It’s a Thursday that kind of feels like a Sunday with the majority of the schedule starting bright and early, at least out here in the Pacific Time Zone. Four games start for me between 9:10 and 9:35 and another one with my version of the Kardiac Kids starts at 10:10 as the Guardians look for a sweep.
I’ll try to make this quick and get it out prior to the start of as many games as possible.
Diamondbacks/Padres: I want to say that there are signs of regression with the Padres, but their offense is actually performing better and the pitching staff remains really solid. Maybe this team is just that good with a legit manager in Bob Melvin, an elite pitching coach in Ruben Niebla and an offense that is putting it all together. Of course, they do bash lefties and Madison Bumgarner had some negative regression signs in his profile.
The Padres are 26-11 against teams with losing records and 18-16 against teams .500 or better. That’s honestly a really good recipe for making the playoffs. Beat up on the bad teams, hang in there against the good ones.
Dodgers/Reds: Tyler Anderson gave up four runs on five hits in five innings and got pulled after 81 pitches yesterday. That wasn’t overly surprising coming off of his no-hit bid. Keep an eye on those pitchers coming off of 110 + pitches. Starters don’t do that much anymore and it can be hard to bounce back.
Rockies/Marlins: Another high-scoring game down in Miami came as a bit of a surprise, but it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Marlins knocked around Chad Kuhl a bit. Kuhl still has a sub-4 ERA, but I don’t really expect that to last. Since May 11, he has a 5.59 ERA with a 4.81 FIP. You’ll have exceptions like Martin Perez, but most guys ultimately show their true colors, especially if there’s no noteworthy usage change in the arsenal.
Cubs/Pirates: This is NOT an endorsement to follow every line move, but this one was very telling. The Cubs have been awful for a prolonged period of time, but the projection for Jerad Eickhoff was so bad that the Cubs touched as high as -140 on the road against the Pirates. Eickhoff was bombed to the tune of 10 runs on 10 hits in 4.1 innings and Keegan Thompson cruised for Chicago. Line moves, especially big, obvious, noteworthy ones, are typically right.
Giants/Braves: There haven’t been many times when I’ve opted for a 1st 5 side, and especially at the cost of 20-25 cents, but yesterday was the right time to do it and the Giants bullpen did blow the game. Bullpen fatigue isn’t a one-day thing either. It can have a lingering effect. When you see a bullpen that has been worked a lot, it will be a multi-day consideration until there’s an off day, blowout or a starter works a CG.
The Giants won the 1st 5 and lost the game. I got lucky that Charlie Morton gave up two solo homers because he actually pitched extremely well with 11 K over seven innings. Carlos Rodon had 10 over seven and didn’t give up a run until the seventh. It was nice that the handicap worked out, but I need to recalibrate with Morton after another strong outing.
Blue Jays/White Sox: Lucas Giolito was awful yesterday, validating many of my concerns prior to the game. He gave up seven runs on 11 hits and 14 hard-hit balls in his five innings. His velocity was down a little bit (likely due to some long innings), but the quality of his stuff was simply not there. I also hate his recent pitch usage. I really like pitching coach Ethan Katz and he was instrumental in Giolito’s turnaround a few years ago, but this is a bad look right now and a situation to monitor.
Tigers/Red Sox: The Michael Wacha magic continued, as the Red Sox got another solid effort from the veteran. They also scored six runs in 4.2 innings off of Tarik Skubal. That was a really nice win to get without Rafael Devers, who got a rare day off against the tough southpaw. Alex Cora is really doing a masterful job with this team.
Let’s pull back the curtain a bit on my handicapping process: Wacha has shelved the cutter, thrown more changeups and added more sink to his fastball. Those are meaningful changes. It’s not enough to look at a guy’s career metrics without looking at his pitch usage. I refer to the Statcast player pages at Baseball Savant a lot. There’s a ton of valuable info there if you want to play around. MICHAEL WACHA
Take a look at a guy like Kuhl. He’s throwing more sinkers (a byproduct of pitching at Coors), but opposing hitters own a .355 BA with a .538 SLG on a pitch he’s throwing 40% of the time. That’s not a helpful adjustment. CHAD KUHL
Those are the differences you can isolate. That said, Wacha does have a .239 BA against with a .320 xBA on the fastball and a .386 SLG with a .584 xSLG. There are negative regression signs in that regard, but at least the increased changeup and sinker usages have offset the hard contact on the FB.
Yankees/Rays: The Yankees just find ways. Also, the Rays are a really flawed team. They’re not very good defensively and just don’t do the little things right. It really hurts not having Wander Franco in the lineup and they’ve had a revolving door of pitchers in and out, but this team isn’t as buttoned up as most versions. Yesterday, it was the bullpen that let the game slip after being staked to a 4-1 lead.
Leading 4-1 in the fourth, Taylor Walls got picked off of third with the bases loaded to end the inning. Little things like that can’t happen against any team, let alone a division rival. The Rays only got one more runner into scoring position after that.
Guardians/Twins: I have a really hard time being a fan. The way I analyze the game and my career require me to be objective and stats-driven. There are so many stats that don’t seem sustainable with the Guardians, but this team never quits and is a ton of fun to watch. It’s the youngest team in baseball and one that seems to be having a special season that I never saw coming.
I could talk about how both bullpens are really strung out or how we’re seeing a lot of offense at Target Field in this series with the warm weather, but I’m going to give you some advice. Take time to enjoy and be a fan. Embrace the moments we get to see. The goal is definitely winning money, but betting should also be fun. Being a sports fan should be fun. I’m writing this as much for you as I am for myself today.
Mariners/A’s: I guess I should have just kept fading the A’s. George Kirby fired six shutout and the M’s won 9-0. Paul Blackburn’s regression hit and the A’s fell to 8-27 at home and have now been more than doubled up in runs (177-85) at the Coliseum. They are 3-15 in June. They’ve been beaten 14 times by five or more runs. That was the ninth time they’ve been shut out and the seventh at home. They’ve scored one or zero runs 25 times, with 10 of the 16 games with one run at home.
I’m not saying you’ll finish the season ahead blindly betting run line against the A’s at home, but I would not be surprised if you came out ahead.
Royals/Angels: Those moments you should enjoy? Every day Shohei Ohtani plays is one of them. Two nukes on Tuesday with eight RBI, 13 strikeouts on Wednesday. If you have a friend or hear somebody who says, “Yeah, but it was the Royals”, smack them on the back of the head. We may never see what we’re seeing again. Take it all in.
Mets/Astros: Carlos Carrasco left hurt in the third inning yesterday, dealing yet another blow to the Mets, who are down to a 4.5-game lead in the NL East. They led by 10.5 games coming into June and haven’t even played the Braves in that span. It’s a lower back issue for Carrasco and he’ll have an MRI today. Fingers crossed for one of the best dudes in the game.
Phillies/Rangers: The Phillies have been outscored 20-5 in the last three games after seeing their five-game winning streak snapped on Sunday. The next 10 games are all against playoff contenders (SD, ATL, STL). That huge streak was great to get back in the hunt, but let’s see how they bounce back now. The bullpen has mostly fallen back into its normal form and the defense remains an issue, with two more unearned runs yesterday. Using Statcast’s Outs Above Average metric, the Phillies are -26. Only the Nationals are worse at -31. Defense matters.
Nationals/Orioles: What a bad beat for Orioles run line backers, as the 7-0 game was called after six innings due to thunderstorms. Austin Hays hit for the cycle in six innings, which is absurd. Patrick Corbin gave up four barrels and needed 83 pitches to get 12 outs. Guy’s just done at this point.
Weather: No rain to really worry about today, but we’ve got very good hitting conditions for all of the day games. I know people like to bet getaway day unders, and maybe we get them, but it’s going to be sultry for all of those games.
Injuries: Check out our Injury Report right here at VSiN. This is also a good resource at FanGraphs (sort by date) HERE.
Rockies at Marlins (-145, 8.5): This is a pretty big number for Braxton Garrett against a Rockies team that has hit lefties well at home and on the road this season. We’ve seen a 15-cent move at some shops on this one with Kyle Freeland on the other side for the Rockies. For as good as the Marlins are against righties, they’re a terrible offense against lefties with a .275 wOBA and 79 wRC +. Both rank 30th. This is a line move I’m not sure I agree with.
Giants at Braves (-140, 9): The opener for this game was in the mid-150s at places like Westgate and Circa and now sits -140 across most of the market. The Braves are a top-three offense against lefties, despite how Carlos Rodon carved them up yesterday. Alex Wood doesn’t have the swing-and-miss upside of Rodon. I’m not saying I disagree with this move, as I have a lot of respect for the Giants, but I’m a little surprised with it.
Cardinals at Brewers (-120, 9): It’s Fade Dakota Hudson Day in the market. Hudson has a 3.31 ERA with a 4.48 xERA and a 4.25 FIP, so the market has created a stampede to bet against him. I will say, like I’ve said before, that he’s made a career out of carrying a lower ERA than his xERA, FIP and xFIP. I’ve lost a lot of money fading this dude over the years and I’ve mostly given up on it. He’s a unicorn. His advanced metrics don’t really matter for whatever reason. I’m not saying he pitches well today, but the big, blind fade might not be the best course of action.
Guardians at Twins (-130, 10): Sweep avoidance is usually a popular betting angle for a lot of people, but Cleveland has taken the money here in the matchup of Zach Plesac and Devin Smeltzer. I’m honestly not sure which way this game will go because of how insane the rest of this series has been and because of how both bullpens stack up.
Cleveland is 29th in wOBA against LHP and Jose Ramirez has been far less effective batting right-handed. Byron Buxton is also out of the lineup again for Minnesota, which is the real reason this is moving.
Astros at Yankees (-125, 8): We’ve seen a lot of under money in totals at Yankee Stadium this season. This is another one with a move from 8.5 down to 8. Houston’s road offense has been stronger than the home offense, as the Astros have scored 4.5 R/G on the road and 4.1 R/G at home. This is one of the few games without a really favorable weather forecast for offense, so that could be part of it.
What I’ll Be Watching
Framber Valdez: The Astros are having a fine season, but they’ve only played 17 games against a team .500 or better. Houston is the only team with a winning record in the AL West and they are 21-12 against division foes and 33-18 against teams with losing records. When you look at Valdez’s year-to-date numbers with a 2.78 ERA and 3.32 FIP, he hasn’t faced many good offenses. He pitched well against the White Sox last time out, but his 51 Game Score was his third-lowest of the season. He’s faced the Marlins, Royals, A’s, Guardians, Rangers twice, Nationals, Tigers, Blue Jays, Angels twice and Diamondbacks.
All you can do is face the teams on the schedule, but he hasn’t been tested much. That said, he’s got a 67.5% GB%, so I think he can have success tonight, as he has in most of his starts and also against righties, who own a .220/.291/.305 slash and a .271 wOBA in 70.1 innings of work.
Johnny Cueto: I’m not sure what to make of Johnny Cueto. After the 36-year-old’s triumphant return with 12 shutout innings against the Royals and Yankees, he allowed 15 runs over his next four starts against the Cubs, Blue Jays, Dodgers and Rangers. Then, last time out, he threw seven shutout innings against the Astros. I have no idea what to expect today against Baltimore, but the Orioles do have some interesting home/road splits.
In the lower-scoring environment at home, the Orioles are 18-17 and + 10 in run differential. On the road, they are 13-22 and have allowed 5.3 runs per game. They’ve allowed 3.8 runs per game at home. The offense hasn’t been any more productive on the road, but the pitching staff has been far worse. In that respect, maybe this isn’t a bad matchup for Cueto or the White Sox, but they’re a high-dollar favorite.
Thursday Best Bets
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Padres (-150) over Phillies: Slim pickings today, but I really do like this game tonight between the Padres and Phillies. Joe Musgrove returns from the COVID IL to face the Phillies, while Philadelphia sends out Ranger Suarez. Musgrove is only on a couple of extra days rest, so I’m not too worried about the layoff. He’s got a 1.59 ERA with a 2.66 FIP. He’s got one of the best K/BB ratios in the game and there really aren’t many indicators of regression. Maybe his 84.1% LOB% doesn’t quite stay, but he’s also struck out over a batter per inning and has a 35.3% Hard Hit% and a 4.3% Barrel%.
You can run a high LOB% with good strikeout and contact management numbers and that’s exactly what Musgrove is doing this season. In 21 games at Petco Park since joining the Padres prior to last season, Musgrove has held the opposition to a .216/.272/.342 slash with a .268 wOBA. He’s got a 2.53 ERA and a 2.85 FIP, so this has been a very kind park for the hometown kid.
I am not a Suarez guy. He’s got a 4.43 ERA with a 4.19 xERA and a 4.26 FIP, but I really don’t like the high walk rate and the low strikeout rate with this defense. The Phillies are 29th in Outs Above Average (the Padres are 1st) and Suarez also doesn’t work deep into games. He’s pitched 65 innings over his 13 starts, which means that the Phillies bullpen has to do some heavy lifting in his games. That is absolutely not a recipe for success.
The Padres offense has been underwhelming at times, but this group is ninth in wOBA against LHP at .326 with a 112 wRC +. Their 9.6% BB% is tied for sixth. The quality of San Diego’s plate appearances against lefties is pretty high. While I grant that Manny Machado has a lot to do with that and he’s probably out again today, he’s not the only one, as this has been a good split for Ha-seong Kim and Jake Cronenworth, among others.
It’s a chalky price, but the Padres are vastly better on defense, have a much stronger bullpen and have the better starting pitcher. I’ll lay it with San Diego tonight. Shop around, as you can find this one a few cents better at some books.
I’m tracking my picks in this spreadsheet HERE.