Seven day games and eight night games are on the MLB slate for Wednesday. It’s a tricky day with so many day games after night games, so make sure that you consider those lineups when you’re looking at the card for today. It’s also not a great day unless you can stomach betting big underdogs or heavy chalk. There are not a lot of games within our usual range of lines. Nevertheless, with 15 games, there has to be some value somewhere. We’ll try to dig it out.
Yesterday was an interesting day. We scored winners on the Orioles and the Marlins, and also Marlins/Diamondbacks over if you went that route. Tampa Bay didn’t come through and the Indians showed up early and often against Justin Upton or Mr. Kate Verlander or whatever his name will be. We saw those gains against RHP that I talked about from Seattle and Oakland, so that was a good stay away for us. Keep in mind that I do like to talk through the process on some games that are not plays, mostly because I want this article to be more informative and educational than pick-based. I have conviction in my opinions and you can tell when those opinions are strong enough to be considered plays, but I also want to plant the seeds you need in order to look at these games objectively or to look at games I don’t discuss.
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.
Los Angeles (AL) (-130) at Milwaukee; Total: 9
With Hector Santiago, I feel like he’s the Roadrunner and I’m Wile E. Coyote. I feel like every time I’ve got him figured out, I come around a corner and an Acme rocket shoots me backwards off of a cliff. Therefore, I don’t know what to believe today. I want to believe that he shuts down a subpar Milwaukee lineup with a strikeout per inning on a getaway day in which Milwaukee has already won the series. On the other hand, I know that Miller Park is not good for him. I also know that if this massive ground ball increase continues, the days of a sub-.270 BABIP are behind him.
Santiago has added some sinker velocity this season. There’s probably a mechanical change in there since guys generally don’t add velocity at 28. Maybe the ground ball split is here to stay. It’s easier to get out in front of a 90 mph sinker and lift it into the air. At 92, it’s more likely to be hit on the ground. He’s also throwing a sinker/changeup arsenal with about nine mph of separation. That’s making it harder on hitters. He’s allowing less contact across the board.
I’m tentatively buying in for today, though I know that when Santiago starts eating that bird seed to lure me out into the open, a bullet train is going to come through a painted cliff side and run me over.
Zach Davies is opposing Santiago. He was the piece the Brewers got in the Gerardo Parra deal with the Orioles, who like to give up on pitchers that have a little bit of promise. Davies doesn’t have a Major League-ready arsenal, but the Brewers have nothing to lose by letting him learn on the job. His K/BB rates at the MLB level concern me quite a bit. The Angels aren’t a great offense, but they certainly aren’t interested in getting swept in Milwaukee before an off day to fly back home.
I’d roll with the Angels here and hope that the Brewers roll over a little bit.
Washington (-160) at Kansas City; Total: 7.5
The biggest mover of the day was this one between the Nationals and the Royals. Stephen Strasburg is getting about 30 cents worth of respect from the betting market for his matchup with the reigning World Series champs. The Royals won in walk-off fashion last night and that could linger a little bit. Also, the Nationals head to Wrigley Field for a litmus test against the National League’s best team. Are they going to be “all systems go” for a getaway day tilt? I’m not so sure.
Strasburg has been dominant this season. He has a 5/1 K/BB ratio, a miniscule home run rate, and his BABIP and LOB% aren’t that far out of whack. This start presents a few different challenges. He’ll face a DH for the first time this season. He’ll also face a contact-oriented lineup.
It hasn’t been pretty for Kris Medlen this season with 16 strikeouts and 16 walks over 20.1 innings. The last thing a Royals pitcher wants to do is take his elite defense out of the equation and Medlen has effectively done that this season. That defense has allowed him to pitch around the walks enough to have a sub-5.00 ERA, which is better than you would expect.
The value is clearly gone from this number, but it would have been great to get in at -125. I think the line is a little bit inflated now, but Medlen’s control has been too poor for me to consider the dog here.
Seattle (-125) at Oakland; Total: 7.5
I was all ready to make a big statement about how nobody is talking about Felix Hernandez because I just assumed that his numbers had rebounded. That’s not the case. His run prevention metrics are good because he’s gotten more defensive help than other Mariners starters and he’s still a master at inducing soft contact. He’s also sitting below 90 mph with both the four-seam and the sinker and that’s a real cause for concern. With the velocity loss, he’s gone more curveball and changeup, throwing those two pitches over 56 percent of the time. That’s why the walk rate is elevated. His Zone% is at a career low because of the steady diet of offspeed stuff.
Felix Hernandez is going to become a case study in pitcher overuse at a young age. He’s only 30 and it looks like his days of dominance are gone and are not coming back. He crossed the 2,000 inning mark in 2014 and it’s like a switch was flipped. Honestly, I don’t know what to do about Felix now. I guess he becomes a pitcher to spot play against aggressive lineups with lots of swing-and-miss. Oakland isn’t exactly that.
Sean Manaea is a fun arm and he should be a decent MLB pitcher in the near future. Right now, there’s a lot to question about his K/BB rates. It’s hard to take a lot from his MiLB numbers because he bounced around a ton in 2015. The left-handed-heavy Mariners are probably not a great matchup against Manaea. They are due some positive regression from a .240 BABIP, but pitchers like Manaea tend to get outs on balls in play but work themselves into trouble with walks.
This game is a mystery. I know people will want to auto-play Felix because he’s -125 against a guy making his second career start and perception of Oakland is low, but it may be a trap. I’m staying away. You should, too.
Colorado at San Diego (-105); Total: 7.5
I apologize to my readers for not mixing in some thoughts about Cesar Vargas over his last two starts. I try to do that with unknown pitchers. Vargas is an interesting guy. He was a reliever for a while in the Yankees organization after they determined that starting was not for him. The Padres scooped him up, gave him two starts in Double-A, and then promoted him to The Show.
The obvious conclusion to make here is that the Yankees didn’t feel he had enough depth in his arsenal to start. Vargas throws a straight four-seamer and a cutter, with heavy slider usage, and a curveball. Control has been an issue, but he’s been “effectively wild” judging by his swinging strike rate. If the extreme ground ball rate is here to stay, the walks become less of an issue. We don’t know a ton about Vargas thus far and I’ll try to snag a look at him this afternoon if I get a chance. There has to be some sort of deception in the arsenal that is giving hitters a hard time. He never really showed a lot of control issues in the minors, so I’ll chalk the MLB ones up to nerves.
Tyler Chatwood likes ground balls. It’s the only way to survive as a Rockies pitcher because Coors Field is so mean. Chatwood made four starts last season in his return from Tommy John, so I’m really interested in seeing how he does this year as his innings build up. He’s nothing special, but if he can maintain a respectable strikeout rate with a low walk total and lots of ground balls, he’ll survive at Coors. He’s a BABIP-driven guy with that low K rate. When balls are turned into outs, he’s okay. When they’re not, he’s bad. Defensive stats don’t have a lot of substance just yet, but Colorado’s infield has been okay and Nolan Arenado is a star at the hot corner.
I’m worried about the total in this game because it’s a getaway day at Petco, which isn’t the pitcher’s haven it used to be. Initially, I considered the under because of a steady diet of ground balls. For now, I’ll stay away, but I will try to get eyes on Vargas today.
New York (AL) at Baltimore (-125); Total: 9
Does this line look trappy to you? It looks trappy to me. The Yankees are terrible. So is CC Sabathia. The Orioles are pretty good. Tyler Wilson is what he is. Shouldn’t Baltimore be favored by more? It certainly seems that way. Wilson is a master of getting by without a whole lot of stuff. The minor league K rates were okay, but I might put a ball in play against him at the big league level. He’s not walking people, so that’s good, and there’s a ton of soft contact in there. He’s a strike thrower, but lacks that strikeout pitch.
Sabathia lacks everything at this point. The velocity is gone, the command has gone with it, and he’s decided to walk people this year. It’s a sad decline, but, once again, we have a pitcher that threw a ton of innings at a young age and that catches up with you. Felix Hernandez and CC Sabathia have never been the perfect picture of fitness and it’s probably caught up with them. The one thing Sabathia has improved this season is that he’s not giving up a home run to every other hitter, but that’ll happen soon enough. He’s not actually throwing cutters, as Baseball Info Solutions would have you believe. That’s just what his lifeless fastball is registering as.
His swinging strike rate is the worst it has ever been. He’s still working from ahead in the count, but that’s because hitters aren’t worried about going deep into counts with him. Trap or not, I can’t back this guy. I feel awful for him, with the knee condition and the alcohol abuse and the complete erosion of his skills. But, that’s a guy that you can make money going against.