We’ve reached the All-Star break in Major League Baseball for 2019, with every team having played about 90 games or so, and it’s safe to say that we’ve learned a lot up to this point. Sure there have been some surprises, such as the Twins’ incredible start, or defending champion Boston’s inability to find consistency, but for the most part it’s not a stretch to say that the current standings look as one might have expected back in April. That’s not to say that handicapping baseball has been easy, as scoring has been up dramatically, bullpens have been as reliable as the weather, and significant injuries have affected a number of teams in the early going. With all that in mind, it’s time to take a quick look at where we stand as bettors, trying to get a jump start on the second half of the season.
As I review the recent action and look ahead to what’s upcoming in MLB, I thought I’d focus on three key handicapping factors for now:
• Hot & Not Teams
• Starting Pitcher Observations
• Unusual Situational Records for Clubs
HOT & NOT TEAMS
As much as the MLB season is a long one and there are peaks and valleys throughout, most teams typically feel that the period of time in and out of the break is critical for second-half momentum. Here is a look at some teams playing either good or bad baseball at this point:
• Atlanta: The Braves have established themselves as one of, it not the top contender to Los Angeles in the National League by going 24-10 in their L34 games. Atlanta is one of the few teams getting equal contributions from all parts, including starting & relief pitching, hitting, and defense.
• Boston: The defending champion Red Sox went into the ASG break on a 5-1 surge, and had it not been for pitching struggles in the last few weeks, they could be even hotter. Boston has scored 6 runs or more in 13 of its L15 games.
• Cleveland: The Indians have put together a 6-game winning streak currently, having scored 39 runs in their L5 contests. An extended run of 21-7 has the Tribe within 5.5 games of the surprising Twins.
• Pittsburgh: The Pirates’ bats exploded in the last week, as they wrapped up the season’s first half on a 5-2 run in which they scored 54 runs on 87 hits.
• San Francisco: The Giants are also on a hot stretch with their bats, after a lengthy cold spell in the first few months. San Francisco has scored 62 runs in its current 7-2 surge.
• Washington: The Nationals have been winning with pitching, which you will see later in my hot & not starting pitchers section. Washington has won 10 of its L12 games, holding opponents to 2 runs or fewer in eight of those games. Not Teams
• Chicago Cubs: The Cubs have played listless baseball of late, and went into the ASG break on a 6-10 slide. Fortunately the rest of the division has also floundered, leaving the Cubs sitting atop the division by a half game.
• Colorado: The Rockies lost their last six games before the break, scoring just 7 total runs in the L4 contests.
• Detroit: The Tigers are not good, and before the break they were at their worst, losing 17 of their final 20 games. There could be signs of life however, as they scored 37 runs in the final six games before the break.
• Kansas City: The Royals are in a 2-9 swoon right now with little sign of being able to snap out of it. The saving grace could be a series with the aforementioned Tigers this weekend.
• Milwaukee: The Brewers’ starting pitching has hit a rough patch, leading to a 7-13 slide in the 20 games before the break dating back to June 17. Hopefully MVP Christian Yelich’s back issue won’t be a lingering one in the second half or Milwaukee could fall out of the NL Central race.
• New York Mets: The Mets were 3-10 in their final 13 games before the break, and really doing nothing well.
• Seattle: The Mariners’ bats were electric for most of June, but have disappeared in a current cold stretch. They are just 2-8 in their L10 games, having scored just 32 runs in that span.
STARTING PITCHER OBSERVATIONS
Certain pitchers can safely be backed or faded by bettors on a consistent basis. However, others have gotten hot or cold lately. Here is a look at those, as well as some others that I have made some observations about. Naturally the hot list is a lot longer, as many cold pitchers were shuffled out of rotations already.
Hot Starting Pitchers
• Brett Anderson (Oakland): Take away his June 23rd start and Anderson has been on a tear, going 5-1 in his eight other starts since May 20th. In those games, he has gone 50 2/3 innings, allowing just 13 earned runs (1.54 ERA).
• Shane Bieber (Cleveland): Dating back to May 19th, Bieber has started 10 games, allowing two earned runs or fewer in eight of them. In that stretch of 62 2/3 innings, his ERA is 3.16 with 87 K’s!
• Steven Brault (Pittsburgh): After very modest numbers out of the bullpen and as a spot starter in his first three years in Pittsburgh, Brault has come on of late as a rotation starter. His last seven starts have covered 35 1/3 innings, and his ERA is 2.04 in that span. He has also struck out 32 hitters.
• Andrew Cashner (Baltimore): Cashner has become a reliable option for the O’s every five games, and went into the break on a streak of five straight quality starts. In that span, he went 32 innings, allowing just 5 earned runs (1.41 ERA) with a WHIP of 0.72.
• Gerrit Cole (Houston): Cole had bouts of inconsistency early but has been dominant in his last eight starts. In that stretch, he is 5-0 with an ERA of 1.76, a WHIP of 0.94, and 70 K’s in 51 innings.
• Patrick Corbin (Washington): Corbin has allowed just three ER’s in his last four starts covering 28 innings (0.96 ERA).
• Jacob DeGrom (NY Mets): DeGrom won’t be a Cy Young again, but only because the Mets can’t back him up. Only one of his last 12 starts has been below DeGrom level, and he boasts a 2.79 ERA, 1.000 WHIP and 95 K’s in 81 innings during that stretch.
• Michael Fiers (Oakland): Fiers is best known for his no-hitter earlier this season but he has been stellar otherwise. He has not lost any of his last 11 starts, posting an ERA of 2.31 in 70 innings.
• Cole Hamels (Chicago Cubs): Hamels may be turning the clock back once again, with a 1.22 ERA in his L6 starts.
• John Means (Baltimore): If you haven’t gotten behind Means as a usually underpriced option for the O’s, what are you waiting for? In his last 10 starts, he boasts an ERA of 2.36 and WHIP of 1.035.
• Aaron Nola (Philadelphia): Nola seems to be heating up along with the thermometer, having yielded just two earned runs in his last four starts (0.61 ERA)
• Hyun-Jin Ryu (LA Dodgers): Ryu has dominated hitters this season and has held seven of his last 11 opposing lineups scoreless.
• Anibal Sanchez (Washington): Unlike Patrick Corbin and Max Scherzer, Sanchez’s red hot run was not expected. Sanchez boasts an ERA of 2.26 since May 5th and is on a 5-game winning streak.
• Max Scherzer (Washington): Scherzer is doing Scherzer-like things and be advised not to bet against him till things change. Numbers in his last nine starts: 7-0, 0.84 ERA, 13.22 K’s/9.
• Jordan Yamamoto (Miami): Yamamoto has burst on the scene in Miami with a 1.24 ERA and 0.90 WHIP in his first five starts. Pitching for the Marlins, expect continued attractive prices with the rookie.
Cold Starting Pitchers
• Matt Boyd (Detroit): After bursting on the scene in April & May, Boyd’s L4 starts haven’t gone as smoothly, although he did strike out 13 hitters in 5 1/3 innings on July 4th. In those four starts covering 22-1/3 innings, his ERA is just 6.85 and he has been touched for 9 HR’s.
• Jack Flaherty (St Louis): Flaherty has not won since May 14th, and has an ERA of 6.40 in his last six starts.
• Max Fried (Atlanta): Despite Atlanta’s overall success of late, Fried has struggled, with a 6.16 ERA in his L8 outings.
• Kyle Hendricks (Chicago Cubs): Hendricks hasn’t been dreadful in his last eight starts (4.20 ERA) but he’s looked very hittable and he hasn’t gone five innings in any of his last three starts, very atypical of him. •
Yusei Kikuchi (Seattle) The fuss over Kikuchi was short-lived, as his ERA of 7.34 in his last eight starts has warranted.
• Peter Lambert (Colorado): Although three of his last four starts have been at hitter-friendly Coors Field, Lambert’s 10.19 ERA in that span suggests his pitches have been, too.
• Reynaldo Lopez (Chicago White Sox): Lopez seemed like a viable betting option in April & early May. Since then, in his last 10 starts, he is 1-4 with an ERA of 7.93.
• Jordan Lyles (Pittsburgh): Lyles started the year well for the Pirates, but in his last six starts is just 1-4 with an ERA of 8.16.
• German Marquez (Colorado): Marquez is not showing the rotation ace potential he once did, and has an ERA of 6.43 in his last seven starts.
• Nick Pivetta (Philadelphia): Pivetta has been hit hard in his last four starts (7.33 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, 9 HR’s allowed)
• Rick Porcello (Boston): Porcello has won twice in his last seven starts, fortunate considering his ERA is 6.94 and WHIP is 1.569 in that span.
• Aaron Sanchez (Toronto): If Toronto had other options, Sanchez wouldn’t be in the rotation. His ERA of 10.69 and WHIP of 2.188 in his last seven starts would be questionable in men’s league softball.
• Matt Strahm (San Diego): The light has dimmed on Strahm’s once promising start with a current 5-game swoon in which he’s compiled an ERA of 10.65 and WHIP of 1.732.
• Justin Verlander (Houston): Verlander’s level of “Cold” is better than most pitchers, but it should be noted that after lowering his ERA to 2.27 and WHIP to 0.73 following a June 1st start, his ERA is just 4.81 in six starts since. Again, not bad, but not worthy of paying Verlander-like prices for.
Hit or Miss Pitchers
• Trevor Bauer (Cleveland): In Bauer’s L7 starts, he has been very hittable or unhittable. In the three rough outings, he allowed 15 earned runs on 26 hits in 17 innings. In the four dominant outings, his ERA was 0.89 with 35 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings.
• Lucas Giolito (Chicago White Sox): Giolito has shown Cy Young type stuff in the early going this year but he has been touched up pretty good in three of his L4 outings. In those contests, his WHIP is a lofty 2.071.
• Zach Plesac (Cleveland): Plesac has been GREAT in five starts, AWFUL in his three others.
Not what they once were?
• Clayton Kershaw (LA Dodgers): I’ve noticed a trend of prices dropping with Kershaw lately, for good reason. His last 12 starts have produced numbers of 3.42 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 7.97 K’s/9, not dominant numbers of the Kershaw standard.
• Jon Lester (Chicago Cubs): Lester is known for being a big name and big-game pitcher. Maybe he will be again come playoff time, but for now, his last 10 starts have produced an ERA of 5.50 and WHIP of 1.46.
• Chris Sale (Boston): After looking like he could be back to his old self following his infamous start to 2019, Sale has floundered in his last three starts, with an ERA of 7.02 and WHIP of 1.619.
• Noah Syndergaard (NY Mets): Syndergaard’s struggles have been well documented and though he hasn’t been dreadful, he has allowed four or more earned runs in nine of his 17 starts.
UNUSUAL SITUATIONAL RECORDS FOR CLUBS
A couple of times on My Guys in the Desert over the last month, I have shared some unusual situational records that have developed for certain teams this season. Let’s take a look at some of those. Note that you can find these each week on the MLB Team Reports section in Point Spread Weekly.
Baltimore has no home field advantage
At home: 11-31 (-1665 $ units) / on road: 16-31 (-65 units)
Boston has been overpriced at home
At home: 20-20 (-1695 $ units) / on road: 29-21 (15 units)
Chicago White Sox are maintaining their night success while struggling in the day
Night: 26-19 ( 1715 $ units) / Day: 16-25 (-505 $ units)
Houston Astros have dominated divisional
competition but bettors are losing on the Astros otherwise
vs. Division: 26-7 ( 1205 $ units) / others: 31-26 (-1060 $ units)
Texas has been lovin’ the home cookin’
At home: 29-17 ( 1640$ units) / on road: 19-25 (-65 units)
For whatever reason, Arizona has been much better on the road than at home
At home: 20-22 (-555 $ units) / on road: 26-23 ( 745 units)
Chicago Cubs’ pitching has faltered on the road
at Home: 29-16 ( 395 $ units), RF/RA: 4.8 - 3.38
on Road: 18-27 (-1090 $ units), RF/RA: 5.3 - 5.1
Cincinnati Reds have played well at night, pitching has floundered in day games
Night: 28-20 ( 1015 $ units), Ov-Un: 13-33, RF/RA: 4.4 - 3.3
Day: 13-26 (-1300 $ units), Ov-Un: 17-20, RF/RA: 4.0 - 4.7
Milwaukee has been the opposite of Cincinnati, better in the day.
Night: 26-31 (-1350 $ units) / Day: 21-13 ( 715 $ units)
For as good as the Dodgers have been, they have been losing $$$ for bettors on the road
at Home: 37-12 ( 1555 $ units), RF/RA: 5.4 - 3.3
on Road: 23-20 (-610 $ units), RF/RA: 5.0 - 4.4
Oddsmakers are overvaluing San Diego’s home field advantage
At home: 23-24 (-825 $ units) / on road: 22-21 ( 495 units)
San Francisco has produced good returns versus divisional foes
vs. Division: 23-24 ( 610 $ units) / others: 18-24 (-415 $ units)