The sun came up again today, so that’s a good thing. The Major League Baseball grind can make a man or woman go insane, but every new day is a chance to right the ship and get going in a positive direction. As mentioned on Thursday’s BangTheBook Radio, it’s hard, with anywhere from six to 15 games Every. Single. Day., but you have to keep grinding if you want to get better on the diamond. A sport made up of anywhere from 60 to 90 individual matchups per game is bound to have volatility and sometimes you get on the wrong side of it.
For us, well, for me, it has been a big struggle lately. The Pirates were a lean yesterday that came up short, even though we got about 30 cents of closing line value. The Phillies were the closest thing to an actual pick and they were stymied by a below average pitcher. Hopefully you avoided the Tigers, as they dropped a tough one in a game that was discussed and termed a pass. A late winner on the Seattle/San Diego over was a good lean to end the night, but there wasn’t a whole lot of confidence in yesterday’s card. Will today’s be better? Let’s find out.
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.
New York (AL) at Baltimore (-115); Total: 8
We’ll start with a battle of surprise pitchers in Baltimore. Nate Eovaldi and Chris Tillman face off in this one, with Tillman a slight favorite on the overnight lines. Everything seems to be coming together for Eovaldi, who regularly posted better advanced metrics than ERAs with the Marlins and then with the Yankees last season. It’s easy to forget that he’s only 26 and really reaching the middle of his peak years now.
Eovaldi combined a high ground ball rate with an improved strikeout rate to get that ERA down to 3.71 and his advanced metrics suggest that it will get even better. Eovaldi is following the Masahiro Tanaka mold of throwing his splitter more and it has had a lot of positive effects. That home run rate is solely because he gave up four home runs over his first two starts. In eight starts since, he’s allowed three dingers. There’s a lot to like about Eovaldi and this, amazingly enough, is his first start against the Yankees this year.
Chris Tillman has also made a pretty significant arsenal change in 2016. His strikeout rate has ballooned with more sliders in this repertoire. That pitch has been 6.7 runs above average for him so far this season, as hitters are batting .137/.170/.216 against it. Based on the movement data, he’s played around with the grip a little bit and it’s actually moving a little bit less. That, however, has made it easier to control and it has made all the difference.
There are, however, some signs of regression for Tillman. He has a 2.92 ERA with a 3.79 FIP and a 4.26 xFIP. His 81.1 percent strand rate is pretty unsustainable, even with the strikeout increase, and his .248 BABIP won’t be able to hang around.
My major stumbling block with taking the Yankees here is that they rank 27th in wOBA against right-handed pitching. I like this matchup for Eovaldi and think Tillman’s balloon will burst soon, but I don’t know if the Yankees are that team. You could make a case for the under or the Orioles team total under, but I don’t have a very strong play here.
Chicago (AL) at Detroit (-135); Total: 8.5
Carlos Rodon just can’t get over that hump. Ongoing control and command problems have kept him from taking that next step, but he is just 23 years old. This season, Rodon has a 4.24/4.21/3.88 pitcher slash, but he has been pretty good over his last three starts, including two against the Royals. He’s actually tried to pitch to more contact this season, much like Chris Sale, but the thing is that he doesn’t have Sale’s command.
One of the biggest early-season anomalies is that the right-handed-heavy Tigers have been atrocious against left-handed pitching. Detroit is 21st in wOBA at just .303 and they have one of the higher strikeout rates against southpaws. The Tigers lit up lefties last season. Could this actually be a good spot for Rodon? It very well could be. As I mentioned yesterday, the Tigers lost a day off with that makeup game against the Yankees. Dropping five of six, including a trip through California, there aren’t a lot of happy people in that clubhouse.
The return of Jordan Zimmermann provides a bright spot, but Zimmermann was a big regression candidate when he hit the DL. Zimmermann sports a 2.52 ERA, but a 3.64 FIP and a 4.37 xFIP. His 4.37 SIERA is the highest of his career. Moving from the NL to the AL, Zimmermann was supposed to regress anyway. It hasn’t happened yet, but it’s only a matter of time. He has a .275 BABIP against, 17 points below his career average, and a 80.9 percent LOB%, 5.8 percent above his career average, which is high to begin with.
I’m looking for Zimmermann regression and we’ll see if it comes here. He didn’t even make a rehab start prior to coming off of the DL, so he’s going to be rusty. I like the White Sox at this price, even though they’ve had their own struggles lately.
Seattle at Texas (-135); Total: 8.5
It’ll be start #2 on the Tommy John comeback trail for Yu Darvish and the Rangers are in a phenomenal spot tonight. The Mariners played a very long home-and-home with San Diego, in which the teams combined to score 81 runs in four games. Last night’s slow-pitch softball game ended 16-13 after the Mariners roared back from a 10-run deficit. The game took almost four hours, so the Mariners got into Texas very early in the morning.
Over the last three days, Mariners relievers have thrown 156 pitches. Since leaving his May 6 start with a neck problem, Taijuan Walker has given up 18 runs in four starts and hasn’t looked nearly as sharp as he did earlier in the season. In five starts prior, he gave up one home run. Including the start he left early, Walker has given up nine home runs in 24.1 innings of work.
There are always worries about a guy coming back from Tommy John surgery, but Yu Darvish was strong in his first start back. He’ll be limited to around 90 pitches tonight, but that could still be six innings against a tired, sluggish Mariners team. Seattle’s been strong against RHP on the season, but Darvish is a different kind of pitcher and the velocity was back and then some in his first start.
I’m all about Texas tonight. It’s a bit of a chalky price, but everything sets up well for them here in this spot, including a Darvish start on a Friday night that should draw a decent crowd and a good buzz in the ballpark.
Tampa Bay (-115) at Minnesota; Total: 8.5
Jake Odorizzi and Ricky Nolasco are the slated starters for this Friday night battle at Target Field. These are two pitchers that have some of the stats that the betting market is looking for. Odorizzi has a 3.36 ERA with a 4.20 FIP and a 4.26 xFIP. He has a 4.14 SIERA. Nolasco has a 5.28 ERA with a 3.77 FIP and a 3.86 xFIP. He has a 3.77 SIERA. The difference for these two has been stranding runners. Odorizzi has left 79.4 percent of his runners out there on the bases. Nolasco has the worst strand rate in baseball among qualified starters at 58.6 percent. His BABIP against with men on base is .391 and his BABIP with RISP is .422.
Normally, we expect to see guys having control issues from the stretch. That’s not the case with Nolasco, who actually has really strong K/BB rates from the stretch. His command has been problematic, with high line drive rates and very hard contact. Is this going to normalize and allow Nolasco to be a guy in line for positive regression or no?
I really don’t know. I’d like to think that he can have success against a Rays lineup that ranks 20th in wOBA against right-handed pitching. I think Odorizzi can have success against a subpar Twins lineup that ranks 21st in wOBA. I think that there’s a lot of value in the under here tonight. It’s probably my favorite total on the board.
San Francisco (-125) at St. Louis; Total: 7
Adam Wainwright was a small underdog in his last start at home against the Cubs, in what was an awful situational spot for the league’s best team. He’s going to close a bigger underdog tonight. I may have missed something, but Wainwright has not been a plus money dog at home since June 16, 2009.
Johnny Cueto takes the mound for the Giants and he’s been everything they could have wanted. He has a 2.31 ERA with a 2.43 FIP and a 3.18 xFIP. His BABIP against has been dropping as his incredible ability to induce weak contact has normalized. He’s a really great pitcher and he’s proving here in his first year with the Giants.
Adam Wainwright is only 34, but it seems like he’s been around forever. Things aren’t really working out for him this season with a 5.71 ERA, a 4.38 FIP, and a 4.54 xFIP. He has one start in 11 tries with fewer than three runs allowed. Odds are, Cueto won’t need a whole lot of run support, even facing a Cardinals lineup that has excelled against right-handed pitching this season.
I’m not interested in this game, but the line and the circumstances are very interesting.
Colorado at San Diego (-150); Total: 7.5
The over has to carry some value here in this game, no? The Rockies are away from Coors Field, which generally doesn’t work out well for them, but the Padres took the loss in that aforementioned marathon with the Mariners last night. Chris Rusin is a really below average pitcher and the Padres have actually had some success against lefties on the season. They are eighth in wOBA after yesterday’s showing against Wade Miley and the Mariners.
The Rockies have not been great against lefties, hence the line, but Drew Pomeranz is a little bit of a regression candidate with a .230 BABIP against and a 49.6 percent ground ball rate. His strand rate is 78.8 percent, so there’s a little bit of bad luck coming his way. He’s also lasting less than six innings per start because he gets a lot of strikeouts and issues a lot of walks. Padres relievers have thrown 173 pitches over the last two days, so the onus is on him to save the bullpen.
With all of these factors, I’m looking for some runs, even though the Padres suffered a pretty devastating loss last night. I’d also consider a very small play on Colorado because the price isn’t bad.