MLB Betting Picks & Tips May 27, 2018

Last Updated: 2018-05-27

mlb picks betting tipsMaybe this will be a nice day of baseball for us since I opened up a new Word doc and it is titled Document69. A whole mess of day games are on the docket for Sunday and we’ll have a whole bunch on Monday as well, so those who like day baseball are going to love the next two days.

It was another mixed bag of a day for us. The Braves started out with a loser and the under never had a chance. Texas and Milwaukee both won as favorites to give us a couple of notches there, but the Astros couldn’t get to the Indians bullpen last night and dropped an 8-6 decision, as both starters uncharacteristically struggled following a rain delay.

On we go to the picks and tips for May 27, 2018:

Baltimore at Tampa Bay (-110); Total: 8

The Tampa Bay Rays really seem to like this “opener” idea. They utilized it yesterday by starting Ryne Stanek, who worked 1.2 innings and struck out three. Anthony Banda took over and allowed one run on just three hits across 6.1 innings of work with seven strikeouts. Today, Sergio Romo will get the start and he’ll be followed by Austin Pruitt. The Orioles will go the much more traditional route with Kevin Gausman.

This will be the fourth start for Romo, who last worked two days ago when he started the series opener against Baltimore and was relieved by Ryan Yarbrough, who worked seven innings. This kind of outside the box thinking is pretty entertaining, although it does make it a tad bit harder to handicap. It doesn’t help today that Pruitt, replacing the injured Jake Faria, owns a 4.91 ERA with a 5.25 FIP and a 5.36 xFIP in his 25.2 innings of work. He hasn’t made a start, but has eight appearances out of the pen. Pruitt does appear to be the weakest of the pseudo-starters for the Rays in this series, as Yarbrough and Banda had great success in their outings and better numbers overall. We’ll have to see how this plays out.

Kevin Gausman has a 3.48 ERA with a 4.10 FIP and a 3.62 xFIP. We don’t really have to look at xFIP with Gausman, who hasn’t posted anything resembling a league average HR/FB% since 2014, so that isn’t a very useful stat. The right-hander has cut his walk rate down, which makes his home run rate more tolerable. He’s been battered twice to the tune of six runs, but he’s given up three runs or less in eight of his 10 starts. He did give up 11 hits to the Rays last time he faced them, but only allowed two runs.

Gausman is living on the edge lately. He’s allowed 28 hits over his last three starts, but only eight runs and only two home runs. I’m not quite sure what to expect from either side here, so we’ll pass on the game, but this opener concept, which the Mets are expected to employ this week, is quite intriguing.

Pass

 

Chicago (AL) at Detroit (-115); Total: 9.5

The White Sox and Tigers square off to finish up what has been a really weird series. Chicago’s bullpen collapse cost us and Reynaldo Lopez backers a win on Friday. Yesterday the teams combined for five home runs as the White Sox got to Francisco Liriano in the middle innings and then added on against the bullpen.

Today’s game doesn’t seem any easier to figure out, as James Shields takes his 4.62 ERA into battle against Blaine Hardy, who is being stretched out as a starter for the Tigers. Hardy will be making his third career MLB start. He made 170 relief appearances prior to that. He comes into this start looking like something of a regression candidate with a 3.46/4.33/5.20 pitcher slash, but he’s also had some relief work and has an incredibly low 12.5 percent GB%. Hardy worked five respectable innings last time out with two runs allowed on seven hits, no walks, and four strikeouts. The White Sox, despite being pretty right-handed-heavy, have been awful against lefties, so Hardy could have some success in this spot, but he’s been very fortunate to allow only four runs on 15 hits in 9.1 innings as a starter. This is not the kind of card that somebody with a hangover wanted to see this morning.

James Shields hasn’t been as terrible as last season because he’s stopped allowing an obscene number of home runs. Shields allowed 27 in 117 innings last year and he’s only allowed four in 62.1 innings this year. He still has awful K and BB numbers, but he’s kept the ball in the park for the first time since 2014. As a result, he’s been somewhat useful. He’s had a few blow-ups, including seven runs allowed to Houston on April 20 and five runs to the Cubs on May 12, but he’s been something of a stabilizer for what I believe is the worst rotation in baseball.

One of the questions I have about these two teams this season is how invested are they going to be in day games. So far, the White Sox are just 6-17 during the day and the Tigers are 14-12. Detroit has played 21 one-run games, which is second to Seattle in the AL, so they’ve been pretty competitive for the most par. The White Sox have been somewhat noncompetitive because of how bad their starting staff is.

I think this is one of those spots where Detroit is a bit more invested, so we’ll give them the “Stronger Lean” designation and start our day with a little play on them.

Stronger Lean: Detroit

 

Houston (-125) at Cleveland; Total: 8

Well, it figures that the Indians bullpen would manage to be useful on a night when we looked to go against them. Quite frankly, I’m not all that interested in playing Indians sides right now, unless we get a big first five edge. At this point, the only way I’d get invested with the Indians is the team total over route if it fits. I’m not sure it fits today against Gerrit Cole, but we’ll see.

This game is one to watch and enjoy, but not one to bet on. Much has been made of the apparent animosity between Trevor Bauer and Gerrit Cole. Bauer says there isn’t any, but there’s plenty coming from the other side after Bauer seemed to insinuate that Astros starter Gerrit Cole is doctoring the baseball with a substance to improve spin rate. Bauer then seemingly showcased what a substance like pine tar can do in the first inning of his start against the Cubs, when his fastball showed a dramatic spin rate boost from his usual averages.

This is a popcorn game, so to speak. The Astros would love nothing more than to hang a huge number on Bauer and the Tribe. Obviously Cole would like to prove his point as well. The Indians are looking for a split and are still looking for somebody to get outs in relief.

Fun. Entertaining. Two quality teams, despite how the Indians have looked this season. But not a game to get involved with.

Pass

 

St. Louis at Pittsburgh (-110); Total: 8

Miles Mikolas and Jameson Taillon come together to form a pretty good pitching matchup at PNC Park today. Mikolas has been one of the better offseason starting pitcher signings, as he comes in with an unblemished 6-0 record over his nine starts with a 2.24/3.27/3.13 pitcher slash. We see some signs of regression with a .266 BABIP and an 85.6 percent LOB% that the market seems interested in, but the market also doesn’t love the Pirates right now and hasn’t for a while now.

Mikolas ranks 23rd in baseball in average exit velocity against, which is a big reason why he’s been so effective with a pretty pedestrian strikeout rate. He’s also issued only six walks across his 60.1 innings, so it has been tough for the opposition to put together innings. He has allowed six home runs and has a middle of the road mark in average exit velocity against on fly balls and line drives, but nearly 52 percent of balls in play have been hit on the ground, so he’s been able to mitigate that by inducing lots of worm-burners at an average exit velo of 82.2 mph.

The Pirates have done something really impressive and very important this season. They’ve hit the ball in the air. As play begins on Sunday, Pittsburgh is sixth in wOBA at .327. They are fourth in fly ball percentage. Last season, Pittsburgh was 28th in fly ball percentage. This is why you have to be careful with park factors and why I’m actually a bit upset with myself for not taking a deeper look. Of course PNC Park is going to suppress offense when the Pirates aren’t hitting the batted ball types that create significant offense.

That creates a little bit more sustainability to the Pittsburgh offense in my humble opinion. They may need it today, too, with the recent struggles of Jameson Taillon. Taillon has a 4.56/4.12/3.86 pitcher slash in his 51.1 innings of work. Since opening the season on a great run with just two runs allowed on nine hits in 20.1 innings of work, Taillon has allowed 24 runs over his last 31 innings of work. He’s only completed six innings twice in that span. Taillon is a guy that I would expect some positive regression from. He had a 9.9 percent HR/FB% last season in his 133.2 innings pitched. He carried low HR/FB% marks in the minor leagues. I think he’s closer to the 9.9 percent from last season than he is to the 15.5 percent in his rookie year. His chase rate is up a little bit this year, but it hasn’t translated to more swings and misses. Those have come in the zone, which is an indicator of how solid his stuff has been.

Taillon’s also 35th in average exit velocity against, so we’re not talking about a huge gap between the two pitchers here. Mikolas has had better results and has 10 fewer walks. Because the Pirates are part of the fly ball revolution and that’s the way to get to Mikolas, I think they’re worth a play here.

Pick: Pittsburgh

 

Toronto at Philadelphia (-120); Total: 7.5

The Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies wrap up their interleague set on Sunday with JA Happ against Nick Pivetta. Happ has really resurrected his career over the last few years, as he has posted fWARs of 3.4, 3.2, and 2.9. He’s well on his way to another strong season this year with a 3.97/3.65/3.14 pitcher slash. The left-hander has 71 strikeouts in 59 innings against just 16 walks. He’s only allowed 49 hits, as he has done a masterful job of commanding the fastball.

Opposing hitters are only batting .155 with a .320 against his four-seamer. His sinker is another story, which is his second-most popular pitch, with 233 of those thrown on the season. Happ’s fastball usage is among the highest in baseball with the four-seam/sinker combination. He does have a plus slider based on the numbers, with a .118 BA against and a .324 SLG.

The Phillies, though, are among the best offenses against fastballs this season. They rank seventh in wOBA at .348. The Yankees are well above everybody, but the Cubs, Red Sox, Indians, Rays, and Angels are the teams above the Phillies. Obviously only one of those teams has pitchers in the lineup, so the fact that the Phillies are second in the NL is pretty impressive.

Nick Pivetta is having a terrific season as well. He’s got a 3.23 ERA with a 2.86 FIP and a 3.28 xFIP. The right-hander has 60 strikeouts in his 53 innings and has only walked 12. Unlike Happ, his four-seam fastball has been knocked around a bit with a .299 BA and a .423 SLG. Pivetta, though, has had virtually untouchable offspeed pitches with an .059 average against on the slider and a .180 BA against on the curveball, which is a pitch that he is throwing nearly 23 percent of the time now. He’s getting a lot of swings and misses and he’s working ahead in the count a ton.

This is a pretty fascinating handicap. You’ve got a Phillies team that hits fastballs really well against a guy with high fastball usage having a terrific season. You’ve got a Toronto team that makes a ton of quality contact going up against a guy whose fastball has been hittable, but has great secondaries. Happ was also drafted by the Phillies back in 2004 and pitched for them until 2010.

One of Philadelphia’s issues offensively has been a lack of power against lefties. They rank 25th in SLG against southpaws. If there is one problem with Happ, it is his home run rate, as he has allowed nine in 59 innings of work.

I really wanted to back the Phillies today in the rubber match with a fastball-heavy pitcher on the mound, but I can’t find enough edges to do it. I really thought I’d like this game when I looked in advance, but now that I’ve dug in more, it’s a pass for me.

Pass

 

New York (NL) at Milwaukee (-130); Total: 9

The biggest mover of the day is this game between the Mets and Brewers. Zack Wheeler and Jhoulys Chacin are the slated starters for the game that opened -165 at Bookmaker and -163 at Pinnacle. Wheeler has pitched pretty well this season, but so has Chacin. The difference is that Chacin has a 3.32 ERA with a 4.30 FIP and a 4.86 xFIP. His K/BB rates are really poor, so his FIP and xFIP are poor. Chacin, though, has done a terrific job of limiting hard contact. After yesterday’s Chase Anderson start, Chacin leads all of baseball in average exit velocity against on offspeed pitches at 81.6 mph. Mike Clevinger, Anderson, Jake Arrieta, and Trevor Williams round out the top five.

The downside is that Chacin ranks 167th out of 190 in average exit velocity against on fastballs. Per PITCHf/x, Chacin throws either a four-seam or a two-seam fastball 52 percent of the time. His slider usage at 39 percent is easily the highest of his career. The Mets lineup has had a lot of problems with fastballs, and a lot of problems in general, this season.

Wheeler has one of the better average exit velocities against on fastballs, as he ranks 13th in that category. The Brewers have swung it very well against righties, but Wheeler is a guy in line for some positive regression. He has a 5.32 ERA with a 3.97 FIP and a 3.77 xFIP. I think he’s a buy candidate right now. His fastball command has obviously been solid with those exit velocity metrics, but he’s allowed a .317 BA with a .525 SLG on the fastball, so it doesn’t jive in the least bit with the contact management skills he has shown. He’s allowed six home runs on fastballs, but only three doubles. He’s got a .382 BABIP against on the pitch and a high BABIP against all around. That seems like it should regress sooner rather than later.

I’m a believer in both pitchers here. With the getaway day factor in play as well, I’m looking at the under in this one.

Pick: Under

 

Minnesota (-115) at Seattle; Total: 8

Jose Berrios and Mike Leake are two very different pitchers. Berrios ranks 14th in average exit velocity against and has done a better job of striking out batters than Leake, who ranks 134th in average exit velocity against among pitchers with a sample size of at least 100 batted balls.

Berrios has been excellent over his last two starts with a 19/3 K/BB ratio and just three runs allowed on five hits. It seems like the Twins have isolated and corrected whatever problem he had earlier in the month and at the tail end of April. He’s locked in a nice groove and looks like he may be taking those steps that we expected him to take this season.

Leake is getting a little bit better in his own right. He has done a little bit better of a job with his contact management this month, even though he had the one ugly start against Texas. The right-hander only has 37 K in 57.2 innings of work, so he is dependent on contact management skills and BABIP luck to succeed. Those two things just haven’t been there for most of the season, so it’s really hard to bet on him. Too many things have to go right to have any degree of confidence.

The Twins feel like a team sort of ready to take off. They’ve been underachieving and the Indians have let them hang around in the division. Guys with track records in the lineup are coming around a little bit this month and Byron Buxton’s defensive prowess is back in center field. Miguel Sano just came off of the DL. They’ve dropped three straight with a lack of offense, but I think the buy sign is lighting up and Berrios is a big reason why.

They look like a decent bet to avoid the sweep today.

Pick: Minnesota

 

San Francisco at Chicago (NL)

No play on this game tonight, but remember that these two teams are in bad spots tomorrow. The Giants travel to Colorado for a 5:05 local time start. The Cubs go to Pittsburgh for a day game after a night game in a brutal situational spot. Both of these teams are fade teams for tomorrow’s action.

 

-END OF MAY 27 PICKS-

 

Some days are easier than others when it comes to writing this daily picks and tips piece. For 29 other Major League teams, well maybe 28 (hi Brewers fans), it is extremely easy for me to separate my emotions and simply see numbers, pitching matchups, and teams. The Indians are that one outlier for me and games like last night’s can create a little bit of baseball burnout. It didn’t help that the Indians were an official pick from the article.

This is why gamblers can’t be an emotional lot. They have to be resilient and as level-headed as possible. You can’t swear off a team because they lose or angrily bet against a team out of spite the next day. Be pissed off for a night, but wake up the next morning as if it never happened. Unfortunately, as I roll out of bed, piss out the remaining pregame $2 beer, and check a couple of headlines, I’m still pissed off.

But, the MLB calendar rolls on. There are more games to consider today and there will be more games to consider tomorrow. And so on and so forth until the playoffs end the final week of October. And so we keep driving and striving as fast as we can. Because, with a little help from Cake’s The Distance, this is a marathon and not a sprint.

We caught a winner on a lean with Angels/Yankees under, as Andrew Heaney was pretty good in the 2-1 loss. Philadelphia nearly gave us back a bullpen meltdown, but Rhys Hoskins got rung up on a ball during the ninth inning rally and the Jays, who closed a favorite, took the win. Two bullpen meltdowns caught us yesterday with the White Sox and Indians both going down. The over hit easily in Texas, but the Brewers bested the Mets in extras. We ended with a solid winner on Arizona at a little bit of a dog price, but it was still another night in the red.

With the soothing sounds of Bob Seger playing in the background, here are the picks and tips for May 26, 2018:

Atlanta at Boston (-125); Total: 10

Southpaw Saturday is the theme for the interleague matchup between the Braves and Red Sox at Fenway Park on Saturday. We’ll see Sean Newcomb up against Drew Pomeranz in the first game of the day.

Sean Newcomb has been excellent this season. Newcomb has a 2.39 ERA with a 3.01 FIP and a 3.65 xFIP in his 52.2 innings of work. He’s toting a 58/24 K/BB ratio and has only allowed 33 hits on balls in play to go along with three home runs. His .256 BABIP and 6.7 percent HR/FB% might scare some people, but this is a question of contact management. Newcomb’s average exit velocity against is 86.4 mph, which ranks 24th in baseball. He has a top-10 LD/FB exit velocity against at 90.9 mph. Last night’s Boston starter, Eduardo Rodriguez, is also in the top 10.

As good as this Boston team is, we’ve talked about how poorly they’re doing against lefties. The Red Sox are 28th in wOBA at .290 with a 77 wRC+ against southpaws. One point that really stands out in this game is that Boston has a 6.6 percent BB% against lefties, which ranks 29th. So they’re not drawing walks in this split. What is the primary concern for Newcomb? Walks. Newcomb is 18th in fastball exit velo against and throws his fastball over 60 percent of the time, so he’s been able to do an excellent job of avoiding the barrel.

We typically see platoon splits attached to lefties, but righties are only slashing .198/.279/.261 against Newcomb. This is Boston’s first chance to face the left-hander, and unfamiliar lefties typically have success in that role.

The Braves are getting a left-hander that they haven’t seen much in Drew Pomeranz, but the difference is that Atlanta leads the league in wOBA, batting average, OBP, and wRC+ against lefties. They rank second in slugging percentage. Like Newcomb, walks have been a big problem for Pomeranz, who has exacerbated the problem by posting a 1.57 HR/9 and a .357 BABIP against. Pomeranz has no control or command this season and it has led to a 5.97 ERA with a 5.10 FIP and a 4.90 xFIP. He has 28 K in 28.2 IP, but that doesn’t seem sustainable with a 7.8 percent swinging strike rate. His Zone% is down to 42.7 percent, which is far and away the lowest of his career.

Pomeranz’s average exit velocity against is 91.6 mph. He doesn’t qualify for our usual leaderboard parameters with just 89 balls in play, but he wound rank third-worst in baseball if he did.

Because the Braves don’t walk a whole lot, there’s a chance that Pomeranz can limit damage a little bit with the unfamiliar lefty angle, if it takes Atlanta some time to adjust. The problem is that Pomeranz hasn’t been given time to adjust within his starts. Opposing hitters are slashing .326/.426/.644 the first time through the order.

Pomeranz did some side work between starts with a few simulated innings and told Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald that he found the mechanical issue that was plaguing his control. We’ll see if it will fix his command and if he can repeat it rather than just isolate it.

I do think a total of 10 here with a couple of unfamiliar lefties is a little bit high, so I have a lean to the under, but the Braves will be a play this afternoon. The bullpen is fine after Matt Wisler wore a couple of innings yesterday and Newcomb has an excellent chance at success here.

Pick: Atlanta; Lean: Under

 

St. Louis (-120) at Pittsburgh; Total: 8.5

The expected line movement against Trevor Williams has come to fruition. This is why I do what I do on The Bettor’s Box with the Down the Lines segment. I want my listeners to be equipped to go out there and grab the line value on some overnights when we know those moves are coming. This one happens to come against the Cardinals and Jack Flaherty.

We’ll start, though, with Williams and why the market hates him so much. Williams heads into this start with a 3.05/4.09/4.65 pitcher slash. He’s got a low strikeout total, which hurts FIP, as it is one of the four stat components. xFIP doesn’t like him because of a low K rate, a higher than average BB rate, and a low HR/FB%, but home runs aren’t the worry with Williams, so xFIP is an irrelevant metric for him. The betting market doesn’t seem to realize that, but there are other reasons to be against him.

He’s carrying around a .226 BABIP against and a 79.1 percent LOB%. We usually don’t see LOB% marks like this with such a low K rate, but Williams has done a good job of limiting hard contact. The right-hander is 10th in average exit velocity against. He’s done a strong job with both ground balls and fly balls. He’s actually eighth in GB exit velocity and 13th in FB/LD exit velocity.

This is why I focus on those metrics. The run metrics like ERA, FIP, xFIP, and even SIERA, aren’t really capable of understanding the degree of contact. Williams has had success because he hasn’t allowed a lot of hard contact. This is a simplification of everything for Williams, but MLB hitters league-wide bat .186 on batted balls of 86 mph or less. Williams averages 85.5, so he is expected to have better fortunes on balls in play than most guys. Williams is fastball-heavy, which can sometimes be an issue for pitchers, but on a sample size of 128 fastballs in play, he’s 27th in average exit velocity against at 86.8 mph.

Basically, in today’s run environment, guys like Williams can have a lot of success. He doesn’t allow hard contact or home runs. Teams don’t manufacture innings all that often anymore, as a lot of runs league-wide come from dingers. There have been 6,549 runs scored this season and 2,626 have scored on a home run, including 988 solo home runs. If you don’t allow home runs, you are a tremendously important asset.

That being said, Williams has run pretty good. He’s second to James Paxton, who has elite, overpowering stuff, in batting average against on high-velocity contact. League average on 95+ batted balls has been in the .515 range most of the season. Williams has allowed a .345 batting average on 55 balls of 95+ put into play. So, I certainly understand that there is some regression built into his profile, but I want readers to understand that he’s not a blindly fade like crazy guy. His degree of regression is likely smaller than others that are having similar batted ball success. For example, we correctly faded Sean Manaea last night. The difference between Williams and Manaea is 3.7 mph in average exit velocity.

Jack Flaherty was shoving in his last start against the Phillies. I’ve talked about my admiration for the young right-hander, who was sent to Memphis so the Cardinals could bring back Adam Wainwright. Flaherty went to the minors, threw a few excellent games, and then got a chance to come back. He’s got a 2.31/2.81/3.35 pitcher slash on the year with a 27/7 K/BB ratio. He struck out 13 last time out against Philadelphia. He’s had some issues throwing first-pitch strikes, but he’s getting past it by generating a good amount of swings and misses in the zone.

Craig Edwards penned a really good piece on the right-hander at Fangraphs. I’ve talked about the Fangraphs bump in the past, though a lot of the most respected writers from there have moved on. Still, Flaherty is garnering a lot of positive attention and Williams is not, even though he has a pretty remarkable skill of his own in avoiding the barrel.

With the pretty significant line move and no desire to go against the grain with Williams here, the total is basically the only question. St. Louis’s bullpen took a dump last night and has been a problem at times this season. The Cardinals also looked pretty disinterested last night, as Joe Musgrove only needed 67 pitches to get through seven innings and he had seven strikeouts. I’m not sure there’s enough of an edge one way or another. If you’re dying for a play here, I’d have the thinnest of leans to the under, but not enough to call it an official pick.

Pass

 

Kansas City at Texas (-145); Total: 10.5

Big Sexy turned 45 this week and now he’s a -145 favorite against the Royals. Mind. Blown. Ian Kennedy isn’t very good, so we’ve got another pitching matchup where runs could be in the forecast, right? Well, let’s discuss a little. Kennedy has a 5.30 ERA with a 4.40 FIP and a 4.19 xFIP. I don’t look at xFIP with Kennedy because he’s had an affinity for giving up dingers throughout his career. I talked about how Kennedy was fortunate to pitch to bad weather conditions for hitting early in the season. Well, he’s allowed 19 runs on 24 hits in his last 15.2 innings of work. He’s also given up five home runs. Hopefully you’ve been fading Kennedy with some team total overs. Kennedy is in the top 20 in average FB/LD exit velocity against at 94.8, so he’s given up quite a bit of hard aerial contact. His GB exit velocity isn’t bad, which drags down his average, but he has a 31.3 percent GB%, so that doesn’t help a whole lot.

That’s one important factor to consider in using the exit velo metrics. If a guy induces weak ground balls with a 57 percent GB%, that’s awesome. If he does it with a 31 percent GB%, then it doesn’t mean a whole lot. For Kennedy, that doesn’t mean a whole lot.

Bart has a 3.51 ERA with a 5.20 FIP and a 3.86 xFIP. Colon is the most fastball-heavy pitcher in baseball, which is not a big surprise at all. Kansas City is right in the middle of the pack on exit velocity against fastballs at 89 mph, with a range of 91.4 (BOS) to 86.9 (CIN). But, Kansas City has the best batting average on fastballs at .286. However, they rank 11th in wOBA due to a lack of power. Bart has gotten tagged by elite-hitting fastball lineups like Boston and New York, but has pitched pretty well otherwise. He allowed four home runs in each of those starts against the AL East powerhouses. He’s only allowed five HR otherwise in 42 innings of work.

I’m not in the business of laying big prices often with teams like Texas, but they’re the only way to look today in my estimation. Bartolo has pitched mostly well against marginal lineups and Kennedy hasn’t pitched well since it got above 60 degrees.

Pick: Texas

 

Other 4 p.m. Games

Chase Anderson is worth a play at the books where you can grab -140 or so. He’s been a contact management master this year without the same favorable results as last season. The Mets offense continues to scuffle. Josh Hader is unavailable, but the Brewers have some other bullpen depth. Milwaukee hasn’t hit lefties, but Jason Vargas hasn’t inspired a ton of confidence. I’m not seeing that number at a lot of shops, so if you find one, play it, but I don’t want to use it as an official pick in the article because it’s not a consensus number. Some shops have -142 to -145 and I’d play it up to -145.

 

Houston (-110) at Cleveland; Total: 8

We’ll go on down the board a ways, as the majority of the 4 p.m, games aren’t all that good for handicapping purposes. Whatever you do with the Indians for the next several weeks, make sure it is only for the first five innings. Yesterday’s game was 2-0 going into the eighth and the Indians managed to lose 11-2. It was as painful as it would seem. It was awful. Simply awful.

Today we get Lance McCullers and Carlos Carrasco, who took turns dazzling on Sunday Night Baseball last week. McCullers has been able to develop his changeup and it has been an effective pitch, but not nearly as effective as the curveball. You would think that a guy like McCullers would be a standout with a third pitch, but he actually ranks 80th out of 93 pitchers with at least 50 offspeed pitches put in play in exit velocity against at 88.9 mph. He’s 78th out of 187 pitchers in fastball exit velocity against, so the heater has been more effective than his arsenal of offspeed stuff.

The problem here is that the Indians are a top-five offense against fastballs and rank 18th in wOBA against offspeed pitches. McCullers only throws the fastball about 40 percent of the time, with the curve and change making up the difference. That’s how McCullers only gave up one hit to the Indians and improved his pitcher slash to 3.20/2.86/3.26. I would expect the Indians to have similar struggles today. The Astros are a very hard team to play in close proximity from a series standpoint because they dig into the data so well. Dallas Keuchel made adjustments last night and commanded the baseball a lot better. Charlie Morton was just strong again on Thursday. McCullers doesn’t really have to adjust after the start he had last weekend, but you know there will be subtle tweaks.

Carlos Carrasco was strong in that game as well. The problem for Indians starters now is that they’re pushing past their comfort zones basically every start. They also have no margin for error with the bullpen. Carrasco has a 3.65 ERA with a 3.45 FIP and a 3.44 xFIP.

For Cleveland, their starters basically have to fire complete games or get 10 runs of support to get a win. I’m guessing neither will happen here. If McCullers and Carrasco cancel out, getting the Astros bullpen at -110 is a bargain. The Indians virtually have to walk off in the ninth to win a toss-up game late right now. Andrew Miller is sitting 91-93 with a lifeless slider. Cody Allen’s fastball velo is down nearly a full mile per hour and his Zone% has dropped per PITCHf/x for the sixth straight season. The biggest drop was from 2016 to 2017 and it has continued to fall.

I’m okay with losing this one if somebody actually figures it out in the Indians pen, but I can’t see that happening.

Pick: Houston

 

Late Games

Nothing real exciting here. The Rockies intrigue me with Tyler Anderson, but laying -150 on the lineup against any right-hander with a pulse is scary. Jake Odorizzi and Wade LeBlanc don’t get the juices flowing. Nothing in the SD/LAD game either. Enjoy the hoops game.

 

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Power LinesView all

(975) ATLANTA @ (976) BOSTON | 1:05 pm 5/27/2018

Play Line: ATLANTA 196
BTB PowerLine: ATLANTA +166

Edge On: ATLANTA 30Bet Now
(963) LA ANGELS @ (964) NY YANKEES | 1:05 pm 5/27/2018

Play Line: LA ANGELS 145
BTB PowerLine: LA ANGELS +109

Edge On: LA ANGELS 36Bet Now
(965) CHI WHITE SOX @ (966) DETROIT | 1:10 pm 5/27/2018

Play Line: DETROIT -134
BTB PowerLine: DETROIT -180

Edge On: DETROIT 46Bet Now