It’s a great day for betting on baseball because we’ve got all day to look at the matchups and break everything down. Except, of course, for the Cubs, who play another home day game, so you’ll have to get your thoughts in early on that one if you want to lay it with Jake Arrieta or fade the big price on him. Other than that, we’ve got 14 games and some very interesting lines, so let’s take a deep dive into this August 12 card and make some money.
Before we do that, we’ll take a gander at how yesterday went. It was a very small card, so it was a day of limited plays. The plays we did make were right on the money. The Astros rolled over the Twins in Game 1 (and Game 2, though we didn’t cap that one). The Brewers crushed Roberto Hernandez and the Braves as short chalk. The under hit very easily in the White Sox/Royals matchup, so we had a strong night. We’ll see if we can carry that over into today.
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Per usual, the games with big lines will be overlooked, unless there is something particularly noteworthy about them or a play on the underdog is a possibility. Also, day games are usually skipped due to the lead time of the article. That will not be the case on Wednesdays, Thursdays, or Sundays when there are a lot of day games.
Colorado (-140) at Philadelphia; Total: 8.5
The Rockies have leveled off a bit here in the month of August. After rolling out of the All-Star Break, the Rockies are +12 in run differential in August, but they are just 4-6 in their 10 games. They’re still laying a big price tonight with Jon Gray on the bump against Jake Thompson, who is taking a Major League mound for the second time in his career. All things considered, the Phillies are keeping their heads above water as we get deeper into the season and that’s a good sign for a young team.
Is this price a little bit too high? Are you willing to lay -140 with Colorado on the road against anybody? Those are the types of questions that you need to ask. You can see why the line makes sense. Jon Gray owns a 4.26 ERA with a 3.78 FIP and a 3.66 xFIP. His K/BB peripherals are excellent. The only blemish for him is a below average LOB%, which can be attributed to youth and Coors Field. Away from Coors, opposing hitters are only batting .220/.316/.341 against him. Gray’s .250/.372/.462 slash against with RISP is that big elephant in the room.
The thing about it is that the Phillies probably aren’t going to put a lot of runners on base, so they shouldn’t have many opportunities to score runs. Only the Padres have a lower OBP against right-handed pitchers than the Phils. Only the Royals and Diamondbacks draw fewer walks against RHP than the Phillies. When a starter can negate his biggest weakness, he should be in line for a good performance.
On the other side, you’ve got Jake Thompson, whose MLB debut did not go as planned. Thompson allowed six runs on seven hits in 4.1 innings of work. In 21 starts at the Triple-A level, Thompson owned a 2.50 ERA with a 3.76 FIP this season. In the Phillies organization, and in the top levels of the minors overall, Thompson hasn’t missed enough bats for me. Unless you have superior command, you need a margin for error. Thompson, as of now, doesn’t have one. He’ll have some days when balls are hit right at guys, but his statistical profile suggests some struggles to me. The Phillies have the luxury of time with the 22-year-old, so we’ll have to monitor him moving forward.
As far as I’m concerned, the only way to play this game is to lay the price on the Rockies. We’ll see which way this line moves, but Colorado is the better side.
Houston at Toronto (-120); Total: 9
One of the more fascinating trades at the deadline was the one that sent Francisco Liriano to Toronto. He’ll make his second start with the Bluebirds on Friday when the Houston Astros come to town. The Astros let out some frustration against the Twins on Thursday with a doubleheader sweep and a ton of offense. Joe Musgrove will head to the hill for the road team.
It’s so hard to bet on or against Liriano. Moving back to the American League won’t do much to help his walk rate, but he does get a fresh start and the opportunity to face some teams that might not be as patient with him. Liriano was solid in his first start, holding Kansas City to two earned over six innings. The thing about Kansas City is that they don’t walk, so it’s not a good barometer of future AL performance. The Astros do walk and they are in the top 10 in BB% against LHP. That makes this a much trickier start for the southpaw.
The waves of arms coming out of the Houston system is kind of crazy. This one is Joe Musgrove, who was actually drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays. Musgrove was sent to Houston in the massive deal that netted David Carpenter and JA Happ way back in 2012. Four years later, he’ll make his Rogers Centre debut. Musgrove has superb control with a 6-foot-5, 265 lbs. frame, so he’s a very interesting at bat. He’s posted some decent K rates at various stops throughout his development path, but he rarely stayed in one place long enough to get a sample size.
The one worry I have about Musgrove is that Rogers Centre can be a launching pad. Guys that throw a ton of strikes tend to give up some dingers. He seems like a wealthier man’s Josh Tomlin. Against a team like Toronto, that’s not a great mix. He has a fairly deep arsenal, so there’s hope that he can keep this aggressive Toronto team off-stride. I’d actually lean towards Houston here. It’s a tough bet to make because the Astros bullpen has had some struggles, but they may be worth backing here tonight.
Chicago (AL) at Miami (-140); Total: 8
The learning curve continues in Year 2 for Carlos Rodon. Rodon has allowed a 4.49 ERA with a 4.36 FIP and a 4.02 xFIP on the season so far. He’s actually increased his strikeout rate while lowering his walk rate, but command has been an issue for the 23-year-old. Rodon goes to a place now that does a pretty good job of suppressing everybody other than Giancarlo Stanton. The Marlins counter with Andrew Cashner, who has been pretty awful since his acquisition from the San Diego Padres.
There’s a lot to like about this season for Carlos Rodon, even though his ERA and FIP are both up this year. He’s becoming a more effective pitcher and strike-thrower. If you slapped an xBABIP calculator on Rodon, my best guess is that his .348 BABIP against would be more around .295 or .300. His batted ball distribution isn’t out of whack by any means, as he has allowed a 20.4 percent line drive rate and has actually forced more opposite field contact. He’s getting unlucky it would appear. Will that even out before the end of the season? Probably not, as the White Sox suck defensively. I’m going to consider Rodon a sleeper for next season, though.
Andrew Cashner has a 6.35 ERA with a 4.72 FIP and a 4.32 xFIP in his first 11.1 innings with the Marlins. It’s basically a continuation of his performance with the Padres. The surprising thing for me is that Miami’s vastly-superior defense hasn’t helped him out very much and he’s had a myriad of problems pitching from the stretch. Cashner has only stranded 49.2 percent of runners with the Fish.
This is why sample size matters. Cashner gave up one earned run on four hits in his debut start on July 31. He gave up seven runs on eight hits in five innings in Colorado his last time out. This is why looking at basic numbers isn’t good enough. You have to dig deeper. Notice how I misled you a little bit in the last paragraph? This is why. You have to go that extra inch, that extra foot, that extra mile to find out the information that you need to find out.
Colorado has wrecked far better pitchers than Cashner. Now that he’s back in South Beach, we should expect a much better outing. Is it enough to lay the -140? I would think so. The White Sox are 9-18 in their last 27 games. Between Chris Sale’s temper tantrums, a team with no playoff prospects and probably a lame-duck manager, the White Sox are a fade team. They’ve been blown out several times in that stretch.
I’d also look at the under because I think this is a decent matchup for Rodon.
Tampa Bay (-115) at New York (AL); Total: 8.5
Chris Archer is a short favorite at Yankee Stadium against CC Sabathia and the Bronx Bombers, who won’t quit. This game features a lot of interesting distractions and storylines. Alex Rodriguez’s New York Yankees tenure will come to a close and that’s been a bit of a disruption in the clubhouse throughout the week.
The Yankees deserve a lot of credit right now. They restocked the farm system and they’re still hanging around in the playoff hunt, 3.5 games out in the wild card chase. That’s the best-case scenario for this team. Will they be able to get in the win column in this one?
It’s tough to say. It’s hard to know which Chris Archer will show up for the Rays. Archer has a 3.18 ERA with a 3.18 FIP and a 3.13 xFIP over his last seven starts covering 45.1 innings. It’s not a big sample size, but it’s a big step in the right direction for Archer. He’s got a 47.7 percent ground ball rate and 51 K in those innings. His ground ball rate is consistent with the last three seasons, but some BABIP fluctuations and a big spike in homers allowed have really hurt him this season. He has a 4.26 ERA with a 3.95 FIP and a 3.45 xFIP. The Rays are only 7-17 in Archer’s 24 starts, so bettors have done well fading the Rays on his day.
Remember when everybody went wild with narratives about CC Sabathia being back?! Yeah… The hefty lefty now has a 4.18 ERA with a 4.42 FIP and a 4.78 xFIP. His HR/FB% regressed and so did his performance. It’s now 10.2 percent. It was sitting in the four percent range a couple months ago. His K rate has gone down, his BB rate is up yet again, and those dingers. Those are a lot to overlook. The Rays, for all of their problems this season, are still a solid offense against lefties. They have been falling like a rock down the wOBA chart, but they still have a 105 wRC+. That being said, they did lose Brandon Guyer, who hits lefties very well.
Since June 22, Sabathia has a 6.62 ERA with a 5.81 FIP and a 5.08 xFIP in 53 innings covering nine starts. Is the over the way to look here? It very well could be. Trusting Archer is tough to do right now, even if the Yankees lost some offensive pieces. Trusting Sabathia is impossible. Perhaps the first five over is a good way to go, since these are two solid bullpens.
Kansas City at Minnesota (-115); Total: 8.5
One more game in the write-up here. Tune in for today’s BangTheBook Radio for NFL analysis with Cole Ryan and baseball thoughts on Cincinnati vs. Milwaukee, Seattle vs. Oakland, Baltimore vs. San Francisco, and some thoughts on the weekend.
The Royals send Yordano Ventura to the hill against Kyle Gibson. Ventura has been a punching bag for me this season because he starts brawls by throwing at guys and hasn’t pitched well. The Royals are a classic case of regression, in that everybody that has had a career year over the last two seasons has been really pedestrian this year and bullpen overuse has taken away both Greg Holland and Wade Davis.
Anyway, Ventura sports a 4.64 ERA with a 4.81 FIP and a 4.71 xFIP. Is this a scenario where some biases come into play? Ventura’s been bad as a whole, but he has a 3.26 ERA with a 4.19 FIP and a 4.09 xFIP over his last six starts. Players go through peaks and valleys during the season. You tend to give the benefit of the doubt to those with track records. Is this the anomaly for Ventura or has he found something?
Considering his K/BB rates are the same as they have been, I’m going to say that this is just variance. He has a .252 BABIP against and a 79.7 percent LOB% in this six-start span. That seems ripe for regression. One thing I do like is that his GB% is 54 percent in that span, so perhaps he is keeping the ball down a little bit more, but a low K rate with a high GB rate is not conducive to carrying a .252 BABIP against or a 79.7 percent LOB%.
There aren’t a lot of people running to back Kyle Gibson either. Gibson has a 4.86 ERA with a 4.63 FIP and a 4.32 xFIP. He has similar peripherals to Ventura, minus the track record. These pitch-to-contact types are hard to handicap on a daily basis because batted ball variance is always going to be a thing. Gibson is a guy with a GB% north of 50 percent on a regular basis. But, the Twins are a bad fielding team. They are 28th in defensive runs saved with -46 and they have poor UZR metrics.
The way you look at this game, in my mind, is the over. You might get burned if balls get hit at guys, but there are going to be a lot of balls in play. The Twins have been a decent offense for a while now. The Royals have had their issues throughout the season, but Gibson isn’t going to overpower them. I’d actually look at Twins team total over as the best play. The Royals are in a major tailspin right now after playing a lot of baseball the last two years and I think they’re a good fade team the rest of the way.