After a light Monday of action, all 30 teams enter the fray on Tuesday night. We stay on top of everything for you and that includes the day-to-day grind of the Major League Baseball season. Our picks and analysis write-ups go in deeper detail than you will find anywhere. After a night with a lot of offense on Monday, will we see a lot of pitcher’s duels on Tuesday? Will the runs keep coming hot and heavy? Those questions and a whole lot more will be answered in today’s article.
Yesterday’s write-up didn’t have a lot of strong opinions, but the process is important, too. The over did, in fact, hit in the Tampa Bay/Toronto game as JA Happ’s impending regression hit like a ton of bricks. The Phillies fade was profitable and we’re seeing another one tonight. We’ve got a better betting card tonight.
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.
Miami (-115) at Philadelphia; Total: 7.5
Once again, we’ve got Phillies skepticism in the betting market. It makes perfect sense. They still own that same 14-3 record in one-run games after a two-run loss yesterday. The Phillies are now -28 in run differential and are one of the biggest overachievers in baseball.
You may be surprised to see money coming in against Vincent Velasquez, but you should not be. Since starting the season with 15 shutout innings and 25 strikeouts, Velasquez has given up 16 runs in 28.1 innings of work with 24 strikeouts. This is what happens. Teams adjust. Many National League teams hadn’t seen much of Velasquez and he came out of the gate guns blazing. He’s allowed four runs in each of his last two starts, to the Marlins and Braves.
This move makes a lot of sense, even though Wei-Yin Chen isn’t the type of guy you love to back in good hitting environments. There are still some modest signs of positive regression in Wei-Yin Chen’s profile, with a 4.40 ERA, a 3.56 FIP, and a 3.63 xFIP. His BABIP against should continue to come down and everything else looks pretty good. His strikeout rate could go up a little bit more because of the pitcher hitting. He’s a really underrated commodity and a guy that I had isolated as a good bet switching leagues. He doesn’t hurt himself with walks and induces a lot of weak contact. His infield fly ball percentage, or IFFB%, is just 4.7 this year, well below his 11.3 percent career average. Pop ups are effectively strikeouts, so that’s why the BABIP has climbed. There’s a velocity drop here and an increase in changeups, so maybe he’s simply trying to adjust to his catchers. Remember that these Asian import pitchers can probably have some issues switching teams. It can be tough to develop a rapport with new teammates with the language barriers and other hardships.
You know what to expect from Chen. Somewhere around six innings with either two or three runs allowed. You can bet on that. Velasquez has started to run into some difficulties and the Phillies are due for regression as a team. This line hasn’t moved out of range completely yet, so it makes some sense to roll with the Fish.
Seattle at Baltimore (-120); Total: 9
These are two very different pitchers on the mound at OPACY. Wade Miley goes for the Mariners and Ubaldo Jimenez goes for the Orioles. Miley has become a control artist with a pitch-to-contact arsenal that occasionally gets him in trouble. Jimenez is a deep arsenal guy without a lot of control that creates his own trouble. The advanced metrics suggest some improvements coming for Miley. His 4.91 ERA is accompanied by a 3.84 xFIP, as his HR/FB% is currently at a career high. With a 10.8 percent swinging strike rate, it’s a bit surprising that his strikeout rate is so low.
The Orioles are just 20th in wOBA against LHP, which is surprising to me given some of their right-handed bats. I can see home run regression coming for Miley, though this isn’t an ideal ballpark for such a thing. On the other hand, Miley’s HR rate was okay until his last start, when he made three mistakes that were all hit out of the ballpark. That has skewed his numbers a little bit.
Ubaldo Jimenez is impossible to figure out. The strikeout rate is still solid, but the walk rate is terrible again. His ground ball rate is up, which is good, but his .369 BABIP against is not good at all. His pop up rate has been cut in half, which leads me to believe that there are some sequencing issues in play here. Pop ups happen when guys are off-balance, but there’s been a lot of solid contact against Jimenez this season. His fastball command is terrible again.
The Orioles are 16-6 at home, so they have played well with their advantageous park factor. Despite that, I do trust Miley a little bit more than Jimenez. This isn’t a strong play by any means, but I’d lean Mariners here tonight.
Washington at New York (NL) (-125); Total: 6.5
I’m looking to fade Max Scherzer here in this start. Scherzer’s coming off of a 20-strikeout game, putting him in some incredibly lofty company. I don’t fault Dusty Baker at all for pushing Scherzer to the brink. He actually had a shot at 21 strikeouts as well. It took him 119 pitches and he had an extra day of rest between starts. The thing I can’t figure out is why Scherzer has been so inconsistent. It’s not a park thing or a mound familiarity thing. He’s had good starts in road parks this season.
Until Scherzer can string something together, I can’t back him after a performance like that. He gave up seven runs, including four home runs, in his previous start. Both runs in the 20-strikeout game came via home runs. He threw seven shutout on May 1 against St. Louis after giving up eight runs over his previous 11 innings. There are so many flashes of how elite Scherzer is surrounded by examples of poor command.
Noah Syndergaard is special. He’s posting a 6/1 K/BB ratio, with a lot of weak contact and really strong peripherals. There are no signs of regression and his increase in ground balls is a really good sign going forward. I’m all about Thor here in this start. His ego may get the best of him in terms of challenging Bryce Harper, but that’s the only bump in the road I can see.
Houston at Chicago (AL) (-110); Total: 8
It hasn’t been pretty for Dallas Keuchel so far this season. Everything that went right for him last season has gone wrong for him this season. The walk rate is the biggest thing for me. Hits happen and balls in play are volatile. It’s the walk rate of 10 percent, nearly double last season’s BB%, that bothers me the most. Secondarily, it’s the command. Keuchel’s hard-hit rate is 31.2 percent and his two-seam command has been the biggest culprit. He’s actually getting more swings and misses and less contact on pitches in the zone. Unfortunately, it hasn’t led to results.
Initially, I thought his release point may be a little bit altered. After all, Keuchel threw 232 innings plus playoffs last year, which was easily the highest workload of his career. Those look okay, but his movement is down basically across the board this season. That could be any number of things. If it’s a spin rate issue, that’s one of the most telltale signs of injury per pitching experts like Kyle Boddy of Driveline Baseball. It’s possible that Keuchel simply isn’t healthy or may be battling some arm fatigue.
Carlos Rodon is having issues putting it together. The strikeout and walk rates are up, but the command is still dragging behind. He’s also working from behind too much. His first-pitch strike percentage is just 50 percent. The control has gotten a lot better, per the plate discipline stats, but, you can’t pitch from behind with his movement and expect to have success. His velocity is down across the board, but so is Chris Sale’s, so Don Cooper’s fingerprints are all over that.
Against a swing-and-miss lineup like Houston’s, I think Rodon can have success. I’d go with the White Sox here in this spot. There’s something seriously off about Keuchel and even this mediocre lineup can exploit those issues.
Boston (-130) at Kansas City; Total: 8
This is reposted from yesterday with minor edits.
Overshadowed by the dominance of the Chicago Cubs, the Boston Red Sox are playing exceptionally well this season. They have already scored 103 runs in the month of May and nobody comes close to their offensive performance over the last couple of weeks. Rick Porcello takes the hill for this one against Yordano Ventura and the Royals.
Porcello entered the season as a bounce back candidate after a strong second half in 2015 and some advanced metrics that were better than his traditional stats. So far, Porcello has been excellent. The strikeouts have climbed and the walk rate has stayed the same. His .250 BABIP against is probably in line for a little bit of regression and his strand rate will inch down as well, but he’s throwing the ball really well and mixing his pitches. A vastly improved changeup has been a big key to this season’s success.
On the other side, Yordano Ventura is a mechanical mess. He’s walked more than he has struck out in 37 innings of work, so that has overshadowed his low BABIP and really soft contact. Ventura’s 13.3 percent line drive rate is exceptional and his hard-contact rate of 26.3 percent is right in line with his career average. But, he’s walked 16.6 percent of batters faced. He’s gone with a lot of changeups this year, which is very interesting because it has come at the expense of his fastball usage. He’s throwing the curve just as much. His fastball velocity is down a bit and his command of that pitch has been poor.
Will Boston be patient enough to force him to throw that straight fastball in the mid-90s? If so, they’ll win this game and do so convincingly. If not, Ventura can have some success with weak contact. The value is gone, since this line has basically moved 20 cents before yesterday’s postponement, but Boston has to be the only option if you must play it.
New York (AL) at Arizona (-120); Total: 8
Today in line moves that make me furrow my brow, the Yankees are getting money against Zack Greinke and the Diamondbacks. We’ve gone over this countless times with Michael Pineda. The command is terrible. Sure, Pineda’s 6.28 ERA and 3.93 xFIP suggest regression. Again, that assumes a reasonable level of command. Pineda has none. Chase Field isn’t an ideal ballpark for guys with bad command. Maybe facing one less hitter is the break that Pineda needs, but I’m not seeing it. The guy throws too many hittable pitches. Maybe Arizona won’t take advantage of the mistakes or they won’t be familiar enough with the stuff. Maybe, maybe, maybe.
Maybe Zack Greinke remembers he’s Zack Greinke. Last season’s performance was one of the biggest anomalies in baseball history. Greinke posted a .229 BABIP against for an entire season and a strand rate of 86.5 percent. That was not sustainable and it may never happen again. Greinke has over-regressed this season with a .359 BABIP against and a 68.6 percent strand rate. His 3.62 FIP and 3.54 xFIP seem like reasonable landing spots for his season ERA. His hard-contact rate isn’t up that much and his swinging strike rate isn’t down all that much. His Zone-Contact% is 92.6 percent, well above his 87.2 percent career average. I see nothing but positive signs for Greinke. He’ll get this thing figured out.
I’m taking Arizona tonight. I don’t believe in Pineda at all, whatsoever. Maybe I’ll be wrong. Maybe I won’t be. But I believe in Greinke a lot more.
Texas (-140) at Oakland; Total: 8
Jesse Hahn returns to the big leagues to make this start for Oakland against Cole Hamels and Texas. Hahn is kind of a fun pitcher and he has a perfect landing spot in Oakland. He’ll have a hard time replicating his low-minors strikeout rates and his path to the big leagues has been kind of strange. Injuries have really hurt his development path.
He’s a master at inducing weak contact with high usage of a pretty good curve ball and a two-seamer that induces a lot of ground balls. He’s actually flashed good velocity this season, which is pretty interesting. In about a season’s worth of innings, spread over three years, Hahn is a 3.21/3.57/3.84 pitcher slash guy. It’s interesting how much his advanced metrics buy in with low K/BB rates, but that’s what ground balls and command will do. In a general sense, I like Hahn in starts at home, where he can get some cheap outs on pop ups with that curve ball and any mistakes will be suppressed a bit. One thing I don’t like is his ground ball rate with his infield defense, so we’ll have to watch that.
Cole Hamels has had a strange start to the year. A groin problem has made him really hard to pinpoint on a start-by-start basis. The strikeouts are there, but so are the signs of regression with an increased walk rate and an unsustainable LOB%. He’s always had an above average LOB%, but 84.7 percent is a bit more unsustainable than his 77 percent career mark.
His HR/FB% will come down and it shouldn’t be an issue here at O.co Coliseum. I’m buying both of these pitchers today in what would probably be my favorite total of the day. I’d expect a low-scoring game here in this one, with Hahn’s two-seamer/curve plan of attack having success and Hamels able to shut down an A’s lineup that ranks 26th in wOBA vs. LHP at .283 and dead last in BB% at a paltry 3.9 percent.