The odds board is looking pretty sad for a lot of people on Tuesday. Not for us, since we’re still grinding away at Major League Baseball, but this is one of the two days of the week without a football game. With baseball being the only game in town today, it’ll get some public attention, so it will be interesting to watch the line moves. There are a lot of close lines today, as no teams were bigger than about a -170 favorite early this morning. We’ll do the best we can to uncover the good values and pick some winners today.
Yesterday’s card featured a lot of weak opinions, so there weren’t a whole lot of definitive plays. There were some big line moves, though, as the Padres moved about 45 cents and the Marlins went from a +120 dog to a -130 favorite. The leans had mixed results overall, but hopefully we have stronger opinions and better results for today’s card. There’s a good chance I’ll shut this column down on August 31 next year. September baseball has been brutal to me once again and it’s best to start cutting losses.
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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 Baltimore (-135); Total: 9
There’s some Orioles money in the marketplace this morning for this Tuesday night matchup with the Red Sox. It’ll be Eduardo Rodriguez on the hill for Boston against Kevin Gausman for Baltimore. Is the movement on this game an overreaction to Rodriguez’s last start? It came in the bright lights of the rivalry between Boston and New York and it wasn’t pretty. E-Rod gave up four runs on eight hits and didn’t strike out a batter before exiting the ballgame.
Prior to that start, Rodriguez had posted a 2.76 ERA with a 3.83 FIP and a 4.48 xFIP over his previous 10 starts. In that span, he only gave up more than three runs in a start one time. His full-season numbers are influenced by the early-season knee injury that kept him from having a legitimate Spring Training and that’s something that a lot of people don’t account for in their handicapping. While I certainly understand the desire to back the safer pitcher in Gausman, Rodriguez should not be defined based on that last start or his bad start to the season.
Gausman is having a terrific year. He’s up over a strikeout per inning in his 160 frames with a 3.43 ERA, a 3.89 FIP, and a 3.70 xFIP. He’s been brilliant at home and just threw eight shutout innings against Boston. I get it. I understand why the market is flooding in on Baltimore. What I don’t get is why managers don’t look at the numbers. Gausman is holding lefties to a .218/.263/.355 slash on the year, but righties are batting .283/.345/.472. That’s a two-year trend, as righties slugged .526 against him last season. He’s had 370 plate appearances against righties and 301 plate appearances against lefties. Teams should be loading up righties, but it’s counter-intuitive in today’s platoon-happy landscape. The Red Sox will have their usual balanced lineup against Gausman, as I don’t expect John Farrell to change anything.
I can also make an argument that Baltimore is and has been overvalued for a while. Since the Orioles went 19-9 in June, they are 35-37 over July, August, and September. They are 31-32 since the All-Star Break with a -17 run differential. I haven’t been able to pick out the right spots to fade Baltimore, but there have been chances. I don’t think this is one of them, as they should hold serve at home.
Chicago (AL) at Philadelphia (-110); Total: 9.5
I think oddsmakers were on the right track with their original line for this game, but the market steamed the White Sox. I don’t get it. The White Sox have good numbers against lefties this season, but Jake Thompson is right-handed. Maybe this has something to do with Thompson’s start at US Cellular Field, but he’s been a much different pitcher since then. He’s allowed seven runs over his last four starts since he had a heart-to-heart with the manager and the pitching coach.
This is James Shields in a good hitter’s park against a Philadelphia lineup that has young kids that are still interested in playing. I really don’t understand this move whatsoever. I guess the idea is simply that the Phillies shouldn’t be a -130 favorite over anybody. Remember that it’s about betting numbers and not teams, which is a concept that I just can’t wrap my head around sometimes.
I’m taking the Phillies here. If I lose to James Shields, that’s just how my September is going.
Atlanta at New York (NL) (-130); Total: 8
I’m sure you have noticed this, because I know I hadn’t, but the Braves are hammering right-handed pitching in the second half. I’ve made the classic mistake of writing off a team. In baseball, everybody wins 60 and loses 60. It’s the other 40 that define a season. The Braves have 59 wins and 91 losses. Even the worst team in baseball wins 37 percent of the time. Well, your Atlanta Braves have won 46 percent of the time in the second half. They are 28-33 and most of their damage has been against right-handed starters. They are 22-23 since the start of August.
This isn’t to say they’ll beat the Mets tonight or that I’ll be backing them a lot down the stretch. This is simply an exercise to remind you that you can never write off a team from a betting standpoint. This is a team that was 31-58 at the All-Star Break with a -107 run differential. Given their enormous underdog numbers in the second half, they have to be one of the best bets in that split. A 46 percent success rate as a big dog is very profitable. It seems to me like the books have taken notice given this line.
Pittsburgh at Milwaukee (-110); Total: 9
Fade the Pirates worked for a little while, but they’ve rallied to win five of seven, including a doubleheader over the Reds. It’s tough for me to think about Matt Garza as a favorite, but he’s short chalk here against Pittsburgh in this spot. His recent performance is pretty misleading. Garza, technically, has given up three earned runs in his last four starts, but he’s given up 12 runs overall. He’s given up 16 unearned runs in just 91.2 innings on the year. It’s pretty clear that he lacks the ability to pitch out of jams because he cannot miss bats at this stage of his career.
Steven Brault is an interesting matchup for the Brewers. Milwaukee has consistently had one of the best walk rates in the league this season and Brault has walked 47 batters in 99 innings between Triple-A and the big leagues this season. His 9.2 BB% is a major problem at the MLB level because his command is a little bit suspect.
This looks like a game with some runs. Garza isn’t a good matchup against anybody and Brault is a bad matchup against the Brewers. We’ll see how invested both of these teams are in playing, but I feel like the offenses are still going to step into the box ready to hit. With Milwaukee’s trade frenzy and Pittsburgh’s bullpen collapse, we could get some runs late as well.
St. Louis (-130) at Colorado; Total: 12
I’m not going to go in deep detail with this game with some more exciting late ones to discuss, but who wants to lay -130 with Adam Wainwright in Colorado when the Cardinals are facing a lefty? Jorge de la Rosa is having a bad season, but this is one of those that I look at in terms of betting a number more than looking at a big breakdown. This number actually appears to be growing, too. I’d wait it out and take Colorado later.
Houston (-125) at Oakland; Total: 8
Joe Musgrove is a tough guy to figure out. He’s given up nine home runs in his 49.2 innings of work, though his 4.71 ERA and 4.56 FIP are skewed a bit by a bad start in Baltimore, in which he gave up eight runs on 11 hits in just 5.1 innings. Musgrove is a short-priced favorite here on the road at O.co Coliseum, which will be the best park for pitchers he’s seen this season. He did pitch at PNC, so you could make a case for that, but Oakland is really good for pitchers, as we know. The A’s have hit quite a few home runs at home this year, but they have also given up a lot of outs in the air and in foul ground to keep batting averages low.
Sean Manaea’s rookie season has been better than the 4.23 ERA and FIP that he has posted through 21 starts and one relief appearance. He’s battled through some injuries this season, which was also the knock on him through the minors. He’s working on an extra day’s rest here after making his first start since August 29 last Wednesday. He’ll be a little bit limited from a pitch count standpoint, but he has the right type of arsenal for facing Houston. He can miss bats and he’s mostly limited walks since he got comfortable at the MLB level.
These are two guys that can miss some bats. I’m a little bit worried about both bullpens to fire on a full game under, but I could see the offenses getting off to a slow start. Jharel Cotton was very effective against Houston and the Oakland rut for the Athletics offense at home was
San Francisco at Los Angeles (NL) (-145); Total: 7
Rich Hill is seemingly human. Coming off of seven no-hit innings against Miami, Hill gave up four runs on four hits in 5.1 innings to Arizona. Of course, he also struck out eight, so we’ll just chalk that up to variance and move on. Money has been coming in against Hill and the Dodgers for this matchup against the Giants because Johnny Cueto is starting for the other team.
Cueto has been brilliant this season. He has a 2.86 ERA with a 3.05 FIP and a 3.51 xFIP. His ERA is over a run higher in the second half than in the first half, as his home run rate has ballooned a bit, but that’s not a big worry in Los Angeles. He’s still one of the game’s most underrated pitchers and he’s a worthy adversary against Hill here.
I think a lot of people just grab line value against Hill in case he starts warming up and can’t go or starts a game and can’t last long with that blister issue. I definitely understand it here with Cueto. I won’t be doing it. I’d only look at the under here and hope Hill sticks around six or seven innings.
Toronto (-120) at Seattle; Total: 8
This is a pretty good pitching matchup tonight in the Pacific Northwest. JA Happ goes for his 20th win for Toronto against Hisashi Iwakuma, who has been really strong in the second half for the Mariners. It’s really weird to see Happ having a career year in his age-33 season, but that seems to be the case here. He has a 3.27 ERA with some higher peripherals, as his 80.4 percent LOB% has really carried his season. I do think that the LOB% is one of the most surprising stats league-wide this year. He has a .261 BABIP against with men on base and a .225 BABIP against with RISP. To be fair, he does have his best K% and BB% with men on base, so he’s made big pitches when he’s needed to.
Happ has actually gotten better as the season has gone on. His K rate is up big in the second half and he’s pitching better across the board. It’s certainly not what you would expect and it’s not something I would expect to see next season. But, it’s working for this season and that’s impressive.
Once Hisashi Iwakuma fixed his home run problem, he was fine. Kuma had a 4.25 ERA with 18 HR allowed in the first half of the season. He has a 3.27 ERA with eight HR allowed in the second half. To illustrate how big that is, Iwakuma had a three-start stretch in June in which he allowed seven home runs. In the second half, he’s only given up more than three runs on two occasions, once against Chicago and once in Texas. He’s back to inducing a lot of weak contact and he uses the aggressiveness of hitters against themselves. The Toronto lineup should allow him to do that here as well.
I’ll probably have to look at the under here, although I do have a slight lean to the Seattle side as well. If Happ’s LOB% hasn’t regressed by now, it won’t, but I think there’s some more volatility to him than there is to Iwakuma in this situation.