Sometimes we can get into ruts as handicappers. Things just don’t go our way. We misread a game or fall victim to a bad bounce or two. It’s frustrating. It’s irritating. It’s a harsh reminder of how the best in the world can only hit at a 55-56 percent rate long-term and how anything above that is considered to be elite. It’s a bad night when you start asking yourself if it’s better to lose right away in a blowout or cap a game right and then lose because of a buzzer-beater or a walk-off. It doesn’t really matter. A loss is a loss. But, those that do this for a living or do it seriously keep a short memory and take solace in the fact that there are always games tomorrow. That’s the approach we’ll take for Tuesday.
After an ugly Sunday, a late winner on the Mets was the only solace on a day of bad reads and bad luck. The nature of baseball is volatile. It is a series of individual matchups that make up a game. It is pitcher vs. batter. It is fielder vs. batted ball. Some poor managerial decisions came into play yesterday, but, ultimately, it’s just variance. Bankroll management is important in these situations.
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.
Philadelphia at Atlanta (-120); Total: 7.5
The stat going viral on Twitter this morning is that every team that has played in Atlanta this season has won at least two games. Except for the Atlanta Braves. The Braves fell to 1-16 at home with last night’s loss…actually, they didn’t play, but isn’t it easy to assume that the Braves lost?
Looking at Tuesday night’s tilt, Adam Morgan takes on Matt Wisler. Morgan is a run-of-the-mill lefty with a low strikeout rate and boring peripherals. He’s been considered a non-prospet and has been ignored by most outlets as he has reached the upper levels for the Phillies. He’s given up six runs in nine innings and his momentary strikeout bump against the Indians went away as quickly as it popped up. If the Braves are going to win a game at home, this is the type of pitcher they can do it against.
Matt Wisler is still a compelling prospect. The 23-year-old already has 24 starts under his belt and they haven’t been that bad. It’s clear that the stuff isn’t special or overpowering, but there are some pitching chops here. He’s in line for a little bit of regression with a .183 BABIP against, but we do know that some fly ball pitchers can sustain lower ERAs than their xFIPs. Wisler gives up a ton of contact, so there’s always going to be variance on a start-to-start basis.
What we know is that the market is slightly slanted towards Wisler and that the Braves are favored at home, where they are 1-15. There are some context clues in here. The Phillies have had a solid bullpen per advanced metrics so far this season, however, and Atlanta does not have that same luxury. Taking Atlanta for the 1st 5 seems like a reasonable stance here.
Oakland at Boston (-130); Total: 9.5
It’s amazing that teams keep finding themselves in situations where they need to rely on Sean O’Sullivan. Yet, here we are. With Eduardo Rodriguez rehabbing in the minors, the Red Sox will turn to O’Sullivan for his second appearance of the season. He’ll be opposed by Sean Manaea.
The Red Sox offense is just a machine. Sonny Gray isn’t pitching very well right now and we may see more smoke with that fire, but the Red Sox are just blasting opponents. After last night’s barrage, the Red Sox are second in wOBA, first in wRC+, and are second in slugging percentage behind the Cardinals. They are also fourth in baserunning runs above average, which is a worthwhile metric to consider.
I like Manaea long-term and got to watch some of his last start against the Mariners. His defense completely abandoned him in the middle innings and he showed his immaturity and inexperience with a ball that Nelson Cruz hit to the moon. The sweeping slider can be effective against lefties and he’s got good life on his fastball. My concern right now is the depth of his arsenal. His changeup is a very unpolished pitch. Hitters can eliminate either the fastball or the slider based on the count or based on how he’s throwing either pitch. That’s a really big problem against a team like the Red Sox.
Furthermore, the A’s bullpen is reeling right now. Four different pitchers threw at least 17 pitches last night and five pitchers would be working their third game in four nights tonight. The only pitcher to not work over the last three days is closer Ryan Madson, who obviously won’t be used in the middle innings. It will be a tough line for Bob Melvin to walk tonight if Manaea gets into trouble.
O’Sullivan threw 19 pitches on Saturday, which would have been a bullpen day for a starter anyway, so I’d anticipate 60 or 65 pitches from him today. He got 13 starts for the Phillies last season and to say he was terrible would be an understatement. O’Sullivan had a 6.08 ERA with a 6.18 FIP and a 5.37 xFIP. Over 303.1 career innings, he’s been worth -1.9 fWAR. Once again, I’m not sure how this guy keeps finding work.
The Red Sox will have to cobble this thing together with the bullpen. In a general sense, bullpen games aren’t a bad thing on the day of. Hitters have to adjust to different arm slots, different stuff, etc. They hurt a day or two down the line if a starter gets shelled. Even though O’Sullivan is getting the start here, I’d be looking to lay the price with Boston. Their bullpen is in decent shape to wear one today and it can be tough to hit a bunch of different arms.
Not to go down a rabbit hole, but there’s been a growing sentiment in the saber community that running up starter pitch counts isn’t as important as it used to be. The game is so specialized nowadays that the starter might be the fourth or fifth best pitcher you see that day. The longer he’s around, the better it is for you offensively. There’s certainly some credence to that point, so just keep that in mind.
Pittsburgh (-130) at Cincinnati; Total: 9
Clint Hurdle cost his team a win last night. The Pirates only scored twice against Dan Straily and the Reds patchwork bullpen, but Hurdle made some very strange decisions in the late innings. Jon Niese hit for himself in a 2-2 game in the seventh after giving up a game-tying home run to Joey Votto in the sixth. Niese gave up the game-winning home run in the seventh. Again, Pittsburgh only scored two runs, but that was a terrible decision from Hurdle. It wasn’t the only bad pitcher hitting decision of the night, but it had a big impact to be sure.
The length of Juan Nicasio’s leash has been up for debate with Tyler Glasnow ready and waiting for the phone call to come up to the big leagues. Nicasio hasn’t been bad. He’s been erratic, but he’s struck out over a batter per inning in his 31.1 frames. He was teetering a little bit before he shut down these same Reds last week with seven shutout innings and eight punchouts. His defense hurt him last time out against the Cubs.
I’d be surprised if the Pirates struggle offensively again today. Alfredo Simon had his out-of-body experience last week with 7.2 quality innings against the Brewers. This is still the same guy with a 5.26 ERA since the All-Star Break in 2014. So, don’t expect much from Simon and the Reds bullpen is pretty spent. Steve Delabar and Ross Ohlendorf were unavailable last night after throwing 52 and 49 pitches, respectively, over the weekend. JC Ramirez worked for the second time in three days and Blake Wood has thrown 48 pitches over the last two days.
Pittsburgh is definitely worth the price tonight. It would be really stunning to see Simon have success against a high-quality lineup. Everybody but Ryan Vogelsong is available in the Pirates pen. Nicasio has thrown the ball pretty well overall, except for the walk rate, so he’s a good bet tonight.
Chicago (AL) (-115) at Texas; Total: 9.5
I don’t understand the White Sox. I knew that the top three of their rotation with Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and Carlos Rodon was talented and had a lot of upside. What I didn’t know is that schlubs like Miguel Gonzalez and Erik Johnson would start winning games. And I certainly didn’t expect Mat Latos to steal every other AL pitcher’s luck to start the season.
I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop with this White Sox team. They are better defensively than I anticipated, as the metrics on Adam Eaton have made a complete 180. The White Sox are good and Rodon is 1-4. It doesn’t make sense. Rodon has 33 strikeouts in 33 innings, but walks and dingers have been his problem. He does show a 3.57 xFIP and a 3.80 SIERA with that 4.36 ERA. He’s about the only White Sox starter showing signs of positive regression. Increased two-seam usage has led to an increase in ground balls for the southpaw and that’s a very good development for a guy that will probably battle walk issues throughout his career. He’s throwing both of his secondaries less in an effort to curtail that walk rate. The end result has been more home runs allowed.
He’s also working from behind way too much with a 46.5 percent first-pitch strike rate. His swinging strike rate is down 2.6 percent from working behind in the count and from throwing his breaking stuff less. How’s this for a stat? When Rodon goes 1-0, he has a 16/14 K/BB ratio. When he goes 0-1, he has a 17/0 K/BB ratio. Basically, if he threw a first-pitch strike 55 or even 60 percent of the time, he’d be among the game’s best and that’s probably not an oversimplification.
In today’s Fun with Sample Sizes, we look at Derek Holland. Holland now sports a 5.40 ERA with a 4.21 FIP and a 5.34 xFIP because the Toronto Blue Jays blasted him last Thursday night. Holland gave up 11 runs on 11 hits in 2.2 innings of work to send his ERA up almost three full runs. Even before he was blasted by the Jays, Holland wasn’t missing many bats and was relying on his defense way too much for my liking.
The White Sox are seeing Holland for the second time in three weeks, so we’ll see which side makes adjustments here. Neither bullpen is in great shape for today after a lot of action yesterday, so it’s up to the starters. With that in mind, I’ll take Rodon over Holland.
Cleveland at Houston (-125); Total: 8.5
I was beyond wrong on the Indians last night. Corey Kluber’s sinker sat flat in the middle of the plate and Houston teed off. The Astros are a dangerous team because the talent is there and they will break out at some point. My hope is that it doesn’t happen while the Indians are there.
I don’t have a lot of faith in Trevor Bauer tonight. Bauer is notorious for allowing walks and home runs, which is really the main way that the Astros score. Minute Maid Park is not a good park for him. He may get some strikeouts, but he may also end up with a worse line score than Kluber.
Historically, the Indians have not done well against guys that they are seeing for the first time. I’m not one that places blame on hitting coaches because I’m not sure how relevant they are or if it’s just a commonly-accepted practice to have one, but there is something to be said about this. I don’t have stats to back it up, but I’ve watched 98 percent of the Indians’ games over the last several years, so I think my sample size is reasonable enough.
Through two starts, Devenski has been good, continuing the line of Astros pitchers to come up through the system and be effective. He’s predominantly a fastball/changeup guy and only the Braves are worse against four-seam fastballs this season than the Indians. The Indians are pretty good against changeups, but still.
I think it’s significant that the Indians have been getting some respect from oddsmakers and then they are a +105 dog against a guy making his third career start. There’s not a lot of optimism in Trevor Bauer and that’s a stance I agree with tonight.
At the risk of running way too long with this article, which is already running up into the 2400-word range, I’ll give my thoughts on the late games on today’s edition of BangTheBook Radio. Be sure to tune in live at 11 a.m. ET or catch the archived version this afternoon and listen throughout to hear my thoughts on all of today’s action.