MLB Betting Notes: Bad Teams Matter, Plus Afternoon Action

MLB Betting Notes: Bad Teams Matter, Plus Afternoon Action article feature image

Coming into tonight’s game, the Royals and Orioles have a combined record of 21-51. Casual baseball bettors can easily get distracted by the “big games,” but every game on the slate deserves equal attention — even tilts between two bad teams destined for 100-plus losses. If you ignore those teams, you might miss out on the most value on the board.

Before we get to the prime-time blockbuster at Camden Yards, we also have one day game to talk about, as the Phillies host the Giants on getaway day in the City of Brotherly Love. The pitching matchup in Philadelphia is really interesting. The enigmatic — but sometimes electrifying — Vince Velasquez takes on Ty Blach, who is just about the polar opposite of Velasquez.

Let’s dig in.

San Francisco Giants (+119) at Philadelphia Phillies (-132) | O/U: 9

Ty Blach (3-3, 3.60 ERA) vs. Vince Velasquez (2-4, 5.14 ERA)
1:05 p.m. ET

Vinconsistent: On the surface, Velasquez doesn’t look like he’s having a productive year. His 2-4 record and 5.14 ERA certainly won’t wow anyone, but his 4.22 xFIP (Expected Fielding Independent Pitching, a more accurate measure of performance) does hint that he’s had a tad bit of misfortune.

If you dig a little more deeply, there’s some reason for optimism, even if Phillies fans have grown frustrated with Velasquez, who has a lifetime 13-18 record with a 4.54 ERA in 65 career games (53 starts).

In regard to his arsenal, Velasquez features an electric four-seamer (95 mph average) that he utilizes as an effective strikeout pitch. As a result of his plus-fastball, he ranks in the top 25 of all qualified pitchers with a 9.77 K/9 rate. He also owns the third-lowest hard-hit percentage among all qualified starters. 

Pretty impressive list of pitchers — half of which reside in the NL East.

However, Velasquez really struggles with his secondary pitches — specifically his changeup and curveball. As a result, he overworks himself attempting to get strikeouts with his heater and walks too many batters. In fact, since the start of last season, Velasquez has the 19th-highest BB/9 rate (3.95) of all pitchers (min. 100 innings), and his 1.40 WHIP is the 19th-highest among all qualified pitchers. That explains why he struggles going deep into games, failing to make it past the fifth inning in 26 of his 53 career starts.

Just look at his last start in Washington. Despite allowing only one hit and one earned run, he threw 92 pitches in just five innings. In seven starts this year, he has pitched exactly 35 innings, or five innings on average. Don’t expect any real length from Velasquez today.

He’s also been victimized by the long ball, especially of late. He has allowed six bombs in his last four starts. If he doesn’t quickly start trusting and controlling his secondary pitches better, Velasquez could eventually wind up in the bullpen. He has pitched out of the pen before, and it may actually be a better long-term solution. — Stuckey

Stay Grounded: As I mentioned last week, Blach simply doesn’t strike many batters out. His 4.40 K/9 rate is the lowest among all qualified starters this season. However, he has had some success by keeping the ball down. He currently owns the lowest fly-ball rate (18.8%) and third-highest ground-ball rate (57.7%) among all qualified starters in 2018.

Blach, like Velasquez, will allow baserunners. He actually sits two spots behind the Phillies pitcher with a WHIP of 1.39 — the 21st-highest among all qualified pitchers. Oddly enough, Ian Kennedy (who pitches for the Royals in the second game we will cover) sits in between them at 20th. — Stuckey

Bank of Wind: The forecast calls for strong winds blowing out in this early afternoon start. Those have both been very strong indicators for the total at Citizens Bank Park over the past decade-plus. Since 2005, the over is 115-73-12 when the wind is projected to blow out toward the outfield — going over the total by an average of 1.2 runs per game. When the game is played at 1 p.m. ET, the over improves to 22-7-6, cashing by 1.7 runs per game. — Evan Abrams

Kansas City Royals (-121) at Baltimore Orioles (+111) | O/U: 10

Ian Kennedy (1-3, 2.92 ERA) vs. Chris Tillman (1-5, 9.24 ERA)
7:05 p.m. ET

Buck, Your Pitcher. Woof: This game is way too fun to pass up. The Royals stink. The Orioles stink. And Chris Tillman really stinks. Coming into Thursday’s start, the 30-year-old right-hander boasts a higher BB/9 (4.97) than K/9 (4.62). In addition to his horrible K-BB ratio, Tillman also has trouble keeping the ball in the yard, as his 1.78 HR/9 indicates. Usually numbers this horrendous are outliers and unsustainable, but that may not be the case for the Orioles hurler. Last year, Tillman posted a 6.10 K/9, 4.94 BB/9 and a mesmerizing 2.32 HR/9 in 93 innings. — Michael Leboff

In rare positive Tillman news, he did get a win April 27 at home against the Tigers to end an astounding 27-game (22-start) winless streak. In that game, he threw seven innings of dazzling one-hit shutout ball. Maybe he figured something out and could carry that momentum forward? Nope. In his next start (his most recent), he allowed seven runs on seven hits and one walk in just one inning of work against the Angels. Yikes. — Stuckey


Peanut Gallery: The Orioles-Royals total opened at 10. Since 2013, when the total is listed at 8 or higher, the under is 76-45-5 in Tillman’s starts, profiting bettors more than 27 units. In his career, Tillman has made 33 starts for the Orioles at home in May or earlier. In those starts, the under is 23-9-1 (71.9%), hitting by an average of 1.2 runs per game. — Evan Abrams

Bad Birds: The Orioles are off to an absolutely putrid start. Teams with a 25% or less winning percentage playing at home in May or earlier have lost bettors 36.5 units since 2005. This season has been particularly awful for those teams. Entering Wednesday, they are 21-40 (-19.6 units), losing by a full run per game. — Evan Abrams