A new month begins today and sports fans better get used to seeing the betting card dominated by baseball. Yesterday was the first day without NHL or NBA since Christmas Eve. The NBA Finals begin Thursday and the NHL Finals have already started, so we have about two weeks left of those postseasons before we pack it up and the focus falls solely on baseball. Here at BangTheBook, we’ve been playing baseball all along, so you know what to expect and hopefully you’ve been building that bankroll as we go along. Today brings another set of wagering opportunities.
We didn’t play it, but that massive daytime line move on Houston vs. Arizona worked out for bettors. As for what we looked at, seven runs in the first five innings weren’t enough to push Boston and Baltimore over the total, but Washington and Philadelphia did us a solid and stayed barely under. It was actually a day full of totals, which is very rare for me. The totals split down the middle 2-2, with Oakland/Minnesota going over and Detroit/LA Angels going way over.
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.
Texas at Cleveland (-105); Total: 8
This one is a head-scratcher for me. The Indians haven’t hit Derek Holland or Colby Lewis in this series and they are a money line pick ‘em with Trevor Bauer on the hill against Cole Hamels. It’s certainly an interesting line and I’d expect that we see money hit the Hamels side throughout the day. The Indians are in one of those lulls again, which they are so prone to experience on Terry Francona’s watch. The Rangers are playing well again, despite a mediocre bullpen and some guys missing from the starting lineup.
It’s been an interesting season for Hamels. A groin problem last month seemed to affect his control and command, but he’s posted a 3.34 ERA with a 4.88 FIP and a 3.53 xFIP. His 26.7 percent HR/FB% is not only way above his career average, but it’s double the league average. He’s struck out over a batter per inning and has an 84.3 percent strand rate with the best ground ball rate he’s posted over the last five seasons. All in all, there are more good signs than bad signs.
The Indians don’t see Hamels much. They’ll be able to send eight right-handed hitters at him today, which is good because lefties are batting .188/.235/.313. If Francona sits Jason Kipnis, they could have nine righties in there, though that means Michael Martinez has to play or both catchers, with one as DH, or something. In any event, righties are batting .262/.352/.458 off Hamels this season.
Everything is a struggle for Trevor Bauer. He throws a ton of pitches and it seems like he always has traffic on the bases. In 84 PA with men on base, opposing hitters have a .297/.381/.446 slash, so Bauer has had issues working out of innings from the stretch.
I’m looking for runs here. It would be “very Indians” to get shut down by Colby Lewis and then go hit Cole Hamels. Over the last three series, they’ve lost games started by Mike Wright, Mat Latos, Derek Holland and Colby Lewis while beating Jose Quintana, Chris Sale, and Ubaldo Jimenez.
On the side, the Rangers obviously look attractive at this price, so I wouldn’t besmirch anybody for taking the road team for the sweep here. I like the over more, but the line is fishy.
Detroit at Los Angeles (AL) (-110); Total: 8
This is a really interesting game. You have two starters that have strikeout upside, but iffy command, and you have two teams in situational spots. The Tigers come home after this California swing to host the New York Yankees in a makeup game on Thursday. The Angels have Thursday off before making the long trek to Pittsburgh to take on the Pirates.
It’s also a 4:05 start time in Angel Stadium, so the shadows will play a factor. Michael Fulmer has been really impressive overall. The stuff has life and he’s got a nice ground ball split at 51 percent. Over his last two starts, he’s got a 14/2 K/BB ratio with one run allowed on seven hits. It seems like he’s starting to find a comfort zone at the big league level. The stuff was never a question. The pitchability was, as it is with most young pitchers.
Matt Shoemaker has had a couple out-of-body experiences in his last two starts. He has a 23/0 K/BB ratio with two runs allowed on 10 hits over 15.2 innings. What has changed? Jeff Sullivan did a brilliant job of explaining at Fangraphs today. Here’s the cliff notes version: Shoemaker is throwing his splitter a lot more. It’s labeled a changeup by PITCHf/x, but Shoemaker’s usage rates are 44 percent, 50.5 percent, and 50 percent over his last three starts. It’s a good way to hide poor fastball command. If the shadows play a role, the ball could go from sun to shadow to sun on the way to the plate, keeping hitters from realizing what the pitch is before it’s too late.
Apparently I’ve been on a totals binge, but I’m looking for an under here. The Tigers have a long flight back and a game tomorrow. The Angels have a day off. Both pitchers are having success here of late by making adjustments that hitters haven’t caught up with yet. Hope and pray the bullpens don’t get involved too much, or maybe just play the first five under, but I think we could see a low-scoring affair after yesterday’s beer league softball game.
New York (AL) at Toronto (-105); Total: 8
Another money line pick ‘em matchup here with Masahiro Tanaka against Aaron Sanchez. Tanaka has been brilliant this season with a 2.89/3.26/3.29 pitcher slash and another low BABIP against. Once a pitcher does it over a fairly large sample size, you start to believe in its sustainability. For Tanaka, he has impeccable control and has gotten back to showing above average command after some bumps in the road last season. He’s throwing more splitters, so he’s inducing more ground balls, and he’s basically done away with the four-seamer that plagued him the last two seasons. His four-seam fastball was 27.9 runs below average from 2014-15. He’s down to throwing it 2.7 percent of the time, which may simply be a classification error.
He seems healthier this season, after going through some more treatment for that tricky UCL he’s dealing with. All in all, I love what Tanaka’s doing this season. He’s keeping the ball down and he’s mixing his pitches expertly. Usually I’m worried about declining strikeout rates, but not at all here. He’s got such good stuff that he can miss barrels with regularity. Maybe his strand rate is a touch high at 75.5 percent, but I’m not worried about it.
Aaron Sanchez, on the other hand, is a guy that I’m a little bit worried about. There are no signs of regression in his profile with a reasonable BABIP against, a reasonable strand rate against, and a 3.29/3.24/3.31 pitcher slash. Hitters have started to make adjustments. His K% in April was 22.5 percent and his BB% was 7.8 percent. In May, those numbers fell to 20.6 percent and 9.2 percent. His line drive rate went from 18 percent to 24.7 percent and his hard-contact rate went from 22.5 percent to 34.3 percent. His BABIP against jumped 29 points in May. Hitters are starting to adjust.
He posted a respectable 3.93 ERA in May, but he was fortunate to only give up one home run. I think lefties are going to start having some more success. He’s a guy that showed pretty sharp platoon splits in 2015, as lefties posted a .380 wOBA to the .205 of righties. Lefties are slowly climbing with a .231/.309/.373 and righties are still stymied with a .223/.283/.297. The Rays didn’t fare any better when they saw Sanchez a second time, but both the Red Sox and the Rangers did. This will be New York’s second time seeing him this season.
I’m going in on Tanaka here today. Hopefully the betting market will add some value to the Yankees side. I like it at this price, but I’d love to catch it on the plus money side. This is one of my favorite sides over the last few days, so hopefully it works out.
Pittsburgh (-110) at Miami; Total: 8.5
We have a similar situation to what we saw on Monday night between Jeff Locke and Justin Nicolino. The Pirates won that game 10-0, but Locke only had one strikeout in that game, gave up just three hits, and only threw a first-pitch strike to 12 of 28 hitters. The Marlins never got a runner into scoring position. That was so unsustainable and lucky that it wasn’t even funny.
So, maybe we’ll see the opposite here with Niese, another pitch-to-contact lefty with below average command. Niese has a 4.42 ERA with a 5.49 FIP and a 4.32 xFIP. He hasn’t been touched by the hand of Pitching God Ray Searage yet and his rotation spot may be the one up for grabs when the Super Two deadline passes and Tyler Glasnow and/or Jameson Taillon come up to the bigs.
As mentioned on Monday, the Marlins are definitely a better offensive ballclub against lefties, though they are a tick below league average this season. They have a .420 SLG, though, which is quite good, especially with their home park factor.
The Pirates get Adam Conley, who still has nice strikeout rates, but has been really up and down. He’s given up two runs or less in five of his 10 starts, but he’s given up four runs or more in four starts. He’s a tough guy to read. This isn’t a good matchup, against the second-ranked offense in baseball against LHP using wOBA.
I’m having a hard time with this game. The key cogs in the Pirates pen got an off day yesterday, so that’s one consideration. Conley should be a good matchup for them. On the other hand, the Marlins should hit Niese as well. I’d lean Pirates here, as much as I don’t like backing Niese in any way, shape, or form. The Marlins have a .333 BABIP against LHP and still rate slightly below average in wRC+ against lefties, so they aren’t as good with that split as they have been in past seasons.
Tampa Bay at Kansas City (-105); Total: 7.5
I thought it would be a cold day in hell when Chris Archer was an underdog to Danny Duffy and the current state of the Royals lineup, but my feet are actually pretty warm. Archer’s seemingly endless search for command has taken him from elite starter to guy listed as an underdog in some places against Duffy, Cheslor Cuthbert, Whit Merrifield, Brett Eibner, and Omar Infante. What a world.
Archer has 72 strikeouts in 60.1 innings, but he’s given up 12 home runs. He gave up 12 home runs in 194.2 innings in 2014. He gave up 19 HR in 212 IP in 2015. Who knows. His 21.8 percent HR/FB% is over double his career average, so there has to be some sort of regression at some point, but as I’ve discussed before, that assumes a reasonable level of command. There’s absolutely no command right now. There’s not a whole lot of control either, but the scary thing about starters with Archer’s stuff is that they can throw a complete game shutout at any given time.
In three starts this season, Duffy has worked 12.2 innings with five runs allowed on 10 hits. He gave up all five runs last time out against Chicago. He was dynamite in a relief capacity, but the Royals need any working arm to try and bolster their rotation. If the Rays are going to win an Archer start, it’s going to be this one. They have the fourth-best offense against LHP by wOBA and the second-best by wRC+. Only the Red Sox have a higher SLG against lefties than the Rays. This is the split that they excel against.
I’m going Archer all the way here. Of course I’m worried about him, but I’m not worried about run support if the Rays do what they are supposed to do with a matchup like this. It wouldn’t surprise me if Archer closed -120 or -125, so hop on this one early.