A lot of day games present some challenges for MLB handicappers today. It’s a tough day from a pitching standpoint as well, as there seem to be a lot of back of the rotation starters and swingmen on the mound. On the other hand, there are only a couple of really big favorites in the market, so a lot of games contain possibilities in the betting market. Let’s dive right in.
First, a quick look back at yesterday. The Washington Nationals were an easy winner with Tanner Roark throwing a quality game and Justin Nicolino giving up runs early on. The over came through in the Rays/Tigers contest. Toronto’s offensive explosion cost us an under play in that matchup against Minnesota. The lean on the Angels was an epic failure, as Hector Santiago gave up three long balls and then got ejected early on.
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.
Kansas City at Chicago (AL) (-110); Total: 9
This is a pretty ugly game on Saturday afternoon between AL Central rivals. Danny Duffy has already made 17 appearances this season, but just made his first start last time through the rotation. He worked three innings with a pitch limit around 50, so don’t expect him to work deep into this game either. He threw three scoreless innings with five strikeouts and a couple of walks. Back on a regular turn, perhaps he’ll be set at 65 or 70 here today, which could mean four innings. The Royals used four relievers for 10 or more pitches each, but had Thursday off, so the bullpen is in decent shape.
Miguel Gonzalez has made three pedestrian starts. He’s worked into the sixth twice, but he’s walked 10 and struck out 11 in 15.2 innings of work. He’s basically out there to eat innings while the White Sox sort out their fifth starter problems. Gonzalez has a 5.17/5.45/6.01 pitcher slash. His control and command have always been spotty. There’s not much to like about him in this one.
With two starters that won’t work very deep, this one falls on the bullpens. Chicago’s is in better shape with Chris Sale’s complete game on Thursday and yesterday’s loss. That should give the White Sox an advantage here. That means a very small lean to them, but be advised that Duffy probably more upside than Gonzalez to start this game off.
Cleveland at Boston (-125); Total: 9.5
This will be a huge test for Trevor Bauer. Bauer returned to the rotation with the injury to Carlos Carrasco and he’s been pretty good as a starter. In 94 PA, opposing batters have a .188/.266/.353 slash. He’s given up three home runs, but he also has 23 strikeouts in 23.1 innings of work. The stuff looks exceptional, but the control and command are always in the back of your mind. In a place like Fenway Park, that really punishes pitchers for mistakes, there are some major concerns.
Joe Kelly is coming back from a DL stint with a shoulder, so this line is a little bit surprising. There’s not a whole lot of support for Bauer in the investment community, but I’d be surprised to see Kelly get a lot of respect either. Overall, this is probably a stay away game for most and I would respect that opinion. Both pitchers do have some blow-up potential here and I tend to avoid those games.
Colorado at Pittsburgh (-130); Total: 8
I like what I’ve seen from Tyler Chatwood so far this season. He’s been locating pretty well and that big ground ball split is back. After a lost season due to Tommy John in 2014, Chatwood looks comfortable on the mound and the stuff has that good downward trajectory that you’re looking for. He doesn’t mix his breaking stuff in a whole lot, but he throws three different fastball variations and it’s an arsenal that the Pirates haven’t seen very often. There’s some value in that.
On the other side, Jon Niese is your standard-issue lefty, but he’s having a lot of command problems this season. He’s given up 11 home runs in 46 innings thus far and he’s made matters worse by allowed 74 baserunners. There’s very little to like about him right now and it is still a major question why he and Jeff Locke are still in the rotation with Tyler Glasnow waiting in the wings.
The price on the Rockies is too good to pass up here. Pittsburgh still has a lot of exciting players and a solid bullpen, but the Rockies have a starting pitcher advantage in this one. At the very least, the first five innings have to be a consideration.
Tampa Bay (-115) at Detroit; Total: 9
I’m not sure I understand this line move, but it has been pretty significant. Drew Smyly returns to face his old team and maybe that’s driving the bus. Michael Fulmer has that ERA-xFIP discrepancy that induces betting action, so maybe that’s part of it. Smyly has been absolutely fantastic in his eight starts this season and he was really good in his 12 starts last season. He’s just a good pitcher overall. He owns a 3.45 ERA in 357.1 innings as a starter with a .235/.290/.409 slash against. He doesn’t have those big platoon splits that you usually see from left-handed starters.
The Tigers are a top-10 offense and Miguel Cabrera is coming out of his slow start to the season in a pretty big way right now. That could be another factor. If the reason is because Smyly used to pitch for the Tigers, so the theory is their familiarity with him, I don’t believe that. I also don’t think there’s any extra incentive facing your old team. I think those two narratives are really overblown.
In four starts, Michael Fulmer has shown what most young pitchers show. Good stuff, swings and misses, and command that isn’t MLB-ready. Fulmer has 22 K in 19.1 innings, but he’s also allowed four home runs and 29 hits. Command is the hardest thing for a pitcher to develop. A guy like Fulmer, with premium velocity, can throw it past minor league hitters. It’s a lot different to go up against MLB hitters and have that same kind of success.
At this price, the value side is undoubtedly Tampa Bay. Their key relievers worked in yesterday’s game, so maybe that’s also part of the rationale against the Rays, but the Tigers have a terrible bullpen, so that shouldn’t be an issue.
Washington at Miami (-140); Total: 7
Joe Ross hasn’t been able to replicate last season’s strikeout rate, which makes him a lot less of a pitcher. Jose Fernandez is elite. Ross is a guy that shows some signs of regression with a 2.63 ERA, a 3.36 FIP, and a 4.30 xFIP. He isn’t looking the part the way he was last season. With a ground ball split of almost 50 percent and a 22 percent strikeout rate, there was a lot to like. This season, he’s more neutral on ground balls and fly balls and the strikeout rate is down to 17.8 percent. Hitters have made adjustments because he’s predominantly a two-pitch pitcher. They’re chasing less and swinging less, while making more contact in the zone.
Jose Fernandez’s control hasn’t been on point, but he has 69 strikeouts in 47.2 innings of work. He’s only 112.1 innings removed from Tommy John surgery and it takes time for all of that consistency to come back. For Fernandez, the command hasn’t been as sharp with some hard-hit balls and quite a few line drives. He’s not getting ahead in the count as much this season and hitters aren’t chasing as much, so it’s probably something as simple as throwing first-pitch strikes.
I’m actually looking for some runs in this game. Ross has some signs of regression and the Nationals are very familiar with Fernandez and his stuff. It’s altogether possible that he simply dominates, so maybe the Marlins team total over would be a better way to look. But, I do think we see some chances. Whether or not the offenses cash in, that’s another story.
Baltimore (-120) at Los Angeles (AL); Total: 8
There are a lot of angles to consider for this game, which has become quite complex. From a situational standpoint, it would be good to fade the Orioles. They won last night, but this is their fourth road game since April 27. The time change has to be a little bit taxing on them. I’ll actually look to fade them later in this road trip as fatigue and Circadian rhythm interruptions start to play a little bit more of a role.
Another angle is that Hector Santiago was tossed early on Friday night, so the Angels bullpen had a busy night. None of the key guys worked, but it was still a busy night for a bullpen that doesn’t run very deep. Baltimore still used some of its key right-handers, mostly because they hadn’t worked in a few days.
This should be a good environment for Kevin Gausman. Gausman is pretty much your dictionary definition of an average pitcher. He has a 4.09/3.78/3.77 pitcher slash over his career with pretty average K/BB metrics. Average isn’t a bad thing. That’s something I want readers to understand. Being league average is good in baseball because there are a lot of below average players per the metrics. Not being below average is a pretty big selling point.
On the Angels side, Matt Shoemaker is still trying to figure things out. Since his 3.04/3.26/3.28 pitcher slash in his debut season, he’s been a 5.18/4.84/4.33 pitcher. That’s not going to play and it’s a very bad thing to have in such a good hitter’s park. This season, he’s not even missing bats and the control and command have been subpar. The strand rate will come up, because nobody carries a 57.5 percent LOB%, but he’s been really bad this season.
With all the pitching injuries, there’s no way the Angels can take him out of the rotation, so they’re stuck with him. If it wasn’t for the situational angle, I’d be all over Baltimore in this one. I still think they’re better equipped to get this win tonight and hopefully the market will keep pushing their price down. So, my lean is Baltimore, but it’s not very strong.