&T Park with the marine conditions and the high wall in right field.
On the other hand, Jon Niese could be viewed as a candidate for positive regression with a 4.43 ERA but a 3.82 xFIP and a 3.95 SIERA. The problem for Niese is that he hasn’t had consistency with any of his pitches. By PITCHf/x data, all five of his offerings grade below average this season. His swinging strike rate is at an all-time low, with the exception of his rookie year, and hitters are doing serious damage on pitches in the zone.
Tune in to today’s episode of The Bettor’s Box for additional thoughts on this game.
The total is listed at 8.5 because it is trending that way, although some lines of 8 are still available. It’s a bit surprising to see such heavy steam on David Phelps, though the Rockies offense is missing a few key pieces. Chris Rusin is 28 and has yet to stick at the Major League level, so that is certainly a consideration. Also, the Marlins fare a lot better against southpaws.
But Phelps is a “guy”. He’s just a filler. There’s nothing particularly exciting about his profile and he lacks swing-and-miss stuff to get out of jams. The betting market is probably banking on his 4.68 ERA and 3.77 FIP as a sign of regression, but his 4.34 SIERA is closer to his 4.68 than you would like. He gives up a lot of line drives and has one of the lowest chase rates in baseball. His stuff doesn’t fool anybody and that’s not a guy I would want to back, especially at a big price.
This is the top pitching matchup of the night with bowling ball thrower Garrett Richards against Alex Colome. Richards throws a heavy mid-90s sinker that is unforgiving when hitters swing. Richards has been unable to replicate last season’s success because the control problems that plagued him in the minor leagues have returned. Balls in play still haven’t been a major issue, but he hasn’t been able to work deep into games and getting out of innings has been a problem.
For Colome, whose season got off to a late start due to a bout with pneumonia, things have been rather hit or miss. Fastball command is the reason why. Colome has allowed a .500 SLG on his fastball and a .436 SLG on his cutter. His changeup hasn’t been very effective either, but over 30 percent of fastballs in play have been line drives.
The market has been siding with Colome, but I don’t agree. Richards’s plate discipline stats show a similar swinging strike rate to last season and less contact in the zone. I’m inclined to believe that he improves very soon. Give me the Angels for Thursday.
Michael Lorenzen and Tsuyoshi Wada are the probables for this one as the Reds and Cubs renew their NL Central rivalry. I was very surprised to find out that the Reds are fourth in wOBA against southpaws this season. They have the sixth-best walk rate and have hit 18 home runs. Also, the Reds are 17-for-20 in stolen bases off of LHP, which is rather incredible. As far as Lorenzen goes, the supplemental first-rounder in 2013 only made three starts at Triple-A before jumping to the Majors. He also pitched at four different levels in his rookie year in 2013.
The command hasn’t quite been there yet for Lorenzen, but he has great pitchability and poise, which is probably why he rose through the system so fast. His 87.7 percent strand rate is unsustainable and his advanced metrics paint an ugly picture, but this is a kid with upside and a good four-pitch mix that will eventually lead to being an average or better MLB starter.
Wada is your standard-issue soft-tossing southpaw on the wrong side of 30 with a job because he throws left-handed. There’s nothing particularly exciting about any element of his statistical profile other than the fact that he is average across the board, which does have some value. Wada has only been in the States since 2012 after playing in Japan and regularly being the type of pitcher that keeps hitters off-balance with a willingness to throw any pitch in any count. This is only his 18th MLB start, so it’s hard to take a lot of his sample sizes seriously.
These two pitchers don’t have enough data points this season or last to make a positive call on the game, but Lorenzen may close as the value side if the line gets around +140. Otherwise, don’t touch it.
Don’t take Tanner Roark’s season stats into consideration when looking at this game. This is just the fourth start of the season for Roark, who has a 3.78 ERA as a starter in 16.2 innings of work. It’s clear that he’s more comfortable starting, as he has increased his strikeout rate and decreased his walk rate since taking the spot vacated by Doug Fister. Roark was the best insurance policy in baseball for this Nationals rotation after accumulating 3.2 fWAR last season.
The negative trends continue for Matt Garza. For the fifth straight season his strikeout rate is down. This year his walk rate and home run rate have each spiked. He’s also on pace to have the highest line drive rate of his career, which is a sign of declining command. Garza battled some arm trouble last year and has gone to the slider less this season, which is another disturbing trend.
The Nationals aren’t a great offensive team, but they get the edge in the pitching matchup here and could be worth a look at this price.