We’ve got a full slate of Major League Baseball action today, which is good because football becomes the predominant sport once again tomorrow. There are three getaway day games, all out west, and then a bunch of action this evening. The wild card races in both leagues are really heating up, but there aren’t many division races worth watching. Either way, most teams are still playing hard and we’ve got some decisions to make today.
Looking back to yesterday, we finally had a decent day. It feels like a godsend to be on the plus side with all the struggles of September. The Orioles were a loser to open the card, but we got some of it back quickly with the Phillies. The total pushed in Milwaukee and we didn’t get any additional line value on the Rockies, so hopefully you passed. The under hit in both Oakland and Los Angeles. It didn’t hit in Seattle, as Hisashi Iwakuma and the Mariners pen struggled. All in all, it was a small profit and that feels like a huge 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.
Toronto (-115) at Seattle; Total: 8
Oddsmakers got caught with this line. Three years ago, Felix Hernandez is exactly the guy you’d want in this spot. Seattle was priced as a short favorite at open and that flipped in a big way to the Blue Jays and Aaron Sanchez. The worry I do have here is that it’s a getaway day game on the west coast, but the Blue Jays need to be engaged in every single game from this point forward. They have Thursday off before welcoming in New York and Baltimore, so it’s not as bad of a spot as it seems.
Aaron Sanchez has had his innings monitored late in the season, as the Blue Jays have gone to a six-man rotation to take some strain off of his arm. He’s got a shot to cross the 180-inning mark here, so it’s easy to see why the Blue Jays are concerned. He’s had a fantastic season and hasn’t slowed down much in the second half. He has a 3.17 ERA with a 3.59 FIP and a 3.71 xFIP. He actually has a lower slash line against in the second half, but sequencing luck hasn’t been as favorable to him.
The only reason I won’t fire on Toronto today is because Sanchez hasn’t pitched in 10 days. He gave up six runs on five hits and walked four in his 3.2 innings against Boston on September 11. He hadn’t walked four in a game since mid-May. The Blue Jays gave him extra rest and I’m worried about how sharp he’ll be. He should be just fine, I would think, but there’s still some uncertainty there.
Felix Hernandez was shelled last time out against the Astros and it looks like he’s over the proverbial pitching hill at just 30 years of age. He’ll have to reinvent himself over the offseason with the loss in velocity and try to work on his control. It’ll be interesting to see how things go, since he’s still signed for three more years. He hasn’t even been worth one win above replacement player this season by Fangraphs calculations.
The Jays are the right side here, but I’m worried about Sanchez’s sharpness.
New York (AL) (-130) at Tampa Bay; Total: 7
It’s been a valiant effort from the Yankees this season. Anything can happen with a lot of division games left, but they’re behind three teams for the final wild card spot and it’s hard to gain any ground with the head-to-head matchups and the other teams facing stiffs. In this spot, Masahiro Tanaka goes to the mound against Alex Cobb. Tanaka is 6.1 innings away from crossing 200 for the first time and I have to wonder how the arm is feeling. He hasn’t shown any ill effects in performance or velocity, so those are good signs, but they aren’t the only signs.
In any event, Tanaka should be a good bet in this spot. Tropicana Field is a good pitcher’s park and the Rays haven’t done much against righties on the season. Tanaka has been more of a pitch to contact guy, but the thick carpet in the Trop helps infielders out and balls don’t carry particularly well in the outfield. That being said, Alex Cobb is a good bet here as well. He’s throwing the ball very well in his return from a myriad of injuries, including Tommy John, and he has something to prove with every start. Cobb has a 3.06 ERA with a 3.93 FIP and a 3.88 xFIP in just 17.2 innings this season. It’s easy to forget just how effective he was as a starter before everything went downhill with the injuries.
I like both of these guys here. I know this number is a little bit low, but it’s there for a reason and these two squads should stay below that number today.
Pittsburgh (-110) at Milwaukee; Total: 9
Chad Kuhl and Jimmy Nelson in a game that means nothing. Oh, what fun! The Pirates are 4.5 out with a three-way tie for the two spots and the Marlins ahead of them. There was a chance that this young Brewers team would hit the wall, but this scrappy bunch is 11-7 in September and they are 30-34 since the All-Star Break with a +21 run differential. You have to give them a lot of credit for playing this thing out.
Kuhl has a 3.97 ERA with a 4.14 FIP and a 4.54 xFIP on the season. Given his inability to miss bats, which he has shown throughout his MiLB career, I’m a bit surprised at the relative level of success he’s had with marginal stuff and effectively a two-pitch mix. With limited depth to his arsenal, I’d be worried about him facing teams more than once. This is his second start against Milwaukee, so you can make a case that they have an edge. He’s only faced one team twice and that was the Cubs, who hit everybody anyway.
Jimmy Nelson has had a horrible second half. He was useful in the first half, but he lost his command and control around the start of August and has hung a 5.81 ERA with a .293/.391/.472 slash against. Nelson’s lack of control has been his biggest problem all season long because he doesn’t miss enough bats to pitch around it. There’s definitely some worry here in this spot with him because you just don’t know if those walks will come around to score.
Initially, I wanted to lean Brewers, but after digging deeper into Nelson and what the problems are, it’s a hard play to make. If you have to play this, I do like Milwaukee, since the Brewers have some youngsters still playing with some energy.
Arizona (-120) at San Diego; Total: 7.5
There aren’t a whole lot of believers in Zack Greinke out there in the investment community. I’ve gone on record as saying that I don’t see Greinke finishing the season strong. I don’t see him putting in the work to fix this thing. I think he’d rather get to the offseason, step away from the game, and reevaluate everything. I said that about three starts ago and he’s given up 14 runs in his last 16.2 innings with eight walks and 13 strikeouts. I don’t know if it’s the environment in Arizona or what, but it’s not a good situation for him.
He has a 4.42 ERA with a 4.07 FIP and a 3.95 xFIP, so he has been a little bit unlucky on fly balls, but the park factor change has a lot to do with that. He’s not missing nearly as many bats anymore. There’s a lot to worry about with Greinke in his remaining starts and also going into next season.
Luis Perdomo hasn’t been great as a starter or as a reliever, but the Padres are getting some love here. Perdomo has been pretty good since the start of August, with a couple of bad outings here and there based on sequencing luck. He induces a lot of ground balls and somebody they just find holes. That’s why he has a .354 BABIP against. He has a 5.68 ERA but a 3.96 xFIP. There’s a lot of potential regression in there. If it hits over his final three starts, he should be undervalued.
The line value is mostly gone here with the 20-cent move, but there’s really only one side to consider here.