A full slate of games brings us a lot of wagering options on Wednesday September 7. The grind of the baseball season seems never-ending. Each team plays 162 games and there’s almost never a dull day on the schedule. For those that are still persevering through the 2016 campaign, congratulations. Building up the mental strength to play this thing out as long as it goes is an asset that every handicapper needs to acquire. For those that have recently come back to baseball because of football season, welcome back, but you’re definitely behind the curve. Let’s get you up to speed and keep doing what we’ve been doing as we aim to pick winners this afternoon and evening.
Yesterday’s top totals play was an easy winner between Detroit and Chicago and the White Sox bullpen actually managed not to blow the game. The Cardinals were also a winner for us and they pushed the Pirates even further out of the playoff picture. There was significant line value for us on the Colorado game, but they failed to score runs and lost 3-2. At least we were on the sharp side! The Rangers were also a winner for us. All in all, it was a really good day. Hopefully we can keep it up.
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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 (-110) at Tampa Bay; Total: 7.5
All four day games have reasonable lines, so I’ve picked out two of them to talk about. We’ll start with this one, which has a slight flipped favorite situation between Baltimore and Tampa Bay. It’s pretty clear to see why Baltimore is road chalk here. I really thought Tampa Bay would do a better job of playing spoiler, but they just don’t have that weapon in their arsenal at this point.
All season long, the Rays have looked like a low-level offense against righties and Dylan Bundy is a pretty good one. This will be Bundy’s 11th career MLB start and he’s posted a 3.76 ERA in his 52.2 innings in that role. He has had some walk issues and has given up some home runs, so his 4.92 FIP and 4.43 xFIP are less impressed with his work. I’m not too bothered by those because Bundy is inducing a ton of weak contact aside from the home runs. His line drive rate is 16.2 percent and his pop up rate is 17.7 percent. The occasional solo home run or two-run shot doesn’t bother me much.
Drew Smyly goes for the Rays here today. He’s regressed in a big way this season. After looking like a guy ready to take the next step last year in his 12 starts, he’s hung a 4.94 ERA with a 4.46 FIP and a 4.42 xFIP in 26 starts covering 155 innings this season. Command is completely the issue for him. He’s still missing bats, but when he’s not missing bats, he’s hitting barrels. He’s given up 29 home runs in his 155 innings.
If you’re paying attention, you notice that I just contradicted myself. Smyly’s pop up rate is 15.5 percent and Bundy’s giving up home runs at a higher rate as a starter than Smyly is. Bundy also has the higher walk rate. There are a couple of key differences. The first is that Baltimore’s lineup is far more conducive to a matchup like this. The second is that Bundy’s sample size is such that it may just be variance. Smyly’s sample size has mostly stabilized, so this is more of a trend than a possible anomaly.
Ultimately, I like Baltimore because this is a day game after a night game and Tampa Bay got blown out last night. Coming to the ballpark early in the morning isn’t a great thing when you’re like 25 games out and just want to be with your family. For Baltimore, they’d be checking out of the hotel anyway, so they just go, win a game, and then head home. I don’t know the numbers, but I’d be willing to bet that teams with absolutely nothing to play for are awful in the month of September in day games after night game losses the day prior.
Los Angeles (AL) at Oakland (-115); Total: 9
Nobody wants to touch this game with a 100-foot pole, let alone a 10-foot pole. The Angels will send Alex Meyer to the hill for his first start since being acquired in the Hector Santiago deal. The Athletics are sending out Jharel Cotton for his MLB debut. Cotton was part of the Josh Reddick/Rich Hill deal with the Dodgers.
So, let’s see what we have here. This is Meyer’s second career MLB start. His first came earlier this year and he lasted 2.2 innings with three runs allowed on three hits with three walks and four strikeouts. Meyer was a 2011 first-rounder for the Twins, who haven’t developed a pitcher in about a decade. Meyer has never developed a third pitch, so that good velocity and his plus curveball have never played up enough to be a starter. His future role is in the bullpen, but the Angels might as well see what they have. Across five levels this season, Meyer hasn’t worked more than 17.1 innings at any stop, so I would expect that he’s on a very low pitch count, which means a lot of the Anaheim bullpen for a day game.
Jharel Cotton is an extremely fun arm to talk about. The short and stout right-hander boasts a terrific changeup and a fastball that he can throw for strikes. At just about every level, he’s missed a lot of bats. He’s missed the strike zone a lot, too, but he’s posted great minor league strikeout numbers. You may not know this, but the pitch that hitters swing and miss at the most is the changeup. Cotton’s got a good one. He’s also been able to hold a lot of MiLB hitters to low averages because it’s hard to make solid contact against a changeup and his fastball is good enough to get by.
Money is coming in against Cotton here, which I don’t really get, because I think he’s the better pitcher and has more upside. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s his MLB debut, but Meyer’s not going to work long in this game and there’s a lot more buzz about Cotton and Frankie Montas, another arm acquired in that trade, than there is about a 26-year-old prospect that has basically flamed out as a starter.
I’ll take Oakland here and hope Cotton gives us some good pitching GIFs to swoon over.
St. Louis at Pittsburgh (-125); Total: 8
Pittsburgh’s last stand comes down to rookie Jameson Taillon. After yet another loss on Tuesday night, the Pirates need to salvage this game and then try to take advantage of a weak schedule over the next couple of weeks. The Cardinals will send Mike Leake to the mound for his first start since August 21.
As the season has gone on, Leake has actually improved in a pretty big way. He’s effectively stopped walking people, which helps because he allows a ton of contact. Hits are going to happen with Leake, whose stuff is not overpowering at all. Giving up free baserunners is the way that he gets blasted. Before the DL stint, Leake had walked 12 batters over his last 103.2 innings of work. He had also given up 121 hits, leading to a 4.51 ERA, but a 3.49 FIP and a 3.43 xFIP. Basically, Leake’s biggest problem this season is that he has a .321 BABIP against with men on base and a .323 BABIP against with RISP. With the bases empty, it’s .302. There’s not a whole lot that you can do about batted ball luck. His LOB% over the first six seasons of his career were 72.5, 75.8, 71, 77.7, 75.5, and 74.8. This season, it’s 65.8 percent. Maybe his command could have been better, but it’s largely variance.
Jameson Taillon makes his 15th start of the season here in this outing. He’s posted a 3.25 ERA with a 3.61 FIP and a 3.28 xFIP. If the Pirates lose here and fall out of the race, Taillon may only make one or two more starts. He’s worked 144.2 innings after not pitching at all in 2014 or 2015. I have to think there’s an internal cap that he’s rapidly approaching. I don’t see any injury indicators from a velocity drop or a drop in location, so he’s okay for now.
This is St. Louis’s first matchup with him, so he should be able to at least have success the first couple times through the lineup as they get accustomed to his stuff. If Leake gets some batted ball luck, this could be a low-scoring affair. Both bullpens got some work in last night during a long game. I think the first five under carries some value tonight, but I don’t like a side or a full-game total.
Philadelphia at Miami (-120); Total: 8
The Miami Fade Train continues to be a profitable ride. It was announced yesterday that Giancarlo Stanton’s services would be available as a pinch hitter, which is one of the biggest signs of desperation I’ve ever seen from a team. The Marlins have fallen completely out of the race at this point and it’s best just to let Stanton play the final week and get a little bit of confidence built up for next season. Whatever. Justin Bour is back, but Marcell Ozuna is still hurting. It’s too little, too late for the Fish.
Jeremy Hellickson goes today for the Phillies. The Marlins actually wanted to acquire Hellickson at the deadline, but a deal never came together. Hellickson’s had one of his best seasons with a 3.88 ERA, a 4.20 FIP, and a 3.99 xFIP. He’s actually been a little bit better in the second half, so he’ll be this offseason’s overpaid free agent when he gets 3/39 or something like that.
The guy costing himself money is Andrew Cashner. Cashner has been awful this season and particularly awful with Miami, which is a shame because he really upgraded defensively with the move from San Diego to South Beach. His BABIP is actually 53 points higher with Miami and he’s walking everybody from the Pepsi vendor to the opposing pitcher. Cashner’s certainly earning that 5.57 ERA and 5.11 xFIP.
I’m not sure the Marlins can get out of this tailspin and certainly not with Cashner on the hill. I have a hard time betting on sustained success with the Phillies, but they’re the only way I can go in this game.
Texas (-110) at Seattle; Total: 8.5
I really hate handicapping Texas games. It worked out yesterday because everything will be Opposite Day when it comes to the Rangers. I backed Martin Perez and I felt sick about it. He won in a game with 17 runs scored, seven of them by the team he was facing. Quintessential Rangers this season. Luckiest team since the 2015 Kansas City Royals. And the 2014 Kansas City Royals.
Anyway, these two teams play again tonight with AJ Griffin and Ariel Miranda as the slated starters. Griffin has a 4.41 ERA with a 5.34 FIP and a 5.01 xFIP. He gives up a lot of home runs because he induces a lot of fly balls. He also walks too many guys. You would think that this is a matchup that Seattle could really exploit. They’ve been a top 10 offense in a lot of categories against right-handed pitchers throughout the season. Hopefully they do.
Because I think the Rangers batter Ariel Miranda, too. He has a 5.20/5.90/5.39 pitcher slash in his 27.2 innings of work for the Mariners this season. The Rangers offense is legit. I bag on their pitching and their record in one-run games, but this team can unquestionably hit. Since some adjustments were made to the ballpark, Safeco Field hasn’t been as good of a pitcher’s park as it used to be.
This should be another one where bad pitching meets good offense and explosive things happen.