Saturday’s MLB card features 16 games, thanks to a day/night twin bill between the Marlins and Nationals, so there are definitely a lot of betting opportunities out there. With no NBA or NHL on the docket, everybody will be looking to get action on the bases. It’s not a great day for betting baseball unless you have the ability to dig deep into the matchups. There aren’t many household names on the mound and there aren’t a lot of lines worthy of consideration. However, there’s always some kind of value out there and that’s what we’ll attempt to find.
After a couple of strong days, Friday was not a banner day. The Phillies won and cashed in the -120 range, but the Marlins/Nationals over failed to come through. Those that continued to fade Luis Severino, even though it wasn’t mentioned in yesterday’s write-up, were rewarded once again. The Cardinals actually closed a favorite, which was pretty stunning, but they played bad baseball and lost. Runs came in the Angels/Mariners game, which was a surprise. Not many things worked out, but we’ll get back after it today.
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.
Chicago (AL) (-145) at New York (AL); Total: 7.5
I definitely don’t blame the betting market for coming in on the White Sox and for fading the Yankees on Saturday. Jose Quintana has been nothing short of brilliant for the Pale Hose and Ivan Nova is Ivan Nova. I’m not betting on it here, but there’s definitely regression coming for Quintana. He has a 1.38 ERA with a 2.11 FIP and a 3.26 xFIP. His strikeout rate is up, his walk rate is down, his HR/FB% is well below his career average, and he’s stranding 84.9 percent of baserunners.
His strikeout rate is up, but his swinging strike rate is down. His walk rate is improved, but his first-pitch strike percentage is down. His Zone-Contact% has dropped 4.5 percent, so hitters are simply swinging through pitches. That’s not usually a sustainable trend. His HR/FB% is 2.4 percent, which is not sustainable at all. Regression is coming for Quintana. We’ll see if it comes all at once in one of those 3 IP, 7 ER starts or if it happens gradually. I’m not betting on it here, but I just wanted to let you know that it will happen in the near future.
Oakland at Tampa Bay (-135); Total: 8
I’ve always been a bit of a Kendall Graveman fan. His biggest problem is that the home run rate he had tremendous success with in the minor leagues has not carried over to the big leagues. In 231.1 career minor league innings, Graveman gave up six home runs. In 151.2 big league innings, he’s allowed 24 home runs. The ground ball rates are good. This season’s strikeout rate is passable. But, for whatever reason, he’s getting too much of the plate and hitters are making it hurt. He’s allowed nine HR in 31.1 innings this season. His HR/FB% will regress because nobody carries a 28.1 percent HR/FB%.
Look a little bit deeper at the game logs. He gave up four HR last start in Baltimore. He gave up three HR in Detroit on April 25. One was a good hitter’s park and one was against a lineup with quite a bit of power. Tropicana Field isn’t a great park for home runs. I’m cautiously optimistic about Graveman today.
Matt Andriese will be his counterpart. Andriese has one start and he scattered four hits over seven innings with three strikeouts and three walks. He’s basically a league average fifth starter type that won’t kill you with walks, but won’t overpower anybody either. He didn’t work ahead in the count much last time out, but the pathetic Angels couldn’t do much to take advantage.
I think Oakland can do a little bit more here. I think there’s some value on the A’s and hopefully we get some positive regression in that HR rate from Graveman.
Detroit at Baltimore (-130); Total: 9.5
Mike Wright keeps drawing favorable matchups that give him some value. Anibal Sanchez has been a punching bag this season with a 5.89/5.25/4.92 pitcher slash and it’s all about command and control. Last season, it was just terrible command. This season it’s a control issue as well. He’s walked at least three batters in five of his seven starts, including a seven-walk performance against the A’s. The Orioles aren’t a patient lineup, per se, but they have the ability to punish mistakes. Sanchez has made his fair share of those.
I think the biggest concern for me is that Sanchez has struggled with some really pedestrian lineups. He hasn’t faced many teams of Baltimore’s caliber offensively. In a great hitter’s park, this could be a really bad day for Sanchez. On the other hand, if Baltimore chases pitches down in the zone or out of the zone, he can have some success.
Mike Wright isn’t good, following a long line of replacement-level Baltimore starters. He has a 5.83/4.09/4.36 pitcher slash and has below average peripherals. The Tigers aren’t hitting much of anything right now and there’s plenty of discontent in that clubhouse. Brad Ausmus may not last much longer and Chris Tillman shut down the Tigers on Friday, which is not something most people would expect. At some point, I would anticipate this Tigers lineup would break out. Today seems like an okay possibility, but it’s hard to bet on them in any situation right now.
The value probably lies with Baltimore here, but after some research, it’s not as cut-and-dry as I originally thought.
Toronto (-130) at Texas; Total: 9
Marco Estrada has been a different pitcher this season. After regularly posting ground ball rates below 35 percent, he’s up to 42.6 percent this season. Not only that, but his strikeout rate has made a significant jump. Somehow, with the ground ball increase, he’s still managed to keep his BABIP low. I’m not sure how sustainable all of this is. Estrada has a 2.39 ERA with a 3.31 FIP and a 4.14 xFIP. His hard-contact rate is 33.3 percent, but it’s been hard ground contact. His line drive rate has dropped for the fourth straight season.
He’s throwing a new cutter, or at least PITCHf/x says it’s a new cutter. Hitters are swinging and missing outside the zone with regularity, which is a new wrinkle for Estrada. His Zone-Contact% is way up, so he’s pitching to contact in the zone but using stuff outside the zone to get strikeouts. I’m skeptical, but I’ve always been skeptical of Estrada.
Speaking of candidates for regression, Colby Lewis has a 3.20 ERA with a 5.12 FIP and a 4.67 xFIP. He’s stranded 92.5 percent of his baserunners this season, which is obviously not going to continue. When I initially looked at this line, I felt like Toronto was getting too much respect and that’s before I looked at Lewis’s 2016 performance. I just went solely based off of my perception of him. It does feel like everybody is just waiting for that big offensive breakout from Toronto that won’t seem to come.
I’ll be watching Estrada closely to see how legit these adjustments are. I think there’s value on him today because this new look is something that can have success for a while before hitters adjust. But, I’m not sure about its long-term sustainability.
St. Louis at Los Angeles (NL) (-105); Total: 7.5
I’m really worried about the Cardinals tonight. As we’ve talked about before, some tough games on the body due to time changes don’t always show up until the following day. The Cardinals played some really bad baseball on Friday night. The Cardinals made four errors that led to five unearned runs. The offense did its thing against Ross Stripling, but the Dodgers bullpen gave up one hit in four innings.
Carlos Martinez has had a rough couple of weeks. He left his last start with an illness that was termed “fatigue”. It got everybody all scared because Garrett Richards was DL’d with fatigue before the torn UCL diagnosis came down. Martinez also had some domestic assault allegations a few weeks back that MLB decided not to investigate. He has some of the best raw stuff in baseball, but he’s had a lot of extenuating circumstances to deal with. His strikeout rate is down a little bit this season and his BABIP against is 100 points below his career average of .313. His strand rate is 83.3 percent, despite the drop in strikeouts. That’s why we see a pitcher with a 2.61/3.81/3.96 slash.
I’m a believer in Scott Kazmir. A Spring Training thumb issue caused him to have some command troubles early in the season and he’s still working to dig out of that hole. He’s given up at least four runs in five of his seven starts. Consistency has been a big issue for him. He’s still got 36 K in 37.1 innings, but the home runs have been really problematic for him.
The Cardinals are in the top 10 in wOBA against LHP, though they’ve certainly had their issues in past seasons. They were 27th against LHP last season. A really strong walk rate against LHP has been the biggest help for St. Louis. Kazmir has two starts with four walks, four starts with one walk, and one start without a walk. It all depends on which Kazmir shows up.
I like the Dodgers here tonight, though. Martinez hasn’t been right this season and there’s some major regression coming for him.