One day game at Wrigley Field alters an otherwise perfect day and night for handicapping in Major League Baseball. The other 14 games will all conclude under the lights and that means that bettors will have ample time to get their thoughts together and get their picks in.
Before I look back at yesterday and dig into today’s card, it’s worth mentioning that of the seven NL games, every single one of them has a left-handed starter and two of them have two left-handed starters, including a Jose Quintana vs. Drew Smyly rematch. You almost never see that, as teams face a righty about 70% of the time. It’s quite a fascinating day for a nerd like me.
Giants/Mets: Influential bettors that steamed up the Mets were right on with this game, as Anthony DeSclafani gave up five runs over five innings and Carlos Carrasco threw another gem for the home team with 7.2 innings of two-run ball with seven strikeouts. What a boost Cookie would be to this rotation if he can stay in tact and keep throwing the ball well. Carrasco’s Cleveland teammate Francisco Lindor is off to a scorching .308/.419/.615 slash with four homers. In fact, just about everybody in the Mets lineup is hitting. They’ll cool off, but with their starting pitching, it will be hard to fade them, even if they wind up being overpriced soon.
Diamondbacks/Nationals: Break up the D-Backs! They’ve won two in a row for the first time this season. I mentioned yesterday that the markets were not fading Zach Davies as they usually do. Arizona won. The markets didn’t fade Jordan Lyles in Oakland the other day. Baltimore won. The line moves that happen are significant, but so are the line moves that don’t. If you pick up a tendency from sharp bettors that shape markets and see them betting against a pitcher regularly, it should really pique your interest when you don’t see that in one of their starts.
Davies struck out seven over five innings. The last time he struck out at least seven batters in five or fewer innings? July 23, 2019.
Cardinals/Marlins: The under came through nicely for us yesterday, as Pablo Lopez threw seven shutout innings with nine strikeouts. He’s outstanding at home (much like Sandy Alcantara) and simply has to be priced differently at home than on the road. The Cardinals scored seven runs in this series, with five against lefty Jesus Luzardo and two against reliever Anthony Bender on a Nolan Arenado dong. Right-handed starters with above average stuff will shut this lineup down based on what we’ve seen so far. They’ll hit lefties (though regression is coming there), but we can fade them against quality RHP.
Surprisingly, Jordan Hicks still sat 99.6 with the fastball over his three innings. It was a solid first start for him.
Pirates/Cubs: I found it interesting that early bettors were backing journeyman Mark Leiter Jr. over Bryse Wilson. It may just have been a Cubs over Pirates thing, but Wilson only had two whiffs in 24 swings yesterday. He walked four and gave up three runs on three hits in three innings. The 25-year-old righty would be a reliever with any other team, but it’s the Pirates and they can afford to see if he can start. I think he’s been isolated, much like Vladimir Gutierrez of the Reds, as one of the worst pitchers in baseball and bettors are going to fade him on the overnights and in the morning. Be prepared for that.
White Sox/Guardians: xBA, or expected batting average, can be a flawed stat at times that does require some extra context, but the Guardians had six runs on 13 hits with a xBA of .225, while the White Sox had three runs on eight hits with a xBA of .339 in yesterday’s game. Cleveland is sound defensively and pays attention to the details. Chicago is not sound defensively and pays little attention to the details. The White Sox just win on their pure talent.
Luis Robert left yesterday’s game hurt and the injury bugs have been swarming this team early on. The first-place Guardians are the only team in the division with a positive run differential to this point. As somebody holding a season win total under ticket, I’m a little discouraged. As a fan, the team is way more interesting than most previous versions. I still think it’s Chicago’s division to lose, but these injuries are a lot to overcome already.
Yankees/Tigers: Speaking of batted ball luck, the Yankees had nine hard-hit balls against Michael Pineda, but could only manage three hits in the 3-0 loss to the Tigers. This is a theme once again for the Yankees, much like it was last season. They currently rank 26th in BA on batted balls of 95 + mph or higher at .403 (league average is .463). Their SLG is just .732 (league average is .887). Bad luck follows them around on the offensive side, which is why Brian Cashman hasn’t been as aggressive as some would like. Their metrics usually look fine, but their offensive results have not. I’ll monitor this to see if the tide starts to turn.
Side Note: Other laggards on high-velo contact? Royals (.333 / .697), Orioles (.385 / .641), White Sox (.390 / .705), Astros (.398 / .870).
Twins/Royals: Joe Ryan got bet up yesterday and the Twins came through with a 1-0 victory. The Royals offense stinks, but this cat is no fluke. Ryan worked six shutout and had five strikeouts with 12 whiffs on 37 swings. Minnesota’s scouting staff did an excellent job getting him for a rental player in the Nelson Cruz deal. Shy of some early control nerves against Seattle on a rough day to pitch, he’s been terrific. He is an extreme fly ball guy to this point, though, which means we’ll have to watch him in the summer when the negative effects we’re seeing from the humidor right now get turned around.
Orioles/Athletics: Finally an over for the Orioles, but my eyes are on Paul Blackburn. He only had two whiffs on 21 swings and had some pretty noticeable velocity declines. Blackburn left after five innings and just 62 pitches. He’s been throwing his curveball a lot more and I think he was pulled to err on the side of caution. It may be costly, but fading him in his next start at San Francisco could be a good course of action.
Rangers/Mariners: The stat line won’t really show it, but Marco Gonzales threw the ball well yesterday. Four of the six runs he allowed were unearned and he had 16 whiffs with 12 coming on the changeup. The defense failed him in the fifth with two errors and Gonzales, who was approaching 90 pitches, fell apart and gave up a double, homer and another double to lose the lead. It was an encouraging start, even if the outcome was poor. He still fits the mold as a guy that can pitch well at home, so I’ll look for spots to back him.
This is another example of why you can’t just look at results. You have to look at the context of a game on a deeper level.
Weather: Winds are blowing out in New York and Anaheim, while breezes are blowing in for games in Chicago and Minnesota. When you think about a total of 7.5 with Quintana and Smyly starting for their respective teams, you instinctively have to think about the wind. Hopefully in the next week or so, Mother Nature will start to be a little bit nicer in the cold-weather cities with a lot of precipitation.
Injuries: Check out our Injury Report right here at VSiN. Also, my friend @MLBDream on Twitter put together a great MLB beat writer list to follow.