A full slate of Major League Baseball action is on the calendar for today, with five afternoon games and 10 games that will conclude under the bright lights. It’s an interesting day for betting baseball because there are a lot of pitching matchups with inconsistent arms on the mound. If we can find some edges, there’s a good chance that today’s card can be really profitable. If we can’t, we’ll simply stay away.
Before we do that, let’s see how yesterday went. The Cubs and Astros came through for us, while the Mariners and Rays flew over the total for a loser on that lean. I was also way off on the Yankees/Rockies total, in which 23 runs were scored and the game went well over the total. We got some CLV (closing line value), but that was irrelevant. The totals plays didn’t go well overall and neither did any of the BangTheBook Radio plays. It was a disastrous day all around, so we put our noses back to the grindstone and get after it today. It’s all about a short memory with MLB.
Our focus, as it always is, will be on the games that provide a lot of line value and those that give us the opportunity to dig deep and find the wagering angles and betting tips that will produce winners.
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Per usual, the games with big lines will be overlooked, unless there is something particularly noteworthy about them or a play on the underdog is a possibility. Also, day games are usually skipped due to the lead time of the article. That will not be the case on Thursdays or Sundays when there are a lot of day games.
Miami (-110) at San Diego; Total: 8.5
This game intrigues me in a lot of ways. The Marlins are in a pretty tough spot as they wrap up a three-city, nine-game road trip that took them to Minnesota, Phoenix, and now San Diego. The Padres aren’t a very good team. Miami sends Justin Nicolino to the mound against a top-10 offense by wOBA against left-handed pitching and there’s very little to like about Nicolino. Dating back to 2002, Nicolino has the eighth-lowest swinging strike rate of any qualified starter in a single season. He’s not qualified because he’s only worked 51 innings, but the point is that he doesn’t miss bats.
With wins in each of the first two games in this series, the Marlins are 4-4 on this trip. It’s a swing game, so maybe a 5-4 trip is a rallying cry, but I wouldn’t expect that to be the case. I’d expect the team to be looking ahead to a 10-game homestand and Thursday’s off day.
From a situational standpoint, San Diego is a decent play. Luis Perdomo has mostly worked in relief, but he has made a couple of starts and has 31 strikeouts in 36 innings of work, so he can miss some bats. He’s given up a lot of hits and has poor command, but this is a fade of Nicolino and the Marlins with the situation more than looking at Perdomo as a viable starter.
Chicago (NL) at Washington (-140); Total: 7.5
This is a stiff price to pay, but Washington has to be the side on Wednesday. The Regression Monster is lurking in the shadows behind Jason Hammel, but he hasn’t fully made an appearance yet. Hammel has a 2.36 ERA with a 3.70 FIP and a 4.21 xFIP. Hammel’s peripherals aren’t good enough to support a low ERA. His strikeout rate is a tick above average, while his walk rate is a little bit below average by NL standards. His .251 BABIP against and 85 percent strand rate are both well off of his .301 and 71.3 percent career averages.
Stephen Strasburg has been spectacular this season. He’s struck out 32 percent of the batters he has faced and has tremendous peripherals. He’s been dominant this season after signing a long-term deal with the Nationals, which could have allowed him the opportunity to relax since it was a contract year and he is a past Tommy John guy. His fastball command has been impeccable and his changeup has been excellent under the tutelage of Mike Maddux.
Lay it and play it with the Nationals here today. They’re likely to be the strongest play of this write-up.
Seattle at Tampa Bay (-125); Total: 8
Nate Karns visits his former team on Wednesday when the Mariners and Rays play the middle game of their three-game set. We’ll have to watch the Mariners over the next week with a trip to Boston and a visit to Detroit after this series ends. As far as this game goes, we’ve seen some Smyly money in the market and I’m not sure that’s the right way to go.
Things aren’t going well for Drew Smyly. He had his start pushed back for a “mental break”, which is never good. Since May 10, Smyly has a 7.76 ERA with a 6.00 FIP and a 4.99 xFIP. He’s still missing a decent amount of bats, but he’s not missing many barrels, as opposing hitters have a .378 BABIP against and have hit nine home runs in 31.1 innings of work. The odd thing is that his best start in that span came against Toronto, who mauled lefties last season. Smyly’s turn in the rotation was completely skipped, so he hasn’t pitched in 10 days.
We’ll have to see if that helps him. The sentiment here is that the Mariners are really left-handed-heavy and that will be a problem against Smyly. Considering lefties have a .452 SLG compared to the .460 for righties, I’m not worried about it. Smyly may put it together, but if this number continues to climb or you can catch a +115 or +120, the Mariners have good value tonight.
Cincinnati at Atlanta (-110); Total: 8.5
File this one under the “I don’t get it” file. Bud Norris is terrible. Anthony DeSclafani is not. Yet the Reds went from -110 to even money with the initial line move at some shops for this one. DeSclafani is working his way back from an oblique injury that cost him the first two months of the season. He was really fortunate to only allow one run last time out because he walked three and gave up eight hits, but it was his first start.
As a pitcher coming back from injury, the Braves have to look like a Triple-A lineup, which is great. DeSclafani is a finesse pitcher, so he needs to have sharper command to get through his starts and turn over the lineups. Command is usually the last thing to come back for a pitcher. With each start, he should get better, and this is a good place to take a step forward.
As for Bud Norris, he’s got a 4.75/4.60/4.55 pitcher slash in 12 relief appearances and seven starts. Looking specifically at the starts, opposing hitters are batting .285/.352/.479 on the season over 159 plate appearances. Norris doesn’t have the stuff to go through lineups multiple times anymore. The Reds offense still has pop and still has low OBP skills, so those things can kind of cancel out in games like this against bad offensive ballclubs.
I’d look at the Reds here. That bullpen is disastrous, but DeSclafani threw 102 pitches last time out, so he’s not on any pitch restrictions and the Braves bullpen isn’t exactly strong.
Houston at St. Louis (-115); Total: 8.5
We’ve seen this movie before. The Astros are sending a starter with a high ERA and lower xFIP to the mound, so the market jumps on board. That starter is Collin McHugh, who has a 5.22 ERA, a 3.84 FIP, and a 4.00 xFIP. McHugh has had no command to speak of this season with a .358 BABIP against and 10 home runs allowed. To be fair, by xBABIP, which is expected BABIP using batted ball types, McHugh’s definitely in line for some positive regression. He has an above average line drive rate, so he should see some BABIP gains soon.
The problem here is that McHugh draws the second-best lineup by wOBA against right-handed pitching, so this is a bad spot for him. He’s doing a good job of missing bats, but he’s also not getting much help on balls in play. It’s not an ideal spot for McHugh, but money is coming in anyway.
Did Adam Wainwright find something? Over his last three starts, he’s allowed eight runs on 13 hits in 20 innings with a 20/2 K/BB ratio. It’s entirely possible that Wainwright finally found that mechanical adjustment that he’s been looking for and it could be time to buy on the right-hander. Sometimes it can be hard to wrap your head around the fact that a 4.50 ERA means three earned runs allowed over six innings, which isn’t all that bad. For Wainwright, he has two bad starts and the rest range from average to good. I think he’s savvy enough to use his veteran knowhow to stymie the Astros lineup. Keep in mind that the Astros are a very aggressive team and Wainwright knows how to attack aggressive teams.
I’m buying Wainwright. He has a track record and he’s getting better here this season. He made adjustments. The Astros don’t have a lot of experience against him and it seems like he’s trending up in a way that should inspire confidence. I’ll go against the line move here and back the Cardinals.
Cleveland (-140) at Kansas City; Total: 8
I’m a little bit surprised to see how big this number is and to see that it’s been growing. The Indians are wrapping up a 10-game trip that began on June 6 in Seattle. They’ve suffered two devastating close losses here and have their first off day since May 26 tomorrow. They’ve played 35 games in 35 days because of a doubleheader in Chicago in late May. This is a really tough spot for a team.
Fortunately, Corey Kluber is on the hill. Kluber has given up two runs or less in four of his last five starts and is throwing the ball extremely well. He’s coming off of a complete game win in Anaheim with eight strikeouts and he has a 35/6 K/BB ratio over his last 36.1 innings. The worry here with Kluber is that the Royals aren’t patient anyway, so it’s all about the hard contact he allows on his sinker. If it’s hit at fielders, he’ll be in good shape. If it’s not, we’ll have to see how things play out.
The Indians got to Ian Kennedy last time they faced him after doing nothing the first time, so we’ll have to see who the third time is a charm for and whether or not it matters. I’m perplexed by this game because regression has hit Kennedy, as expected, and some metrics say that more is coming. On the other hand, it’s a bad spot for the Indians. I’d probably lean Royals with the value on this price, but this is a big game for the Indians from a character standpoint. They can finish a 5-5 trip and get some positive momentum heading into the off day and an important homestand. It’ll tell me some things about this team moving forward.