I have never quite fully understood all of the hype surrounding Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. Yeah, he has decent stuff, but he has never really lived up to the hype for me. Despite being barely better than replacement level, his career WAR is 6.1 in five seasons, he is consistently valued as an ace in the betting market.
When I saw him being valued highly again yesterday, in his start against a San Diego Padres team that has been on an absolute tear this week, they became the only team in Major League Baseball history to hit a grand slam in four straight games in their previous series against the Texas Rangers, I knew that the play was to fade McCullers and the Astros.
— Slam Diego Padres (@Padres) August 22, 2020
And while McCullers wasn’t awful, he is rarely all that bad, and my hate surrounding him is mostly focused on the price he commands in the betting market, he did do plenty to give the game away. McCullers gave up four runs, all earned, on seven hits and two walks, while only striking out two. He left the game with his team down 4-1, and while the Astros made us sweat a little bit late in the game, the Padres held on, and we cashed our ticket.
When betting on baseball, it is all about the number, and until the books start to recognize the fact that Lance McCullers Jr is a back of the rotation type of pitcher at this point in his career, I am going to keep looking for ways to fade him.
With the win, the Padres now run their current win streak to five straight games, and their sixteen wins are tied for the second-most in the National League, trailing only the Los Angeles Dodgers. For today’s daily betting pick, I will take a look at another spot where I think the books are consistently missing on the price, when I head to Oakland, where the Athletics host the Los Angeles Angels.
Los Angeles Angels (8-19) at Oakland Athletics (19-8)
The Oakland Athletics picked up the win last night in game one of this three-game series with the Los Angeles Angels and will look to make it two in a row and a series win tonight, at home against the Halos. The Athletics have the best record in the American League and are a steaming hot 16-4 here in August. The A’s need to keep up the pace, though, as the Houston Astros are hot on their trail, having won eight out of their last ten games.
For Los Angeles, the Angels are on the opposite end of the spectrum, as they are buried in the basement of the AL West Division. Shockingly, not only are the Angels last in their division, with the Mariners and Red Sox both winning yesterday, the Angels now have the worst record in the entire American League.
Starting today for the A’s is Chris Bassitt (2-0 2.93 ERA), and for the Angels, it is Griffin Canning (0-3 4.70 ERA). The game total over/under is set at nine and a half runs. The Athletics are -140 home field favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 PM PST from Ring Central IN Oakland.
Los Angeles Angels
It is starting to get embarrassing in LA. The Angels have lost eight out of their last nine games and eleven out of their last fourteen. And it’s not just that they are losing every night, it is how they are losing. Of those three wins the Angels have in the last three weeks, two of them came in one-run decisions.
When they are winning, they are winning close. And when you look at their losses during that stretch, they are getting blown, as nine of their eleven losses have come by multiple runs, and their run differential is -35.
Even the mighty Mike Trout, a guy who is just about everybody’s pick for the best player in all of baseball, is struggling right now. On August 12th, Trout was hitting .333 with a sizzling .741 slugging percentage. Today, his numbers are falling through the floor as he is hitting just .286, and his slugging has dipped a hundred full points to .641. Trout is just 8 for his last 38, with only four extra-base hits, which is good for a .210 batting average.
Griffin Canning (0-3 4.70 ERA)
Griffin Canning made his big league debut last season with the Angels at age 23 and had decent results for a rookie. He made 17 starts for LA and posted a respectable ERA right around four and a half runs. He wasn’t blowing anybody’s doors off, but he did enough to earn a spot in the Angels rotation this year.
But this year he has seen his ERA go up, his strikeouts go down, and he is walking more guys than last year. Canning has already given up five home runs in just 23 innings spread across five starts. Canning did have one nice outing this year when he shut down the Houston Astros in six innings of work, but in his other four starts, he has been very inconsistent.
This will already be the third time that Canning has faced Oakland this year, and things have not gone well for him as he has pitched a combined 8.2 innings, allowing seven earned runs, on ten hits, including four homers, and the Angels lost both games.
Are the Oakland A’s the best team in the American League? Most pundits will tell you no, but in baseball, you are what your record is, and right now, the A’s record tells me that they are the best team in the American League.
Convention wisdom might suggest the it’s either the Yankees, Indians, Rays, White Sox, or Astros that are the best team in the league, but the A’s +33 run differential is higher than all of those teams and is second only to the Minnesota Twins in the league.
Oakland hits well, they pitch well, and they play good defense. This is a superbly well-crafted team that has no real glaring weakness. They don’t have the star players that some of those other teams have, but this roster top to bottom, is as good as any in the game. The books have been sleeping on Oakland all season long, but I haven’t, and you shouldn’t be either.
Chris Bassitt (2-0 2.93 ERA)
Chris Bassitt has very quietly been a pitcher that the A’s can count on the last couple of seasons. Last year he won double-digit games and had a sub-four run ERA. The year before that, his ERA was just 3.02 in limited action. This year, Bassitt is well on his way to a career year as he is 2-0 with a 2.93 ERA in five starts.
In his first start of the year, Bassitt pitched against these very same Angels and tossed four shutout innings. In his second start against the Angels this year, Bassitt wasn’t overly sharp, as he pitched 5.2 innings and gave up four earned runs, but he did enough to pick up the win for his efforts. The A’s are 4-1 this year in games where Bassitt starts.
Who Do I Like?
My buddy texted me last week and asked if I was on the Angels. And my response was an exasperated, what? Why would I ever want to be on the Angels? This team is awful. The pitching staff is laughable, and they can’t hit anything besides home runs.
While homers are great, and the Angels can hit them, as they are 6th in the majors in bombs, when you can’t get any runners on base to drive in, solo shot homers aren’t going to be enough to win you most games. LA is hitting just .231 as a team with an on-base percentage of only .315. Yikes.
The books refuse to acknowledge that the A’s are an elite team. Despite winning 80% of their games this month, you can still back them at very reasonable prices, even against downright bad teams like the Angels.
Let’s toss out the starting pitching matchup in this one for a second. While I think Chris Bassitt is the clear better side on the mound, I’ll leave that out for the sake of this discussion and put it to you like this.
That is an insane amount of value. The Angels are a bad team, playing at their worst, right now. Forget what you thought this team was going to be coming into the season with Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and Anthony Rendon bringing all the offseason hype to Hollywood, and focus on who this team is right now. And right now, they are the worst team in the AL.
Until the books get on board with LA being a train wreck and price them accordingly, I am going to continue to fade them and fade them hard. Give me the Oakland Athletics today at home at an absurdly underpriced -140!