After some housekeeping on the Google Tracking Sheet, I am ready for the Sunday card. I ran back through and checked the final numbers for August because I was traveling at the tail end of the month and noticed that I was off a little bit with those results. Everything has been updated and the picks are 72-60-2 for +4.35 units on the season. August was -11.06 instead of -11, which was the only issue within the spreadsheet.
Fortunately, that terrible month, which wiped out most of July’s profits with a hot 20-7 start, is in the rearview and September is off to a decent start. For me, this article isn’t really about the results, though it obviously would be nice to make a good bit of money as we move forward. It’s about sharing information and giving readers a different way to look at the games.
You’ll be looking at the article in a different way starting tomorrow when it moves to ATS.io. As a US-facing site, odds will come from a different sportsbook and, admittedly, one with worse odds than BetOnline. The offshore markets simply offer lower margins and smaller theoretical holds than the US-facing books, so it is a change that will negatively impact the article, but the time has come to focus more energies on a US-facing site with so many states now up and running.
I’m not sure where all of my readers have been placing their wagers, whether they are doing it offshore or with the apps or brick-and-mortars in their respective states. The information won’t change, but the odds will. It could also have an impact on the tracking sheet, but the prices will align better with the tracking in the ATS App, so there’s that.
The podcast returns tomorrow in its new format, so I’ll have plenty to talk about with that. The Bettor’s Box will return on Tuesday, as I’ll chat college football and NFL with Kyle Hunter on Monday’s podcast for ATS. The Bettor’s Box and all podcast content henceforth will be at ATS.io.
I’ll be changing over the name of the podcast at the different sites in which our show is shared, but we anticipate no changes to the links. We’ll keep those the same so that subscribers can still find the show. We’ll just make display name changes and you’ll obviously hear some changes on the show.
Anyway, let’s get to the baseball and everything else will work itself out and become more comfortable as we move forward.
Info, picks, tips, analyses, insights, predictions, and more for September 6, 2020:
953/954 Philadelphia Phillies (+133) at New York Mets (-144); Total: 7
No offense to the Yankees and the Orioles, but we’ll start with this one between the Phillies and Mets. As the low total would imply, we’re looking at a matchup here between Aaron Nola and Jacob deGrom. Nola has a 2.45 ERA with a 3.15 FIP. He has a 57/12 K/BB ratio on the season in his 44 innings of work. The right hander has been better than expected after a 3.87 ERA and a 4.03 FIP last season with some decreases in control and command. He’s gotten back on track in both departments for the most part this season, though he has allowed six home runs.
Jacob deGrom is also doing his thing. His average exit velocity is up this season, even though his BABIP is down and his HR/9 is down, so I do wonder if some regression is coming, but he’s got a 1.76 ERA with a 1.93 FIP in his 41 innings of work. The K% is at a career-best 36.3% level and his BB% is in the mid-5s for the third straight year. He’s just a machine. A dominant machine.
The Mets offense has actually been better than the Phillies offense this season, but the Mets, who rank third in wOBA, rank 16th in runs because they’ve squandered so many chances with men on base and with runners in scoring position. They have definitely played better than an 18-22 team, but just haven’t been able to get hot and find their stride. They have won three of the last four, so maybe things are shifting a bit, but I still can’t make a play on them here. I do prefer that side, but it would just be a lean at this point. Nola’s upside isn’t that of deGrom’s, but that’s built into the number already with the Mets such a clear favorite.
955/956 Milwaukee Brewers (+224) at Cleveland Indians (-250); Total: 7
As the line implies, today is Shane Bieber day for the Tribe. The Brewers counter with Brett Anderson, so we’ve got a big number here. The Bieber numbers remain silly. A 1.20 ERA with a 1.74 FIP. A 42.4% K% with a 6.6% BB%. He has still allowed some hard contact, but not as much as he did last season and his Barrel% has gone down. Certainly some measure of regression is coming to a 96.4% LOB%, but how much is anybody’s guess.
Anderson has been solid for the Brewers in his 28 innings. He’s given up five home runs, which have been a problem, but he’s cut his walk rate down and remains a ground ball machine with a 60.2% GB%. Anderson’s BB% is down to 4.1%, so he really isn’t allowing free passes to hurt him this season. He has a .292 BA against and a .318 BABIP against, but of which are higher than what he has posted the last two seasons.
The Indians will load the lineup with right-handed batters against Anderson and those platoon advantages could give them a leg up here on a picture perfect day at the yard.
I can’t really take the Brewers here, even though the price is pretty high. I did entertain the over with some Bieber regression likely to come at some point and with Anderson’s low swing-and-miss upside, but the Indians struggle to score when they can’t walk and the Brewers haven’t seen much of Bieber and their offense has been putrid this season.
957/958 Washington Nationals (+123) at Atlanta Braves (-133); Total: 9.5
Well, I was right that the line was too high for Nationals and Braves yesterday, but didn’t have the stones to take the big dog. Today’s line is a lot smaller with Patrick Corbin on the hill for the Nationals and Josh Tomlin for the Braves.
Corbin has not been nearly as sharp this season as he was last season. The southpaw has a solid 3.79 ERA and a respectable 4.11 FIP, but “respectable” is not what you want after he posted ERAs of 3.15 and 3.25 and FIPs of 2.47 and 3.49 over his previous 402 innings coming into this season. Corbin’s K% is down and his command has taken a dive as well, as he’s allowed six homers in 40.1 innings and his Hard Hit% has jumped above 40% for the first time since 2015.
The one saving grace for Corbin so far is that he induces a lot of ground balls, so that hard contact has been a little more manageable. The hard line drives and fly balls are what gets to be problematic. He’s allowed a lot of hard ground ball contact to this point, which has led to an increase in BABIP back towards his career norms.
Corbin’s SwStr% and K% are down quite a bit from last season. He’s getting a lot more contact against both inside and outside the zone. Corbin’s velocity has been lost most of the year, as his fastball is down two miles per hour from where it was last season. His spin rates are down a bit as well. Maybe this is an error bar going from Trackman to Hawkeye, but I think a velo decrease coupled with the spin rate decrease is not simply coincidental. I think there is something up with Corbin. Fatigue makes sense after throwing basically 430 innings between the regular seasons and playoffs the last two years.
A decrease in strikeouts and an increase in hard contact that happen at the same time cannot be a good thing for a pitcher and it hasn’t been for Corbin, whose .321 wOBA comes with a .352 xwOBA, so he’s been pretty fortunate to not be worse this season.
Josh Tomlin really shouldn’t be a starter, but the Braves are at that point because of injuries and ineffectiveness. Tomlin has made three starts and allowed nine runs on 17 hits in 11.1 innings. Four hits have left the ballpark. Tomlin had his start pushed back, so now he’s going on a whole bunch of rest, not having pitched since August 29. For a guy that was working in relief every few days or in back-to-backs, I don’t really think that’s a great setup, even though he did used to start games regularly for the Indians.
I do have one hold-up here and it is enough to keep me off of the game. The Braves decimate righties, but have a .290 wOBA and a 78 wRC+ against lefties. Only the Angels, Rangers, Indians, Diamondbacks, and Mariners are worse in that split. The Braves have the third-highest K% against lefties. This may be a spot where Corbin can get the necessary strikeouts to be more effective. As a result, I have to pass, but I do think Corbin is probably fade-worthy moving forward.
959/960 to 967/968
Lots of big favorites on the board today, so we’ll make this pretty short with small write-ups on each game.
Marlins/Rays: The Rays are nearly a $2 favorite against the Marlins here. It will be Trevor Rogers for the Marlins and Tyler Glasnow for the Rays. We’ve seen a lot of steam lately on pitchers thought to be ace-level guys and we’ve seen a lot of steam on Glasnow among that group. We’re seeing some more today.
The 22-year-old Rogers was the eighth-best prospect in the Marlins system coming into the season per Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel at FanGraphs. Their blurb about him isn’t really a glowing recommendation of his upside. He’s struck out 11 and walked seven in nine innings across two starts. He seems like an uncomfortable at bat with his 6-foot-6 frame and left-handed arm slot. He’s a guy that has had some swing and miss in the low minors and seems to induce a fair amount of weak contact.
Unfortunately, the total is low here at 7, so the game is a pass.
Blue Jays/Red Sox: The Red Sox keep battling. Another one-run game on Saturday, but they came out on the right side of that decision. A bunch of offense again, too. Robbie Ray makes his Blue Jays debut and Andrew Triggs will go for the Red Sox. Your guess is as good as mine on how Ray looks for the Jays. The market seems to be a modest believer with a slight line move, but I’m far from interested here.
Triggs is a guy that has some MLB experience from his time with the A’s. He’s mostly a pitch-to-contact kind of dude. We’ll see how that goes for him. The total is 11, so the expectation is for more offense again.
Reds/Pirates: The Reds are a big favorite here with Tejay Antone on the hill. The Pirates will counter with Chad Kuhl. This feels like a big number at -160 on the Reds with Antone, who has a 2.66 ERA with a 3.88 FIP on the season in 20.1 innings of work. Antone has 27 K in 20.1 innings, which is great. He’s also running a .132 BABIP and an 87% LOB%. To his credit, his average exit velo against is 84.5 mph, so he’s induced a good bit of weak contact, but he’s not going to run those BABIP and LOB% numbers forever.
Chad Kuhl was a great story early in the year with some new strikeout prowess and a new-look arsenal, but now he has a 3.10 ERA with a 5.59 FIP and he is teetering on the brink of falling apart. He’s allowed a homer in all five of his starts and has five strikeouts against nine walks in his last 15 innings of work. He’s faced 63 batters in that span and has been extremely fortunate to allow just five earned runs.
Like Antone, Kuhl has a .213 BABIP and a 90.2% LOB% and neither of those numbers is sustainable. If I trusted these offenses at all, I’d consider over 9.5, but I don’t. Both pitchers are regression candidates, though.
White Sox/Royals: We caught a nice under 9.5 winner yesterday between the White Sox and Royals and if the Royals had played better defense, we wouldn’t have had any kind of sweat. The White Sox scored three unearned runs off of Kris Bubic, who looked solid once again and may be worth backing as we move forward.
It will be Dallas Keuchel and Matt Harvey today. There are a lot of concerns about Keuchel, who has a 2.42 ERA and a 3.19 FIP, because his K% is pathetic at 15.2%. He’s running a .260 BABIP with a 55.8% GB%. I can see why the markets would be skeptical, but so long as he’s killing worms and getting outs, the K% isn’t that big of a deal. The best development for Keuchel is that he has only allowed two home runs. He allowed 16 in 112.2 innings last season.
Keuchel’s command has really improved. He’s running a 30.8% Hard Hit% and has only allowed a 4.5% Barrel%. Those are the numbers we saw in 2017-18 with the Astros.
Harvey doesn’t look good. There was talk about him going over to the KBO, but he decided to try and find a job stateside and he’s found one with the Royals. He made a short relief appearance a couple of days ago, but he’s allowed 12 runs on 16 hits in seven innings as a starter. He’s given up a ton of hard contact to this point with an average exit velo of 94.2 mph. He’s got six strikeouts against five walks. He faced two batters in that relief appearance and gave up two hits. Harvey has already allowed five barrels and over half of his balls in play have been hit 95+ mph.
The -1.5 here is -145 and growing, so that is a little bit cost-prohibitive. The -2.5 is +100. That’s not really valuable, even with a total of 10.5. This game does have all the hallmarks of a blowout, though. Keuchel is stingy and it takes multiple hits strung together to score runs. I don’t really see a +EV way to play this game. You could make a case for the over 10.5 since the Royals are actually 11% above league average against left-handed pitchers, but Keuchel makes it hard to score.
A 20 mph wind is expected to be blowing out to left center on a hot and humid day in Kansas City. That would have to help Chicago more given Keuchel’s ground ball stylings, but I still can’t make a play here.
Tigers/Twins: Casey Mize and Rich Hill are the listed starters for this one. This is a tricky handicap. Mize has shown flashes with 13 K in 10.2 innings, but he’s also allowed eight earned runs on 14 hits, including three home runs. He’s also facing the Twins for the second straight start.
Hill has not been overly sharp to this point. He’s struck out 10 and walked 10 in 16 innings and already had one lengthy IL stint. He’s induced a lot of weak contact, but he hasn’t been able to limit walks or rack up strikeouts. The Tigers are still third in the league in both wOBA and wRC+ against lefties. It has been their better split to say the least.
The under 9.5 was heavily juiced at time of writing, but that’s not a play I necessarily love. The Twins offense hasn’t been nearly as good this season as it has been in past seasons, but it is worth noting that they’ve been absolutely awful against lefties and a little above league average against righties. I guess you could make a mild case for the run line at -106 because the Twins bullpen is in a better spot than the Tigers bullpen and it seems likely that Mize is out by the fourth inning. Still not a play for me, but it would be in the discussion.
969/970 Arizona Diamondbacks (+124) at San Francisco Giants (-134); Total: 9
Alex Young and Johnny Cueto are set to go at Oracle Park. Young has a 4.50 ERA with a 5.57 FIP because he’s allowed seven home runs in his 28 innings of work. He has struck out a batter per inning, but the long ball has really done a number on his FIP. The 26-year-old now has a 3.80 ERA with a 5.00 FIP in his 111.1 innings of work at the MLB level.
Even with that, money has leaked in on the Diamondbacks here. Maybe bettors are not convinced about Cueto, who has a 4.75 ERA with a 4.44 FIP on the season. Maybe bettors are not convinced about the Giants, who were not expected to do much of anything this season, but have been a surprising contender for a playoff spot. Cueto has a 66.5% LOB%, so his ERA could be doing better, but he has allowed six homers himself in his eight starts.
Cueto just threw 6.2 outstanding innings against the Diamondbacks at Chase Field last time out. He struck out six and walked three, but the balls in play averaged just 79 mph. It was nice to see Cueto bounce back from getting tagged by the Dodgers in his previous start. When you look at Cueto’s game logs, you see two bad outings against the Dodgers and then a lot of hard contact from the Padres in his second start of the year. Otherwise, five of his eight starts have been really solid.
The Diamondbacks offense is nowhere near the Dodgers or the Padres. We know that much to be true. What we also know to be true is that the Diamondbacks are in a bad way right now. They were 13-11 at one point this season. They are now 15-25.
This is an Arizona team with a bad bullpen and an offense that just has not performed up to snuff. This is also an Arizona team that sold off pieces at the Trade Deadline and there appears to be quite a hangover effect this week. The Giants are believing in themselves and I think that means a lot at this time of the year, especially in such an absurd season.
Cueto has pitched well against below average lineups and he gets one here. By no means would I consider Young to be bad. He’s given up 11 runs in 18.1 innings as a starter since he joined the rotation on August 15. He’s been just fine. I just don’t think his upside matches that of Cueto’s in this start and I don’t think the Diamondbacks are fully engaged with how things have gone lately. I’ll lay it here.
Pick: San Francisco Giants (-134)
971/972 Houston Astros (-147) at LA Angels (+136); Total: 9.5
How good has Framber Valdez been this season for the Astros? The left hander will make his seventh start and eighth total appearance here against the Angels. Valdez has a 2.58 ERA to go with a 2.59 FIP. The Astros have corrected his walk rate issues and unlocked his potential.
Valdez has allowed an average exit velocity of 90.8 mph, but over 59% of balls in play have been on the ground, so he’s been able to limit the damage. He’s only allowed two home runs after surrendering nine in 70.2 innings last season. He’s worked 45.1 innings this year with over a strikeout per inning. His BB% is down from 13.4% to 6.6% this season, which has easily been the biggest change for Valdez.
It seems as though Valdez might be finding some more swing and miss as well. He’s struck out 19 in his last 14 innings of work, including 11 punchies last time out against the Angels. The Angels have 55 plate appearances against him this season and have struck out 19 times.
I’m still very skeptical of what Jaime Barria is doing, but, man, there are some interesting signs here. He got hit a ton last season with a 10.7% Barrel%, a 40.6% Hard Hit%, one of the highest xSLG and wOBA in baseball. This season, he’s hasn’t allowed a barrel yet. His Hard Hit% on 39 batted balls is down to 20.5%. His xwOBA is .258, which, albeit in a small sample size, ranks in the Top 9% of the league.
Barria is pitching to one of the highest launch angles in baseball at 27.2 degrees. He faced 19 batters last start and didn’t induce a single ground ball. He’s one of the extremest of the extreme fly ball guys in baseball. We’ll see how it works out for him. It did not work last season when he allowed 24 HR in 82.2 innings and posted a 6.42 ERA with a 6.23 FIP. I don’t know how well it will work this season or going forward, but I like when teams try different things with dudes.
The Astros are in a bit of a funk again and the Angels have won four in row, so they are trying to push forward and get back in the playoff picture. I don’t think they have any chance, but they probably do. Still, I’m not playing this one. I really like what Valdez has done. If the Angels can draw some walks off of him, they have a shot and he has done that in the past. We’ll see if they can, but I don’t have a play.
973/974 San Diego Padres (-104) at Oakland A’s (-106); Total: 10.5
Garrett Richards and Mike Fiers are listed for this one by the bay. Richards has a 4.63 ERA with a 4.55 FIP. Fiers has a 4.86 ERA with a 5.52 FIP. That’s how you get a total of 10.5 in what has generally been viewed as a pitcher’s park at Oakland Coliseum.
Richards pitched on three days rest last time out and allowed one hit over 3.2 innings with four strikeouts. He only lasted eight batters in his previous start and allowed six runs on four hits. It was a strong bounce back performance for Richards, who now goes on a little bit of extra rest. It was especially nice to see since that outing came at Coors Field.
If anybody sees another handicapper cite Richards’s career numbers against Oakland, please let me know. I’d love to see that. He’s made 13 career starts and 17 career appearances against the A’s. Please let me know so that I can laugh at them. Richards maxes out at 15 plate appearances against any A’s hitter (Semien, Grossman). Those numbers don’t mean shit. At all. Period. All those years with the Angels and Matt Chapman has three PA against Richards. Seven against Khris Davis. Five against Matt Olson. Those tell us nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.
Richards should probably be having some more good fortune in the K% department, as his SwStr% is around league average for a starter, but he’s only at 19.6%. His BB% of 9.5% is worrisome and too high, but he’s dealt with that before and usually been okay. The decreasing ground ball rate is what scares me. That’s down to 42.3%, which is a career low for Richards.
Fiers seems to have settled in for the long haul. He’s allowed just five earned runs over his last three starts after allowing 15 in his first four starts. He also hasn’t allowed a homer in two consecutive outings. I’ve talked about this a ton already, but Fiers had a 3.56 ERA and a 4.75 FIP in 2018 and then a 3.90 and 4.97 in 2019. The market hates him, but he’s a hard fade at home, where he’s pitched extremely well. Last season, Fiers had a 2.90 ERA with a .276 wOBA at home and a 5.14 ERA with a .335 wOBA on the road. Oddly enough, he’s allowed a .391 wOBA in 15.1 innings at home and a .309 wOBA in 21.2 innings on the road to this point.
It is incredibly hard to back Fiers, though, especially against potent lineups like San Diego’s. I don’t really know how this game shakes out on a day when I do not like the card one bit.
975/976 Texas Rangers (+112) at Seattle Mariners (-122); Total: 9
Jordan Lyles and Justin Dunn is not a great pitching matchup at all, but the humidor at T-Mobile Park and two lackluster offenses have this total sitting at 9. Lyles has an 8.59 ERA with a 5.67 FIP. The market isolated Lyles as a fade guy very early in the process and has been rewarded quite handsomely to this point.
He’s been as bad as it sounds. He only has 18 strikeouts in 29.1 innings of work. He’s walked 14. He’s given up five homers. He’s given up a lot of hard contact, too. He’s got an 8.59 ERA with that lower FIP because of a 52.2% LOB%, but that happens when you can’t strike guys out. Lyles has a 42.1% Hard Hit%, which is a career-high in the Statcast era. He’s also running an 8.4% Barrel%, also a career high. His SwStr%, which was over 10% each of the last two seasons, is down to 6.1%.
Simply, it’s just all bad. Lyles is getting fewer swings and misses on his curveball, which is his best pitch. His fastball is getting beaten like a rented mule. His changeup has remained bad. It’s just a bad, bad profile.
Justin Dunn hasn’t been great for the Mariners either. He’s got a 4.33 ERA, but it could be much worse with a 5.89 FIP and a 6.24 xFIP. The right hander has 21 strikeouts against 16 walks and he has allowed five homers in his 27 innings of work. Dunn is even running a .178 BABIP and a 75% LOB%, which is why his ERA is so much lower than his FIP.
The most amazing thing is that Dunn has thrown back-to-back starts of six innings with one hit allowed. He’s faced the Rangers and the Angels in those two starts. Something weird seems to have happened. His spin rates have increased and his exit velocities have decreased in his last two starts. The Mariners have either made some sort of change with him or he’s just been locating better. He’s a pretty extreme fly ball guy trying to pitch above the swing path with the fastball. He’s done that in his last two starts. He was not doing that earlier.
I don’t know if it sticks or not. It’s enough to make me wonder about this game. We’ve seen money hit the board on Lyles, which has basically never happened this season up until now. Sometimes the market is wrong, but going against it is always a challenge, especially against a guy that they have vehemently faded all season long until today.
977/978 St. Louis Cardinals (-102) at Chicago Cubs (-108); Total: 13
12.5, eh? Look, we know that weather plays a huge factor at Wrigley Field, which is why totals in games on the North Side are posted later. We’ll have winds blowing out at almost 20 mph tonight in Chicago for this game, so the total has been adjusted up quite substantially as a result.
Dakota Hudson was pushed back a day by the Cardinals to start today instead of yesterday in one of the doubleheader games. Hudson is an extreme ground ball guy, so maybe the conditions will be more favorable for him than they will be for Jon Lester in this start. Hudson has a 2.77 ERA with a 3.80 FIP on the season. A lot of positive developments have happened for Hudson this season. His GB% is up, which I like. His K% is up, which I also like. It’s actually up 5.2% from 18% to 23.2%. His BB% is down to 7.4%, a decrease of 4.3% from last season.
Those are all really positive things. I don’t believe a .215 BABIP will stick around with his high GB%, but he’s trending in the direction you’d like to see with both his command control. Hudson has been really good since the Cardinals were forced to quarantine. He’s only allowed four earned runs in 22.2 innings of work.
Lester has not been good. He’s got a 5.11 ERA with a 5.06 FIP. His K% has been on the rise a little bit, but he’s just not really worth backing. He’s allowed seven HR, though four of them came against the White Sox. He’s not the same ground ball guy as Hudson. In fact, his only starts with high GB% marks came against the Indians, who can’t hit, and the Tigers, who still had eight hits, but only scored one run.
This is a bad spot for Lester in my opinion. He’s going to allow more fly balls and line drives than Hudson in all likelihood. If nothing else, he’ll likely surrender the higher-velocity fly balls and line drives. Lester’s low walk rate doesn’t help here because hitters will aggressively be attacking in the hitter-friendly environment. It should also limit how much Hudson’s BB issues come into play.
I’m on the Cardinals here. It is a rough spot off of another doubleheader when they’ve played so much baseball to catch up, but Lester allows a lot of hard contact on fly balls and line drives and that should play better for the weather conditions than what the Cubs will get from Hudson.
Neither bullpen is that great and this thing likely becomes a crapshoot in the late innings with fly balls carrying like crazy. I’ve handicapped the starters under these conditions, so St. Louis for the 1st 5 is the play, even though they are a 1st 5 favorite and a full-game underdog.
Pick: St. Louis Cardinals 1st 5 (-115)