A full card of Major League Baseball action is on the docket for June 14. The market has been moving rather quickly now without much going on in the world of sports in terms of leagues in action that draw betting interest. A lot of MLB line moves have been hitting the market on the overnights and in the mornings, but money lines are naturally inefficient, so they could be off by 15+ cents and there may still be value after the initial movement. Let’s see what we like for tonight’s action.
Yesterday’s card was one of the weakest of the season. Our only strong pick was the under in the Indians vs. Royals contest, which hit thanks to some awful situational hitting by both teams. There were chances, but there were a lot of double plays and missed opportunities. The Nationals were a winner as a value side. Other than that, line moves were winners in Miami and Minnesota.
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.
Chicago (NL) (-115) at Washington; Total: 8
This is a really interesting line on a lot of levels. John Lackey has been brilliant for the Cubs this season and Gio Gonzalez has tailed off a bit of late. The thought was that Lackey would have a hard time replicating his 82.6 percent strand rate and would have some regression. The opposite has happened. His strand rate has dropped to 78 percent, but he’s striking out over a batter per inning for the first time in his career and his has actually lowered all of his run metrics.
Lackey has always thrown a cutter, but this season, it’s been a dominant pitch. Maybe he got together with Jake Arrieta and altered the grip a little bit or something, but it’s 13 runs above average on the season. Hitters are 9-for-97 on the cutter with a .097/.124/.108 slash line. I don’t know if the strikeouts are sustainable, but his swinging strike rate is also at a career high. This usually doesn’t happen at 37 with a recent history of injury. The swings and misses are outside the zone, with a Zone-Contact% right around last season’s, so that tells me this might keep up for a little while.
Gio Gonzalez was a guy that we highlighted for regression and it did hit. He gave up 18 runs in 15.2 innings over a three-start span from May 23 to June 3. In his last start, he was dominant against the White Sox with 10 strikeouts over seven innings, but he gave up three runs on five hits. That was some unfortunate sequencing. In his last four starts, Gonzalez has LOB% of 58.8, 46.5, 52.6, 57.1. That means some positive regression should be coming his way soon, unless his command has failed him from the stretch.
Even though I think good things are coming for Gonzalez, I’ve been very impressed with Lackey’s performance to date. There’s probably a bit of value in the Cubs tonight. Their primary relievers haven’t worked much lately, so they should be okay in a close game here in this one.
Seattle at Tampa Bay (-115); Total: 7.5
Taijuan Walker showcased why people have always thought so highly of him as a prospect in his last start. He dominated the Indians to snap out of a five-start skid and it looked like he was throwing free and easy with the neck issues in the past. This could be a similar start for him against a Rays team that has really struggled with right-handed pitching this season.
The Rays are 17th in wOBA against righties on the year and they’re being saved by a .420 SLG. Their OBP is just .304, which is one of the worst marks in the league. Walker seems to be a momentum-dependent pitcher. When things are going well, he’s free and easy with his mechanics and mixes all of his pitches. When things aren’t going well, he loses command and gives up a lot of dingers. The mental game seems to be the hardest part for him. Coming out of a dominant start, there’s reason to believe that he can keep it up. We’ve seen him be very streaky in the past.
Jake Odorizzi is a guy that the advanced metrics don’t like a ton, but his performances have been solid. Odorizzi has a 3.47 ERA with a 4.07 FIP and a 4.17 xFIP. He’s inducing a few more ground balls this season than he has in past years and his strikeout rate has modestly risen from last season. But, his walk rate has as well.
One thing about this start that plays to Odorizzi’s strengths is that lefties are only batting .173/.235/.255 against him this year in 119 plate appearances. His changeup is such an effective weapon in neutralizing the platoon split. Seattle is very left-handed-heavy. He’s also been very comfortable at Tropicana Field, which is a ballpark that slows down ground balls and suppresses home runs a little bit with the controlled environment.
I’m looking for a low-scoring game here in this one. Oddsmakers are as well, but these are two solid bullpens and two starters that match up really well against these lineups.
Houston at St. Louis (-140); Total: 8.5
Doug Fister and Jaime Garcia are the listed pitchers for a throwback NL Central matchup. The Astros used to be in the NLC before the leagues balanced out with Houston moving over to the AL West. This is a lot more interesting of a start than it looks on the surface for Jaime Garcia. He needs to be better. The Cardinals left-hander has been struggling a bit of late. He gave up 10+ hits for the second time in four outings and he’s not missing nearly as many bats as he was earlier in the season.
Some have speculated that Garcia, who has a long injury history, is pitching through yet another ailment. Since May 17, Garcia has a 6.38 ERA with a 5.03 FIP and a 4.84 xFIP in five starts. He’s given up 40 hits in 24 innings with a 13/10 K/BB ratio. As a ground ball guy, there can be some BABIP variance, and that may simply be the case here, but I’d be very concerned based on his history.
Doug Fister is suddenly down to a 3.34 ERA with a 4.67 FIP and a 4.66 xFIP. The advanced metrics aren’t a surprise because he doesn’t miss many bats and doesn’t have the greatest control anymore. But, he induces a lot of weak contact and hitters have a difficult time pulling him at a high rate. Pulled balls are always going to be more of a concern because of higher exit velocities. So, because of that, Fister has been able to command the zone and force hitters to use the big parts of the park.
I don’t know if I have the stones to fire on Houston here, but I’d be seriously worried about Jaime Garcia. If Houston is able to manufacture innings against him, Fister and the Astros could cash a nice underdog ticket here. That would be my lean.
Cleveland (-120) at Kansas City; Total: 8.5
Failed opportunities and a lot of double plays plagued the Indians in Monday night’s series opener, a game that was right there for the taking even though Carlos Carrasco wasn’t sharp. It’ll be Josh Tomlin’s turn on Tuesday. The ball was carrying pretty well at Kauffman Stadium last night, which is something that bettors need to pay attention to with these two guys. Tomlin has a knack for giving up long balls and Chris Young is a fly ball pitcher that does the same.
Tomlin doesn’t hurt himself with walks, but the Royals don’t really walk, so it’s fair to wonder how effective that skill is in this matchup. Tomlin has a 3.48 ERA with a 4.45 FIP because of those home runs, but a lot of them are solo shots. This game is all about how many balls get hit at fielders. The Indians, who rate really poorly in defensive runs saved, are near the top of the league in UZR, which gives you some kind of idea how much stake to put in defensive metrics.
Young has been awful. He has a 6.37 ERA with a 7.48 FIP and a 4.81 xFIP on the year. He’s got a high strand rate, but it doesn’t matter when you allow 17 home runs in 41 innings. The Indians got in very late to Kansas City on Sunday night and looked like a team that was dragging a little bit. A good night’s sleep and a return to the ballpark should be helpful for them from an offensive standpoint.
I’d look for runs in this one. This could be a real slugfest on both sides. The Royals still aren’t healthy, so this total is probably about half a run lower than it should be. Young wasn’t effective the last time the Indians faced him and they’ve seen quite a bit of him over the last couple of seasons. Tomlin is the safer bet, but he could give up three or four himself.
New York (AL) (-115) at Colorado; Total: 11.5
The Yankees visit Coors Field for the first time in a long time and that’s always an interesting situation to watch. Coors Field is so much different than any other MLB ballpark because of the altitude and what it does to players physically. The Yankees aren’t used to this environment at all, and one could assume that would help out Colorado. That’s what I’m thinking about this game.
I’m not taking the Rockies, but I do think that there might be some under value here. Jorge de la Rosa has been awful this season, but the Yankees are 26th in wOBA against left-handed pitching on the season. The reason I like the under is because of Nate Eovaldi. Eovaldi has the type of skill set that can survive at Coors Field with a lot of ground balls and a lot of strikeouts. The Rockies haven’t seen much of him and he has really refined himself as a pitcher over the last couple of seasons. Coors Field totals are always high, and deservedly so, but there’s a better than average chance of this one going under.
Tune in to today’s edition of BangTheBook Radio for analysis on tonight’s late games.