We’ve got a full slate of action here on Sunday, with 11 early games and four games in the late afternoon/evening hours. There are a lot of lines that fall into the range that we like to focus on, so that means that there are definitely some opportunities out there. As with any Sunday, starters could be out of the lineup to catch a blow, mostly catchers and older players, so that may dictate some line moves closer to first pitch. Keep those things in mind and be ready to strike if the iron is hot.
Before we dig into today’s action, let’s look back what happened yesterday. The Saturday article came in between the overnight line moves, so we got some line value and a winner on the Yankees. Aside from that, there weren’t a whole lot of strong opinions. It wasn’t a great card with some big numbers and some value attempts on underdogs went up in smoke. It’s safe to say that Sunday’s card is much more enticing.
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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.
Baltimore at New York (AL) (-115); Total: 9
It appears that I was wrong about the Yankees…again. Last season, I felt like age would eventually show for New York and they would fall off the pace. That didn’t happen. This year, I thought the best thing for New York to do was to sell because they were clearly the fourth-best team in the four-horse AL East race. All of the sudden, the Yankees are in the thick of things AND they restocked their farm system in the process. Truth be told, this is the best month for Yankees baseball in a very long time as far as I’m concerned.
Can they keep the momentum going here on Sunday? We’re seeing some love in the betting market for the home team with CC Sabathia going up against Kevin Gausman. Right off the bat, this is a game that I want to scratch off of the card because I don’t really like either of these pitchers in this spot. Sabathia’s home run issues have returned and he’s posted a 17.6 HR/FB% over his last 12 starts. He’s got a 6.25 ERA with a 4.97 FIP in that span. Sabathia does have some bright spots, as he’s struck out 26 over his last 19 innings, but I don’t see that as a sustainable development. I’m worried about him against an aggressive Baltimore lineup with a ton of power.
Similarly, I’m worried about Kevin Gausman in this park, much like I was about Dylan Bundy. The one saving grace for Gausman here might be his odd platoon splits. Lefties are only hitting .233/.280/.391 off of him, but he’s given up 23 HR on the year, seven to lefties, and I feel like that does bring the short porch into play. Righties are batting .288/.350/.509, so he doesn’t catch much of a break there.
Runs look like a possibility this afternoon. These are two quality bullpens, so taking the late-game risk out of the equation with a first five play seems reasonable. Or, you can roll the dice on the full game over. I think there’s a good chance that both of them hit, but I like runs early rather than later.
Philadelphia at New York (NL) (-140); Total: 8
I don’t really have thoughts on a side here, but I did want to give you an intro into Mets starter Robert Gsellman. Gsellman worked 3.2 innings in relief in his MLB debut and now gets his first crack as a starter in Jon Niese’s absence. Gsellman was Dan Farnsworth’s 25th-ranked prospect in a relatively weak Mets farm system before the season. He’s a guy with a decent fastball, but there’s not much in the way of secondary offerings, so he’s likely a bullpen guy.
Pedestrian strikeout rates in the minors worry me. He does seem like a ground ball type of guy, so he’s defense-dependent, but he didn’t give up a lot of home runs until he got to Las Vegas and the hitter-happy Pacific Coast League. He’s going to be a below average starter at this level that struggles the second and third time through the lineup. Take that information for what it’s worth.
Tampa Bay at Houston (-115); Total: 8
This has not been a good series for Tampa Bay. Alex Colome gave up back-to-back dongs for a walk-off winner on Friday and Blake Snell struggled mightily on Saturday. It’s up to staff ace Chris Archer to salvage a game in this series. He’ll be opposed by Doug Fister. Immediately, I love the under in this game.
Tampa Bay hasn’t been an offense that strings hits together for a while and they’ve been awful against right-handed hurlers. Fister is one of those guys that just keeps his team in games. He’s had a couple of bad starts lately, but I honestly believe that those two performances give us about half a run of value here because this total should be 7.5 in my mind.
Since the All-Star Break, Chris Archer has been excellent. He’s posted a 62/10 K/BB ratio and he’s cut back on the home run issues that plagued him earlier in the season. Better BABIP fortunes have helped and he’s struck out over 30 percent of batters faced. He’s back to inducing weaker contact and the walks have pretty much stopped. There’s a lot to love about Archer’s second half and he’s made the necessary adjustments.
I’m expecting a very low-scoring affair here in this one.
Pittsburgh (-125) at Milwaukee; Total: 9
It seems like there are a lot of skeptics out there about Ivan Nova. I think this line is at least 15 cents too low for Sunday’s getaway day tilt between the Pirates and Brewers. Nova’s back to inducing ground balls and he’s only issued one walk in his 25.1 innings of work. The Brewers are tied for first in BB% at 10.3 percent, with the Chicago Cubs. And, yet, they are only tied for 10th in OBP. They bat .246 as a team. We know that batting average is volatile, but they strike out a ton, so stringing hits together to score runs has not been a strong suit of this ballclub.
That’s why Nova has such a big advantage here. If he can get guys to hit it into those Pittsburgh shifts and refrain from walking people, he’s going to be a tremendous asset for the Pirates. So far, so good. I think it continues here today.
Chase Anderson hasn’t worked out as I had hoped for the Brewers. He has a 4.99/5.23/4.79 pitcher slash this season and has given up 23 HR in just 119 innings. It’s gotten better for him after the All-Star Break with a 3.82 ERA, but hitters are still posting a .277/.338/.484 slash, so his BA and OBP against are higher than they were in the first half when he had a 5.44 ERA. Sequencing luck has been on his side in the second half, so that’s something that should regress.
It’s a little bit chalky, but it should taste chalkier. Take the Pirates here.
Seattle at Chicago (AL) (-115); Total: 9
The Mariners are one up and one down in this series, so they’ll look to snag the rubber match with Taijuan Walker against Carlos Rodon. As I’ve talked about a few times recently, there’s a perception bias with Seattle that they’re bad against lefties. They’re not. In fact, they’re an above league average offense against southpaws. Carlos Rodon throws left-handed, so the -125 opening number came down a little bit as sharp players hit the Mariners early.
I try to stay away from Taijuan Walker starts. The raw stuff is so good, but the inconsistency is maddening. Walker has a 4.14 ERA with a 4.91 FIP and a 4.17 xFIP. This is a guy that started the season with a 1.80/2.15/2.89 slash over his first five starts and had a 29/3 K/BB ratio. Unfortunately, in his May 6 start, Walker left with a neck problem. He didn’t miss any time, but his mechanics were all out of whack and he now has a 5.23 ERA, a 5.85 FIP, and a 4.68 xFIP in 12 starts since May 11. You can’t really do this, but if you take away his eight shutout innings and 11 strikeouts against the Indians, he has allowed 44 runs, 37 earned, in 55.2 innings with just 45 strikeouts.
I understand the move to go against Rodon and the White Sox, but I just can’t do it with the way that Walker is throwing the ball this season. He’s got way too many potential outcomes to me.
Cleveland (-110) at Texas; Total: 9.5
The fact that Danny Salazar is a road favorite in Texas absolutely astounds me. It’s a sign of how little respect there is for Derek Holland in the investment community. Salazar has been awful over his last three starts and that includes a DL stint for a sore elbow in between. Since that 15-day absence, without a rehab start, Salazar has allowed nine runs on nine hits in just five innings with six walks and just three strikeouts. The velocity is there, but the command is totally non-existent. Another issue with Salazar is that he’s mentally weak. He gets visibly frustrated on the mound when he’s struggling and it tends to snowball out of control. This isn’t a good situation for the Indians, who seem to be giving up ground in the AL Central every day.
Over 15 starts this year, Derek Holland has a 4.92 ERA with a 4.61 FIP and a 5.33 xFIP. There have been three blowouts in this series, so both bullpens are in fine shape for today, which is good, because they’ll be needed. Holland has barely managed five innings per start this year. He hasn’t missed many bats and his walk rate is okay, but he’s failed to pitch out of a lot of big spots. With the bases empty, teams are only batting .217/.291/.342. With men on, those numbers jump to .333/.376/.561 and with men in scoring position, they balloon to .355/.412/.650.
Holland missed two months from June 20 to August 23 and this is his second start back. He was good against the Reds on the road, but that’s not very predictive. I’m avoiding this game for a variety of reasons, but a large part of it is the uncertainty with both guys. Salazar and Holland could both be awful or these two offenses could putter out on a very hot afternoon in Texas.
Kansas City at Boston (-145); Total: 9
The resurgence of Yordano Ventura has been, arguably, the biggest key to the Royals’ race to get back in the race. Ventura has not allowed more than three runs in a start since July 3 and he’s actually picking up some strikeouts here lately. Ventura has 22 K over his last 19.1 innings of work. He’s also only walked four in that span, so he’s throwing the ball with some confidence now. As you would expect, I’m extremely skeptical. Since the All-Star Break, Ventura’s LOB% per start are 77.8, 71.4, 100, 80, 88.9, 90.9, 100, 100. That all adds up to an 89.8 percent LOB% with a .246 BABIP. He has a 2.65 ERA with a 4.35 FIP and a 3.78 xFIP.
In other words, regression is coming. The Royals are a good defensive team, but no team is good enough defensively for a starter to carry that type of LOB%. Ventura’s 1.70 ERA-FIP discrepancy is the sixth-largest in MLB since the All-Star Break. Boston seems like a good place for that regression to hit.
Quietly, Eduardo Rodriguez has turned it around in a big way. Unfortunately, this is his first start since August 16, so there are definitely some worries here for a guy that has shown some inconsistent control and command in his big league appearances. Rodriguez hasn’t allowed more than three runs in a start since he was shelled for nine runs on 11 hits in 2.2 innings by Tampa Bay on June 27. Since July 22, Rodriguez has 38 K in his last 32.1 innings of work. We’ll have to see how sharp he is coming out of the layoff for a hamstring issue. It could throw off his mechanics a little bit as well.
If you need late night action, the chalk is the way to go. If you don’t, it’s okay to pass here. There are no good situational spots coming out of this one for tomorrow.