Major League Baseball handicapping can be so frustrating. The inherent volatility of a game broken down into nine (or more) innings of individual matchups makes it a really difficult sport to wager on successfully. No matter what we try to do, it comes down to a couple of big spots per game usually. A hit here with runners in scoring position and the floodgates open. A hit here with runners in scoring position and it’s the only one a team gets. Baseball handicapping is hard. It’s almost more of a mental game at times.
This is one of those times. Jason Hammel continued to stave off regression and Dan Straily’s regression wasn’t good enough because Chad Bettis one-upped him. The Royals won, but there weren’t a lot of runs early, as the Tampa Bay bullpen collapsed late. Pittsburgh and Miami went over, but only because the Pirates scored 10 runs. We’ll get back on the horse today.
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.
Houston (-115) at Arizona; Total: 9
Those looking for a distraction at work after the holiday weekend will probably get some skin in this game. Houston is a flipped favorite for this daytime matchup against Arizona. MLB has been doing this four-game series interleague thing with two in each city. I find it annoying and players probably do as well.
Not sure if you’ve noticed, but the Astros are putting it together. After sweeping Baltimore at home, the Astros are working on a 3-1 road trip. There was too much talent here for this team to struggle and they’re slowly coming out of that 17-28 start. I think it’s a little bit risky to like Lance McCullers in this spot, but the market has spoken. McCullers is making his fourth start of the year and has a 4.60/3.56/3.64 pitcher slash with a high ground ball rate and 21 K in 15.2 innings. Since struggling in his first start against an elite Boston offense, McCullers has a 17/9 K/BB ratio with three runs allowed on six hits. It’s weird that Baltimore walked six times last game, but it happens, I guess.
Patrick Corbin looks nothing like the pitcher that we saw for 16 starts last season. His strikeout rate is way down, his walk rate is back up, and his command has not been there. He’s given up 10 HR in 62 IP after allowing nine HR in 85 IP last season. He’s throwing a lot more changeups this season, even though it has been his worst pitch over the course of his career. His usage patterns with it have been really odd, as he has two starts that really stand out and the rest are kind of sporadic as well.
I’m not sure if this is a play on McCullers, a play on the Astros, a fade of Corbin, or a fade of the Diamondbacks, who are extremely good against LHP and not so much against RHP. Those that want something to follow during the day should probably side with Houston.
Washington (-115) at Philadelphia; Total: 7
We’ve seen about 15 cents shaved off of this number with Joe Ross and Aaron Nola slated to take the mound. That’s not a big surprise. Ross shows regression signs with a 2.52 ERA, a 3.56 FIP, and a 4.01 xFIP. His strikeout rate is down from last season, but most of his other peripherals look about the same. His high LOB% of 79.8 percent is probably due to come down.
Quietly, regression has come for the Phillies. They’ve lost eight of their last 10 and would drop to .500 with a loss here. Ironically, only two of their losses in that span are by one run, so they’re still in danger of bottoming out in that stat. Aaron Nola has easily been the team’s best starter, owning a 2.86 ERA, a 2.56 FIP, and a 2.59 xFIP. He’s striking out over a batter per inning and is showing that upside that got him drafted seventh overall out of LSU.
I agree with the line move here, but the Phillies are really in the tank. It’s not easy to sustain a winning record with the 28th-ranked offense by wOBA. There are some regression signs there for Ross, but the only way to go at this game is to take the under, in my humble opinion.
Boston at Baltimore (-120); Total: 9
The Boston Red Sox are excited for the return of Eduardo Rodriguez, who made five rehab starts at Triple-A before getting the recall for this one. Rodriguez battled a knee injury and was left to rehab when the team went north for the season. He was a 3.85/3.92/4.05 guy in 21 starts last season. He didn’t throw the ball very well in his rehab starts, with 13 runs on 28 hits in 28 innings, with six home runs allowed. He showed decent control, but the command is definitely worrisome going into a start against the Orioles.
Kevin Gausman has thrown the ball well this season. There are some signs of regression for him, with an 81.3 percent strand rate and a 4.00 FIP. His 3.24 ERA is a byproduct of sequencing luck. Gausman has a .268/.311/.464 slash against with the bases empty, including four of the six home runs he has allowed. With men on base, opposing hitters are batting .191/.250/.339 with a .200 BABIP against. The numbers are even lower with RISP. That’s probably not sustainable given his low strikeout rates from the stretch.
If I had to look for anything here, it would be runs. Boston will take it easy with Rodriguez, pushing some middle relievers into action. Gausman is taking on a tough lineup with some very clear signs of regression in medium and high-leverage situations.
Tampa Bay (-120) at Kansas City; Total: 8
Drew Smyly has shown some cracks in the armor lately. He’s allowed three or more runs in three of his last four starts with a 20/7 K/BB ratio. Two early-season 11-strikeout games have done some tricks with his strikeout rate, which would still be good, but not elite like it currently is. Initially, I felt like this line was a little bit of a trap.
Everything feels like a trap with Kansas City because their Island of Misfit Toys lineup just keeps producing in the face of some big injuries. I’ve expressed my frustration with trying to figure out this Royals team on several occasions and this is just another one of them. Smyly has only allowed 50 hits and 28 runs in 62 innings of work, but he’s given up 11 home runs, six in his last four starts.
But, Smyly faced a Miami team better with lefties, Detroit, Toronto, and Seattle. The Mariners aren’t a great offense against LHP, but platoon righties did the damage in that start.
Dillon Gee has made three starts this season and has a .333/.400/.552 slash against with a 5.65 ERA and 10 runs allowed on 20 hits in 14.1 innings. Like I said, this game feels like a trap. Gee is clearly a below average starter. The Rays have done most of their offensive damage against left-handed pitching, as their better platoon bats hit right-handed. With their utilization of platoons, however, the Rays should be in decent shape against Gee. Lefties are batting .319/.434/.493 with a .392 wOBA in 85 PA.
I’m not feeling confident in anything Royals-related right now, so I won’t touch this game, but everything is telling me to take Tampa Bay.
Minnesota (-110) at Oakland; Total: 8.5
I thought this line looked a little bit weird, with the lowly Twins laying chalk at Oakland. It’s up to around a money line pick ‘em now after opening in the -120 range. There aren’t a lot of believers in Eric Surkamp out there. There aren’t many outside of me in Tyler Duffey, it seems.
We’ll start with Duffey, who I like a lot. He’s got a very good knuckle curve and enough fastball command to get by. He’s also shown impeccable control on the season with a 5.1 percent walk rate. Duffey’s problems have been from a sequencing standpoint. After posting a 79.6 percent LOB% last season, it has dropped to 67.7 percent this season. That’s why his ERA is up 0.83 runs since last season. A .333 BABIP against with men on base isn’t very helpful. It’s definitely a command from the stretch issue, with his HR/FB% up and his line drive rate up.
At that point, it’s a matter of determining if the A’s will get a lot of chances against him. The A’s are 22nd in wOBA with the bases empty and have the league’s lowest walk rate. If they’re not going to start innings, then they’re going to have some difficulty scoring. This is far from an exact science, but I would expect the A’s to struggle here.
Eric Surkamp has a 6.55 ERA with a 6.70 FIP and a 6.87 xFIP in his 22 innings. He’s bounced around all over the place and this will be his sixth start of the season. He last had six starts in a season at the MLB level in 2011. He’s an innings eater at best. The Twins, however, rank 29th in wOBA against LHP on the season.
I’m looking for the under here. It’s very dangerous, but I think it’s half-a-run too high given what we’ve broken down here for this game.
Detroit at Los Angeles (AL) (-115); Total: 8.5
The Tigers are trotting Anibal Sanchez out again because they have no choice. The Angels will counter with Hector Santiago. Sanchez continues to be positively awful for the Tigers with a 6.04 ERA, a 5.61 FIP, and a 5.08 xFIP. He’s given up 11 HR in 53.2 innings of work and 41 runs on 58 hits. He’s also issued 27 walks, so he’s well on his way to post a career high in that stat if he lasts that many innings. He’s given up at least four runs in each of his last five starts.
I guess the line move is an expectation that Sanchez will fare better in a pitcher’s park? Or a fade of the Angels lineup? Maybe it’s a fade of Hector Santiago, who finally experienced the regression that was coming to him from last season. He’s lasted five innings over his last two starts with 10 runs allowed on eight hits, four of them home runs. Last season, Santiago had a 3.59/4.77/5.00 pitcher slash. This season, it’s 4.58/5.40/4.92.
Whatever the case, it’s hard not to see runs coming in this game with these two stiffs. Of course, I say that and it’ll be a 3-2 game and both guys will have eight strikeouts in six innings. I can’t believe that the Tigers are 23rd in wOBA against LHP with all the big right-handed bats they have. I have to assume that number will come up sometime soon. Maybe today.