This article is part of our MLB Betting series.
Previous day: 2-1, +1.35 RWBucks
Season: 34-49, -19.11 RWBucks
Yesterday's plus day was driven by two wins on totals picks, a category I have considered to be my strength. That's shown up in the numbers, where I'm now 15-11 and nearly even for the year on my full-game totals picks, including 9-4 on full-game unders. We're still talking about very small samples, and both team totals and first-five totals drag the numbers down slightly. Still, it what's been a tough start to the season it's nice to have some area of success.
Totals simply seem an easier process for me, trying to figure out how many run elements will come together in a game – hits, walks, extra-base hits. How many balls in play are likely, and how will these defenses handle them? The biggest challenge with totals is sequencing; baseball players do not have the ability to map their performance to situations. At the game level, hitting with runners in scoring position – not a skill beyond "hitting" – takes on outsized importance for totals bettors.
Let's look at Sunday's Giants/Pirates game, one in which I was not involved. It had a total of 7.5, and landed 4-1 Giants. Was the under the right side? Well, it cashed. The teams, though, had 17 hits, drew seven walks, and a hit-by-pitch. Roughly speaking, you get about one run for every three baserunners, so this game should have landed eight or so. There were two missing elements. One is a lack of power – one double and one homer among the 17 hits; power is something you can project. The other factor, though, was a 2-for-16 mark with runners in scoring position. More than anything, it was sequencing that kept the game under, and sequencing cannot be projected at the game level.
Still, I'd rather have to project run elements for a game than the interaction between the teams that produces wins and losses. For one, I can generally take managers out of the equation. Managers are better, as a class, than they were ten years ago; they don't waste outs, they tend to manage their pitching staffs better, their lineups make more sense. They can still be a bit of a rogue element, as anyone who has had money on the White Sox this year will attest.
Today's picks lean into that preference, that strength. If picking totals has been an area of moderate strength, let's keep at it.
The Orioles have been the worst team in baseball against right-handed pitching, including a .285 OBP against northpaws. Tonight they draw the prize of the Blake Snell trade in Luis Patino, who has been effective in a tandem role so far. Even if Patino goes just four innings, the Rays have a rested bullpen behind him tonight. The wheels are coming off the Matt Harvey train a bit. Even with two poor starts in a row, he's still throwing a lot of strikes, so this is a manageable start for him. 1 RWBuck.
While the White Sox get the love, the Cubs are also a strong team against lefties, eighth in MLB in wOBA. After their slow start to the season, they're averaging 5.6 runs a game over their last 27 contests. They'll need at least that many tonight with Zach Davies on the mound. There are just no good pitchers, none, with a 22/21 K/BB. I'd go bigger, but both of these bullpens have improved a lot over the last four weeks. 1 RWBuck.
Here's a stat that surprised me: The Rangers are hitting righties better than the Yankees are this year. That's Nate Lowe and Willie Calhoun, mostly, but even David Dahl has started to get into the act, and Joey Gallo has a .354 OBP, even with his power down. Jameson Taillon's comeback has been spoiled by eight homers in 33 innings, which pales in comparison to Mike Foltynewicz's league-leading 11 dingers allowed in 45 innings. Bring your glove to Globe Life tonight. 1.5 RWBucks.
This is a straight fade of the two starters, who have combined to walk 42 men (unintentionally) in 73 2/3 innings. The Rockies, for all their struggles, actually hit lefties pretty well – third in the NL with a .344 wOBA, though that drops if you use wRC+. (I am reluctant to use park-adjusted measures right now because the wildly unbalanced schedules of the 2020 season leaves me with less confidence in our park factors.) C.J. Cron returns to the Rockies' lineup tonight as well. 1.5 RWBucks.