We’ve got seven day games and eight night games scheduled for May 25. It seems like there has been an extraordinarily high number of Wednesday getaway day games this season. Perhaps it has something to do with the number of off days speckled throughout the cooler months of the season. In any event, we’ve got a lot of games with reasonable lines and we have some average pitchers laying big numbers in the night games. Here’s a look at today’s card.
Taking a quick look at how yesterday went, it was a pretty solid day overall. The Yankees started things off with a nice, easy winner. The Braves inexplicably went to Bud Norris in a 1-1 game and that cost us, but that’s the chance you take with a manager that has no idea what he’s doing. The over lean in the Cubs/Cardinals game hit, as Michael Wacha got blasted, but the Cardinals lean did not. Doug Fister and the Astros cashed a nice underdog ticket for us and Edinson Volquez and the Royals won as short chalk.
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.
Philadelphia at Detroit (-130); Total: 8.5
The first number that really stood out to me today is the one between the Phillies and the Tigers. Aaron Nola is on the hill for the road team and he’s been brilliant so far this season. This is a much stiffer test than he’s accustomed to, but he has struck out over a batter per inning with impeccable control and pretty good command. His only major issue so far has been getting out of jams, but young pitchers often panic in those leverage situations. They’ll rush their deliveries or fail to sequence properly. It’s all part of the learning curve.
Nola allowed seven earned runs in his April 16 start against the Nationals. In six starts since then, he’s allowed a total of seven earned runs. He’s really locked in a nice groove right now. His defense failed him last time out, but he threw the ball well and allowed his first home runs in five starts. The Tigers are in a nice groove right now, winning of eight of their last nine and they’ve scored some runs in the process. With the night off before starting a six-game trip in California, I’d be worried about how invested they are for this one. It’s been an extremely successful homestand and Nola is a tough at bat.
I’ve had no interest in backing Anibal Sanchez in any format this season. Sanchez has a 6.23 ERA with a 5.48 FIP and a 5.03 xFIP. His control is gone. His command is gone. His sub-40 percent ground ball rate over the last two seasons is a big worry. There’s nothing to like about him right now. I do have some worries about the Phillies lineup because Sanchez does throw a lot of different pitches, but he’s given up at least four runs in each of his last four starts and six of his last seven.
The Phillies are a young team. Young teams don’t know any better than to keep plugging away. I feel like you’re going to get a bigger effort from the Phillies than you will from the Tigers today. Add in the big advantage of Nola over Sanchez and I think there’s some value on the dog here.
Chicago (NL) (-170) at St. Louis; Total: 7
I’m not picking against Jake Arrieta because there’s never any reason to do that. I’m not laying the price with Arrieta. What I am doing is recommending the under here in this one. Arrieta is elite. I don’t have to rattle off the numbers. This is a good situational play to look at, though. The Cubs put a beating on Michael Wacha last night and have this early start after Sunday’s late game. This game starts at 12:45 p.m. CT, so the Cubs are effectively playing their fourth game in about 86 hours. There’s probably not a whole lot left in the offensive tank.
Carlos Martinez is certainly good enough to get by against this lineup. The strikeouts aren’t there quite yet, but the weak contact is. The Cubs had a day off before the road trip began, but three-city, nine-game road trips aren’t easy. Plus, there’s a natural tendency to take an elite starting pitcher for granted. Look at the run support that Clayton Kershaw gets. Or that Chris Sale gets. Or Corey Kluber. The Cubs know they don’t need to score many runs and they probably won’t.
Cleveland at Chicago (AL) (-115); Total: 7.5
If Corey Kluber closes an underdog today, it will be the fourth time since the start of 2015 that he is an underdog. The other three came against Jon Lester, Garrett Richards, and Chris Sale. The Indians are 0-3 in those games, not that it’s big enough of a sample size to be predictive. The Indians can take three of four from the White Sox here and cut the deficit to 0.5 games in the AL Central.
Kluber has had a bit of a rough start to the season. His 3.07 FIP and 3.35 xFIP are solid numbers. His command has improved from a home run standpoint. The strikeouts are down a little bit and the walks are up a little bit, but he has had some trouble harnessing his stuff at slightly lower speeds. For Kluber, the stretch has not been his best friend. With the bases empty, hitters are batting just .194/.252/.299 with a 45/10 K/BB ratio. With men on base, those numbers shoot up to .291/.349/.500 with a 13/5 K/BB ratio in 85 plate appearances. With RISP, they are .342/.422/.564 with a 7/4 K/BB ratio in 46 plate appearances. Is this a sequencing issue? A mechanical issue? Something more? For me, it’s simply the strikeout rates. Kluber needs to miss more bats in leverage spots.
Jose Quintana has been magnificent this season. He has a 1.98 ERA with a 2.09 FIP and a 3.38 xFIP. The home run rate is the only outlier, as his BB% has improved for the fifth straight season. He’s one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball. The Indians can throw eight right-handed bats at him in this game, though, and his splits are, as you would expect, worse against righties. Righties have a .240/.288/.340 while lefties have a .191/.203/.238. It’s not a great slash by any means, but it gives the Indians a chance.
I’m not ready to go against Quintana yet, but this right-handed-heavy White Sox lineup is one that Kluber can succeed against. I’m not ready to go on the under either, since US Cellular has played pretty small in this series overall and it’s a warm afternoon game. I’d lean Kluber and the Tribe, but I’m staying off.
Toronto (-105) at New York (AL); Total: 9
We’ve got a head-scratcher in the Bronx tonight. Marco Estrada and the Blue Jays go up against Ivan Nova and the Yankees. I guess it’s hard to make the Yankees a home dog, but it feels like people are prematurely buying into what Ivan Nova has done. Nova has given up exactly one run in each of his three starts, but look at some of the numbers. He’s struck out eight of the 62 batters he’s faced. His BABIPs in those starts are .333, .167, and .188. That’s not sustainable at all.
It took a couple years for me to realize that Marco Estrada might actually be able to keep this up. He won’t keep it up at his current pace, unless the strikeout spike is legit, but Estrada is a pretty good pitcher with a plus-plus changeup that has been quite a weapon. His strikeout rate is up six percent this year with a 1.1 percent increase in swinging strike rate. It’s all on pitches outside of the zone, so at least that seems more sustainable than swings and misses on strikes.
There are some signs of regression, with a 2.61/3.24/4.06 pitcher slash, though I think we need to start using SIERA more than xFIP. The league’s home run rate is up across the board, so the average HR/FB% is higher than it has been in the last few seasons. His SIERA is 3.89. Like many pitchers, Estrada is using more of a cutter/slider/slutter this season that has increased his GB%. It’s become the new market inefficiency, though we’ll see how long that lasts.
As far as it goes for Estrada, I think we’re seeing some legitimate changes that could work. He’s throwing fewer fastballs to throw more of that cutter, so it hasn’t changed his CH or CU usage. I like that, especially with the CH, which has been 30 runs above average in his career.
I’m taking the Jays here. The Yankees are rolling right now and have been since Aroldis Chapman came back, but I’m not buying Nova one iota right now.
Arizona at Pittsburgh (-120); Total: 8.5
I wish the Diamondbacks had somebody different on the hill today, but Rubby de la Rosa has the potential to shut down good lineups. Consistency has been his biggest issue and it’s not an easy one to overlook. But this matchup is so good for the Diamondbacks that I’m considering it anyway. Let’s see if we can make a case for RDLR.
In 40.2 innings as a starter this season, de la Rosa has a .190/.276/.322 slash against with 38 K. He’s a hard guy to peg because he’s dominant against righties and struggles against lefties. The Pirates have a pretty good split of each. One issue here is that he hasn’t pitched since May 15 with a groin problem and the last thing you want an inconsistent pitcher to do is sit idle for a few days. But, save for a tough start in Miami, he’s been really great in four of his last five starts. I think there’s enough here for me to back him.
Jeff Locke needs to be out of this rotation. The Pirates have Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon waiting in the wings and hopefully this is the start that breaks the camel’s back. Locke has a 5.00/5.02/4.82 pitcher slash on the season and a 5.05 SIERA. He’s issuing more walks this season and his strikeout rate is down. There’s literally nothing to like about Locke.
The Diamondbacks rank fourth in wOBA against LHP on the season and this is one that they can continue that trend against. With a getaway day Thursday game coming up, the Diamondbacks can assure no worse than a 3-3 trip today. I like them a lot tonight.
Milwaukee (-115) at Atlanta; Total: 7.5
The honeymoon is over for the Braves. They aren’t favored over a guy making his fifth MLB start at the age of 31. It’s a really sad state of affairs in the place where the players play. Junior Guerra has actually been pretty good for the Brewers in his four starts. He has a 3.96/3.15/3.80 pitcher slash and is a great story. He signed in 2006 and bounced around in the minor leagues, the Mexican League, and all sorts of other places before getting a shot with the White Sox for three relief appearances last season. The Brewers have done a ton of minor league scouting since David Stearns took over and they plucked Guerra.
Outside of an ugly LOB%, Guerra has been strong. He has 24 K in 25 IP and has kept the ball in the park. A fastball/splitter/curve arsenal is pretty unique and it’s a little bit surprising that his ground ball rate isn’t higher. One really interesting thing about Guerra is that hitters are pulling 43 percent of the time and going oppo 38.5 percent. They’re only hitting it back up the middle 18.5 percent of the time. Hitters aren’t really squaring up the ball a lot. Could mean some deception or, at the very least, some good sequencing.
I’m not a Mike Foltynewicz fan at all. The Braves can afford to be patient with him and keep trying him as a starter, but he’s a reliever in my mind. He’s trying to mix his arsenal up some more with sliders and changeups this season, but he’s still a straight fastball at 95 guy. His secondaries aren’t really good enough yet to be viable weapons and they may never get to that point as a starter. He’s not walking people, but he’s given up five HR in 93 PA and 27 hits. The command just isn’t there. Milwaukee has some guys that can get after fastballs. I like this matchup for them and I like the Brewers at the short price tonight.