We’ve got 10 games to consider to kick off another work week here on Monday. Days off are really precious for teams at this point of the season, so it’s possible that we could start to see a bounce from teams coming out of an off day, so we’ll have to see if that comes through on Tuesday for certain teams. It’s an interesting time of year for really bad teams because they don’t have too much to be excited about. Sometimes September call-ups can spark something, but the dog days of August for teams outside the playoff hunt generally mean bad baseball.
Before we look at Monday’s slate of action, let’s see how Sunday went for us. The Twins got blasted with Hector Santiago on the bump, so, yeah. That guy literally is my kryptonite. The Mariners were our only winner of the day, as the Tigers got another gem from Michael Fulmer. Those that backed the Rangers got some line value, as the home team closed as high as -140, but it was all for naught. The Rangers are 19 games over .500 with a negative run differential.
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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.
Boston at Cleveland (-110); Total: 9.5
This is a very interesting handicap. The Indians have struggled with lefties this season and they draw Drew Pomeranz in this makeup game from an April postponement. Josh Tomlin has really struggled over his last few starts and the Red Sox are a tremendous offensive ballclub. On the other hand, this is a standalone trip to Cleveland for the Red Sox, who pick up a three-game set in Baltimore on Tuesday. Situationally, this is a horrible spot for Boston. From a pitching matchup standpoint, this is a terrible spot for Cleveland.
You’ll have to decide which angle you like more. Both teams should be fully invested in this one, as the Indians try to hold off the Tigers and the Red Sox try to navigate the three-headed monster in the AL East. Ultimately, this may be a stay away game. But, there are a lot of layers to sort through and that makes for a fun handicap.
Kansas City at Detroit (-140); Total: 9
Ian Kennedy’s ERA is under 4.00 for the first time in a while as he takes the mound at Comerica Park for this AL Central showdown between two teams going in very different directions. The Tigers just snagged a big series win in Texas and the Royals are well outside the playoff picture. Kennedy has a 3.91 ERA, but a 5.00 FIP and a 4.52 xFIP because he’s given up 27 home runs in 133.2 innings of work. He gave up 31 in 168.2 last season. The odd thing about Kennedy is that he also has 134 strikeouts, so he’s racked up better than a strikeout per inning.
One thing that will be interesting about the Royals the rest of the season is that they can play spoiler. It’s a role that they haven’t been in for quite a while, so it’s fair to wonder how exciting that is for them. When you go from the top of the bottom to riding an avalanche down to the bottom, what happens when you look up at the top? That’s the philosophical question with Kansas City.
On the Detroit side, Daniel Norris takes the hill. The fact that the Tigers are actually in this race with their starting staff is surprising, but Matt Boyd was terrific the other day, Michael Fulmer keeps staving off regression, and Justin Verlander has been solid. At the MLB level, Norris has a 4.00/4.03/4.18 pitcher slash in just 18 innings. He’s spent the majority of his season at Triple-A, where sequencing luck and variance have led to a 4.54 ERA, but he has a 2.55 FIP.
The Tigers should win this game. The Tigers should win this series. With a -140 price tag, though, it’s fair to wonder whether or not Detroit is a worthwhile bet. It seems like a steep price to pay, but the betting market may bring the number down a bit if you like the dog.
Miami (-130) at Cincinnati; Total: 8.5
This is another tough handicap. The Marlins just found out that they’ll be without Giancarlo Stanton for the playoff push and that’s a really big pill to swallow. It would help morale if an ace like Jose Fernandez was on the hill, but it’s actually swingman David Phelps. Phelps has given up one run in 9.1 innings as a starter this year, but he’s getting some betting love here against the Reds.
Brandon Finnegan is an interesting guy to handicap. His K/BB rates are terrible, but he’s held the opposition to a .250 BABIP. Of course, he’s also given up 24 HR in 129.1 innings of work, so that will allow a BABIP to stay a little bit lower than usual. He has a 4.45 ERA with a 5.69 FIP and a 5.15 xFIP. So, in that regard, it’s pretty easy to see why money is hitting the marketplace on the road chalk.
I like Finnegan and I think there’s some potential there. On the other hand, the Marlins have some guys that swing it pretty well with a platoon advantage against lefties, even with Stanton out of the lineup. The Marlins have a bullpen advantage in this spot and probably have a starting pitcher advantage as well. The Reds bullpen has been quite good since the start of June, which is important because Finnegan isn’t the most efficient starter.
Like I talked about yesterday, my goal in handicapping a game is to try and take as much variance out of it as possible. This game simply has too much variance for me. Phelps may blow up. Finnegan may get some BABIP luck and pitch well. You can say that about a lot of games, but this one just doesn’t have the right feel.
Oakland at Texas (-175); Total: 10
Here’s a case where a line has gotten out of control. As I mentioned yesterday, a lot of people bet numbers and not teams. That’s fine. I get it. It’s a worthwhile philosophy because you want to maximize your investment potential and that requires a good line. For me, though, I can’t get over the mental hurdle of taking a good number in what I think is a bad spot. I need to like the team I’m backing, at least enough to take that line value.
Here’s an interesting situation. You’ve got Martin Perez, who, in my mind, is one of the worst starters in the American League. You’ve got Ross Detwiler going for the A’s, who was Triple-A fodder and a possible LOOGY (Lefty One-Out GuY) for the Indians coming into the season. This line has ballooned as much as 20 cents at some shops.
Detwiler made his first start of the season on August 10 and threw eight shutout against Baltimore, much to the surprise of everybody. He scattered six hits in that start, but only struck out two. Perez has a 4.22 ERA with a 4.62 FIP and a 4.85 xFIP. He’s got one of the lowest K% among qualified starters in all of baseball and he’s been extremely fortunate to post a .284 BABIP against with a 53.8 percent GB%.
I’ve talked at length about the Rangers this season because they are a major statistical anomaly. They are 69-50 with a negative run differential. They are 10 games better than their Pythagorean Win-Loss record. They are +11 wins by BaseRuns, the most in baseball, with a projected run differential of -13. I don’t know if that regression is ever going to come. They upgraded their two biggest areas of need at the Trade Deadline.
I realize it’s difficult to bet Oakland in this spot. I realize I’m not practicing what I preach by betting Oakland because I’m not really a huge fan. But I’m not laying -175 in any Martin Perez start against any team. Perez has a 6.31 ERA in his last seven starts with a .299/.357/.437 slash against. It’s a small sample size with an arbitrary starting point, but who is laying that kind of price with him? If this game loses, whatever, but I’m seeing line value on Oakland.
New York (NL) at Arizona (-115); Total: 9
The market is all over the map for this matchup between the Mets and the Diamondbacks. The unfortunate thing here is that I have low opinions of both of these teams right now. The Mets are kind of a mess with some injuries, an awful outfield defense, and a manager that could be on his way out the door. The Diamondbacks are just a dysfunctional trainwreck year in and year out. So, it’s hard for me to get over my biases and look at this one game in a vacuum.
But, that’s what we have to do and that’s why I like Arizona. I’ve been looking for regression from Bartolo Colon here in the second half. He has a 3.35 ERA with a 3.99 FIP and a 4.07 xFIP. He has a 78.3 percent LOB%, his lowest since 2013, and a .289 BABIP against, his lowest since 2012. His second halves have been poor, as I’ve discussed before. Arizona does not seem like a good park for trends like those. Of course, the Diamondbacks aren’t a great offensive club against righties, so we’ll have to see what happens here.
Robbie Ray gets another crack at the Mets here. He has a 4.57 ERA with a 3.67 FIP and a 3.39 xFIP. Ray’s been the National League’s Michael Pineda, with a brilliant K rate and very little command. It is worth pointing out that Ray has only allowed 13 HR in his last 18 starts, so the HR rate is a little bit misleading because he gave up four in one start in late April. The Mets have had issues with left-handed starters throughout the season and this is the first game of a road trip, with an unconventional start time in Arizona. Situationally, this doesn’t seem like a great spot for the Mets.
I like Arizona here. Not as much as I originally thought I would, since oddsmakers threw up a really tough number on this game, but the Diamondbacks would seem to have a little bit of value.
Seattle (-130) at Los Angeles (AL); Total: 8
The Angels come home off of a winless road trip and draw the surging the Seattle Mariners in AL West action. Felix Hernandez goes for the road chalk and Ricky Nolasco takes the ball for the home dog. You already know this if you’ve been paying attention, but Hernandez is not the starter that he has been in the past. He’s a shell of his former self. His 3.39 ERA is the byproduct of some fortunate sequencing and his 4.47 FIP and 4.28 xFIP are really concerning.
Felix still has good breaking stuff, but the loss of fastball velocity has really taken a toll on his peripherals. Hitters are drawing more walks than ever and making more contact than ever. The saving grace for Felix here is that he’s taking on a really horrible Angels team. Frustration has set in and the Angels just got done playing really bad baseball all weekend in Cleveland. Still, Felix isn’t the type of guy that you want to lay big numbers with. Expect this one to climb anyway.
Ricky Nolasco isn’t very good and neither is his team. Nolasco has a 5.14/4.36/4.47 pitcher slash. There’s a chance that things improve at Angel Stadium because home runs were his biggest issue with Minnesota, but he’s a replacement-level starter at best. Granted, that’s an upgrade to what the Angels have had most of the season, but he’s still not a guy worthy of your investment.
I don’t like anything about this game, so it’s a complete pass for me. It’s not a great day for games, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.