It’s not an ideal day for betting baseball here on this holiday Sunday. For one thing, it can be a little bit tough to get going in the morning with so many day games on the slate. For another, it’s Mother’s Day and that often leads to other, more important obligations. There’s always money to be made in the betting market and today is no different, so we’ll still take a look around and see what we see.
It was a solid day for us on the diamond on Saturday. The expected regression hit in the Nationals/Cubs game for an easy winner on the over. The over didn’t come through in the Indians/Royals game, but Kansas City held up its end and was a winner there. The Rays came through in the late game against the Angels. Mike Pelfrey was terrible again and the Rangers won again. We’re being pretty selective, but we’re also getting into some fortunate situations here of late. Let’s keep that train rolling.
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.
Texas at Detroit (-140); Total: 9
Brad Ausmus’s job is in serious jeopardy in Detroit and a loss here today could seal the deal. The Tigers have been a very streaky team this season and I don’t believe that there’s a lot of character on the roster. If the Tigers can’t snag one today, there are much bigger issues. This is everything you want in a matchup. Your de facto ace is on the mound against a team that has already won the series and is looking to return home to start a homestand next week. Martin Perez throws left-handed, so you have platoon advantages up and down the lineup.
Struggling or not, this price is justified on the Tigers. It’s probably a little bit high for some, but I feel like this is as good of a spot as you can get on this team right now. It’s Tigers or nothing for me at Comerica Park today.
Kansas City at Cleveland (-130); Total: 7.5
I’m a huge Josh Tomlin fan and it’s still difficult for me to wrap my head around how good he has been since returning from injury last year. It’s also hard for me to wrap my head around Tomlin being a -130 favorite for a sunny afternoon game at Progressive Field. We know that he has some home run issues, not necessarily from bad command, but because he throws so many strikes.
Edinson Volquez is probably getting disrespected a little bit in this line. I understand being skeptical about him, but he was really good for Kansas City last season and he’s off to a fantastic start this season. The thing about his great start, compared to others, is that there are no signs of regression that really stand out. His BABIP against is pretty normal. His strand rate is a couple ticks here, but it’s not wildly out of range. Last season’s velocity gains have proven to be sustainable. He may see some walk rate regression, but it shouldn’t be that significant, since all of his plate discipline metrics are the same.
The value side here is the Royals. The Indians haven’t played well in these afternoon games for whatever reason and some of their efforts have been downright pitiful. We also have to wait and see what kind of ridiculous lineup Terry Francona concocts today.
Seattle at Houston (-110); Total: 9
I have a lot of worries about both Hisashi Iwakuma and Collin McHugh. We’ll start with Iwakuma, who just hasn’t looked sharp so far. Iwakuma has had some interesting statistical developments so far. His strikeout rate is down and his walk rate is up, but he’s been able to work out of jams with the help of a lot of pop ups. His home run rate is down 3.7 percent from his career average, but his infield fly ball rate is almost double his usual rate. Pop ups serve as strikeouts, so that’s nice, but it’s also going to regress and it will probably regress into his HR/FB%.
Collin McHugh’s command problems are pretty terrifying. The control stats are right in line with last season, but he’s throwing way too many pitches in the middle of the plate. McHugh’s BABIP against is .411 and his home run rate is at 9.8 percent. It’s not a big jump from his HR/FB% rates in 2013 and 2014, but he’s not inducing nearly as many ground balls, making it very significant. Fastball command is once again the culprit.
In terms of which pitcher can improve quicker, I’d lean towards Iwakuma, because he has a better track record of being a viable starting pitcher. McHugh had a breakout year in 2013 and hasn’t really been able to match that performance. In this game, I’m not really sure what to expect, but I will want to watch these two closely to see if there’s value on or against in the future.
Pittsburgh at St. Louis (-120); Total: 7.5
Gerrit Cole was very erratic in his last start against the Cubs and he’ll look to rebound against the Cardinals. Michael Wacha toes the rubber for the Redbirds. Cole is one of my favorite pitchers in baseball. He has terrific fastball command with sharp secondaries and he generally pounds the zone. My guess about his start against the Cubs is that he was overthrowing. He kept pulling everything body-side, especially the fastball. I think we see a bounce back effort here today. Everything is pretty standard for him this season, except for the walk rate, but that’s simply due to starting a couple too many hitters with 1-0 counts.
Michael Wacha is off to a fine start this season. The swing-and-miss stuff is there and the ground ball increase is nice to see. His swinging strike rate isn’t as high as it has been in previous seasons, which is a minor cause for concern, but an increase in strikeouts means that hitters are either not squaring up pitches and fouling them back or simply taking more strikes.
I’m buying both of these guys and I would expect a low-scoring contest today between these NL Central foes.
Tampa Bay at Los Angeles (-125); Total: 8
The Rays need a starter for today and Matt Andriese is the guy that they will tab for the outing. Andriese made eight starts last season and 17 relief appearances. He was throwing the ball extremely well in Triple-A when he got the recall. He’s a pretty intriguing guy because he seems to keep himself out of trouble. His strikeout rates are all over the map, but he didn’t give up a lot of home runs in the minors and regularly posted good walk rates.
He’s got a four-pitch mix with command of all of them. The stuff isn’t overpowering or overly impressive, but he’s a strike thrower that can induce ground balls. He’ll turn 27 this season, so prospect status is in the past, but he’s a great sixth starter for a team.
There’s a lot riding on this season for 25-year-old Nick Tropeano. With Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney out, he’s going to get the opportunity to make 30 starts if he stays healthy. He’s actually been pretty good in his 85.2 MLB innings with 77 K and a 3.89/3.45/4.45 pitcher slash. He’s an extreme fly ball guy that can have a lot of success at Angel Stadium. His walk rate can be a little problematic, unless he can keep his strikeout rate up and his home run rate down.
In a lost season for the Angels, he’s a guy I’ll look to buy at home and probably look to fade on the road. In this one, I wouldn’t expect a whole lot of runs. Shadows will wreak some havoc in day games at Angel Stadium and the Rays move on to Seattle. The Angels have a much-needed day off after a rough weekend.
New York (NL) (-150) at San Diego; Total: 7.5
The move on Matt Harvey makes sense because of his name, but he hasn’t thrown the ball well this season at all. Harvey’s strikeout rate is way down and his command has taken quite a dive. He’s tiring out in the middle innings according to scouts and observers, which is not a good sign at all. Harvey shows some signs of positive regression with a .351 BABIP against, a 4.76/3.81/4.40 slash, and the fact that his walk rate is so much higher than normal. From the stretch, opposing batters are hitting .346/.390/.547 off of him, so that’s a big problem as well.
Andrew Cashner continues to have problems putting it together with his arsenal. Once again, sequencing is the biggest problem. The strikeout and walk rates are fine, but he can’t end innings. He has a 62.8 percent strand rate on the year, which is why he has a 4.85 ERA with a 4.09 FIP.
The Mets are staying out west, so we don’t have a great situational spot here, but I’m not laying -150 with Matt Harvey until he figures things out. I’d actually consider going the other way if Andrew Cashner was pitching better. I do think there’s some room for regression from Cashner. So, there’s value on the Padres, but not enough for me.
Boston at New York (AL) (-115); Total: 8
I’ll echo the same thoughts about Luis Severino that I had prior to his last start. Yes, there’s the suggestion of regression in his ERA, FIP, and xFIP metrics. But, again, regression would mean a reasonable level of command. For Severino, there’s no command right now. He’s not missing enough bats and he’s not throwing enough good pitches. Look back at his 11-start sample in 2015. He had a 4.37 FIP because he owned a .265 BABIP against and an 87 percent strand rate. Not that Severino was supposed to regress this much, but last season’s small sample size was not exactly predictive.
You don’t give up 37 hits in 25.2 innings exclusively because of bad luck. Severino has a 27.4 percent line drive rate and a hard-contact rate near 30 percent. His HR/FB% is right around last season’s, which, again, is a sign that his command just isn’t MLB-ready yet. If the Yankees had more capable starters, Severino would be in Triple-A refining his secondaries and his fastball command. Because they don’t have that luxury, he’ll keep taking his lumps at the big league level.
It’s definitely time that we show Steven Wright some respect. Rating knuckleballers is hard, because that pitch is very difficult to control, but Wright has been pretty good so far this season. Regression is coming because he has an 80.3 percent strand rate and a 1.67/3.23/4.17 slash line on the season. Betting on or against knuckleballers is difficult because you never know what’s going to happen.
In this spot, however, I’m so far out on Severino that I’d gamble on the Red Sox here in the nightcap. Severino is forcing the middle relievers to do a lot of work, which is usually the weakest part of any MLB team, and he’s not being very efficient overall. He’s not missing bats and the Red Sox aren’t missing bad pitches.