The Detroit Tigers find themselves in some rare air on Thursday with a visit from the Baltimore Orioles. The Tigers are a favorite in the -155 range at Bovada Sportsbook with a total of 10. Per the KillerSports.com database, the Tigers are a -150 or higher favorite for just the third time since the start of the 2019 season. The games in question happened August 8 and August 13, 2019. They won one and lost one.
It will be Casey Mize in the role of expectations for the Tigers and Alexander Wells for the Orioles. Bettors have not had too much to say about this game yet, other than to bump the total up a bit from 9.5 to 10.
We haven’t heard much from the Orioles at the Trade Deadline. It was thought that maybe Trey Mancini could be traded, but the PR ramifications of trading Mancini after all that he has been through seem to outweigh the positives of the return that Baltimore could get. Otherwise, there just aren’t a lot of potential trade pieces on the roster.
Relievers could be on the move or something like that. The Orioles do rank fifth in fWAR among bullpens, but also have a 4.84 ERA and a 4.31 FIP, so there seems to be a bit of a disconnect there to say the least. Either way, the primary takeaway here is that the Orioles aren’t on pins and needles like a lot of other sellers.
This Baltimore offense ranks 22nd in wOBA, but we need to put that into the proper context. The Orioles have hit left-handed pitchers well all season long. Unfortunately for them, Casey Mize throws right-handed. Baltimore ranks 28th in wOBA against righties and has one of the league’s higher K% marks in that split at 25%.
This will be the second Major League start and fourth appearance as a big leaguer for Alex Wells. The 24-year-old southpaw has allowed five runs on 10 hits in 10.1 innings with eight strikeouts against six walks. Wells was not a high walk rate guy in the minor leagues with six free passes in 43 Triple-A innings, but also wasn’t a big strikeout guy either.
Wells has allowed 33 balls in play and 17 have been hit at least 95 mph. He’s a standard, four-pitch lefty that throws in the upper 80s and relies on good control to get by. Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs graded Wells as the 32nd-ranked prospect in the Orioles organization before the start of the season.
Casey Mize is having a fine season with a 3.63 ERA and a 4.59 FIP in his 104 innings of work, but that innings number is the key one. Right now, the Tigers are monitoring his innings very closely. Mize wound up throwing 28.1 innings last season and threw 119.1 innings in 2019 across High-A and Double-A.
The 2018 #1 overall pick has battled some shoulder discomfort as a pro and in college, so the Tigers are wisely keeping close tabs on him with this season’s workload increase. Mize’s last four starts have been 3, 4, 4, and 4.2 innings long. His last start against the Royals went much longer than expected, as he threw 80 pitches. He was held to 54, 50, and 56 in his previous three starts.
So, this is something you need to handicap in Mize’s outings. He won’t be pitching as deep into games as he was, which brings a Tigers bullpen that has posted a 5.15 ERA and a 4.74 FIP into the equation quite extensively.
The Tigers have been better against righties than lefties, ranking 23rd in wOBA against left-handed pitchers on the season. Their offense has been a lot better over the last two months than what we saw earlier in the season and they do have a favorable matchup here against a guy in Wells that is still trying to find his way at the MLB level.
Orioles vs. Tigers Free Pick
This is certainly a tricky handicap. Mize’s start length is TBD, but likely to be around 3-4 innings. The Orioles are throwing out a kid that doesn’t seem ready for MLB life. You’d almost want to default to the over, but that seems too easy. The Tigers remain a scrappy team and sportsbooks favored them by this price for a reason. It is rare air, but justified rare air.
Pick: Detroit Tigers