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July 19, 2015 (Posted at 12:00 PM ET)

There are two big underdog picks today.
 

#1: Take Atlanta Braves (+147) on the Money Line against Chicago Cubs risking 3% of the bankroll. 
(Miller and Arrieta must start for wager to have action)

Much like our play on the Kansas City Royals this afternoon, we feel that there is quite a bit of value backing the Braves in this one. The odds on the Cubs in this contest are inflated due to the performance of Jake Arrieta. While hehas been a solid pitcher as of late, the odds in this contest are simply not indicative of how this entire team has performed against the Braves in the past. The Cubs have managed to win just 3 of the last 15 meetings against the Braves and have dropped 6 of their last 7. Even with him pitching as well as he has, it goes to show that as a "team" the Braves have had the Cubbies number. It's also worth mentioning that Atlanta slugger A.J. Pierzynski, who managed to break up Jon Lester's no-hit bid t, is 6 for 8 with two homers against Arrieta. That's his best average versus any pitcher he's faced six or more times.

While a lot of focus in this matchup has been on the recent performance of Arrieta, it's worth mentioning that Shelby Miller has quietly been placed under the radar and is having a statistically better season than Arrieta at this point. Even though his record is just 5-5 on the year, his ERA is lower than Arrieta's and at home, Miller has been nearly unhittable. In 8 starts at Turner Field this season Miller has an extremely respectable 1.94 ERA and his struggles have come mostly due to lack of run support rather than inept pitching. He's also had success against the Cubs in his career going 1-0 with a 2.86 and a WHIP of 0.909 in 4 career starts. Starlin Castro, who had an RBI single in four at-bats Saturday, is 4 for 40 in his last 12 games and 1 for 8 with three strikeouts lifetime against Miller. Miller was visibly frustrated after his last performance where he threw his hat in glove in the dugout. There is no question that he will be looking bounce back from that performance. 

The Braves also have the advantage of playing at Turner Field again this afternoon where they are 24-18 on the season. Turner Field is a tough venue for opposing teams to come in and try to collect a victory. Even though the Braves are in somewhat of a rebuilding mode this season, they still have a solid focus on defending their home turf. It's not too often you see the Braves listed as this big of a home underdog and there is good reason for that. The 6 times this has happened they have managed to win 4 of those 6 games. Atlanta is also a team that doesn't take kindly to being shutout and often bounce back after a less than stellar performance. After almost suffering a no-hitter yesterday, we expect their bats to come out in this contest with a vengeance. On the same note, the Cubs have not historically been a team that has carried the momentum of a shutout performance into their following game having gone just 4-7 in this situation this season.

These two clubs are more evenly matched in this contest than many believe. The Braves have shown their ability to keep games close, especially at home and are usually just a swing of the bat away from changing the complexion of a ball game. Arrieta has shown his struggles against this team in the past and if Atlanta can muster up a couple of timely hits in this contest, they have a legitimate shot of walking away with the victory. Even if they do happen to fall short, we expect this to be a close game and at these odds, the return is worth the risk in backing the home team. 

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Atlanta is 13-5 in home games after a loss this season.
  • Atlanta is 16-9 at home when the total is 7 or less this season.
  • Atlanta is 50-27 at home when playing against a team with a winning record over the last 3 seasons.
     

#2: Take KC Royals (+160) on the Money Line against Chicago White Sox risking 3% of the bankroll. 
(Duffy and Sale must start for wager to have action)

We have nothing but respect for White sox pitcher Chris Sale. In our opinion, next to Clayton Kershaw and David Price, Sale is the very best southpaw in the game today. He is a strikeout machine and is no doubt the MVP of his team. The 26-year-old leads the AL with 11.71 strikeouts per nine innings and ranks among the major league leaders with 157 strikeouts and a 6.83 strikeout-to-walk ratio. With all that being said, a huge reason why Sale has been successful this season has been his ability to punch batters out and force them to swing. The issue this afternoon is that the Kansas City Royals are one of the most patient teams when it comes to at bats and they are also the league leaders in terms of fewest strikeouts leading the Majors with just 520. Kansas City hitters haven't struck out 10 or more times in their last 21 games and in fact it has only happened 8 times all season long.

The Royals hitters have also has success against Sale in their careers with Kendrys Morales going 3 for 6 with a home run and a double off Sale, while Alcides Escobar has gone 18 for 48 (.375) and Lorenzo Cain is 14 for 40 (.350) with two homers. Cain has been red-hot at the plate recently and is currently batting .490 with three homers over his last 13 games. For as good as Sale has been, he owns just a lifetime 6-6 record in 14 career appearances against the Royals so this is a lineup that has seen Sale plenty of times. 

Meanwhile White Sox are the worst team in Majors against southpaws in terms of run production and could struggle against Duffy tonight. The Royals do not need Duffy to out-duel Sale in this contest, all they really need out of him is 5-6 good innings to keep them in the game since they have the best group of relievers in the Majors. Many people forget that Danny Duffy was a big reason Royals went all the way to the World Series last season. This year he was injured to start the season and so he's a forgotten name but he is better than people think and should be no more than a +145 dog here. Like Sale himself, Duffy has good stuff, is a lefty and can baffle opponents. Duffy is now just finding his groove since he's had a few starts since coming back from DL and has an excellent 1.46 ERA over his last 2 starts!

Let's not forget that this White Sox team has their issues. They are not a very fundamentally sound team. Chicago is currently 6 games out of the Wild Card race and 12 games back of catching these KC Royals. In all reality, we believe that the White Sox record is better than it actually should be. We expect them to finish with the worst record in AL when the season is over. One of the main differences between these two offenses is their base-running proficiency. Royals have stolen 53 bases this season while being caught only 20 times. Whereas the Pale Hose have been extremely poor with 28 steals vs. 26 times caught! In tight games, they are often decided by a stolen base here and there. In our opinions, Robin Ventura is not a good coach and this club can't move forward as long as the keep him. This franchise has been patient with him which we like to see teams with coaches but in his case, he should be let go. 

To put things in perspective with these two teams, the Royals offense has scored 89 more runs than White Sox and their defense has allowed 49 less runs. KC is by far and away the better team in this contest. We now get them as +160 dogs which mean there's value taking them regardless of the final score. This could be a close game but the value is with underdogs especially one with a winning mentality since Kansas City is 5-1 in extra-inning games and 12-7 in games decided by 1-run including last night's win! They are the best team in the American League in our opinion and are going up against the worst one.

The Royals have also been great at playing small ball so they don't necessarily need to go yard off of Sale to be competitive in this contest. This is a team that ranks 2nd in Majors in batting average and scores plenty of runs despite not hitting many home runs. Looking at the side by side comparisons of these two teams, there is no doubt that the defending AL Champs are the much better overall team than the White Sox. They are the statistically better overall team in all areas of this contest, except the starting pitching position. Sale himself is the lone reason why the White Sox are laying such a hefty price tag! One person cannot be the deciding factor, no matter how good they appear to be. The Royals have managed to win 9 of the last 13 meetings between these two clubs. It will likely be a closely contested matchup, but the return on this investment is well worth the risk. 

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Royals have won 19 out of 30 day games!
  • White Sox are just 6-11 against left-handed starters.
  • White Sox are 16-27 against AL Central division opponents.
  • Royals are 17-8 when the total is set at 7 runs or less.



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