Each day LT Profits Sports seeks an overlay side that has a better chance of cashing than its spread, offering long term value. Here is their Side Value Play for Monday.
It is possible that the wrong team is favored Monday night when southpaw Wei-Yin Chen and the Baltimore Orioles (43-39, 15-22 away) pay a visit to right-hander Phil Hughes and the Minnesota Twins (45-39, 25-15 home) for the first game of a three-game series from Target Field in Minneapolis, MN at 8:10 ET in a game available on MASN2.
The posted money line at Pinnacle Sports has Minnesota as a home underdog for this contest at current odds of +111.
Battle of Second Place Teams
The Orioles are the defending American League East Champions, but they got off to a slow start this season before catching fire and briefly taking over the division lead again. They have since leveled off a bit though and were the losing MLB picks in three straight games before snapping that skid with a 9-1 rout of the White Sox in Chicago Sunday. Baltimore remains in the thick of the division race in second place, one game behind the Yankees.
This is actually a battle of second place teams as the Twins have been one of the most pleasant surprises in baseball after finishing in last place in the American League Central last season. Minnesota comes off of a four-game split with the first place Royals, leaving the Twins exactly where they were when that series began at 4½ games behind the defending American League Champions from Kansas City.
Impeccable Command for Hughes
On the one hand, the Twins may be satisfied getting that split on the road in Kansas City, but on the other hand the series could have been so much better as both losses to the Royals came in walk-off fashion. Regardless, Minnesota now gets to return home and it has the starting pitcher with the best command in the Major Leagues on the mound to begin the home stand.
You may recall that Hughes set a Major League record for strikeout-to-walk ratio last season when he had a phenomenal 186 strikeouts vs. a miniscule 16 walks, with that ratio of 11.63 breaking the old record of 11.00 set by Bret Saberhagen of the Royals in 1994. Now that command ratio has not been as high this year, but that is only relatively speaking as Hughes still has a terrific 64 strikeouts vs. 10 walks, a ratio that belies his 4.27 ERA.
And you do not need to convince the Orioles that the ERA is fraudulent, as he did not allow a single earned run in eight innings the last time he faced Baltimore while allowing only five hits. Hughes had allowed three runs or less in four straight starts before allowing four runs last Tuesday vs. the Reds, mainly due to yielding two home runs in a hitter’s park in Cincinnati. He does not figure to duplicate that here in a pitcher’s park in Minnesota.
Chen Not Nearly as Good as the ERA
Chen also has a deceptive ERA, but unfortunately for him it is for the opposite reason of Hughes. Chen is 4-4 with a 2.84 ERA while allowing more than three earned runs just once in his 15 starts this year. Now the first inclination may be to assume that Chen has been unlucky to be 4-4 considering he has not allowed many runs, but a closer luck reveals that he probably does not deserve to have the low ERA, making him overvalued for the time being.
You see, Chen has benefited greatly form a allowing a low .257 BABIP and an insanely high 83.9 percent strand rate, neither of which seem sustainable over the long haul. Better indications of Chen’s true ability are his 4.28 FIP and 3.99 xFIP, both well above his ERA which is usually not a good thing.
Also, the southpaw must now deal with a Twins’ lineup whose best batting split this year has been vs. left-handed pitchers at home with Minnesota batting .272 and averaging an impressive 5.62 runs in this circumstance.
Home vs. Away Splits
Finally, the home vs. away splits seem to favor the underdog Twins in a fairly big way here. Minnesota is a nice 25-15 here at Target Field this season while Baltimore has a losing road mark of 15-22. Furthermore, the Twins are a whopping 20-8 in their last 28 games as home underdogs, as well as 13-4 in their last 17 home games vs. teams with losing road records.
Given that Hughes has probably pitched better than his ERA and Chen has not been nearly as good as his, look for that Minnesota home dominance to continue at an underdog price hosting Baltimore on Monday.
MLB Pick: Twins +111