Last Updated: 2019-06-16
Well, we didn’t have to sweat any baseball on Saturday because I didn’t see anything on the board that I liked enough to play. I still managed to run bad anyway by being part of the Great Target Outage of 2019, so it was a frustrating Saturday in other ways.
On we head to Sunday, with a different card, different opportunities, and hopefully something that I like more than yesterday’s ugly card. There have been a few instances this week when I’ve thought that a line just looked too high and it played out that way, so maybe I should trust my intuition a little more.
Happy Father’s Day to all the dads and grandfathers out there.
Spreadsheet is here and looks no different than it did yesterday.
Picks for June 16, 2019:
901/902 St. Louis (-122, 9) at NY Mets
The Cardinals and Mets finish up their weekend set with this matchup between Dakota Hudson and Jason Vargas. These two guys were dragged down by some early-season struggles, but they’ve both found something of a groove now. Hudson has a 3.47 ERA with a 4.81 FIP and a 4.34 xFIP in his 72.2 innings of work. The advanced metrics will never be a fan because of his poor K and BB rates, but he’s an extremely extreme ground ball guy at 62% and that has really helped him this season.
Hudson is a tough plate appearance. He doesn’t have much control because his pitches move a lot. He’s allowed two earned runs or fewer in seven of his last eight starts. Granted, in one of those starts, he gave up eight runs, but six were unearned. Hudson allowed eight homers in his first five starts, but he has only allowed one since. For whatever reason, he’s had tremendous success pitching around traffic in his last six starts.
He’s such a tough guy for me to back because of the walks and the low strikeout rates, but he stays away from the most hurtful forms of contact and that’s really the name of the game these days. You can’t hit a home run on a ground ball and you don’t hit many doubles that way either. Since struggling to a .327/.400/.594 slash against with a .408 wOBA in March/April, Hudson has only allowed 13 earned runs on 43 hits over his last 48.2 innings. The 32/20 K/BB ratio doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence, but allowing only one home run does.
Vargas heads into this start with a 3.68 ERA, a 4.15 FIP, and a 5.11 xFIP. One difference between Vargas and Hudson is that huge GB% that Hudson has. The advanced metrics like FIP and xFIP really struggle to grasp pitchers that have extreme batted ball types one way or another. Even though it looks like there’s a lot of regression from an ERA-FIP standpoint for Hudson, he can curtail it with that high ground ball rate.
Vargas is not an extreme in either direction, so there’s a good chance that he does have regression coming. His K and BB rates are unsatisfactory as well. His 78.1% LOB% seems less sustainable than Hudson’s because Hudson can get those ground balls and double plays to exit innings. Vargas’s GB% is only 41.9%.
One thing I will say in favor of Vargas is that he has an 8.5% HR/FB%, hence the high xFIP. He’s done a really good job of keeping balls in the park. Vargas allowed eight runs in 1.1 innings over two starts on April 9 and 13. Since then, he hasn’t allowed more than three runs in a start and actually worked a complete game shutout into the mix two starts ago. He isn’t flashy in the least, but he’s found a way to get it done for the last two months with just 11 runs allowed on 35 hits in his last 45 innings.
Vargas has held righties to a .248/.323/.386 slash with a .304 wOBA. They’ve hit four of the five home runs he has allowed, but he’s fared a bit better against them than lefties. Furthermore, Vargas has a .273 wOBA against at home in 25 innings, but a .342 wOBA against in 26.1 innings on the road.
I went into this write-up expecting to fade Vargas, but the reverse platoon splits and the home success are enough to keep me off of a road favorite that I don’t really love long-term anyway.
903/904 Pittsburgh (-125, 8.5) at Miami
We’ve got a Sunday matinee at Marlins Park between the Pirates and the Marlins. The Pirates limped into town from a pitching standpoint after giving up a lot of runs to the Braves. The offense performed well in Atlanta and carried that over to Friday’s game with an 11-run outburst. Unfortunately, progress was stunted in yesterday’s 4-3 loss.
Today we’ll see Chris Archer on the bump for the Buccos. Archer has been a mess. He’s got a 5.73 ERA with a 6.16 FIP and a 4.81 xFIP in his 59.2 innings of work across 11 starts. The command profile has been non-existent with a 24.2% HR/FB% and 16 home runs allowed. He’s also walked 30 batters. He walked 49 last year in 148.1 innings. His slider effectiveness is virtually gone and the fastball was never that great anyway, but now he’s lost velocity with it.
Archer returned from the IL on 5/15. In six starts, not much has changed. He just allowed five home runs to the Braves in six innings to add up to seven runs on eight hits. He’s allowed at least four runs in five of those six starts. It’s not a good look at all. In fairness, Archer has faced the Diamondbacks, Rockies (at home), Dodgers, Brewers, and Braves twice in his six starts. Those are all top-10 offenses. The Marlins are far from that. Will a step down in class be enough for Archer to be effective? That’s the question here.
Sandy Alcantara goes for the Fish today. He’s a guy I’ve had my eye on a lot this season. He’s one of those contact management wizards that knows how to stay away from the barrel. Unfortunately, he’s also well-versed in staying away from the strike zone with 36 walks in 76 innings of work. He’s only struck out 52 batters as well. But, because of his contact management prowess, he’s only allowed 68 hits in his 76 innings. With the poor K and BB rates, Alcantara has a 3.67 ERA, but a 4.35 FIP and a 5.06 xFIP. I’m not the least bit worried about the xFIP, as he’s posted HR/FB% marks of 9.4 and 8.8 the last season and a half. Remember that xFIP assumes a league average HR/FB%.
Alcantara ranks 11th in average exit velocity against at 85.6 mph. He’s 25th in average fly ball/line drive exit velocity. Archer, actually, ranks better than you would expect in the exit velocity department. He’s 64th out of 172 pitchers in FB/LD average exit velo and 80th in overall exit velocity against. The thing for Archer is that a good slider induces weak contact and he’s had a lot of those. He’s also thrown a lot of bad sliders and bad breaking balls get hit a very long way.
Not surprisingly, Alcantara has fared better at home this season, where opponents are only batting .233 with a .321 SLG and a .275 wOBA. He’s allowed a .265 BA on the road with a .419 SLG and a .348 wOBA. He’s struck out 15 and walked 20 on the road in 31.2 innings. He has a 37/16 K/BB ratio at home in 44.1 innings. I’m not sure why. Maybe he just feels more comfortable at home with that safety net of Marlins Park.
We’ve seen a big line move on Archer here. This line was a coin flip with juice and now the Pirates are a -130 favorite. I don’t really think Archer deserves this type of line against anybody right now with how he’s pitching. I do respect the market’s opinion and I have made it very clear on The Bettor’s Box and in my write-ups that it piqued my interest that the market had abandoned him.
I understand the thought process here. The Marlins don’t hit for power. This is a good park for Archer. The Pirates offense has performed fairly well on this road trip. The pitching staff hasn’t.
I’ve been trying to force my hand into a pick here. I have no problems going against line moves, but when a guy with a FIP over 6 is taking money, it’s hard to do. I promise there will be some plays today. This just won’t be one of them.
905/906 Philadelphia at Atlanta (-153, 10.5)
A late starting pitcher change in this one, as the Phillies will roll with Vince Velasquez as a two-inning opener and then go to a bulk reliever. That canceled some early betting tickets, but now we seem to be settled in.
Cole Irvin is back up with the Phillies and he’ll make Sunday’s bulk relief appearance against the Braves. Irvin, who made his MLB debut earlier this season, made three starts and one relief appearance to the tune of a 5.48 ERA with a 4.89 FIP and a 4.81 xFIP. He struck out 18, walked six, allowed four home runs, and gave up a hit per inning. A 62.5% LOB% made things look worse than they actually were for the southpaw.
He’s a pretty vanilla left-hander with the standard three-pitch mix and upper 80s velocity. He was something of a regression candidate in Triple-A with a 2.44 ERA, a 4.08 FIP, and a 5.23 xFIP in his eight starts. He didn’t walk many guys and relied on his command quite a bit, as he only struck out 29. SunTrust Park is playing smaller these days with that powerful Braves offense and Irvin has a tough draw today. He is no stranger to that, though, as his two most recent MLB starts were at the Cubs and at the Dodgers.
What a difference a year makes. Mike Foltynewicz had a breakout campaign last season with a 2.85 ERA, a 3.37 FIP, and a 3.77 xFIP in his 183 innings. He struck out over a batter per inning and got a lot more effective with his secondary pitches. It has been a much different story this season with a 6.02 ERA, a 6.32 FIP, and a 4.99 xFIP in his 49.1 innings of work. Folty has allowed 15 home runs over his nine starts. His slider, which was such an effective pitch last season, has bottomed out and become his worst pitch in the blink of an eye.
The biggest issue for me is that he’s been facing lineups he should have more success against. He’s faced right-handed-heavy lineups from the Tigers, Cardinals, and Padres. He’s faced Pittsburgh in back-to-back starts. He actually pitched pretty well against a tough Brewers lineup on May 19, but he hasn’t had many good efforts. I’m not sure that he will today either.
The one thing that holds me back on the Phillies here is that Foltynewicz doesn’t issue many walks. He had walked one batter in his last four starts before walking four batters last time out. The Phillies don’t really hit their way on with much regularity. They set up innings with walks. They also don’t really have as much power as you would expect, as they rank 17th in SLG against righties. This really isn’t all that great of an offense. I think there’s a perception out there that the Phillies are a great offense, but they’re really not.
This is a pass, with a weird setup for the Phillies and with Foltynewicz’s inconsistencies.
909/910 San Diego at Colorado (-147, 13)
Nick Margevicius goes for the Padres today and Peter Lambert will make his third career MLB start for the Rockies. It will be the 12th career start for Margevicius, who has struggled mightily in recent games. He’s got a 5.02 ERA with a 5.58 FIP and a 4.91 xFIP. I talked about him a lot earlier in the season as a guy having a lot of good fortune on ground balls and even retweeted an example of how he was getting lucky on middle-middle pitches.
Well, he’s been battered for a while now. Margevicius was so bad that he was sent down after his May 18 start. He returned and gave up five runs on six hits in three innings to the Marlins. He worked 3.2 shutout innings against the Nationals last time out, but was pulled after only 14 batters. I have no idea how long the Padres will attempt to push him today at Coors Field. It is not an easy spot for him to be in. Robbie Erlin wore one yesterday and threw 71 pitches in relief to try and protect a tired bullpen. The Padres will need length from the relievers in this one as well.
So far, so good for Peter Lambert. The Cubs did adjust to seeing him a second time, though. After Lambert struck out nine at Wrigley Field in his debut, he only struck out three in his Coors Field debut. He still only allowed one run on three hits over five innings for the win, but it was a far less impressive outing. I’m actually really stunned by how Lambert fared against the Cubs. In his 11 Triple-A starts, he posted a 5.07 ERA with a 4.93 FIP and a 4.84 xFIP. That was on par with his 11 starts last season with a 5.04/4.61/4.71 pitcher slash. The K spike in his first start was very unlike him. He also allowed 10 HR in 60.1 innings in the hitter-happy PCL before he was called up.
Lambert is right-handed and has held righties to a .221/.267/.386 slash in 150 PA this season, including his two MLB starts. Lefties are batting .277/.331/.447. Last season righties batted .279/.316/.383 and lefties batted .260/.291/.404. The Padres, as we know, are very right-handed-heavy.
This is one of those games where I thought the line looked a little bit heavy. Lambert has shut down the Cubs in consecutive starts, which is laudable, but his track record in Triple-A suggests that he can’t keep that pace up. The problem is that Margevicius is extremely scary and dangerous at Coors.
Ugh. I hate these series.
911/912 Milwaukee (-145, 8.5) at San Francisco
The Giants are looking for a sweep of the Brewers and their fifth win in a row in today’s matchup. They will send Jeff Samardzija to the mound in hopes of accomplishing that feat. The Brewers will counter with Chase Anderson. Before we dig deep into this handicap, it’s important to note that Will Smith is probably unavailable after pitching four of the last five days. He also threw 28 pitches yesterday.
That’s probably part of the reason for the line move. Well, that and Samardzija’s impending regression. Samardzija has a 3.72 ERA with a 4.64 FIP and a 5.07 xFIP in his 67.2 innings of work. He has a .301 wOBA with a .320 xwOBA according to the Statcast batted ball data.
Since rejoining the rotation on April 20, Anderson has a 3.58 ERA with a 4.23 FIP and a 4.31 xFIP. He’s allowed five homers, all over his last three starts, but the expectation here would be that his HR issue doesn’t pop up at Oracle Park. This is still a big road number to lay here. I guess there is some sense that the Giants offense will regress, since this has been a poor group most of the season. I can’t take the Brewers at this price, though, since Samardzija has allowed just a .266 wOBA at home this season, where his fly ball stylings play a lot better.
913/914 Chicago Cubs at LA Dodgers (-164, 8)
We’ll see Jose Quintana and Hyun-Jin Ryu on Sunday Night Baseball as the Cubs look to escape Chavez Ravine with a split. Quintana has a 3.89 ERA with a 3.64 FIP and a 4.14 xFIP in his 78.2 innings of work. He’s not a particularly great matchup for the Dodgers in this one, as he carries a solid 7.2% BB% and he has only allowed eight home runs in his 13 starts and one relief outing. Quintana even allowed three of those home runs in his first start of the season on April 5 against the Brewers. He did walk four last time out to set a new season high, but that was at Coors Field. Those things happen there.
The Dodgers struggle with lefties relative to how they perform against righties. The Dodgers are second in wOBA against righties with a .348 mark and a 119 wRC+. They rank 12th with a .329 wOBA and ninth with a 107 wRC+. That’s not to say that they are bad in that split, but they are definitely much better against righties. The Cubs are in a similar boat, with a .329 wOBA, but a 103 wRC+ against lefties. That could keep both offenses down a little bit in this one.
Ryu has been nothing short of stellar this season. He’s got a 1.36 ERA with a 2.63 FIP and a 2.93 xFIP in his 86 innings of work. He’s struck out 77 and only walked five batters. It’s been an incredible display of pitching. He’s only allowed 13 runs, despite allowing seven home runs. He has a .248 BABIP against and a 94.7% LOB%.
As great as Ryu has been, there has to be some regression in there. His xwOBA is among the best in the league at .260, but he does have a .231 actual wOBA per Statcast. His xSLG is 25 points higher than his actual SLG. Again, his numbers are outstanding in the xStats department, but there is still some mild regression in there. The 94.7% LOB% is another area where we have to expect a drop-off. The highest recorded LOB% for a qualified pitcher since 2000 was Blake Snell’s 88%. Before that, it was Clayton Kershaw’s 87.4% mark in 2017 and then Pedro Martinez’s 86.6% in 2000.
Ryu simply cannot be this good forever. This is an unsustainable level of good. That’s why this line has come down. Pinnacle actually opened the Dodgers above -200 yesterday and is now down into the low 170s. BOL opened -210 and Bookmaker -220. We’ve seen a lot of Cubs money hit the board here.
I hate taking a game when we’ve lost that much line value, but I do agree with the move and it’s about getting the best price that you can. Most people, myself included, weren’t looking at this game yesterday at 2 p.m. The worst-case scenario here is that Quintana gets rocked. I don’t think that happens. The best-case scenario is that Ryu regresses. The most likely scenario is that these two teams cancel out and this becomes a bullpen game. Kenley Jansen or not, I’ll go to battle with a lot of bullpens in a +157 spot.
I’ll give the dog a shot tonight. For your purposes, I’d wait on this line a little bit. The arbitrage buyback crowd is likely to show up given where the opening number was. I think you can do a bit better than this price. I have to work with what’s out there at time of writing.
Pick: Chicago Cubs (+154) – 3% to win 4.62%
917/918 LA Angels at Tampa Bay (-135, 8.5)
A late posting for this one, as the Rays will go with Ryne Stanek as the opener and then Jalen Beeks as the bulk reliever on his regular turn. The Angels will go with a straight starter in Griffin Canning. The Angels have taken a lot of money lately in the betting markets and that is the case again today, as this line opened in the 150s and is already on the way down.
Canning just might be the real deal. The youngster has regressed in his last two starts against the A’s and Dodgers, but he’s been able to battle his way through six innings and keep the damage to a minimum. That’s a big learning curve for a young pitcher and Canning has now made eight starts with no more than four runs allowed. He has a 3.65 ERA with a 4.04 FIP and a 4.47 xFIP.
I think this is a decent matchup for Canning. He tilts towards the fly ball side, which obviously plays well in Anaheim, but it isn’t a bad thing in the dome at Tropicana Field. That’s one of many reasons why the Rays looked to employ a ground ball-heavy offensive style. Canning doesn’t really pitch to ground ball contact, so I’ll be curious to see how the Rays fare in this one. Canning is actually something of a positive regression candidate in the xwOBA department with a .272 mark to go along with his .286 actual wOBA. He’s done a great job of inducing weak aerial contact.
Jalen Beeks has really embraced the bulk reliever role. In 53 innings, he’s got a 2.55 ERA with a 2.87 FIP and a 4.42 xFIP. Beeks is running a ridiculous 2.0% HR/FB%. He’s allowed one home run in his 16 appearances. Beeks ranks 10th in average exit velocity against, so he limits hard contact really well and has been able to stay off the barrel. Canning, to his credit, ranks 26th in average exit velocity. Only 32.5% of his batted balls have been hit at 95+, which really neuters what the Rays do well on offense. Canning is 31st in Hard-Hit Rate and Beeks is 15th.
This looks like a low-scoring affair at the Trop. It’s also a getaway Sunday, with the Angels heading up to Toronto and Tampa leaving for the Bronx.
Pick: Under 8.5 (-105) – 3.15% to win 3%
925/926 Toronto at Houston (-215, 9)
Former Astros farmhand Trent Thornton takes on his old team as the Blue Jays and Astros wrap up this weekend set. It will be Brad Peacock for the Astros in this matinee at Minute Maid.
Thornton has some big splits this season. Lefties are batting .261/.344/.522 with a .361 wOBA in 157 plate appearances. Righties are batting .217/.308/.333 with a .285 wOBA. Even with injuries, the Astros still tilt a little bit to the right side. Not as much as they previously had, but they are still leaning that way a little bit. Yordan Alvarez has sort of changed that dynamic.
Even still, Thornton has been crushed at home. His home park is very bad for pitchers. He’s allowed a .272/.348/.528 slash with a .365 wOBA at Rogers Centre. He’s been much better on the road with a .211/.309/.345 pitcher slash and a .288 wOBA. With a chance of severe storms in the Houston area today, the roof will be closed, so Minute Maid should play a little bit different than it does when open.
I really like the raw data on Thornton’s arsenal. Hopefully it all comes together here.
Even if it doesn’t, I expect very little from the Blue Jays on a daily basis offensively. That’s especially true on a getaway day against Peacock. Peacock has a 3.42 ERA with a 3.54 FIP and a 4.35 xFIP in his 12 starts and two relief appearances this season. He’s struck out a batter per inning with excellent peripherals across the board. He struggled in two starts against the Twins and a little in his most recent start against Milwaukee, but he’s simply dominated the inferior lineups he has faced and has pitched well against most teams.
The Jays lineup is awful. The youngsters aren’t hitting and neither are the veterans. It’s been pretty ugly. The primary relievers for the Astros have gotten a lot of rest lately, as Roberto Osuna and Ryan Pressly haven’t pitched since Wednesday. The Jays don’t really have primary relievers, but most of their guys are well-rested as well. Both teams hit the road after this one and I’d expect a neat and tidy getaway day game.
Pick: Under 9 (-116) – 3.48% to win 3%
929/930 Texas at Cincinnati (-168, 9)
I like Sonny Gray, but this line looks a bit out of whack if you ask me. The Rangers are looking for the sweep here in this one. They’ll send Ariel Jurado to the mound. Jurado is now a full-time starter. This will be his fifth straight start and sixth on the season. He’s allowed 10 runs on 24 hits in his last 24.1 innings with 21 strikeouts against nine walks. He’s allowed one home run in each of those four starts.
Maybe he isn’t sustainable and maybe he won’t keep it going. I get it, he has a 3.02 ERA with a 4.02 FIP and a 4.27 xFIP. But there isn’t any substantial xStats regression on the radar. The market is just piling on a Reds team that can’t score for some reason.
Gray has a 3.65 ERA with a 3.02 FIP and a 3.55 xFIP in his 66.2 innings of work on the season. He’s struck out over a batter per inning and has an outstanding GB% of 56.6%. He’s been spectacular. I realize that may not be the easiest of matchups for the Rangers offense, but, man. This line is really up there.
There’s probably something I’m missing since the market is what bumped this line up from -150. I don’t think the Rangers are getting a whole lot of respect in the market. Without Joey Gallo, it is hard to give that lineup the full respect it deserves, but this line does seem too high.
The Reds have been a -160 or higher favorite six times thus far and they are 3-3 in that role. It happened on Friday night and they lost. I guess we have to respect this pitching staff, but it is extremely hard to respect this offense.
I’m not going to call it an official pick for the article and I want to get this Sunday piece up before you go out and do your Father’s Day things, but I may end up with a personal play on this one.
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