MLB Betting Notes: Mariners Look to Keep Rolling Against Reeling Rays
Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Dee Gordon (left) celebrates with Jean Segura (right)
Talk about two teams headed in different directions. Before their loss in Houston on Wednesday, the first-place (yes, first-place) Mariners won 14 of 17, thanks to outstanding pitching.
During that 14-3 stretch, their staff owned a sparkling 2.20 ERA. They held their opponents to one or fewer runs in eight of those 14 wins, and only allowed one of the 14 opponents to score more than three. The Mariners also found a way to win an inordinate amount of close contests, as they went 9-2 in one-run games over that span — including 4-0 in extra innings.
On the other hand, Tampa Bay has lost six straight, three of which came at the hands of Seattle last weekend. During that six-game streak, the Ray totaled only 12 runs. Their struggling offense might get a much-needed boost today, as they have called up one of their top prospects, Jake Bauers, a power-hitting lefty first baseman.
Let’s take a look at tonight’s game in Tampa by analyzing the starting pitching matchups. We will also cover some key trends and a potential fantasy fade.
Seattle Mariners (-113) at Tampa Bay Rays (+103) | O/U: 8
Mike Leake (5-3, 4.71 ERA) vs. Ryne Stanek (1-1, 3.65 ERA)
7:10 p.m. ET
Mike Leake: For those who have followed me on Twitter for a while, you know that I used to love betting Leake on the road when he pitched for the Reds. (Just search #RoadMikeLeake for the history there.) The reason? He pitches to contact, which simply doesn’t “fly” in the bandbox they call Great American Ball Park in Cincy. He routinely got smacked around at home, which would provide value when he hit the road to pitch in less hitter-friendly parks.
Well, that no longer applies, as he now pitches at a home stadium that is much more conducive to contact. When Leake’s going well, he’s inducing a lot of ground balls. His 47.9% ground-ball rate (GB%) ranks 22nd in MLB, but is actually almost six percentage points lower than his rate in 2016 and 2017. Over the past three seasons, the right-hander has the eighth-highest GB% among all qualified pitchers.
He does get into trouble when he allows fly balls, as evidenced by his career 13.6% HR/FB (Home Run per Fly Ball) rate. That’s why he benefits so much in bigger parks. His career home 15.2% HR/FB rate reflects all of the years he spent in Cincy. In contrast, he has a much better lifetime road HR/FB rate of 12.0%. That isn’t far from his 2018 home HR/FB of 12.8% at the pitcher-friendly Safeco Field. Per the 2017 FanGraphs five-year Park Factor regression, both Safeco and Tropicana Field (in Tampa) rank in the bottom-third for hitters.
Since he doesn’t have strikeout stuff, Leake really has no choice but to pitch to contact. Since he embraces that approach, he doesn’t walk many batters. Leake’s 1.98 BB/9 ranks 13th among all qualified pitchers. That isn’t just a result of a small sample size, either. Just take a look at his walk rate (and corresponding MLB ranks) over the previous seven seasons:
Leake comes in hot, having allowed only four runs over his past three starts spanning 21.2 innings. (He also hasn’t walked a batter in his past four starts, while striking out 15.) And while he faced three struggling offenses in Oakland, Minnesota and Tampa, he will face one of those slumping offenses again today at a park that he can pitch in. I expect a strong start from #RoadMikeLeake.
If you are looking for reasons to fade Leake, the Rays don’t hit many ground balls (sixth-lowest GB% in MLB) and have the eighth-highest HR/FB rate in 2018. But again, their offense has looked horrendous of late. — Stuckey
Ryne Stanek: Last time we talked about Stanek, which also happened to be his last start, I wrote about Ryan Yarbrough’s potential DFS value. Luckily, he came in the game and racked up some strikeouts to make me look smart, a rare occasion.
Don’t expect the same this time around, however, as Yarbrough pitched Wednesday. Also, another one of Tampa’s bullpen-day inning-eaters, Anthony Banda, just hit the shelf for the year due to Tommy John surgery. I haven’t seen anything confirmed yet, but I think Austin Pruitt will get the call to chow some frames following Stanek’s exit after the first or second inning.
Pruitt has gone at least five innings in each of his past three appearances out of the pen in similar situations, but has nowhere near the DFS upside of Yarbrough. He has just 20 strikeouts in 36.1 innings, which translates to a sub-5 K/9 rate. There’s a time and place to get creative with your roster, but I wouldn’t take that chance here. — Mark Gallant
As Mark alluded to, don’t expect more than two innings from Stanek. In his 11 appearances (two starts) this season, he has yet to pitch more than 1.2 innings. He has pitched well in his abbreviated outings after a rough start to the season. The Missouri native hasn’t allowed a run in seven of his past eight outings — a span of 9.2 innings. That includes a scoreless 1.2 innings against the Mariners in a nonstart last weekend. — Stuckey
Leake dominated this same Rays team in his last start, tallying eight strikeouts en route to 24.5 DraftKings points. Since the market has responded by pricing him up almost $3,000 for this matchup, it’s much tougher to consider rostering him at $7,500. He’s historically averaged a Plus/Minus of -0.57 when priced above $7,000, thanks in part to his lack of strikeout upside.
With Leake’s K/9 rate of just 6.19 over the past 12 months, his previous outing seems like more of an outlier. He’s currently projected for 31% to 35% ownership on DraftKings, which makes him an interesting fade candidate on today’s slate. — Matt LaMarca
The Rays have lost six straight, which includes getting swept at Seattle last weekend. Historically, the Rays have struggled on extended losing streaks of six or more games, going 22-36 (38%) since 2005. As an underdog in this situation, like they are today, the Rays gone just 13-30. — John Ewing
As John noted, the Rays have lost six straight entering this home stand against the Mariners, who have a .623 winning percentage. Since 2005, home teams on losing streaks of five-plus games in June or earlier are 16-40 (28.6%) against teams with a win percentage of at least 60%. A bettor playing the team on a losing streak in all 56 games would have lost -23.6 units. — Evan Abrams
Stats via Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and MLB.com