Zerillo’s Indians-Phillies Betting Guide: Back Plutko or Velasquez on Sunday Night Baseball?

Zerillo’s Indians-Phillies Betting Guide: Back Plutko or Velasquez on Sunday Night Baseball? article feature image

Jason Getz, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Vince Velasquez

Betting Odds: Philadelphia Phillies vs. Cleveland Indians

Probable starters: Vince Velasquez (7-7, 4.89 ERA) vs. Adam Plutko (7-4, 4.34 ERA)

  • Phillies odds: +110
  • Indians odds: -130
  • Over/Under:  10.5
  • First pitch: 6:37 p.m. ET on ESPN

All odds above as of 2 p.m. ET and via PointsBet, where Action Network users get an exclusive 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150).

Despite winning on Saturday, the Phillies elimination number is down to four – as the Brewers won their third consecutive game. Their chances of making the playoffs are remote at this point.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Indians were just one game behind the Tampa Bay Rays for the second AL Wild Card spot coming into today.

With a win tonight, and a Rays loss this afternoon, the teams would be deadlocked in the standings.

Who has the edge in a battle between back-end starters on Sunday Night Baseball?

The Starters

Wind the wind blowing out, as you can see in the weather report below, home runs could be in abundance on Sunday night.

Amongst the 127 pitchers who have thrown more than 100 innings this season, Velasquez (1.99) and Plutko (1.91) have the eighth and 13th highest rates of home runs allowed per nine innings.

It’s mostly unsurprising, as the pair are tied for fourth amongst that same group in fly-ball rate, at 43.5%.

Velasquez throws harder and has better strikeout stuff, but he also allows louder contact, on average, when his stuff gets hit.

The damage that Plutko surrenders is more predicated on volume, and his 4.34 ERA is also primed for regression.

He owns a .265 BABIP and has stranded 78% of baserunners; numbers which should project closer to .300 and 70% going forward.

Where Plutko succeeds, like his rotation-mates Mike Clevinger (66.9%) and Shane Bieber (65.2%) is in getting strike one (66.7%, 16th amongst that group of starters), and using his changeup against lefties and slider against righties with two strikes; but neither pitch grades out as better than average.

Conversely, Velasquez owns an explosive fastball with an above-average spin rate, which he prefers to bury above the hitter’s hands:

When it’s working, Velasquez also has a terrific curveball – leading to games with very high strikeout totals; but it’s difficult to know whether he will have a feel for the pitch on any given night:

The Bullpens

Since the July 31 trading deadline, the Phillies bullpen ranks 15th in FIP, 10th in xFIP and 19th in K-BB%. By the same metrics, the Indians rank 21st, 21st, and 19th.

Oliver Perez has pitched three times in the past four days for the Indians, so the situational lefty will likely be unavailable to face Bryce Harper in a late-inning situation.

They also used six relief pitchers, including Brad Hand on Saturday, and I would expect to see both Adam Cimber and Nick Goody enter tonight’s game.

The Phillies will likely be without Jared Hughes (four appearances this week – pitched two consecutive days) and Nick Vincent (three appearances, five innings pitched this week), and their situational lefty Jose Alvarez has pitched for three of the past five days.

Both bullpens are a little banged up, and I’m most curious to see if the Indians will turn to Carlos Carrasco for the third time in six days.

He looked terrific in picking up a save on Friday, averaging nearly 96 mph on his fastball; and will be a late-inning weapon if Cleveland makes it to the postseason.

Umpire and Weather Report

Data per Sports Insights

Trends to Know

With double-digit winds blowing to right field at Progressive Field, the over is just 26-26-1 since 2005; but 5-1-1 over the past two seasons.

Unders went 35-16-7 (68.6%) with Dan Bellino behind the plate over the past two seasons, but are 12-16-3 in 2019.

Historically, unders are the profitable side in interleague play, going 2033-1890-186 (51.8%), netting a consistent $100 bettor $2,121; but just a 0.5% return on investment.

Favorite Bet

I projected the Indians as a -133 favorite in this game, so I don’t see much line value on their side, but -130 is a fair price if you want to back the favorite. I set the over/under at 10.2, so I also see the slightest edge on the under 10.5. 

The best bet on the board is probably the over on Vince Velasquez’s strikeout total (5.5). The current odds, at +121 to the over, leaves you with an implied total of five strikeouts.

The Action Network projects Velasquez for 6.9 strikeouts – and I would recommend betting the over on the prop down to even money.

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