MLB Picks & Analysis July 17, 2017
Last Updated: 2017-07-17
An extremely busy Monday with 13 games comes your way on July 17. Coming out of the All-Star Break, it isn’t a big surprise to see a loaded card on what is traditionally an off day for at least a handful of teams. We have a lot of pitchers on the mound today that haven’t pitched in upwards of 10-14 days, so that could make things a little bit difficult. We’ll try to sort through all of it in today’s picks and analysis piece.
Don’t forget about a new edition of The Bettor’s Box and the Monday Mailbag today at BangTheBook.com!
Here are the picks and analyses for July 17, 2017:
Texas at Baltimore (-110); Total: 11
The Baltimore Orioles paid homage to Tom Petty over the weekend by free fallin’ down the AL East standings. A sweep at the hands of the Chicago Cubs set the phone lines in motion, as the Orioles look poised to sell whatever they can prior to the Trade Deadline. The Cubs scored 27 runs in the series, as Baltimore’s pitching woes continued.
Clearly, judging by the total for this one, things aren’t expected to get a whole lot better with Chris Tillman on the hill. But, a large part of that total is Texas starter Andrew Cashner, who has been doing a great job playing hide-and-seek with the Regression Monster this season.
Let’s start with Cashner, who has a 3.54 ERA with a 4.52 FIP and a 5.34 xFIP. Cashner has 40 strikeouts and 36 walks in his 81.1 innings of work. He’s only allowed six home runs, which is the primary reason why he’s been able to keep his ERA at a reasonable level. He’s also been pretty lucky to have a .282 BABIP and a 74.8 percent LOB%. Both are above his career marks. In today’s MLB, not allowing home runs allows a pitcher to have success. I don’t think Cashner will be able to sustain this pace, and the projection systems have him with some ugly numbers the rest of the season. I just don’t know when regression will hit. Betting on it start after start after start has gotten pretty old since it hasn’t shown up.
Like the rest of the Orioles starters, Chris Tillman has been bad. Tillman has a 7.90 ERA with a 6.24 FIP and a 5.62 xFIP in 49 innings across 11 starts. Tillman has no command right now. As a guy trending a bit to the fly ball side, he still has a .393 BABIP against. He’s also allowed 11 home runs already. Tillman has a 36/26 K/BB ratio and has allowed 79 hits. This is one of the ugliest stat lines in the league. Lefties have a .440 wOBA in 114 plate appearances and righties have a .410 wOBA in 133 PA, so everybody is getting good hacks in against Tillman.
Backing Andrew Cashner is terrifying, but this is an Orioles team in shambles. The starting pitchers have buried the team early and often and have neutralized the team’s one strength, the bullpen. I’d rather light money on fire, but the Rangers look like the play today, even with Cashner.
Milwaukee at Pittsburgh (-120); Total: 9
Brent Suter and Chad Kuhl square off on Monday night as the Brewers and Pirates open up an NL Central showdown at PNC Park. The Brewers just keep finding pitchers. Suter stepped into the rotation when injuries made it necessary to make some moves. Suter has a 2.96 ERA with a 2.78 FIP and a 4.06 xFIP across three starts and seven relief appearances. His spot start on June 13 was serviceable, but his two starts in the rotation have been great with just three runs allowed on nine hits in 12.1 innings of work with a 13/2 K/BB ratio. He faced the Orioles and Yankees in those outings.
Suter is a pretty uncomfortable at bat. The left-hander only slings it up there in the 85-86 range with heavy usage of his fastball. That fastball clearly has plus command to get by in the mid-80s. He also has a slider and a changeup that he’ll mix in. Pitch classification systems obviously have some issues with his slow velocity in today’s velocity-driven environment, but it all seems to work for Suter.
It’s ironic because Chad Kuhl throws pretty hard, as he runs it up there in the mid-90s. Kuhl doesn’t generate as many swings and misses as you would expect from somebody with premium velocity. He’s got a 4.96 ERA with a 4.23 FIP and a 4.72 xFIP on the season. He hasn’t fared well in the sequencing and luck metrics, with a .325 BABIP against and a 67.9 percent LOB%. His strikeout rate is up a bit, but so is his walk rate. Kuhl has only worked 85.1 innings out of his 18 starts, so he hasn’t been working deep into games. The patient Brewers lineup should be able to get him out early in this one to bring in a Pirates middle relief group that has been pretty mediocre this season.
I know a lot of people are looking for regression from the Brewers and we’re seeing a little bit of that sentiment in the market today, but I think this matchup favors them a bit. The Pirates aren’t anything to write home about against lefties. Milwaukee has shown a pretty solid bullpen and this could be a lower-scoring game given the run environment at PNC Park. I’ll roll with the dog here and wait this price out a little bit in hopes of getting a better number.
Toronto at Boston (-110); Total: 9.5
Marcus Stroman will take the mound in front of a lot of scouts at Fenway Park as the Blue Jays and Red Sox open up an AL East showdown. Stroman is unlikely to be traded, but the Blue Jays, who had a decent run right before the All-Star Break, are now 5.5 out of the wild card and nine out in the division. With a limited number of sellers in the marketplace, teams cannot lie to themselves about their chances for contention. Toronto can point to injuries and bad luck as the reasons for their drop-off, but this is now a lot of ground to make up.
Stroman is having an excellent season with a 3.28 ERA, a 3.87 FIP, and a 3.51 xFIP. Even with a spike in HR/FB%, he’s doing a much better job of getting out of high-leverage situations, which explains the dramatic ERA improvement from last season. Stroman had a 4.37 ERA with similar peripherals last year, but the 12 percent difference in LOB% this year has been the biggest change. He induces a ground ball nearly 61 percent of the time when a ball gets hit into play. It’s hard to give up a lot of damage with that kind of batted ball profile.
That being said, I am looking at Stroman as a bit of a regression candidate. His .315 BABIP is a tick high, but it’s hard for a guy with an average strikeout rate to carry an 80.6 percent LOB%. Stroman’s BABIP against is 100 points higher with the bases empty than with runners in scoring position. His K% is dramatically lower from the stretch. Variance should hit here at some point and it could drive his ERA up rather quickly.
Eduardo Rodriguez makes his return to the big leagues for this outing. Rodriguez has a 3.54 ERA with a 4.06 FIP and a 4.19 xFIP in his 10 starts and one relief appearance in 2017. He hasn’t pitched at the MLB level since June 1. He got shelled by Baltimore and went to the DL with a knee problem. Rodriguez allowed seven of his 24 earned runs in that start and allowed four home runs. Aside from that, he’s been really good for Boston, not just this season, but dating back to last season once he got into a rhythm after a knee injury.
We’ve seen a 20-cent move against Boston for this one. A big reason why we’ve seen money against Boston is because the Red Sox played 16 innings with the Yankees on Saturday and then 18 innings on Sunday with a doubleheader. I am a bit concerned that Rodriguez gave up 11 runs on 19 hits in 13.1 rehab innings, though you can make a case that it was nice for him to be pitching over the All-Star Break, rather than just sitting around.
I’m going to have to stay away with too many variables. I like the Red Sox, but the weekend workload plus the uncertainty of Rodriguez keeps me away. With the signs of regression for Stroman and the team’s season-long struggles, I don’t see Toronto as a team to trust here.
New York (AL) at Minnesota N/A
No line is out at time of writing, but you already know the situation for the Yankees. Thirty-four innings over the last two days and a late-night arrival in Minnesota. Situationally, it’s hard to get any better than this, especially with the Yankees’ bullpen woes of late. We’ll have to see a line, but a lot of signs point to Minnesota, even with their recent bad run.
Tampa Bay at Oakland (-110); Total: 9
The Rays stay out west after completing a series with the Los Angeles Angels and now take on the Athletics. Tampa Bay will send Jake Odorizzi to the bump and Oakland will roll with Daniel Gossett. We saw Oakland’s home field advantage come into play again this past weekend as they swept the Indians, a team that only goes to Oakland once a year. It was surprising to see it happen coming out of the All-Star Break with a well-rested Cleveland bunch, but it was a pretty bad series all around for the Tribe.
It makes sense that the market would look to fade Odorizzi in this instance. The extreme fly ball right-hander has a 4.63 ERA with a 5.68 FIP and a 4.89 xFIP. He’s given up 20 home runs in 83.2 innings of work. He has allowed a home run in 13 straight starts and 15 of his 16 starts this season.
If there’s anything we know about Oakland, it’s that they hit for power. The A’s started their sell-off with some bullpen arms, but the offensive pieces are still in tact, at least for now. With Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson moving cross-country to Washington D.C., the A’s bullpen takes some pretty big steps back. Santiago Casilla hasn’t been great, nor has John Axford. If you want to play Oakland going forward, you probably need to look solely at the first five until the bullpen stabilizes a bit.
It’s tough to look first five with Daniel Gossett, who has a 6.23 ERA with a 5.75 FIP and a 4.14 xFIP. Gossett has a 25.8 percent HR/FB%, as he has allowed eight dingers in just 30.1 innings of work. He’s shown good control, but not a whole lot of command in his first six Major League starts. Given the power potential of both of these clubs, the over is certainly in play. In past years, you’d auto play an under in Oakland. Nowadays, look at us, considering overs in that cavernous ballpark. The times, they are a-changin’.
Cleveland (-125) at San Francisco; Total: 8.5
Just going to go ahead and spoil this for you, but I won’t be playing the Indians The Indians have lost four in a row for the first time in about two years. The Giants are playing better, but Matt Moore is the starting pitcher for this one at AT&T Park. The Indians haven’t been to AT&T Park in six years, so that level of unfamiliarity, plus the loss of Edwin Encarnacion or Carlos Santana to the NL ground rules, are a couple of wagering angles for me in this spot.
This is as good of a park as Josh Tomlin can have to pitch in, but who knows what we’ll get from him. Moore has been at the top of a lot of bad Statcast lists this season and doesn’t have the greatest control, so the Indians could have some success, but I’m not touching this team right now. It’s Giants or nothing for me in this spot.