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Toeing the Line: Wednesday Betting Picks

Erik Siegrist

Erik Siegrist is an FSWA award-winning columnist who covers all four major North American sports (that means the NHL, not NASCAR) and whose beat extends back to the days when the Nationals were the Expos and the Thunder were the Sonics. He was the inaugural champion of Rotowire's Staff Keeper baseball league. His work has also appeared at Baseball Prospectus.

When it comes to betting on MLB, there are a few types of games that tend to produce a solid ROI. Betting underdogs in games with higher over/under totals, for instance, can generate solid returns, and there's always the old "fade the public" contrarian standby. Aside from looking at overall betting trends, however, there are also some statistical guidelines that could produce strong betting opportunities, and that's what this column will focus on.

The moneylines listed are from and are pulled the night before, so a big disparity before game time means there's been some significant action on one side or a major last-minute lineup change (such as a switch in starting pitcher).

Last week's 0-3 flop dropped my record below .500 for the first time this year, but the great thing about focusing on underdogs is that you can keep a positive ROI even when you cash less than half your bets.

Let's take a look at the lines that spark some interest for Wednesday, May 25.

Chicago Cubs (Jake Arrieta) at St. Louis (Carlos Martinez), 1:45 pm ET: -160/+150, o/u 7.0

It's a home underdog but not a volatile one given the low over/under on the game, so it doesn't fit the usual criteria. As you'd expect, the public loves Arrieta (90 percent of ML bets on the Cubs) and while his 3.23 SIERA is merely good compared to his nutty 1.29 ERA, Martinez's own 3.56 ERA and 4.33 SIERA aren't ideal either. The Cardinals do have a slight advantage on offense, though, with a .357 wOBA against RHP compared to the Cubs' .344.

Recommendation: Pass, although if you are going to make a pure contrarian bet this week, the Cards should be it.

LA Angels (Hector Santiago) at Texas (Colby Lewis), 2:05 pm ET: +105/-115, o/u 9.5

This is another game where the odds are creeping up despite no strong preference from the public. Some books have the Angels as high as +122 as a write this, which puts them on the radar as a possible underdog bet given the sky-high o/u. Lewis' 2.75 ERA also hides a 4.09 SIERA and the teams are almost dead even offensively, as the Angels have a .313 wOBA against righties while the Rangers have a .314 wOBA against lefties.

Recommendation: Pass, but the Angels could be worth a look at +125 or better.

San Diego (James Shields) at San Francisco (Jake Peavy), 3:45 pm ET: +150/-160, o/u 7.5

The public is running away from Peavy and his 8.21 ERA, putting 58 percent of ML bets on the Padres, but going by his 4.54 SIERA he's almost on par with Shields (3.07 ERA vs. 4.11 SIERA). San Diego also has the worst offense in the league against RHP with a .267 wOBA, giving San Fran a strong advantage despite their own mediocre .314 wOBA.

Recommendation: Pass, although with the odds narrowing the Giants could be worth a look as the favorite.

Arizona (Rubby De La Rosa) at Pittsburgh (Jeff Locke), 7:05 pm ET: +125/-135, o/u 8.0

The o/u has been bouncing between 8.0 and 8.5 overnight, so this could be in range as an underdog play. Both pitchers have SIERAs within spitting distance of their ERAs though, and while the Diamondbacks have an offensive advantage, it's a slight one (.352 wOBA vs. LHP, compared to the Pirates' .341 wOBA vs. RHP).

Recommendation: Pass, as the indicators are just short in a few areas.

Toronto (Marco Estrada) at NY Yankees (Ivan Nova), 7:05 pm ET: -105/-105, o/u 8.5

There's a bit of a lean in the Yankees' direction on this one. The public likes the Jays, putting 61 percent of ML bets on them, but Estrada's 2.61 ERA hides a 3.89 SIERA. Nova's a wild card though, and neither side had the edge in wOBA.

Recommendation: Pass, as I'd want just a little more incentive to back the home side here.

Colorado (Chad Bettis) at Boston (Mike Wright), 7:10 pm ET: +160/-170, o/u 9.5

This one checks all the underdog boxes, as the public is throwing 74 percent of ML bets at the Red Sox. Neither pitcher has a significant gap between their ERA and SIERA, surprisingly, but Boston has been crushing lefties (league-leading .373 wOBA compared to Colorado's .330 wOBA against RHP), which makes backing the Rox dicey. Still, it fits the criteria.

Recommendation: Back the Rockies (one unit) at +160.

Miami (Justin Nicolino) at Tampa Bay (Matt Andriese), 7:10 pm ET: +140/-150, o/u 8.0

The o/u has risen to 8.5, and the public is firmly behind the Rays with 70 percent of ML bets, so this one also moves into underdog wager range. Nicolino is a scary pitcher to back though (4.90 ERA vs. 5.77 SIERA over his brief career), and Tampa has the edge in offense (.350 wOBA vs LHP compared to Miami's .322 wOBA vs. RHP).

Recommendation: Back the Marlins (one unit) at +140.

YTD performance: 7-8-1, plus 1.92 units, ROI plus 12.01%