MLB Regression Report: Rangers close to cashing in

By Adam Burke  (VSiN.com) 

July 27, 2022 08:00 PM
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The first couple turns through the rotation after the All-Star break can be challenging handicaps. Pitchers make starts on an inordinate amount of rest. Teams may skip starters depending on how the schedule shakes out, which might leave someone with one start in the span of 14+ days.

Looking to fade pitchers with iffy control is the best course of action with this betting angle. Pitchers who struggle to throw strikes are probably prone to being erratic with long layoffs, so that may be an angle you can take advantage of at this time of the season.

Here are a few other betting angles we can hopefully take advantage of in this week’s Regression Report.

Team Regression

Texas Rangers (positive)

The Rangers are doing something that is incredibly hard to do: They’re nine games under .500 despite a positive run differential. Texas is 5-22 in one-run games after yet another tight loss Monday. They entered play Tuesday 43-52 but + 6 in run differential. They’ve had zero luck in one-run games and have just two one-run wins since the middle of May.

As I wrote about last week at VSiN.com, the Rangers have been one of the best teams on the run line this season, due in large part to their 22 one-run losses that have led to covers on the + 1.5 line. They haven’t been as great on the moneyline because they can’t win close games.

That should change because this is not a bad bullpen. The Rangers entered play Monday 12th in ERA and 19th in FIP. Those are hardly the kinds of numbers you’d expect from a team that has lost more than 81% of its one-run games. I see Texas as more of a follow team than a fade team.

Player Regression

Tarik Skubal (positive)

Let’s look at two pitchers, one in line for positive regression and the other in line for negative. Skubal has a 3.88 ERA with a 3.26 xERA and a 2.93 FIP in 106.2 innings of work. Those are solid numbers, but the number the full-season stats don’t tell you is Skubal’s 6.00 ERA over his last nine starts covering 48 innings.

The Tigers southpaw has fallen victim to a high BABIP of .336 and a low LOB% of 59.8%. Those two stats never reach a stabilization over the course of an MLB season, so they can be open to wild fluctuations. In the case of Skubal, he’s gotten very unlucky in two areas that define a pitcher’s ERA. With a Hard Hit% of 36.2% and a Barrel% of 7.1%, Skubal’s contact quality against does not support a BABIP of that magnitude, and his high strikeout rate suggests more success with stranding runners. 

Detroit is a bad team, but Skubal should be more trustworthy to back or play Unders with moving forward.

Johnny Cueto (negative) 

Sticking with the AL Central, Cueto has a set of numbers that appears to be unsustainable. He has a .278 BABIP with a White Sox team that does not play particularly good defense. He also has an 82% LOB% with a low K% of 17.7%. Cueto’s Hard Hit% of 39.4% is a full percent above league average, but his .278 BABIP is 11 points lower than league average.

The White Sox rank 22nd in Defensive Runs Saved and would grade even lower without the strong framing numbers from their catchers. FanGraphs’ all-encompassing Def metric ranks the White Sox 28th. Statcast’s Outs Above Average metric ranks them 23rd. Those are not numbers that support Cueto’s BABIP. Between the low strikeout rate and some negative variance coming his way, the veteran right-hander looks like someone to bet against over his next few starts.

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