It’s an interesting day on the diamond with 11 games and some manageable betting lines. Two of the games are early and one of them is one of the best situational spots we will find all season. Nine of the games are late and feature some interesting pitching matchups. We’ve seen some interesting things over the last few days around the league, so it’s definitely that time of year where you want to seriously consider every possible angle to make the most informed wager possible. We’ll look at all of them for select games here in today’s picks and analysis piece.
But, first, a glance back to yesterday. It was a profitable day for us. The over hit in St. Louis vs. Houston and we also scored a winner with the Pirates, who actually added some line value throughout the early parts of Wednesday. The Orioles lost badly, though we were on the right side of the line move. The Miami vs. Cincinnati game wasn’t a strong play from BangTheBook Radio, but the Diamondbacks were and they hammered the Mets to win as a short home favorite.
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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 Detroit (-120); Total: 9.5
I wish I could have this out to you earlier, but if you read yesterday’s piece, you know about this spot for the Red Sox. This is their fourth game in less than 100 hours in a third different city. Oh, and there’s this: https://twitter.com/travis_shaw21/status/766147529327116288
The timestamp on that tweet is 1:39 a.m. ET. At best, the flight is an hour and a half. If the Red Sox were forced to fly into Detroit’s main airport, they had a 30-minute ride to the team hotel. If they flew into a smaller, private airport, who knows. But, we’re looking at a team that likely didn’t get situated until after 4 a.m. and guys have pregame routines, so many of them were at the ballpark by 9 a.m.
The Tigers just got swept by the Royals to fall six games behind the Indians. It’s crunch time for them. Obviously there are worries with the Tigers offense with Nick Castellanos out and Miguel Cabrera banged up, but this is one of the best situational spots we’re going to get with this random Thursday day game.
Houston at Baltimore (-125); Total: 8.5
I certainly understand the line move here on this game. The Houston Astros were blasted again yesterday and have been playing very poorly of late. The Orioles are a quality team, even though they’ve had their issues recently as well. Joe Musgrove takes the hill against Kevin Gausman here in this one.
Baltimore’s clearly the better team to back, given the situations for both of these teams, but it’s the total that I’m looking at here. I love under 8.5. Joe Musgrove gave up just 24 HR in 337.1 minor league innings. He had a 320/41 K/BB ratio. He walked 1.1 batters per nine innings at the minor league level. I realize that he didn’t work a ton at Double-A or Triple-A, but we’re talking about an elite level of control and plus command. He’s not going to hurt himself with walks and he throws quality strikes. There’s a lot of upside in Musgrove.
Kevin Gausman has those weird platoon splits that we’ve discussed in the past. He has reverse platoon splits, where righties own him and lefties can’t hit him. He has a 4.04 ERA with a 4.35 FIP (home run rate) and a 3.83 xFIP. He’s struck out over a batter per inning in his 120.1 innings of work and doesn’t issue many walks. Gausman does give up his home runs in bunches. He’s allowed three in a start on three separate occasions this season, so that could blow up this under play in a hurry.
But, I like the strike-throwing abilities of both of these starters and I think we get a little bit of a sleepy effort from both teams. The Orioles played last night against a division rival. The Astros know this thing is slipping away from them. I think we see a low-scoring affair with two promising young arms.
Minnesota at Kansas City (-110); Total: 9
Sometimes oddsmakers will tell you what you need to know. They’re telling me a lot here. The Royals just swept the Tigers. I was hoping for some recency bias in this line. There isn’t any. The Twins are coming off of a blowout win over the Braves, who are terrible, so that wouldn’t change perception at all. The books aren’t impressed by the Royals and neither am I. It may be something as simple as Dillon Gee pitching for the Royals, but this is a Twins bet all the way.
From a situational perspective, I’m sort of looking at this game from a wagering angle. The Royals just swept the Tigers, in a series where they could directly dictate the AL Central race. The competitive spirit comes out a little bit in situations like that. When you play another losing team, there’s not nearly as much incentive to come to the ballpark and perform. It’s not like the Royals have a lot of young guys looking to make a name for themselves. They have a collection of guys that have played a ton of baseball over the last four years and many of them have regressed dramatically.
The Twins are playing really well and have been one of the best offensive teams since the All-Star Break. They were unsustainably bad early in the year. Starts like that will cause a lot of perception bias and I don’t know if the Twins have ever dug out of that hole that they created early in the season. I’ve talked about this before, but I do like Tyler Duffey and think there’s some upside there with him.
It’s a lot easier to start off bad and realize that your season is over than it is to have high aspirations, play okay for a while, and then fall off the map. The Twins are the former. The Royals are the latter. I feel like Minnesota is a great situational play here and I also think they have a starting pitcher advantage. We’ll see if it comes through, but I really like the Twins tonight.
Seattle at Los Angeles (AL) (-105); Total: 8
The wrong team is favored in Anaheim tonight, not that the Angels are a big favorite. I’d have this number closer to Seattle -115. Of course, I’m not an oddsmaker, so… But, I don’t think people are paying attention to how much Matt Shoemaker has struggled lately. The advanced metrics are still good. He has a 3.47 FIP and a 3.97 xFIP to go with his 4.22 ERA. Things really turned for Shoemaker over a five-start stretch. From May 21 to June 11, Shoemaker gave up eight runs in 38 innings with 48 strikeouts and one walk. Since July 3, however, Shoemaker has a 4.38 ERA with a 3.57 FIP and a 4.64 xFIP. The low FIP is because he’s only allowed four HR and nine walks, but he’s struck out 36 in 51.1 innings, so he’s allowed a lot more balls in play. The Angels are not a good defensive team, even though they have two great defenders in Mike Trout and Andrelton Simmons.
Shoemaker has allowed 58 hits over those last eight starts. To be fair, only two of those eight starts have been at the friendly confines of Angel Stadium, but Shoemaker has regressed back into an average pitcher. That’s what Hisashi Iwakuma has been this season. Kuma’s strikeout rate has dropped in a big way and he’s not inducing ground balls at the same rate, but he’s making it work. Since June 28, Iwakuma has a 2.78 ERA with a 3.14 FIP and a 4.32 xFIP. His home run issues from early in the season are gone and he’s done a better job of getting out of jams.
There’s some regression in there for Kuma, particularly from a LOB% and a HR/FB% standpoint, but the Angels are a terrible team right now and Angel Stadium suppresses power. This has been a weird series with some really interesting late-inning drama, but the better feelings are on the Mariners side and the Angels aren’t going to relish in the role of spoiler.
I’d look at Seattle here tonight.
Arizona (-115) at San Diego; Total: 8.5
Archie Bradley and Paul Clemens are the listed hurlers for tonight’s NL West battle. As I talked about yesterday on BangTheBook Radio, I’ve reevaluated my stance on the Diamondbacks, but they’re playing well now and they’ve gotten some really favorable matchups. Based on the line movement, tonight is the same way.
The 24-year-old Bradley hasn’t developed as the Diamondbacks had hoped and I do have worries about Arizona’s long-term prospects for success because they clearly can’t develop pitching. Bradley has a 4.91 ERA with a 4.70 FIP and a 4.36 xFIP in his 95.1 innings of work this season. Bradley has not been efficient at all, with a decent strikeout rate, but an obscenely high walk rate. To make matters worse, he’s given up 14 HR in 95.1 innings.
But, he throws right-handed, and that’s an automatic neutralizer for the Padres lineup. They’ve been awful against righties all year long and it doesn’t seem like that will change anytime soon. It’s probably just coincidental based on the sample size, but Bradley’s been much better away from Chase Field. He’s been killed by lefties to the tune of a .318/.419/.573, but righties are only batting .206/.278/.350. A big reason why San Diego is bad against righties is because they’ve only had a platoon advantage in 48 percent of plate appearances. League average is 53 percent in the NL. So, there are a lot of righty/righty matchups on the season ledger for San Diego.
On the other side, the Diamondbacks are not great against righties because they’ve had a platoon advantage in 41 percent of their plate appearances. Paul Clemens is a different kind of righty, though. He’s a bad one. In 130.1 career MLB innings, Clemens has a 5.32 ERA with a 6.22 FIP and a 5.22 xFIP. Among pitchers with at least 130 innings since 2013, Clemens’s -2.1 fWAR (Fangraphs wins above replacement player) makes him the least-valuable pitcher in that span. By 0.4 fWAR!
That’s why we see Arizona money here. It makes sense and I do understand the move. I’m not saying I’d play Arizona at this point but there’s no price that would force me to play San Diego.
Tune in for today’s BangTheBook Radio, as host Adam Burke talks about some teams to follow and some teams to fade over the next few days and weeks.