An interesting card is on the docket for Thursday, with 11 games in total, including some daytime baseball for those in need of a distraction from work. At this time of the year, it feels like more homework is needed to research those spot starters and call-ups and it creates a lot more uncertainty in the betting market. We’re seeing a large number of pitchers fall victim to injuries at this stage of the game, so things are really out of whack with several starters that aren’t stretched out or on pitch counts. It’s tough to handicap baseball right now, so plan accordingly with your bankroll.
Looking back at yesterday’s set of outcomes, the Colorado/Milwaukee total dropped a full run down to 8 and pushed the closing total. If you hit under 9 or under 8.5, congratulations. The Yankees and Mariners stayed under for another totals winner there. The Tigers cashed in a ticket for us. We observed most of the night slate, but Rich Hill was excellent for the Dodgers and the Cardinals scored a big win.
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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.
Detroit (-120) at Minnesota; Total: 10
Oddsmakers got caught with their pants down on this line. It opened in the money line pick ‘em range, with some shops slapping a short favorite price on the home team. The market correctly picked off a bad number. There’s probably still a few cents of value on Detroit, even with a significant move. Jose Berrios has really struggled in the big leagues and the Twins are done with their little run. Their offense has cooled off and they’re back to looking like one of the worst teams in the big leagues.
Don’t overthink this one.
Kansas City at Miami (-110); Total: 7.5
I’m a little bit surprised that the oddsmakers haven’t gotten burned with this line yet. Miami should be at least a -120 favorite, but we’ll attribute this to recency bias. The Royals just had their win streak snapped and it was Jose Fernandez that did it. When you lose to Jose Fernandez, everybody just kind of shrugs. The Royals have been playing way over their heads for a while now and it’s time for their fortunes to be reversed.
Dave Cameron at Fangraphs had some of the numbers on Kansas City’s streak yesterday and they weren’t sustainable, as you would expect. Tom Koehler is actually a really solid pitcher at home. Koehler has a 3.36 ERA this season and opposing batters are slashing .227/.319/.357. He’s actually missing a fair amount of bats, too, with 56 K in 61.2 innings of work. The Royals are the worst offense in the AL by runs scored and they’re down a hitter in this National League.
Edinson Volquez has regressed in a big way this season. He has a 5.04 ERA with a 4.40 FIP and a 4.43 xFIP. Injuries and home runs have hurt Volquez. He’s lost some of the top defensive players the Royals have throughout the season and he’s giving up a much higher number of dingers, so that’s why his ERA has shot up.
I don’t get this number at all. Like I said, recency bias has a lot to do with it. It’s time for the Royals to drop off and return to being the afterthought that they should be. The sustainability of this run, with this offense and this starting staff, is non-existent.
Cleveland at Texas (-160); Total: 9
This is the biggest underdog price that the Indians have faced in a long time, but it makes complete sense. Josh Tomlin takes the mound against the Rangers and Cole Hamels goes against the Tribe. Tomlin is dealing with a personal family issue that put him on the family medical emergency list. He’s a native Texan, so maybe he’ll be able to put his mind at ease with some family and friends in attendance, but I firmly believe he’s hurt. Regular readers and BangTheBook Radio listeners know that I’m an Indians fan, so I know of what I speak. Tomlin had some velocity spikes in May when he was throwing the ball well, but it’s mostly been below average since. His impeccable control does lead to some home runs because he throws a lot of strikes, but his command has been non-existent since early July.
Tomlin has worked 141.1 innings this season. He hasn’t worked that many innings at the big league level since 2011. He worked 144 between Triple-A and the big leagues in 2014, but this is definitely a different animal. I believe he’s tired, his arm is tired, and there may be an underlying injury that he’s trying to pitch through.
Cole Hamels has had some home run issues of his own, though they pale in comparison to Tomlin’s struggles. It appears that Hamels may have used the All-Star Break to fix some minor mechanical things. He has a 1.85 ERA with a 2.76 FIP and a 3.44 xFIP in his last seven starts, with 50 K in 48.2 IP. He’s been tremendous.
Sometimes a chalky number is playable. This is a spot like that for me. The Indians should rally and play better in this series than they played in Oakland. Also, there’s the Jonathan Lucroy factor, since he said no to the Indians with regards to his no-trade clause. That may be a rallying cry for some of the team. For me, I see a team playing its 27th game in 28 days coming off of its first trip to the Pacific Time Zone since early June. This one could get ugly.
Pittsburgh (-125) at Milwaukee; Total: 9
Chad Kuhl and Wily Peralta won’t be a matchup that moves the needle for anybody, but these are the ones that I enjoy. It’s fun to look for edges in games like this. We already know about the market perception of Wily Peralta. Peralta actually looked like a new pitcher when he was recalled three starts ago. He had added velocity and threw more strikes. Last start, he ran into Seattle in an AL park and struggled once again. What does this start hold for him?
It’s hard to say, really. He had his best two-seam fastball velocity of the season in that start against the Mariners, so he threw the ball hard, but velocity gains don’t always help a pitcher. For a guy like Peralta, that lacks both control and command, it increases his margin for error, but it also makes his pitches even more difficult to harness. That was also the highest usage of two-seamers of the season. He was basically a two-pitch pitcher, with no four-seam classifications and heavy slider usage.
It feels like Peralta is a guy that is experimenting right now. The Brewers could eventually look at him as a bullpen option, but, for now, he’s able to start and try and work through some of these issues. We know that the Pirates have seen a lot of him over the last few years. It feels like the Brewers told Peralta to just challenge hitters and see what happens. I’m actually more intrigued than I should be. It does create some variance that I cannot account for, so it makes me hesitant to go on or against Peralta.
Chad Kuhl pitches to a lot of contact. He has throughout his minor league career as well, so it’s not a big surprise. That creates a lot of inherent variance as well. Balls are hit at people or they aren’t. Kuhl has some decent velocity and throws a fastball with a bit of sink, but his ground ball rate isn’t where you’d expect it to be at 40.2 percent. A higher GB rate would certainly help the Pirates, who place a lot of emphasis on infield shifts.
The only thing I can lean towards here is the over because there are going to be a ton of balls in play and very few strikeouts. Balls in play are always worrisome and should be conducive to overs, so we’ll see how it plays out.
San Francisco at Los Angeles (NL) (-125); Total: 8.5
The Dodgers keep winning and the Giants keep losing. Since the All-Star Break, the Dodgers have made up 9.5 games on the Giants and their lead increased last night on the strength of six shutout from Rich Hill and a door-slamming performance by the bullpen. Tonight, it’ll be Matt Moore against Ross Stripling. Stripling is making his fourth straight start, although he’s had a week between starts.
Stripling has been pretty effective in a weird, swingman-type role. It can be a hard role, particularly for a young player, but he’s done an admirable job with a 4.04 ERA, a 3.77 FIP, and a 4.11 xFIP. I like his 51.8 percent ground ball rate because the opposition needs to string hits together to score. The Giants seem unable to do that right now and haven’t been for over a month. Even though he has a low strikeout rate, that gives Stripling some upside here in my mind.
Matt Moore’s transition to the Giants hasn’t gone all that smoothly. In four starts, he has a 4.70 ERA with a 4.58 FIP and a 5.28 xFIP. Walks have been the biggest problem for the left-hander. He’s issued 17 free passes in 23 innings. He has cut back on the home run issues that plagued him in Tampa, but he still hasn’t been very effective. He walked 11 in his first two starts and has walked three in each of his last two starts, so maybe he’s getting more comfortable with Buster Posey and the coaching staff has made some adjustments.
There are just too many reasons not to bet the Giants. The line is slowly moving on the underdog, but I’m not buying it. Until the Giants show me that they can get out of this funk, the Dodgers will keep beating them and keep putting distance between the two teams in the division. That includes tonight.