We’re looking at a full day of baseball on Saturday with early starts, mid-afternoon starts, and nighttime starts. This should be a great day for baseball fans and hopefully baseball handicappers can get the same enjoyment out of the May 7 slate. Now that we’re into the month of May, some stats are going to reach stabilization points, so what you see is what you get. For a good primer on that, check out this piece that Russell Carleton wrote at Fangraphs a few years ago.
Another thing to remember that the weather is getting a little bit warmer. Pitchers may start to see some velocity gains since it’s easier to get those muscles loose in warmer conditions. Similarly, parks that are known for offense are going to start to play a little bit truer to form. There aren’t a whole lot of surprises in terms of which parks are the best for offense year after year, so remember those, particularly when dabbling in the totals market.
Unfortunately, the Red Sox couldn’t capitalize on enough of their opportunities (and they certainly had some) in Friday’s favorite pick. We did get the regression we were hoping for from Jordan Zimmermann, but Cole Hamels held up his end and that game went under. It was a frustrating day of missed opportunities, but it’s good to have a clear mind.
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 Baltimore (Game 1) (N/A); Total: N/A
This is a repost of yesterday’s preview for the Oakland vs. Baltimore battle between Rich Hill and Ubaldo Jimenez. The two teams are playing a day/night doubleheader with Friday night’s postponement.
I hope this game is being billed as a matchup of two former Cleveland Indians! When it comes to baseball for me, I have a hard time just enjoying the moment. I’m always thinking a pitch or two ahead. That’s why it’s hard for me to simply sit back and appreciate what Rich Hill is doing. Like most people, I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop. But, here he is, still striking out over 30 percent of batters with an excellent GB%.
One thing I have a problem with for Oakland in this game is that their offensive philosophy has changed quite a bit. They’re not walking anymore. They’re trying to copycat the Royals’ contact-based approach. Oakland has only walked in 6.4 percent of its plate appearances. The way to beat Ubaldo Jimenez is to draw walks. Balls in play are iffy. This season, Jimenez’s command has been terrible, so perhaps that benefits Oakland’s new-look offense. Usually, though, Jimenez does well to post low batting averages against. His career BABIP is .295, but his career batting average against is .240.
I’m befuddled by this game. I think the line is pretty accurate and the A’s have been playing some pretty decent baseball this season. I want to lean Baltimore because part of me still can’t believe Rich Hill is real and the A’s don’t walk enough anymore. But, maybe I’m the idiot for not believing in Rich Hill.
Texas (-135) at Detroit; Total: 9
I was really impressed with what I saw from AJ Griffin in his past start against the Toronto Blue Jays. He worked inside off the plate with the fastball and then threw his change and curve out over the plate to get a lot of swings and misses. A similar gameplan would work well against the Tigers, but the margin for error is always going to be pretty small for Griffin. We’ll have to see if he can continue his solid start to the season. He’s showing those signs of regression that fly ball pitchers show, with a low ERA, low BABIP, and high xFIP.
Normally, we see the market go against guys like that, but Mike Pelfrey is one of the three worst starters in baseball. I have more trust in Griffin than I do in Pelfrey, but not enough to lay a number like this. If AJ Griffin can keep going, I’ll be looking for spots to play on him.
Washington at Chicago (NL) (-135); Total: N/A
It’s tough to suggest a play on the total without knowing it, but readers will want to be very careful with these two pitchers. Regression is coming very soon for both of them. Right now, Gio Gonzalez is posting the lowest strikeout rate of his career, but owns a 1.15 ERA. His HR/FB% is well below his career average. His BABIP against is .233, 60 points below his career average. His strand rate is 85 percent. All of these are telltale signs of regression.
Jason Hammel has similar signs. Hammel has a 1.24 ERA with a 91.8 percent strand rate. He has an xFIP over 4.00, just like Gonzalez, but Gonzalez generally does a better job suppressing home runs, so I’ll give him a little bit more benefit of the doubt. Hammel has a career 11.1 percent HR/FB%, over three times higher than his current 3.6 percent HR/FB%.
So, regression is coming for both of these guys. The ball was really carrying at Wrigley on Friday, so keep an eye on those weather conditions. I don’t have a play on the side, but if the total looks reasonable, feel free to gamble on the over.
Kansas City (-120) at Cleveland; Total: 8
The Indians have been getting a lot of respect from oddsmakers, so the fact that they are a home underdog with Cody Anderson on the mound really says a lot. As you would expect, I’m not a Cody Anderson fan. He doesn’t miss enough bats and he’s very defense-dependent. Last season, he luck-boxed his way to a 3.05 ERA because of a .237 BABIP and an unnaturally-high strand rate. Before he was sent down this season, he had a 7.65 ERA with a 71.9 percent strand rate and a .389 BABIP against. The reality is that he is somewhere in the middle and his 4.59 career xFIP is probably that middle ground. That’s a well below average pitcher.
Ian Kennedy is a guy I like, but we’ll have to see how the ball is carrying for lefties at Progressive Field. He can run into some home run issues, but that’s because he throws a lot of strikes. Kennedy is a regression candidate himself, with a 2.61 ERA, but a 3.92 FIP and a 4.60 xFIP. His .269 BABIP against is combined with an 86.2 percent strand rate. His walk rate is up a bit and his strikeout rate is down a bit, two things that are consistent with switching from the NL to the AL.
I’d probably look for some runs in this game and I’d also lean to Ian Kennedy. I am not a believer in Cody Anderson and the Indians no longer have a long man in the pen because Trevor Bauer is in the rotation. Anderson will take his lumps if necessary. Kennedy’s a little bit more sustainable than most guys in line for regression because Kansas City’s outfield defense is spectacular. Even though Yordano Ventura only went four innings, Kansas City only used one reliever on Friday, so the bullpen was spared.
Arizona at Atlanta (-125); Total: 7.5
How bad has Shelby Miller been? Well, the Braves are favored over the Diamondbacks on Saturday, even though they’re like 9-47 on the season. Miller has been downright terrible and it didn’t get any better last start. I talked about Miller and all of the injury red flags that are out there with him. None of those have gone away. His control and command are terrible and his velocity is still down. I’m not sure if an MRI has been done or not, but it probably should be.
The fact of the matter is that Miller has one more shot against Atlanta because if he can’t shut down the league’s worst offense, that’s it. He’s in trouble. Miller has given up 22 runs in 23.1 innings with 19 walks and 19 strikeouts. It’s really, really ugly right now.
Julio Teheran is pitching relatively well. It hurts him that the Braves have lost two elite defenders in each of the last two seasons, but if his 2016 strikeout gains are sustainable, he’ll be a decent starter for a trainwreck of a team. Right now, I would say that they are not. His swinging strike rate is actually at a four-year low, which would lead me to believe that keeping his strikeout rate at 22.2 percent isn’t going to happen. His hard-contact rate at 38.7 percent is also concerning.
Arizona finally won a game on Friday night, so we’ll have to see what happens moving forward. If Shelby Miller had any signs of positivity in his statistical profile, I’d consider them here. But, this seems like a “last stand” type of outing for him, where he needs to show something, or a trip to the DL might be nice.
Philadelphia at Miami (-130); Total: 8
I don’t think Miami’s team results support Tom Koehler’s home splits, so it’s unfortunate that one of the better-kept secrets in baseball hasn’t been more profitable. I think it will be on Saturday night, however. I think Jeremy Hellickson is terrible. Maybe the raw stuff is okay, but there’s nothing to like about the command profile. He gives up too many home runs and too many hard-hit balls. This season is following suit, with seven home runs and 32 hits allowed in 31.1 innings of work.
Tom Koehler is not pitching well lately, so maybe we get a little bit of value in this number. Koehler’s ERA is almost a full run lower at home than on the road, with a .311 wOBA against. His home FIP is 0.9 runs lower than his road FIP. He’s actually a decent pitcher at Marlins Park. His home run rate balloons on the road, along with just about every other rate statistic.
I’d roll the dice with Koehler here. He’s clearly not pitching well, but he’s got a lineup he can handle in an environment that he’s comfortable in. If that can’t work out for him, well, then there’s a bigger problem here.
Tampa Bay (-125) at Los Angeles (AL); Total: 8
The Angels were dealt a lot of bad news on Friday with the announcement that Garrett Richards needs Tommy John and that Andrew Heaney is probably next. They responded about as you would expect, by being down 4-0 early to the Rays. Jake Odorizzi should be a sure bet in this environment. He has the ability to miss bats and has a pretty neutral ground ball/fly ball split. He may even tilt slightly to the fly ball side. Angel Stadium is so forgiving at night for fly ball pitchers. That’s why Jered Weaver, Saturday’s starter, still has a job.
The Rays are having some issues making contact this season, but Jered Weaver is a pitch-to-contact guy. There are quite a few veteran hitters on the Rays, so I’d expect them to fare better against Weaver than some aggressive, young lineups have recently. Honestly, at this point, the season is over for the Angels and everybody knows it. Weaver is just out there to eat innings. The Rays are out there to win games. Who would you want to back?