There are some chalky numbers on the May 15 MLB board and Sundays are usually the toughest days to handicap. All the early starts mean less time to get organized and most people have Sunday obligations. The need for action often outweighs the need to make an informed wager, so that’s where we come in. With some picks and previews on games that include trends and this article, along with our DFS article, which can give you some good nuggets of information, we hope that you have ammunition you need to bang the books every day.
It was a light card yesterday and the Dodgers were our top winner. The Orioles came through if you played on that one. The Blue Jays and A’s were leans that did not. None of those picks were made with a lot of conviction outside of the Dodgers. Hopefully today’s card yields some stronger opinions.
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.
Oakland at Tampa Bay (-120); Total: 7.5
The market is backing Sonny Gray early on Sunday, which is actually a tiny bit surprising. The expectation here must be for Gray to start getting back on track, but I’m not seeing too many signs of that happening. It’s all location-based for Gray, whose hard-contact rate has jumped up eight percent this season. Some HR/FB% regression is coming and perhaps that will be the biggest bump to his stats, but he still has a .299 BABIP against, which is 27 points above his career average. He’s not a high-strikeout guy, so his best asset is inducing weak contact. This season, he’s done anything but. It has also coincided with an increase in walks, but that seems like an anomaly because his control metrics aren’t that far off from last season’s.
Maybe Gray does get better here today, but it is a little bit rare to see the market come in against a guy with an ERA-xFIP discrepancy of his own. That guy is Matt Moore, who has a 4.83 ERA with a 3.72 xFIP. Moore has averaged more than a strikeout per inning over his 41 frames so far. Like Gray, one of Moore’s issues is too much hard contact.
Another reason I don’t like this game is because the A’s have to be tired. This is their second trip to the east coast in less than a month. This has been a particularly long trip that started with a rainout and a doubleheader. They have given up a ton of runs on this trip as well. They don’t have tomorrow off, but they head home to host Texas. This feels like a laydown spot for a team that doesn’t have a ton to play for at 15-22.
I’m taking the Rays here. The A’s were shut down by replacement-level arm Matt Andriese yesterday and Moore is definitely on a bit higher of a level. I think the A’s are halfway to the plane for their 5.5-hour flight home. Give me the Rays here.
Minnesota at Cleveland (-140); Total: 7.5
It’s going to be a miserable day in Cleveland. The weather is cold, damp, and gross. Tyler Duffey and Trevor Bauer drew the short straw for today’s assignment and it’s tough to see either team being excited about this one. The Twins seemed to show more heart on Saturday than the Indians, who have had these lulls a few times now throughout the season. There’s not a big spark on the ballclub right now and this would be a terrific day for Terry Francona to give Francisco Lindor a day off.
I think once the Indians lineup comes out for Sunday, there will be a move on the Twins. Tyler Duffey is almost a strikeout per inning guy since jumping up to the show and Trevor Bauer, who has excellent stuff, tends to have some long at bats that will lull his defense to sleep on a cold day.
I don’t like anything about this spot for the Indians, which is sad because they should step up in these rubber matches at home. But, they have a knack for doing this on Sunday day games and I’m not convinced that they’ll be ready to play today. I would definitely look Twins at this price.
Miami (-115) at Washington; Total: 7
It was a long day at Nationals Park on Saturday with a day/night twin bill. I wouldn’t expect much from either offense with Jose Fernandez and Joe Ross on the hill. Washington does have tomorrow off before opening up a big series with the Mets. The Marlins take the short trek north to Philadelphia.
I don’t need to tell you about Jose Fernandez. We all know how good he is. Joe Ross is a little bit of a regression candidate with a 2.29 ERA and a 4.08 xFIP, but I don’t think it comes today after a doubleheader. All things considered, the bullpens are in decent shape, so I’d look for an under here.
San Diego at Milwaukee (-125); Total: 9
I completely agree with the move today on Cesar Vargas. If there’s going to be a lineup that Vargas matches up well against, it’s the Brewers. I got eyes on Vargas a couple starts ago and noticed some trends that will benefit us down the line. He works away exclusively to right-handed batters with an assortment of cutters and breaking balls. Almost everything is off the plate, but it has pretty good movement, so it looks hittable and then runs away. I’d expect him to be a guy with some ugly platoon splits. Righties have had more success than I would expect, but it’s a small sample size and the Cubs and Cardinals are the ones that did some damage. The Brewers don’t have those types of hitters.
Zach Davies is a guy that sharper players have backed previously this season, but not today. Davies just doesn’t showcase Major League-ready stuff yet, but because the Brewers have nothing to lose, he can learn on the job. He has 14 K against 13 BB in 24.1 innings and has shown poor command with a 26.5 percent line drive rate and a 37.2 percent hard contact rate.
I’m on board with the San Diego steam today, especially since they have tomorrow off after this road trip.
New York (NL) (-140) at Colorado; Total: 10
I think Jacob deGrom and the Mets are a very risky play today. deGrom is working through some mechanical stuff and it has not been an easy start to the season for him. The right-hander had a touch-and-go experience with the birth of his son and hasn’t really been able to find a groove on the mound. His command is still pretty good, but his strikeout rate has taken a big tumble. That usually doesn’t improve at Coors Field, especially for pitchers without a lot of experience there.
I’m not concerned that deGrom will get rocked, because he’s still good at keeping the ball on the ground and getting relatively weak contact, but his fastball velocity is down by a pretty good margin this season.
Tyler Chatwood was due for some regression and it hit last start. It’s always good to see regression hit in one fell swoop as opposed to a more gradual procedure. Chatwood is still showing some modest signs of regression with an 80.4 percent strand rate, a 3.09 ERA and a 3.97 xFIP, but I like what I’m seeing. The ground ball rate is up where it should be and a velocity drop for him isn’t that big of a deal. In fact, it may help him a little bit because it gives the ball more time to move. He’s only 11 starts back from Tommy John, but every start represents a chance to improve.
The Rockies bullpen is a big worry and time you look to take them, but I think there’s a little bit of value on Colorado today. It’s not a strong play, but the Mets played two four-game series on this trip and have played without an off day since April 28. They have tomorrow off and start a series with Washington on Monday. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them roll over today.
St. Louis at Los Angeles (NL) (-150); Total: 7.5
We’ll move ahead to Sunday Night Baseball and look at the biggest line move of the day between the Cardinals and the Dodgers. Alex Wood has gone from a modest -120 favorite to a -150 favorite and some books have gone even higher. This is a fade on a couple different levels. This game wraps up a six-game road trip to Los Angeles for the Cardinals and they have already guaranteed a .500 roadie.
It’s also a fade of Mike Leake, who has been pretty bad this season for the Cardinals. He has a 5.10 ERA with a 4.57 FIP and a 4.21 xFIP. He doesn’t miss bats and his value has been derived from posting above average strand rates. The Cardinals are a better defensive team than they’ve played for Leake, but he’s also having some issues from the stretch that have hurt him.
There’s also a perception out there about the Cardinals against left-handed pitching. They draw Alex Wood here, who shows that ERA-xFIP discrepancy that almost always gets line movement. Wood has a 4.58 ERA and a 3.58 xFIP as a direct result of his 62.3 percent strand rate. Usually, guys with Wood’s K rate (21.5 percent) can post reasonable LOB%.
There’s no value on this game and there aren’t any great situational spots to come out of it, so enjoy your Sunday night and catch up on the DVR or something.