Sundays are tough handicapping days for Major League Baseball. Lineups can look a lot different than usual and teams are sometimes wrapping up long road trips with a day off on Monday or have to leave town the next day for a long roadie. The daily grind of MLB betting can get to all of us and it’s important to remember that taking a day off or limiting the number of plays is not always a bad thing. But, that all depends on the matchups and the line value. Let’s see what today looks like.
But, first, a look back to yesterday’s results. The Rays lost a tough one, despite a decent start from Chris Archer. St. Louis was a good winner for us and those that waited on the number may have gotten a plus-money price on the Cardinals. Justin Verlander and the Tigers came through for us with a nice underdog winner in the Bronx. All in all, it was a decent day (if you excuse my faux pas on the Oakland starter – sorry!).
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.
Detroit at New York (-120); Total: 8.5
We’ll mostly focus on the latter part of the card today because of the article lead time, but this is definitely a game that I wanted to address. The Detroit Tigers send Michael Fulmer to the hill against Michael Pineda and the New York Yankees in this series finale at Yankee Stadium. It’s a very interesting matchup of two starters that generate lots of swings and misses and have occasional command problems.
We’ll start with Fulmer, who has a 2.83 ERA with a 3.49 FIP and a 3.50 xFIP. Fulmer has been brilliant over his last four starts. He’s made eight starts this season. In his first four outings, Fulmer gave up 15 runs in 19.1 innings of work. Since then, he’s allowed one run in 28.1 innings of work and has struck out 27 with just seven walks. He’s really figuring out how to pitch on the fly and has done a fine job of limiting hard contact.
He has everything you could want in a pitcher. He’s struck out over a batter per inning, has a 50.4 percent ground ball split, and has given the Tigers a lot of length in his last four starts. There’s nothing in the stats to believe that his success is unsustainable. It won’t be to this level, of course, but all of his plate discipline metrics suggest good things going forward.
Then there’s Michael Pineda, a guy we have faded a lot this season. He recently made some release point changes and things have gone a little bit better. He held the Tigers to one run with eight strikeouts his last time out, though he did scatter seven hits in just 5.2 innings. Last time out, he gave up three runs over seven innings to the Angels.
Pineda does have signs of positive regression with a 6.14 ERA, but a 4.28 FIP and a 3.60 xFIP. He’s struck out over a batter per inning, but, again, positive regression suggests a reasonable level of command. Eighty-four hits in 66 innings and 12 home runs allowed does not imply a reasonable level of command.
I’m not ready to buy in with Pineda yet. I think we start to see Fulmer struggle when he sees teams for a second time, because his arsenal isn’t overly deep, but he’s yet to face the Yankees. Don’t expect shutout baseball, but I’d expect Fulmer to be better than Pineda. I’d look at the Tigers first five and hope that the Yankees bullpen doesn’t have a lead to protect if you opt for the full game.
Texas at Seattle (-115); Total: 7.5
We’ll jump down the card to the mid-afternoon slate to look at the AL West clash between the Rangers and the Mariners. It’ll be Cole Hamels for the visitors against Wade Miley for the home team. Hamels continues to have an odd season. His HR/FB% is way out of whack, more than double his career mark, but he’s struck out a batter per inning and has stranded 84.5 percent of his runners. Only 55 balls in play against Hamels have gone for hits in 76 innings of work. His FIP suggests regression, but his xFIP and SIERA tell you to pause and reconsider because he’s giving up dingers at an insane rate.
One weird thing that stands out to me is that his pull rate is north of 50 percent for the first time in his career. He hasn’t allowed a pull rate over 40 percent since 2012, but this year, hitters are pulling the ball 50.5 percent of the time per Fangraphs. That explains the home run to fly ball ratio. It’s a lot harder to hit dongs to the big part of the park or oppo. That’s why his pop up rate is so low. I’ll have to dig deeper on this, but it’s a very interesting tidbit.
Wade Miley doesn’t impress me. He really hasn’t since 2012 and that was because of an elite walk rate. He hasn’t replicated that and, as a result, he’s basically been a replacement-level starter over the last four seasons. This year, he’s having dinger problems as well. Miley’s numbers are skewed a little bit by some really terrible starts throughout the season, but he hasn’t been very good overall. He’s facing Texas for the third time, but for the first time since the first week of the season.
I’m just not a Miley fan because he’s so BABIP-dependent. He’s clustered his home runs, with six of the 12 allowed in two starts, so that’s not really a start-to-start concern. It’s simply about balls getting hit at fielders. I’m not a big fan of guys like that when they don’t have great ground ball rates. Fourteen of his 52 strikeouts came in his first two starts, so he has 38 K in his last 59.2 innings of work. That won’t get it done.
For that reason, I’ll lean Rangers here today. Hamels has some quirky things in his stat line, but I think those will normalize. For Miley, I just don’t think he’s very good.
San Diego at Colorado
At time of writing, lines were popping up in the -160 range for Colorado, which is just insane. Tyler Anderson is making his big league debut for the Rockies. He throws left-handed. The Padres are eighth in wOBA against left-handed pitching on the season. It’ll be Christian Friedrich for the Padres, who isn’t great, but does have Coors Field experience, so that’s a small feather in his cap.
Once upon a time, Christian Friedrich was a first-round pick. Some setbacks and Colorado’s awful development system have kept him from reaching his potential and he hasn’t been a good MLB pitcher. He’s hit too many barrels and he’s had poor control. There are some wrinkles to his stuff, though, and he has missed bats in spurts. He’s just a guy, but a guy that could be better equipped than the starter on the other side.
Tyler Anderson missed all of 2015 while dealing with a stress fracture in his elbow. He has had success at various stops in the minor leagues, but he only has 17 innings of Triple-A experience and has a pretty mediocre arsenal. The 6-foot-4 lefty reportedly has some deception in his delivery, but the learning curve to pitching in Colorado is crazy. Pitches don’t spin, which means his changeup may flatten out and his arm slot may not bother hitters enough to compensate.
This is a spot of betting a number. I rarely do this because I like to know the matchups and to study the numbers. But, here, there’s value in fading a kid making his first career start at Coors.
Miami at Arizona (-120); Total: 9.5
Initial line movement has been on the home Diamondbacks for this battle of southpaws in the desert. Adam Conley will go for the Marlins and Robbie Ray will go for the home team. I’d be worried about Conley in this start. He has a pretty neutral ground ball-to-fly ball split and the Diamondbacks have been a very good offense against lefties on the season. Conley has a 4.20 SIERA to go along with his 3.76 ERA, so there are some signs of regression there. He has struck out over a batter per inning, which is saving some of his advanced metrics.
With a guy like Conley, context is important. I figured he’d be worse on the road than at home. That hasn’t been the case, but his road starts have been against Minnesota, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, San Francisco, New York Mets, and Washington. There’s a good mix of hitters parks and weak offenses in there, so I don’t think he’s been exposed the way he should be. I feel like that could happen today.
The Marlins have had a ton of batted ball luck against lefties to put them in the top-five in batting average, but they are only 13th in wOBA and right at league average. Arizona is 14 percent better in wRC+ than the Marlins. Power production is a big reason why and also, the Marlins don’t walk against LHP. They have a 6.5 percent BB% against lefties. The best way to attack Robbie Ray is with the walk because it creates the opportunity for big innings. Ray has an obscene walk rate and a 5.14 ERA, 4.50 FIP, and a 3.79 xFIP. He’s getting barreled like crazy. He’s given up 10 home runs and 65 additional hits in 61.1 innings of work.
As bad as Ray has been, I still think the Diamondbacks have the edge here in this one and I’d lay the short price with them.
Los Angeles (NL) (-115) at San Francisco; Total: 8
The Dodgers send wunderkind Julio Urias to the mound in search of his first win against Jake Peavy and the Giants on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. To get it out of the way quickly, there are no good situational spots coming out of this game. The Dodgers fly to Phoenix and the Giants stay home to host Milwaukee.
We’ve seen some line action on the road team here in this one. The Dodgers are getting some attention and that makes some sense. This is the fourth start for Urias, who looked a lot better last time out. He did throw 86 pitches in just four innings, but the stuff had life and he controlled it well. Things are trending up for the youngster and the Giants are in the bottom half of the league in wOBA against LHP. It’s worth pointing out that one of their best hitters in that split was Hunter Pence with a .380 wOBA.
This also looks like a fade of Jake Peavy, whose arm may be running on fumes. Between a long injury history and over 2,300 innings of performance, Peavy’s command has evaded him this season and he hasn’t been able to work out of jams. He has a 6.41 ERA with a 4.29 FIP and a 4.73 xFIP.
The Dodgers look like a good play tonight. They’re going to be pushing to get that first win for Urias and Peavy has been all over the place with his results this season.