The second half began for eight teams yesterday, but 28 teams take the field tonight with a nearly full dance card across Major League Baseball. The Trade Deadline is under two weeks away, so front offices are hard at work figuring out their plans and there will be some teams trying to make a push that proves that they are worthy of some help. Other teams are back together on pins and needles wondering who will go and who will stay.
This can be a tricky time for betting baseball with so much going on off the field, along with long gaps between starts for pitchers. I’d make sure you have stronger convictions than usual about every bet you make right now.
Giants/Dodgers: It looked like the Dodgers were going to cruise with a 5-0 lead through six, but then a five-run explosion from the Giants turned the game on its head. Trailing 6-5 in the eighth, the Dodgers scored four, as Mookie Betts hit a huge three-run homer and the dejected Giants couldn’t muster anything in the ninth.
The big story here is how shaky Carlos Rodon was with five runs allowed on six hits. He struck out seven and had 17 swings and misses, but didn’t locate well. This was his worst start by Game Score since June 7 and just the third time this season he’s allowed more than three runs in a start. Tough assignment with the Dodgers on six days rest. No need to panic, but let’s see what he does next start.
Yankees/Astros: The Astros swept a double dip from the Yankees by scores of 3-2 and 7-5. The silver lining for the Bronx Bombers was that Jordan Montgomery was really good in Game 1 with eight punchies over six and 18 whiffs on 49 swings. The offense just couldn’t solve Cristian Javier and the pen.
In Game 2, Domingo German was not up to snuff with five runs allowed on six hits. Brandon Bielak let the Yankees back in the game with three runs allowed over 3.1 relief innings, but the damage had already been done.
Keep a close eye on relievers over the next week or so. Those guys are used to pitching every couple days and you’ll have guys on five or six days rest, if not more. Bullpen arms may not be as sharp.
Tigers/Athletics: These two split their doubleheader, with the Tigers by a 7-2 count in Game 1 and the A’s by a 5-0 score in Game 2. It was Oakland, but this was a huge start for Tarik Skubal. He gave up an unearned run over six innings with nine strikeouts and had 17 whiffs in 48 swings. His velo ticked back up as well, so it seems like the extra rest was good for him. From June 7 to July 13, Skubal had a 6.86 ERA and allowed seven homers in 42 innings.
Montas threw three innings in his return with five strikeouts and a walk. I’m sure it was good enough to keep David Forst’s phone ringing off the hook with trade calls. Oakland needed 158 pitches worth of relief work yesterday, which is something to follow as the week goes along since none of their starters work deep besides Montas.
Rangers/Marlins: Don Mattingly was poignant and direct after his team was shut out again yesterday. Miami hasn’t scored in 34 innings and Mattingly called out his offense.
This isn’t a very good offense all the way around, but the recent stretch has been brutal. Overshadowed by the Mattingly comments and the offense is that Pablo Lopez allowed five runs on five hits in five innings again. He only allowed one hard-hit ball and had 16 whiffs, but he walked three again. Since he struck out 11 Brewers on May 13, Lopez has a 4.50 ERA with a 4.78 FIP with a 61/27 K/BB ratio in 66 innings and he’s allowed 10 home runs. He hasn’t been sharp for a while now.
Weather: We’ve got limited rain, but we’ve got a ton of heat and humidity around the league. Good hitting conditions are present in a lot of places, including helping winds almost across the board. The best rain chance is probably in Atlanta with humidity in the upper 70s and high dewpoints.
A few late starting pitcher announcements have moved some of these games around from where they opened.
Cardinals (-155, 10) at Reds: Big total here on a hot day at Great American Ball Park. We’ve seen 10-20 cents of movement on the Cardinals depending on the book. I’m not sure I’d be excited to back Adam Wainwright on a hot day in a hitter’s park, but it’s happening.
Giants at Dodgers (-140, 8): Any 7.5 is up to 8 for this one and we’ve seen a few cents worth of movement on Tyler Anderson and the Dodgers. Logan Webb’s been excellent, but the Giants have so many defensive issues that it’s hard to trust their starters, even if the majority of them have good peripherals.
Blue Jays (-120, 9) at Red Sox: Toronto money has leaked in here to make the visiting Blue Jays a clear road favorite over Boston. We’ve also seen some over investment to go from 8.5 to 9 with Kevin Gausman and Nate Eovaldi. I do agree with the notion that the Blue Jays are a play-on team, as I wrote about here.
Rays (-130, 9) at Royals: The markets are fading Brad Keller and the Royals today as they reconvene as a team after missing 10 players last weekend due to Canada’s vaccination policies. Books that posted early have moved upwards of 20 cents on this game. Others just sort of followed the move and opened a little higher.
Astros (-120, 8.5) at Mariners: We’re seeing some anti-Marco Gonzales sentiment creep in and I can’t argue with it one bit. The Mariners are on a 14-game winning streak, but Gonzales has all of those negative regression signs in the profile with a 3.50 ERA, 4.74 xERA and 5.00 FIP with a high LOB% despite a low K%. Expect money against him in most of his starts unless those numbers normalize.
Angels at Braves (-145, 7): I had put a note to “keep an eye on both the side and total here” for a Shohei Ohtani line move and it started to come as I was writing and editing. Ohtani is taking some interest and we’ve even seen the total come back from 7 and -125 on the over to -120 on the over. The Ohtani steam is well-respected in the markets.
What I’ll Be Watching
Lucas Giolito: Did Giolito iron out his issues? He is a very important cog in this White Sox rotation and three of his last four starts have been solid. He had a five-start stretch from May 31 to June 22 with 30 runs allowed on 40 hits in 25.2 innings. He allowed nine homers and 27 of the runs were earned. In four starts since, he’s allowed nine runs on 19 hits in 25 innings and only one home run. He has also only walked six of 97 batters in that stretch.
He makes his second straight start against Cleveland in this one. The Guardians make a lot of contact, but not a whole lot of quality contact. I do think that these two teams are going to be a little rejuvenated out of the Break, Cleveland because of rest and Chicago because of a legitimate shot to win the division as a healthier ballclub. Every outing is big for Giolito to keep getting back to where he should be.
Jose Urquidy: There are plenty of reasons to be interested in Marco Gonzales, but his counterpart has quite a profile as well. For the season, Urquidy has a 4.09 ERA with a 4.77 xERA and a 4.44 FIP. He’s an extreme fly ball pitcher with pronounced platoon and home/road splits. Righties are slashing .275/.314/.498 against the right-hander, while lefties are only slashing .244/.281/.393. What stands out even more is that Urquidy has a 5.20 ERA in 53.2 innings on the road and a 2.63 ERA in 41 innings at home.
In terms of his slash splits and wOBA, his batting average against is 42 points higher on the road, his OBP is 26 points higher, his SLG is 102 points higher and his wOBA is 50 points higher. The biggest difference between home and road is that Urquidy has a 24.3% K% at home and a 14.2% K% on the road. I felt like I spent a lot of time talking in the first half about the low-scoring games at Minute Maid Park. Urquidy’s splits are a microcosm of that phenomenon.
Zach Thompson: I’ve only got one play today, so I’ll give you a bonus pitcher because I got very close to taking the Pirates at plus money. Thompson has a 4.09 ERA with a 5.16 xERA and a 5.44 FIP in his 70.1 innings of work this season. Here’s the weird part. Since May 4, he has a 2.57 ERA in 56 innings of work across 11 starts and one relief appearance. His 2.57 ERA comes with a 5.06 FIP, however, as he’s running a .226 BABIP against and a 93.8% LOB%. Those are two enormous regression indicators, though I’d be surprised if the Marlins lineup is the one to deal the blow.
If we shrink the sample size even more, Thompson has a 98.1% LOB% in his last six starts. The Pirates have done the same thing with him that they did with Mitch Keller, as he’s been more of a ground ball guy. He’s been very fortunate on those grounders that they haven’t found holes and that his high walk rate hasn’t come back to haunt him. This is a fascinating profile and a major test case for negative regression.
Friday Best Bets
Shop around for the best lines! I’m using a market consensus number that should be widely available to most, but every cent matters, so do the best you can to get the best line possible.
Blue Jays (-120) over Red Sox: I agree with the line move we’ve seen in this AL East matchup and feel like there’s still some equity on the Blue Jays. I’ve talked about pitchers maybe being a little rusty with the extra time off and this is a strange spot for Nate Eovaldi. He’s only pitched 7.1 innings since June 8, as he spent over a month on the injured list and made one three-inning rehab start and then pitched 4.1 innings against the Yankees on July 15.
Eovaldi gave up three runs on six hits in those 4.1 innings and allowed a 50% Hard Hit% and one barrel. He clearly wasn’t completely sharp and I wouldn’t expect him to be here either. I realize that Kevin Gausman also went 12 days between starts in July, but he’s been healthy otherwise and has been extremely good with a 2.87 ERA and a 1.85 FIP. Some positive regression in his LOB% has made his ERA closer to his FIP, though he’s still running a .373 BABIP and there’s room for improvement there.
Eovaldi has allowed an 11.4% Barrel% and a 46.2% Hard Hit% going up against one of the best lineups in baseball in terms of contact quality. Gausman is at 7% and 39.1%, respectively.
Toronto got caught in a really rough stretch with just three off days from May 30 until the All-Star Break. This isn’t a very deep bullpen and it had some tough days in that stretch. Some teams wanted the break more than others and this was one of them. As a result, I’ll take Toronto at a short favorite price as a team I isolated coming into the second half. Blue Jays -120 is it for today.
I’m tracking my picks in this spreadsheet HERE.