MLB Betting Notes: Can Hamels Hang With Verlander?

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Credit: USA Today Sports. Pictured: Cole Hamels

We won’t have the drama of the Red Sox and Yankees on Friday night, but there are plenty of other intriguing storylines. The one you might hear the most about? Matt Harvey will get the start for the Reds in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. Yes, that Matt Harvey. The one with the third-highest ERA among all pitchers (min. 200 innings) since the start of the 2016 season.

That’s a lot of dark nights in New York.

On the other end of the pitching spectrum, we have a number of aces on the mound Friday in Chris Sale, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. We will focus on the latter, who will face Cole Hamels in Houston. We will also analyze a game in Coors between two second place NL clubs. Let’s dive in.


Texas Rangers (+231) at Houston Astros (-261) | O/U: 8

Cole Hamels (1-4, 3.94 ERA) vs. Justin Verlander (4-1, 1.17 ERA)
8:10 p.m. ET

This Just In: Casual baseball fans always seem surprised to learn that Justin Verlander is a fly-ball pitcher. Just take a look at the 10 hurlers with the highest fly-ball rates since 2016.

Didn’t expect to see Scherzer and Verlander on that list? Well, maybe it will make more sense when you look at the lowest HR/FB rates over that same period.

It’s one thing to put the ball in the air, but it’s another to hit it out. Batters simply don’t barrel Verlander up. While he’ll give up an occasional home run (1.18 per 9 last season), it usually won’t kill him — since he rarely allows baserunners. — Stuckey

Cole Hard Cash: Call me crazy, but I think Cole Hamels and the Rangers deserve a hard look against Verlander. Hamels’ start to the season hasn’t blown anyone away, but he hasn’t pitched that bad. The veteran southpaw has struck out over 10 batters per nine innings, and his 3.99 xFIP suggests his back-of-the-baseball-card numbers aren’t all that misleading.

His major problem has been keeping the ball in the yard, but you’d expect his 20% HR/FB (meaning 20% of the fly balls he’s given up have gone for round-trippers) to regress to his career mark of 11.5%. Obviously, the Astros can swat it, so this may not seem like a great time to back a home-run-prone hurler. However, the odds suggest the Rangers only have a 30.2% chance of winning, which seems a shade low. — Michael Leboff

Cole Hamels has been listed as at least a 2-to-1 underdog just once in his career. That occurred almost exactly a month ago, when Hamels was +228 — also in Houston against the Astros. The Rangers lost that game 3-2.

Strong winds are projected at Minute Maid Park on Friday night. Since 2012, Hamels has made 16 starts with wind projections of at least 10 mph during live play. In those games, the over has gone 11-4-1, clearing the total by an average of 2.2 runs per game. — Evan Abrams

Fantasy Focus: Here is the breakdown of the Astros’ regulars against lefties and righties using Fantasy Labs’ data for DraftKings, sorted by plus/minus.

Do with the data what you will, but perhaps the most interesting thing to me, at least, involves their catchers. Evan Gattis’s ownership is more than three times that of Brian McCann’s, yet McCann has performed better. If we compare to splits vs. righties, we see that McCann’s ownership is 5% lower when he’s facing a southpaw, while Gattis, who has underperformed against both, has seen nearly a 3% uptick.

Of course, George Springer’s name pops out, and for good reason. The leadoff slugger has been worth the high price tag and accompanying high ownership, as his plus/minus and upside are both through the roof against lefties. — Mark Gallant


Milwaukee Brewers at Colorado Rockies

Brandon Woodruff (1-0, 3.86) vs. Chad Bettis (4-1, 2.05 ERA)
8:40 p.m. ET

Rockie Regression: This could present a good opportunity to fade Chad Bettis at a nice number. The 29-year-old hurler has pitched very well to start the year, but he’s significantly outrunning his peripheral numbers. Bettis has struck out only 5.52 batters per nine innings while failing to induce many ground balls (43.7%) or much weak contact (17.1%). Bettis has been a luckbox, as evidenced by his .224 BABIP, 89.4 LOB% (runners left on base) and 4.54 xFIP. Regression looms. — Michael Leboff

 

Cha-Chad: On the contrary, maybe wait until Bettis hits the road to start the fade. Since 2013, Bettis has gone 24-11 on the moneyline in 35 home starts — netting bettors a full 10 units in those games. That makes him the second-most profitable pitcher at Coors Field in those situations. Colorado has won 14 of his 17 home games by an average of 2.6 runs per game. During that span, Bettis has allowed just under 2.5 earned runs per start. — Evan Abrams

Where’s the DJ? Believe it or not, the Rockies only score 3.89 runs per game, which ranks 26th in the league. They have scored 3 runs or less in 19 of the 38 games they have played this year. Pretty shocking when you consider some of the offensive weapons they have and their hitter-friendly home park. However, they do have some aging bats in their lineup. Getting DJ LeMahieu back will certainly help, but this offense still has holes — especially 5-9. — Stuckey

Brew Pen: The strength of the Brewers has clearly been their bullpen, which owns the second lowest ERA in the bigs.

Their performance is even more impressive when you consider All-Star closer, Corey Knebel, just came off the Disabled List. They have a stable of other filthy arms, including Jeremy Jeffress, Matt Albers, Josh Hader, Dan Jennings and Jacob Barnes — all of whom boast an ERA of 2.00 or lower.

In contrast, the Rockies pen has the fifth highest ERA in MLB. While Adam Ottavino (1.35) and Wade Davis (2.35) have excelled in the 8th and 9th inning, the rest of the pen has struggled. No team should want to get into a battle of bullpens with Milwaukee, especially the Rockies. — Stuckey

Fantasy Focus: Another day, another near-perfect day for hitting in Colorado. Per Fantasy Labs’ proprietary weather rating stat, this game grades 92 out of 100 for hitters. Games with at least a 90 weather rating have averaged a plus/minus of +1.74 DraftKings points. We can take this one step further, though, and look at guys who don’t hit a ton of ground balls. When we narrow our sample down to players with a fly-ball rate of at least 40%, that bumps up to +2.13. For tonight’s game, the players who fit this bill are Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, Travis Shaw and Manny Pina. — Mark Gallant


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