I’ve started and deleted the intro for today’s article a few times over. The frustrations of this week have boiled over and have led to a foul mood on this Thursday morning. After a great start in July, August has been the complete opposite and I run the risk of wiping out the profits of the first eight days of the season in less than eight days in August.
I would say it comes with the territory, and maybe it does, but that doesn’t make it any easier to take. I wear it harder with this article than I would with personal picks because other people are looking to me for advice and the advice has been shitty for the last five days. Hopefully that changes today.
I’ll keep it to a minimum since I’ve already wasted enough time this morning. The odds are from BetOnline Sportsbook as always, but shop around for the best prices. Also, be sure to check out the ATS app, where you can track your bets and get some great statistical deep dives on all of the games on the card, including the NBA Restart and the NHL.
When I’m slightly less embarrassed by the tracking sheet page for the month of August, I’ll link that here.
There will be a new edition of The Bettor’s Box later this morning, so be on the lookout for that.
MLB Picks & Tips for August 6, 2020:
903/904 San Francisco Giants (+145) at Colorado Rockies (-157); Total: 11
A couple of lefties will square off at Coors Field this afternoon with Tyler Anderson against Kyle Freeland. Anderson has extensive experience pitching at Coors Field. He threw 225.2 innings as a member of the Rockies in the Mile High City and allowed a .272/.327/.452 slash with a 4.23 ERA. He struck out 211 and walked 70.
Anderson is a guy I always kind of low-key liked for the Rockies, but he never stayed healthy. He had one season with 176 innings and had a 4.55 ERA with a 4.57 FIP and a 4.21 xFIP. With a career ERA of 4.67, Anderson was actually a better pitcher at Coors Field than he was away from it. I always thought that there was more to the arsenal and the skill set that he could find a way to be effective both at home and on the road, but it never completely materialized.
In 7.1 innings for the Giants, Anderson has allowed three runs on eight hits in 7.1 innings, but he’s given up two homers and walked six batters with only four strikeouts. It’s pretty clear that he isn’t super sharp to start the season, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. He allowed 27 runs in 20.2 innings last season.
Y’all buying Kyle Freeland? Freeland has made one start at home and one start on the road and has only allowed two runs on six hits over 12 innings with nine strikeouts and four walks. I’m not ready to crown this a repeat of his 2018 season when he ran a 2.85 ERA with a 3.67 FIP, but these are encouraging signs after a 6.73 ERA and 5.99 FIP last season.
The difference between 18 and 19 was contact management. Freeland was in the 87th percentile in exit velocity, 91st in Hard Hit% and 76th in Barrel% in 2018. In 2019, those numbers fell to the 25th percentile, 20th, and 18th, respectively. Thus far, Freeland is in the 42nd percentile in exit velocity, but the 73rd in Hard Hit% and 60th in Barrel%.
Some enormous usage changes have taken place for Freeland, as he’s thrown his changeup the most of any pitch to this point. He’s lowered the usage of both his fastball and slider and has resurrected his curveball. His spin rates are up across the board, except for his changeup, which he worked on extensively over the course of the offseason.
I won’t have a play one way or the other here, but mostly wanted to pass along some information on Freeland and the early start to the season for him. There was a big line move on the Giants as I wrote up the article.
905/906 Texas Rangers (+144) at Oakland Athletics (-156); Total: 8.5
The A’s just keep rolling right along while the Astros deal with a plethora of injuries and maybe some things could happen in the AL West this season. We’ve got two guys viewed as regression candidates in this start, so it will be interesting to follow this line. So far, the market has come in a little stronger on a fade of the A’s, but that may not be the way it goes throughout the day.
Mike Fiers is on the mound for the A’s. He had a 3.90 ERA with a 4.97 FIP and a 5.19 xFIP last season with some extremely significant home/road splits. Fiers allowed a .276 wOBA in his 102.1 innings across 403 plate appearances last season at home. He allowed .335 wOBA on the road with a 5.14 ERA in 82.1 innings over 351 PA.
Fiers gave up 14 HR at home and had a lower K%, so his FIP actually wound up coming in at 4.68. His road FIP was 5.33, as his home run rate was quite a bit higher. His xFIP at home was 5.29 with a road xFIP of 5.07. He had a .225 BABIP against at home and an 83.3% LOB%.
We know Oakland Coliseum aids pitchers. The A’s also have an excellent defensive squad, so that benefitted Fiers at home as well. He pitched to his defense a little more at home and worried less about strikeouts and more about pitching to contact. It didn’t negatively impact him at all.
Ironically, Fiers allowed four runs on seven hits in four innings in his first home start of 2020. He didn’t strike out anybody and only has three strikeouts in 10 innings. He went to Seattle and allowed two runs on four hits over six innings last time out.
Mike Minor’s regression may actually be coming. Many, myself included, took a pessimistic approach to his 2020 outlook. Minor ran a 3.59 ERA with a 4.25 FIP and a 4.60 xFIP in his 208.1 innings last season. He ran an 80.3% LOB%, which was pretty high with his slightly above average K%. So far this season, Minor has allowed seven earned runs on 12 hits in his 10.2 innings. He’s struck out nine and walked three.
To this point, Minor’s velocity is down. I don’t think we’re dealing with an injury situation because his spin rates look pretty good, but his fastball is down 2.3 mph and his slider is down a full mph. His changeup is also down a bit. He’s allowed 36 balls in play with a lower average exit velocity than last season, but his Hard Hit% is up a bit. He was in the 91st percentile in Hard Hit% last season, which is why he was able to outpitch his advanced metrics. We see that a lot with guys that have lower ERAs than their FIPs and xFIPs.
One of the big keys to Minor’s success last season was a .301 wOBA against versus right-handed batters. He didn’t exactly experience a lot of success against the A’s last season, but he was pretty good on the whole against RHB. He did allow 23 of his 30 HR to them, but also stared down righties for 662 PA and lefties for 201 PA. His SLG against was about the same against both.
How much can we trust Minor? Fiers pitches well at home. The A’s have the better bullpen and the better lineup. The Rangers are 28th in wOBA right now. The A’s are only 19th, due in large part to a .206 BA leading to a .354 SLG. With how the last few days have gone, though, if I have any reservations, I should probably stay away. I won’t be shocked with another OAK win, though.
907/908 LA Angels (-156) at Seattle Mariners (+144); Total: 8.5
Julio Teheran was iffy in his first start for the Angels, but it was the bullpen that was the problem area once again. What was actually a 7-3 game turned into a 7-6 game and the Mariners had to hold on for dear life, but they did and won 7-6 yesterday as the line moved heavily in their favor.
Dylan Bundy gets the nod for the Angels. Through two starts with the Angels, Bundy has allowed four runs on seven hits over 12.2 innings with 15 strikeouts and two walks. The hype train has left the station and I’m not sure when or if it will come back. Bundy’s contact metrics look strong for a guy that has had issues with that in the past. His slider is now his most-thrown pitch at 32.8%. He’s also cut the fastball usage by nearly 12%. He’s also throwing the curveball a little bit more. He’s also seen spin rate increases just about across the board.
There are a lot of people very excited about these changes. They should be. Bundy allowed a .152 BA and a .265 SLG with his slider last season. Limited the use of his four-seam fastball should help tremendously, as he allowed a .335 BA and a .645 SLG with the pitch last year. He’s also out of the AL East and away from some of those bad ballparks. There are a lot of buy signs with Bundy for sure.
It is good to see Taijuan Walker back on a MLB mound. If Walker gets at least nine outs today, he’ll have the most innings pitched in a season for him since 2017. He’s allowed five runs on eight hits in 10.1 innings with nine strikeouts and three walks. Walker threw one inning last season and 13 in 2018. Walker has allowed a lot of hard contact on the fastball, but very little with his split finger and cutter. He struggled at Houston with five runs allowed on seven hits, but shut down Oakland last week with just one hit allowed over seven innings.
Won’t be involved here, as I don’t know what to expect from Walker or the Angels offense, but will follow along and see if he can build off of that most recent start.
909/910 Cincinnati Reds (+109) at Cleveland Indians (-119); Total: 7.5
Luis Castillo and Carlos Carrasco are the listed hurlers for tonight’s finale in the Ohio Cup. Neither offense has done much in this series and that was true again last night when my over handicap never had a chance. The Indians didn’t make much hard contact again and had a blind squirrel inning and found a nut with an RBI single and a fielder’s choice in which Oscar Mercado scored from second on a heads up play.
The Reds squandered some walks against Mike Clevinger and did nothing against an Indians bullpen that has actually been extremely good to this point. The Indians are one of several teams that have played a ton of 1st 5 unders this season. I guess if you’re just playing follow the leader and streaks and trends this season, you’re doing pretty well. A lot of 1st 5 unders, a lot of win streaks of note. If you pick up on them early and ride the wave, you’ve enjoyed the start to the season.
I have no faith in the Indians hitting Luis Castillo. Granted, I should have no faith in the Indians hitting anybody of consequence or any pitcher with a pulse.
Carrasco has allowed five runs on 11 hits in 12 innings. He’s struck out 15 and walked two, but he has allowed three home runs. All three came in his last start against the Twins. That’ll happen when you face them. Carrasco has allowed some extremely hard contact through two starts. He’s allowed 30 balls in play, three barrels, and a 93.6 mph average exit velocity. Twelve of the 30 batted balls have been 95+.
Will the Reds take advantage? Who knows? Their offense has been disappointing, too.
915/916 Toronto Blue Jays (+105) at Atlanta Braves (-115); Total: 9
Early money has hit the board on the Blue Jays and right-hander Nate Pearson for his second career MLB start as he takes on Touki Toussaint and the Atlanta Braves. Pearson stared down Max Scherzer for five innings in his debut and allowed two hits over 19 batters faced. He struck out five and walked two in a game that was scoreless into extra innings.
We’ll see how Pearson does now with a Braves team kind of reeling a bit. Max Fried stepped up and threw a gem on Tuesday in the first game without Mike Soroka and Sean Newcomb did really well to give his team a chance with 4.2 competitive innings. The Braves gave Freddie Freeman most of a day off yesterday, but had to shuffle some things because Ozzie Albies has hit the IL.
Atlanta has had to overcome a lot of adversity already in the early part of this season and they’ve done an admirable job of hanging in there.
The Blue Jays have looked like a team that went a while without playing. They scored one run on Tuesday and two runs on just five hits on Wednesday. They got both runs, all five hits, and their lone walk off of Newcomb. The Atlanta pen threw 4.1 shutout, perfect innings.
Toussaint has allowed six runs on eight hits in his 6.2 innings in 2020. He’s struck out 11 and walked four in a start and a relief outing. He gave up all of the runs in a relief appearance against the Rays. He threw four shutout innings against the Mets on August 1. Toussaint has limited righties to a .207/.337/.299 slash with a .294 wOBA in his 211 plate appearances at the MLB level. Lefties have tortured him with a .296/.434/.504 slash and a .397 wOBA in 143 PA.
Pearson only needed two pitches against the Nationals. He threw 52% fastballs and 40% sliders. He threw three changeups, two curves, and a sinker. If you look at his slider plot, he was middle-middle too often with the pitch, but got away with it. The fastball was elevated and very hard to hit at premium velocity. He’ll need to spot the slider better today.
I think he can. The Braves are having some offensive issues. The Blue Jays have a low walk rate at 7.1%. Toussaint’s biggest issue is the walk. Toronto’s offense has been slow to start the season and has struggled in this series with some downtime prior to playing. Atlanta has a solid pen, primarily of right-handed guys, and everybody is trying to do a little more in the absence of Soroka. It has been something of a rallying point for the staff as a whole.
The Blue Jays bullpen has performed well, even without closer Ken Giles. Both pens will be asked to put together some scoreless frames tonight, but I do like that for them. Toussaint does well against righties and the Jays are pretty reliant on those guys to carry the load for them. Pearson has more than enough stuff to get by, especially with that elevated high-velocity fastball.
Pick: Under 9 (-105)
917/918 Chicago Cubs (-160) at Kansas City Royals (+148); Total: 9
Tyler Chatwood’s third start of 2020 comes against the Kansas City Royals. Chatwood has allowed just one run on six hits with a 19/4 K/BB ratio over 12.2 innings of work to start the year. Chatwood has been dominant. I don’t know if he has fully fixed his walk rate issues or not, but opposing hitters have made contact on 13% of their swings outside the zone per Pitch Info Solutions.
Nine of the 19 strikeouts for Chatwood have ended on the cutter, so it sure looks to be a very effective weapon for him in the early going. His curveball usage is up a little bit and that has been an out pitch as well. These are really good signs. I don’t think everything is sustainable for him. I don’t think a 17.2% SwStr% is remotely sustainable. A K% over 40% is not.
But this is where Chatwood’s contact management comes into play. He only allowed six barrels last season in 208 batted balls. His average exit velocity of 87.7 was over a full mile per hour better than 2018. His 3.76 ERA and 3.96 xFIP from last season might have more staying power than we originally thought.
The Royals don’t walk. They’ve walked in 4.2% of their plate appearances this season. They simply are not a patient offense. Will that play into Chatwood’s hands? It should, given that walks have been far and away his biggest problem in recent years, especially in the Cubs years. He’s run solid BABIPs and low HR rates, but has created his own problems with walks. That shouldn’t be a problem today.
Brad Keller gets the nod for the Royals. Keller is a low-strikeout, pitch to contact kind of guy. Like Chatwood, Keller has had some strong ground ball rates in his career. Also like Chatwood, Keller has had some walk issues, most notably last season with a 9.9% BB%. Keller was a pretty big overachiever last season, as he ran a .307 wOBA against but a .339 xwOBA. He allowed a lot of hard-hit balls, but most of them were at a low enough launch angle not to be barreled.
Keller is making his first start of 2020 here after being slowed down in Summer Camp. I’m not big on his chances today at all. I do like Chatwood in this matchup against an ultra-aggressive Royals lineup that won’t take advantage of his erratic nature.
I won’t get the bullpens involved here, though. We’ll take the Cubs run line for the 1st 5 at -120 and expect them to play from in front.
Pick: Chicago Cubs 1st 5 run line -0.5 (-120)
919/920 Houston Astros (-109) at Arizona Diamondbacks (-101); Total: 9
Lance McCullers was cruising on Wednesday night and then the roof opened at Chase Field. Whether it was mental or something else, the Diamondbacks had a nine-run fourth inning to erase a 6-0 deficit and went on to win 14-7. The decimated Astros pitching staff will turn to right-hander Brandon Bielak for his first career MLB start on Thursday.
Bielak has worked 5.1 innings in relief with one earned run allowed on four hits. He’s struck out six and walked three. The Diamondbacks offense remains among the worst in baseball in wOBA and wRC+, but enjoyed a breakout performance on Wednesday, so Bielak does get a group feeling a little bit better about itself.
The 24-year-old struck out over a batter per inning over 85.2 innings in Triple-A last season with a 4.41/4.60/4.91 pitcher slash. He also worked 36 innings in Double-A with a 3.75/3.95/3.85 slash. The Notre Dame product drew some positive reviews from Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel at FanGraphs prior to the season as the #7 prospect in the Houston organization. Bielak is viewed as a back of the rotation starter, but a reliable one.
Zac Gallen worked on a mechanical change from his first start to his second start. After walking five Padres on July 26, Gallen took in some video and noticed something to fix prior to his start against the Dodgers. He proceeded to go out and throw six innings with nine strikeouts and just one walk. Gallen has allowed three runs on just seven hits in his 10 innings to start the year. He also has 15 strikeouts.
Gallen has yielded some hard contact on the balls that have been in play, but he’s changed his arsenal a lot. His fastball usage is down with increased usage of the changeup, curve, and cutter. Long-term, I think those are likely positives, but Gallen did have one of the league’s better fastballs last season with a .192 BA and a .308 SLG against on the fastball.
I can’t trust the Diamondbacks offense here enough to take the small plus price. I have no idea if the roof will be open or not, so I can’t really play the total, especially if they opt to open it during the game again. There’s a lot of animosity towards the Astros and it seems like a real passive-aggressive way to get back at them, even though Arizona wasn’t really impacted by the cheating.
I want to see how Gallen handles another good lineup. He masterfully handled the Dodgers. He does it again and that stock will really start to rise.
921/922 Milwaukee Brewers (+102) at Chicago White Sox (-112); Total: 9
Adrian Houser did pretty much the same thing that Brandon Woodruff did to the White Sox, but their meager offensive performance was just barely good enough in the 1-0 win. Today, we’ll see the Brewers send Josh Lindblom at the White Sox. Chicago will counter with Gio Gonzalez.
Lindblom allowed two runs on three hits in 3.2 innings with a 5/3 K/BB ratio in his first MLB start since 2014. A back issue shortened that start and left this one in question, but he’s back now and looking to improve upon that first outing. Lindblom was a guy that had some drastic platoon splits before going across the Pacific for two stints in Korea. He allowed a .286/.377/.465 slash to lefties with a .366 wOBA and a .220/.291/.348 slash with a .280 wOBA to righties.
I don’t really know if those are things we can expect here in this start as well. Righties were 1-for-6 with a single and a walk against him in his first start. Lefties were 2-for-8 with two walks. Those are anemic sample sizes, so we can’t take anything from them, but it is a consideration in every White Sox game because of how right-handed-heavy that lineup is.
I really don’t know what to expect here from Lindblom. The White Sox make a ton of hard contact, but I presume Lindblom got an MLB gig because he limited hard contact well in the KBO. The projection systems didn’t seem keen on Lindblom’s ability to limit home runs and he has had a propensity for being a fly ball guy throughout his career.
Gio Gonzalez will try again for the White Sox in this one. Gio allowed six runs on seven hits in relief against the Twins in his 2020 debut. He followed that up with 3.2 innings against the Royals with eight baserunners, but none of them touched the plate. He also struck out six. The fact that the Royals have walked as little as they have this season and still had three walks against Gonzalez seems mildly concerning.
The Brewers have drawn walks. They just haven’t done much with balls in play. They’ve also had that weird start to the season with some games postponed, but they are very much a platoon-oriented offense as well. We’ve seen those teams struggle quite a bit at the outset of the season. Teams that lead in Platoon% like the Indians, Pirates, and Diamondbacks have ranked in the bottom three in wOBA. The Brewers aren’t all that far behind.
Gio allowed a .257/.334/.436 slash to righties last season with a .328 wOBA. He only faced 75 lefties, but held them to a .213 wOBA. Back in 2018, he had similar splits with a .265/.352/.414 to righties and a .219/.261/.336 to lefties.
I think the over is the play here, but the Brewers just aren’t scoring enough runs for me to be confident in that. And I have minimal confidence in Gio to take Chicago.
925/926 & 927/928
Yankees at Phillies: The information and the pitching matchups were a mess for the doubleheaders yesterday. Jordan Montgomery and Zach Eflin pitch today. The Yankees were fortunate to split the doubleheader, as they did not play well in either game. I’m not interested in figuring out where these teams are at a day after playing two.
Orioles “at” Marlins: Similarly, I’m not all that excited to figure out this game. I do think the -138 price on Miami with Jordan Yamamoto, who I thought was pitching yesterday, is a little bit high. I also don’t like Wade LeBlanc pitching at Camden Yards. If this game was in Miami, I’d be on the Orioles at this price. I may add Baltimore later, but for now, this is it for the card.