MLB Betting Notes: Can Greinke End His Chavez Ravine Voodoo?
It’s still early, but the Los Angeles Dodgers don’t look like the Los Angeles Dodgers we expected to see.
The 4-7 Dodgers have had the starting pitching, as their staff has the fifth-best xFIP (a regressed version of Fielding Independent Pitching). The offense, on the other hand, has yet to get going. Los Angeles has struggled to a .285 wOBA (weighted on-base average), which ranks 25th in MLB.
Tonight, the Dodgers welcome former friend Zack Greinke to Chavez Ravine for a divisional showdown. Greinke’s back-of-the-baseball card stats this year may not impress, but he’s had an incredibly unlucky to start the year. However, the 34-year-old has really struggled against the Dodgers in his career.
Something’s gotta give.
We will take an in-depth look at that Dodgers-Diamondbacks game in tonight’s MLB preview. We’ll also dive into an all-Texas matchup between the Astros and Rangers, where Houston will look to continue its recent dominance over Texas. After taking three of four earlier this month, the Astros improved to a staggering 30-12 against their AL West rivals since the start of last season.
Let’s get down to business.
Texas Rangers at Houston Astros (-230) | O/U: 8
Cole Hamels (1-2, 5.06 ERA) vs. Gerrit Cole (1-0, 0.64 ERA)
8:10 p.m. ET
Hamels, Cole: Look at that, one guy’s first name is the other guy’s last name. Neato. One looks like a pitcher at the end of his career, while the other looks totally reborn.
Hamels had perhaps the worst season in of his long career in 2017. And 2018 hasn’t started off much better, as he boasts a 5.06 ERA through three starts. I will note he’s arrived there in an odd fashion. Not known as a huge strikeout guy (he’s never reached 10 K/9 in a season), Hamels has an impressive 23 strikeouts in 16 innings. While that’s a positive sign, he’s also walked too many batters and allowed five home runs. He’s getting hit hard (his 46.2% hard-hit percentage ranks third out of 88 starters), but he’s getting tons of Ks (tied for fifth with 12.94 K/9). These are strange splits. You can expect to see his 38.5% HR/FB (home run to fly ball) rate drop over time, but I’m interested to see if he can sustain his strikeout rate.
Hamels has pitched fairly well against the Astros since joining the Rangers, averaging a DK +/- of +1.30 in seven starts.
Meanwhile, Gerrit Cole has pitched as well as anybody to start this year. Like Hamels, he’s also striking guys out up the wazoo, but in contrast, he has only allowed one run in 14 innings, on a solo shot. As Travis Sawchik wrote at Fangraphs, Cole has used his fastball less frequently, but when he has used it, hitters have swung and missed at over a 40% clip. With Cole’s recent dominance and the lack of other elite arms on Friday’s slate, I expect wide DFS ownership. — Mark Gallant
Cole World: As Mark mentioned, Gerrit Cole has started the season on fire. He has pitched 7.0 innings in both starts, striking out 11 in each. It’s only a sample size of two starts, which also matches the number of times he has faced the Rangers in his career. And just like his 2018 season to date, he has dominated Texas in both meetings. In 14 previous innings against the Rangers, Cole allowed only one run and five hits. It’s even more impressive when you consider both starts came in Arlington — one in 2013 and the other this season. In his start earlier this month, he allowed only one run and two hits in 7.0 strong innings. The current Rangers roster is a combined 7-46 against the Houston right-hander. — Stuckey
Even Better to be Lucky AND Good: We can all agree that Houston has an elite offense, but the Astros have had luck on their side in the early going this season. Heading into Thursday night’s slate, Houston’s .323 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) was tied with Oakland for tops in the Majors. Backup catcher Max Stassi, who has been yo-yoing between Triple-A and Houston for the past few years, has been especially fortunate. He paces all hitters with an astounding .600 BABIP in 22 plate appearances. Houston does still have other solid offensive peripherals, as you’d expect. It ranks eighth in wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) and runs scored, but you can expect a little bit of regression on balls in play. — Michael Leboff
Southpaw Struggles: The Astros have a 3-0 record against left-handed starting pitchers this season. However, over the last three seasons, Houston has had trouble against lefties at home. Since 2016, the Astros have only a 20-26 (-13.9 units) record at Minute Maid Park against southpaws. — Evan Abrams
Did You Know? Houston scored eight runs on Wednesday, but lost 9-8 to Minnesota. Few teams lose when scoring eight or more runs. In fact, we’ve only seen it happen 134 times out of 4,860 (2.8%) possible games over the last two seasons. In the next game, those 134 teams have gone 80-54, profiting $3,032 for a $100 bettor. — John Ewing
Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers (-128) | O/U: 7
Zack Greinke (0-1, 5.06 ERA) vs. Kenta Maeda (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
10:10 p.m. ET
Not Welcome Back: Zack Greinke (pictured above) has had an absolute roller-coaster pitching against the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine. In four starts in Los Angeles since joining the Diamondbacks, the Dodgers have hit .340 against him with six home runs. The current 2 through 6 LA hitters have inflicted most of that damage, going a combined 27-93 with seven bombs. — Evan Abrams
Snake Bitten: Poor Zack Greinke has thrown 10.2 innings with 14 strikeouts and zero walks, yet his ERA is 5.06. Once that batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .400 comes down to a normal level, expect to see his ERA quickly drop. However, as Evan mentioned, he will face his Kryptonite in the heart of the Dodgers’ lineup on Friday.
Paul Goldschmidt has also had some bad luck, but he’s still managed to stay afloat. Thanks to a .231 BABIP, the Arizona star has just a .190 average, but he still has a well-above average wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) of 128. His 20.4% walk rate certainly helps. His salary on DraftKings sat around $5,000 for the first few games of the season, but has dropped from $4,800 to $4,500 over the past four games. It looks like a nice opportunity to take a stud at a discounted rate given his recent poor fortune. — Mark Gallant
Kenta Maeda Loves LA: Maeda has glaring career home/road splits, as you can see in the chart below. That discrepancy grows even wider when you look at his historical starts against Arizona. He has actually faced the Diamondbacks in an equal number of innings at home and on the road. In 27.2 innings in Arizona, he has allowed 22 earned runs, but only seven at home against the same number of batters. Maeda clearly enjoys pitching in his home park. And what pitcher wouldn’t prefer Chavez Ravine over the hitter-friendly Chase Field? Given these splits and Greinke’s struggles against LA, I like the Dodgers in the first game of this series. — Stuckey
Average Arizona: As Mark said, Paul Goldschmidt has been snake-bitten at the plate to start the season. Considering the importance of Goldy’s bat in the Arizona lineup, it’s not surprising to see how average the Diamondbacks’ offense has been over the first few weeks. — Michael Leboff
All odds current as of Thursday evening.
Stats provided by FanGraphs and MLB.com