It’s a 12-game slate today in Major League Baseball, but it wasn’t supposed to be. The Colorado Rockies and Pittsburgh Pirates have to play day baseball here after a rainout yesterday. The Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox play what could be a really long doubleheader with Mike Clevinger and Mat Latos in Game 1 and Cody Anderson and Erik Johnson in Game 2. So, we wind up with 12 games in total on May 23. It’s nice to get back to a traditional schedule after a lot of day games on Sunday.
Speaking of Sunday, it was a pretty decent day all around for us. Suggested picks on the over in Detroit and the under in San Francisco came through. The Indians were a loser as Danny Salazar struggled to find his command and the Indians didn’t cash in on any run-scoring opportunities. It was good to see Zack Greinke throw a good game against the Cardinals, though that wasn’t necessarily a pick. We’ll get after it here tonight with some good betting options.
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.
Cleveland (-105) at Chicago (AL); Total: 9
We’ll look at Game 1 between the Indians and White Sox. Doubleheaders are always hard to play because you never fully know who is going to play in which game. The Indians don’t have a deep bench because of Terry Francona’s unnecessary obsession with an eight-man bullpen. It may help today, but it usually doesn’t. In any event, the theory is that teams try to win Game 1 so that they don’t run the risk of getting swept with a lesser lineup in Game 2.
I really like the Indians in Game 1. Mike Clevinger’s stuff was a lot better than his final line showed in his MLB debut against the Reds last Wednesday. Clevinger spent the 45 minutes prior to the game throwing up, so the nerves should be gone for this one. The official Indians Twitter account is calling him #TheFlow, which works for me, because that lettuce is majestic. The stuff is pretty damn good, too. He showed good command of all of his pitches and struck out five with one walk over 5.1 innings. The one time he got in trouble, he panicked a little bit and Joey Votto got him.
On the other side, the Mat Latos Regression Tour is still making its way around the league. The sick thing is that there’s still regression possible with a 4.00/5.03/5.31 pitcher slash. After giving up two earned over his first 24.1 innings, Latos has allowed 18 runs over his last 20.2 innings of work. It’s a thing of beauty when a plan comes together. Of course, the White Sox have inexplicably given him some run support, but this is the Latos we expected.
Hopefully the Indians can take advantage. After a rough weekend in Boston, I’d look for them to come out big in Game 1. Game 2 could be a different animal, but you absolutely have to wait and see how Game 1 turns out.
New York (NL) at Washington (-150); Total: 7.5
I was really hoping for a better Washington number here in this one. We’re being asked to lay -150 on the Nationals, even though Gio Gonzalez has those signs of regression that the market often pours in on. If oddsmakers simply shaded pitchers with low ERAs and high xFIPs or vice versa, they’d limit a lot of exposure. Maybe they don’t want to do that because regression, while almost a certainty, is volatile, and therefore, you never know when it’s coming.
I’ve talked about Gonzalez’s impending regression. He’s got a 1.86 ERA with a 3.09 FIP and a 3.97 xFIP. He has a very low BABIP with a 48 percent ground ball rate and an 80 percent strand rate with a lower strikeout rate than in years past. Just like his last start, however, the Mets aren’t really a team I expect to kickstart Gio’s regression. They are 25th in wOBA against LHP on the season with the highest K% in the NL. Again, regression in this case for Gio would be two earned over six, or something slightly better.
Bartolo Colon is what he is and what he always has been. He pitches to contact with a steady diet of two-seamers and that’s about it. There are very few surprises, unless he’s hitting. The Nationals know what to expect. They know how to attack. I rarely consider going north of -140, but if you’re going to, I think this is a spot where it’s justified.
Philadelphia (-105) at Detroit; Total: 8.5
How bad is Mike Pelfrey? Some books have the Phillies favored over the Tigers on the road. Remember what we talked about last week with the Phillies, who are 25-19 with an 18-26 Pythagorean win-loss record. They are still 14-3 in one-run games. We’ve seen the market pour in against the Phillies as they look for regression, but it still hasn’t come yet.
Truthfully, if you can stomach backing Pelfrey, which most of us can’t, I think the Tigers carry value here. Vincent Velasquez is taking on the best lineup, arguably, that he’s seen this season and he doesn’t have the pitcher to help with getting out of jams. I can’t see many people firing on the Tigers, but Velasquez has been good, but not nearly as dominant since his first two starts of the season. He has a 3.51 ERA, 3.37 FIP, 3.94 xFIP with 34 K in 33.1 innings. It’s good, but he had 24 K in 28 IP before striking out 10 Marlins last time out. I think the Tigers are live and have some value today.
Tampa Bay at Miami (-120); Total; 7.5
This is a really tough one for me. Matt Moore has come back to earth and he’s struggling a little bit, but the Rays bring the fifth-best offense by wOBA in MLB against lefties to Marlins Park against Wei-Yin Chen. I like Wei-Yin Chen and I like him as a guy to back here in the coming weeks with a 4.22/3.50/3.41 pitcher slash. His pop up rate of 4.3 percent is going to see some positive regression since his career rate is 11.3 percent and those are basically strikeouts. That should lower his HR/FB% and also his ERA. The only thing stopping me here is how good Tampa Bay’s offense has been against this split.
Matt Moore has been scuffling lately. He had this start pushed back a couple days to give him an extra breather, but he has a 5.09 ERA with a 4.44 FIP and a 3.82 xFIP. The stuff has been wildly inconsistent of late, so it’s really just a matter of figuring out which Matt Moore you’re going to get. That’s easier said than done. The hope would be that facing an NL lineup with a pitcher in a park that suppresses home runs would be good for him. He’s still a strikeout per inning guy for the season, although he only has 11 over his last 14 innings.
The Marlins rate fairly well against LHP, though not as well as they did in past seasons. They’re not hitting for a whole lot of power against southpaws right now. Everything is telling me to stay off of this game because of that Rays offense. Tampa Bay is also a little bit more familiar with Chen than other teams are. My lean is the Marlins, but the Rays are a really solid team. It all depends on how Moore pitches.
Chicago (NL) (-115) at St. Louis; Total: 7.5
We’ve got a very interesting situational spot here on Monday night. The Chicago Cubs played late into the night against the San Francisco Giants on Sunday Night Baseball, so they got into St. Louis in the early hours of the morning, likely around 5 or 6 a.m. If anybody other than Adam Wainwright was pitching for the Cardinals, they’d probably be an auto play.
It’s possible that the adrenaline of playing a hated division rival can get the Cubs over the hump, which is another consideration here in this one. For me, it’s the Wainwright factor that is keeping me off of this great situational spot. Wainwright has not missed many bats and has given up 65 hits in 51.2 innings of work. He’s got a 31/14 K/BB ratio, which is very un-Wainwright-like. There are signs of regression in his 5.92/4.00/4.53 pitcher slash. To be fair, several of his starts have been “quality” starts, so there’s that. He’s kept his team in most games, he just hasn’t been the guy we’re used to seeing.
So, I wrote those two paragraphs and then did a little bit more digging. This is why it’s so important to pull research from a lot of different sources. Read August Fagerstrom on Wainwright’s last start. Hmmm. Gives you something to think about, doesn’t it?
John Lackey has familiarity with the Cardinals, as we know. That will weigh into some people’s minds. I don’t think it should, but it’s something that creates narratives, so people run with it. Lackey’s stuff has been sharp and I would expect it to stay that way early on in the season. He’ll probably wear down a little bit late, coming off of his first 200+ inning season since 2010. He is a noticeably wired guy on the mound, showing a lot more emotion than most pitchers. It could get the best of him in a start like this against a good Cardinals lineup.
If I’m playing this one, I’m probably looking under. I’m hoping for some Cubs bats to be dragging through the zone and Lackey’s throwing the ball really well right now. If I had to lean to a side, that situational angle is big on St. Louis.
Cincinnati at Los Angeles (NL) (-380); Total: 6.5
I’m not going in-depth on this game, but if you want to put .25 or .3 units on Cincinnati to beat Kershaw after the Dodgers just played for 17 innings, I really don’t think it’s a bad idea. I’d imagine this game closes north of -400 thanks to parlay exposure and -1.5 bets.
Oakland at Seattle (-130); Total: 7
The Rich Hill Experience continues to be one of the most entertaining shows in Major League Baseball. You can’t help but feel good for the journeyman middle reliever turned dominant starter. He has 59 strikeouts in 49.2 innings of work and he has posted a 2.54/2.91/3.65 pitcher slash on the season. At this point, he’s far and away Oakland’s most reliable starter.
I’m not sure he’ll get much run support here against Taijuan Walker. Walker hasn’t been as efficient and hasn’t been working as deep into games lately, but he has drawn some pretty tough lineups. This seems like a good bounce back spot. It’s possible that his neck is still an issue and may be throwing off his mechanics a little bit. He’s given up five HR in his last 12.2 innings of work after allowing one HR in his last 30 innings. His velocity was way down in his start against Baltimore, which seems like more than just PITCHf/x speed variance from park to park.
Initially, I wanted to fire on Walker here, but he’s still not right and I need to wait for things to normalize before going back to him.
San Diego at San Francisco (-175); Total: 6.5
San Diego played 17 innings and lost yesterday against the Dodgers, which is about as demoralizing as it gets. Obviously the bullpen is pretty taxed after something like that. That’s a problem with Drew Pomeranz, who can sometimes have issues working deep into games. He throws a lot of pitches. He’s walked at least three in six of his eight starts and has 56 strikeouts in 46 innings of work. Efficiency is not really his thing, which will push the Padres bullpen into this game in the middle innings. Pomeranz has been terrific with a 1.96/2.85/3.51 pitcher slash.
At first, I was looking solely at the under here because Johnny Cueto has been really good and the Padres have to be tired from that long game yesterday. I’m still looking that way, especially because Cueto has no problems with guys swinging early in the count. He hasn’t been able to post as good of a BABIP as usual this season, but that seems more like variance than anything else.
With the Giants playing late last night, the under is a great way to look. I considered the Giants run line, in a rare run line opportunity, but the Giants might not be all that invested offensively either. So, we’ll simply look for a very low-scoring affair at AT&T Park tonight.