MLB Betting Notes: AL East Aces Take the Hill
Two very interesting pitching matchups tonight in the AL East. If you look at Wins Above Replacement (WAR), Dylan Bundy and Chris Sale have performed as top-10 pitchers so far this season.
Meanwhile, Chris Archer and Marco Estrada can’t say the same, as they have struggled mightily in 2018. That said, there are a few reasons to at least consider both underdogs.
Let’s take a closer look at both AL East matchups.
Tampa Bay Rays (+118) at Baltimore Orioles (-128) | O/U: 7.5
Chris Archer (1-1, 6.59 ERA) vs. Dylan Bundy (1-2, 1.42 ERA)
7:05 p.m. ET
Arch Madness: I keep waiting for Archer to turn it around, but he keeps letting me down. He’s been getting shelled this season, as evidenced by his 6.59 ERA. If the season ended today, it would mark the third consecutive year that his ERA sits significantly higher than his xFIP, which is generally quite low due to his high strikeout numbers. Simply put, when he doesn’t miss bats, he gets hit hard.
Since 2016, he holds the third-highest hard-hit percentage of any qualified pitcher at 36.3%. This year, he has allowed hard-hit balls at a nearly 39% clip, while striking out 1.6 less batters per nine innings than he did in 2017. Not a great combination.
Luckily for Archer, the Orioles do strike out more than any team in the American League, which should give him the chance to rack up K’s. That could do wonders for his lack of confidence. — Mark Gallant
While Mark does raise a good point about Baltimore’s propensity to strike out, Archer has struggled throughout his career against division opponents. He is just 35-43 (-12.3 units) on the moneyline in his career against the AL East. Since Archer debuted with the Rays in 2012, no Tampa pitcher has been less profitable in the division. The majority of his intradivision struggles have come on the road, as the Rays have just a 12-23 record in those starts, losing by an average of 1.3 runs per game. — Evan Abrams
Bundy Bombs: While Bundy has no doubt pitched beautifully this season, watch out for the long ball tonight. In his five career starts against the Rays, he has allowed 12 home runs in just 24.1 innings. In fact, he has actually given up at least two homers in each of those five starts. The Orioles right-hander owns a 7.03 ERA as a starter against the Rays, allowing more than a hit per inning. — Evan Abrams
Evan is right about Bundy, as there is always increased home run risk with the fly-ball pitcher on the mound. Last season, he had the second-highest fly-ball rate among all MLB starters. Plus, the Rays offense comes into this game red hot, as they have scored at least 8 runs in each of their last four games — all wins. However, if Bundy’s filthy slider is clicking, he will mow down the Rays at Camden Yards. — Stuckey
Divisional Dogs: Both the Orioles and Rays will have a losing record when they meet tonight. Historically, it has been profitable to bet the underdog in a division game when both teams are below .500, especially early in the season. Since 2005, underdogs in April games featuring two division opponents with losing records have gone 213-218, but a $100 bettor would have profited a net of $5,431. — John Ewing
Boston Red Sox (-200) at Toronto Blue Jays (+180) | O/U: 8
Chris Sale (1-1, 1.86 ERA) vs. Marco Estrada (2-1, 5.32 ERA)
7:07 p.m. ET
Change it Up : Estrada’s 2017 slump has continued into 2018. The Toronto righty has always been a fly-ball pitcher (sixth-lowest GB/FB in MLB), but he can’t seem to keep those fly balls in the yard this season. His 6.4% home run percentage is the second-worst clip in all of baseball among qualified starters, trailing only Kendall Graveman.
Estrada throws a subpar 89 mph fastball that he can only get away with due to his excellent changeup — one of the best in the business. If that pitch and his location is on tonight, he could give the Sox some trouble — as he did in his first three starts against them in 2017 (two earned runs in 17.1 innings). If not, it could get ugly quick, as it did in his final start against Boston last season, when he allowed eight runs on nine hits in just 2.1 innings.
Overall, in 14 career games (12 starts) against the Red Sox, Estrada has a 4-5 record with a 3.97 ERA. However, almost none of the current healthy Red Sox have had much success against the Jays starter. Excluding the injured Dustin Pedroia’s 14-for-31 lifetime mark, the other current Sox are a combined 29-for-164 (.177) against Estrada. In addition to avoiding Pedroia, Estrada is probably happy to face anybody but the Yankees’ Tyler Austin, who has hit three homers off the Jays starter already this year. — Stuckey
Buy or Sale?: We all know that Sale possesses one of the best arms in baseball. Just how good? If you remove Clayton Kershaw from the conversation, Sale leads all active pitchers with a career ERA (2.96), WHIP (1.05) and BAA (.221.) — Stuckey
Sale owns a career 106-79 (57.3%) record as a starter with the White Sox and Red Sox, but he hasn’t had as much success in this particular spot over the years. Sale is just 6-14 on the moneyline on the road against divisional opponents with a winning record, costing bettors -8.6 units. Since Sale made his first start in 2012, he is the fifth-least profitable starter in baseball in this situation. — Evan Abrams
This will mark the 13th time in Sale’s career that he has been a road favorite of -190 or greater. His teams have gone 10-2 in the previous matchups, winning on average by 3.5 runs. However, despite only losing twice, a $100 bettor would have only profited $275 backing Sale in this spot. — John Ewing
As my colleagues alluded to above, Sale fares better against nondivision opponents that haven’t seen him much — like most pitchers. He did face the Blue Jays a handful of times last year, but this is a very different Toronto squad. With Josh Donaldson on the DL, only a few players in the Jays’ current lineup were regulars last year. As a result of this inexperience, I expect a lot of the new faces to struggle with Sale, whose 2018 season looks very similar to his dominant 2017 campaign so far. — Mark Gallant