Plenty of afternoon baseball will make for an interesting Wednesday around the league. There are seven early games and nine night games, thanks to a day/night twin bill for the Padres and Cubs. There have been some rainouts recently, so rotations have been pushed back or shuffled a little bit. Make sure you stay on top of these types of things so you aren’t blindsided by a pitching change or a minor league call-up. Most of the games with reasonable lines come early in the day, so hopefully you get a chance to consider these thoughts before getting down on the games.
Things continued not to fall our way yesterday, as the White Sox blew a big lead in their slow-pitch softball game with the Rangers. Trevor Bauer looked as good as I’ve ever seen him in Cleveland’s shutout win over Houston. We were right on the money with Boston laying a decent number against Oakland as Sean Manaea struggled mightily. As far as the radio show picks went, St. Louis was a quality underdog winner and Toronto was victorious on the road, but the Tampa Bay vs. Seattle tilt did not go as planned. It was a mixed bag, but more bad than good. We’ll keep working hard.
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) at Texas (-140); Total: 9
Please, please, please let this be another stop on the Mat Latos Regression Tour 2016. We’ve seen quite a bit, but we’re going to see more. Latos has given up eight runs on 18 hits over his last 10 innings and has allowed three home runs in that span. Through it all, Latos still sports a 2.62 ERA with a 4.95 xFIP. There’s more regression coming for the 28-year-old.
The White Sox were put in a compromising position yesterday because many of their key relievers were unable or only to be used in emergencies. They are in slightly better shape today, but it would really surprise me if Latos was able to last as long as Cole Hamels. I’m still not buying too much stock in Cole Hamels, as the velocity is down and the control metrics are concerning. He was able to mix his pitches really well against Detroit last time out and they chased at over 41 percent of the pitches he threw outside of the zone. The White Sox haven’t seen him much, so perhaps that will give him even more of an edge here.
I’d be content laying the price. The Rangers abused a couple of long relievers yesterday, so their bullpen is in decent, but not great, shape. Either way, I’m not even sure this game is close if Latos’s regression continues. Hopefully that’s the case.
Cleveland (-120) at Houston; Total: 8
It’s bad when you don’t know what to expect from your favorite team. That’s the case for me with the Indians right now. This is a team that lost five of six to Minnesota and Philadelphia a couple weeks ago and they are 6-2 since. On Wednesday, getaway day baseball leads to a day off for the Tribe and a trip to Boston for the Astros.
Danny Salazar gets the pill on Wednesday against Doug Fister. You already know my feelings on Doug Fister, who is replacement-level at best. Salazar should have a good matchup here against the Astros. Salazar has great raw stuff and his split-change is a really effective weapon that Corey Kluber doesn’t have. Trevor Bauer had a lot of success with an elevated two-seamer and then secondaries going down. It’s a similar setup for Salazar, though he has the straight four-seam up in the zone.
Fister has really strong career numbers against the Indians, which probably influence this line, but this Indians lineup is significantly different than the past lineups that Fister has faced. In fact, the current Indians are batting .311/.352/.524 against him over 176 plate appearances, so don’t let some tout sell you on Fister’s career numbers against the Indians. They’re meaningless.
Tampa Bay at Seattle (-115); Total: 7
This one could be very fun with Chris Archer against Taijuan Walker. Since the world was falling, when Archer was struggling, he’s gone 2-0 with two earned allowed over 18.2 innings of work. He’s struck out 20 and walked six, which is still mildly concerning, but it can happen when you have elite stuff that is hard to harness. The big thing for me is that he has continued to use that changeup. It’s pretty clear that he has a feel for that pitch and it has become a big weapon for him. It’s a new wrinkle that most hitters haven’t really seen.
We’ll have to see if Taijuan Walker’s neck discomfort is the latest in a line of really frustrating setbacks for the promising right-hander. Walker seems to find these grooves and then an injury happens or he suddenly loses command. He’s been tremendous over his first six starts this season with a 1.97/2.97/3.02 pitcher slash. He only worked two innings last time out against Houston and it was clear that something wasn’t right. He faced nine batters and gave up two home runs.
People may not think of a neck injury as being something that affects a player, but it most certainly affects his mechanics. Pitching really is an art. Everything needs to be in working order to achieve consistency. It’s a lot like a golf swing. The slightest change to the backswing and it alters your entire shot. Timing mechanisms and rhythm are so important for pitchers and neck and back injuries can really throw that all off. I’d be worried about Walker in this start until he shows that the neck problem is nothing to be concerned with.
The issue here is that Tampa Bay isn’t a very good offensive team, so I’m staying away from this one.
Toronto at San Francisco (-125); Total: 7
This is a tough one for me. The Blue Jays don’t return home after this, but they do have a day off and then head to Texas. Everybody knows about Toronto’s proficiency against left-handed pitchers last season, but not many lefties are Madison Bumgarner.
Marcus Stroman is still doing an excellent job of inducing weak contact. I’m not sure if the strikeout rate is going to make a significant climb, but he’s almost like Sonny Gray in that he simply gets easy outs from balls in play. The biggest difference is that Stroman has a very extreme ground ball rate. That worries me because I don’t think a .236 BABIP is sustainable with a ground ball rate up near 60 percent. If you look at xBABIP, expected BABIP, I would assume Stroman’s is at least 30-40 points higher.
I think the Giants are in line for a little bit of positive offensive regression. They are having more success with the bases empty than with men in scoring position and it’s hurting their bottom line offensively. I think this is a team that could go on a little bit of a run soon. They started slow last season, though I felt that injuries were to blame.
I like Bumgarner here in this one as well. He’s gotten better every year since 2010 and his strikeout rate has taken a big leap this season. I’d roll with the Giants today, but it’s not a strong lean.
Kansas City at New York (AL) (-145); Total: 7.5
I don’t understand this total at all. Maybe I’m getting trapped, but this is one of the worst totals I’ve seen this season. Yordano Ventura has been a mechanical mess this season with 25 strikeouts and 25 walks in 31 innings of work. He’s given up 16 runs and he’s fortunate to only have a .239 BABIP against, otherwise his 4.65 ERA would mirror his 5.26 FIP or even his 5.96 xFIP.
Michael Pineda is a guy I’ve talked about a lot. His command profile is terrible. His best asset, not walking people, is not really a strength against a Kansas City lineup that doesn’t really walk anyway. Pineda’s given up 43 hits in 33 innings and eight home runs. That’s not just a lackluster Yankees defense. That’s a guy that doesn’t throw enough quality pitches.
The Royals used five relievers yesterday and all of them threw 15 or more pitches. The Yankees only used their two power left-handers, but Aroldis Chapman should be unavailable tonight.
I’m expecting this game to go over the total before the bullpens even get involved.
Detroit at Washington (-155); Total: 7
Hmm. This one is strange as well. For one thing, Jordan Zimmermann is a big regression candidate as he faces his former team. For another thing, Max Scherzer has not looked good this season. We’ll start with Zimmermann, whose 1.10 ERA is going to go away very soon. His strikeout rate is way down, but his BABIP against is .256 and his LOB% is 89.6 percent. His 3.09 FIP and 4.44 xFIP suggest regression coming soon and I very much agree. His 3.8 HR/FB% is five percent below his career average. It’s all red flags for Zimmermann.
With Scherzer, the strikeout rate is down, the walk rate is way up, and the home run rate is way up as well. He talked about making some mechanical adjustments a couple starts ago and those seemed to work. Then he ran into the Cubs and they lit him up for seven runs on seven hits. He gave up four home runs in that start. The wind was blowing out, but three of them were no-doubters.
I want to fire on the over here, but there’s something holding me back. Maybe Scherzer figures it out. Maybe Zimmermann, back in the NL for a game, keeps everything going. Maybe none of that happens and it’s a slugfest. I don’t know. But it’s an interesting game to monitor.
Tune in for today’s edition of BangTheBook Radio to hear thoughts on the remaining games on the card, including Philadelphia vs. Atlanta and the New York Mets vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers.