All 30 MLB teams take the field on Friday with some home opener festivities in a few cities and the first road trips for some teams. Teams playing at home for the first time are the Red Sox, Guardians, Astros, Athletics, Mariners and Mets, while the Yankees, Rays, Twins, Giants and Diamondbacks hit the MLB highway for the first time.
When evaluating the card, make sure you think about who the teams have played to this point and their respective park factors so that you aren’t undervaluing or overvaluing the early-season returns. With that, let’s see what happened last night and look ahead to Friday’s card.
Cardinals/Brewers: Brandon Woodruff still wasn’t as sharp as usual with only two strikeouts, but he threw much better than his first start. Omar Narvaez did it behind the plate and with his bat with a couple of knocks, including a homer. I’ll be curious to see when manager Craig Counsell decides to end this timeshare charade. One catcher is clearly better than the other. Brewers pitchers only allowed five hard-hit balls. Adam Wainwright allowed eight himself, as his road splits came to the forefront in this one.
Nationals/Pirates: My guy JT Brubaker walked three of the first four batters he faced and gave up three first-inning runs, but settled down and didn’t allow another run until Anthony Banda let an inherited runner score in the fifth. It certainly wasn’t the best of starts, but when the Pirates are home underdogs to mediocre offenses later this season, I’ll try to find spots to play on him. I’m actually okay with a slow start, so long as it doesn’t cost me money. It usually creates future equity because his stats aren’t impressive and he’s an afterthought. I look for that with a lot of pitchers.
Phillies/Marlins: Well, Kyle Gibson did do it again and I was fortunate to be a winner in this one. Gibson had 17 whiffs in 42 swings and struck out six over 4.2 innings. I’m not sure where all of this swing and miss is coming from. Sandy Alcantara had 19 in 58 swings himself and put up another fine stat line in a home start. Those home/road splits matter. They’re about park factor more often than not, but also comfort and confidence. I’m a stats guy, but I believe in the intangibles and the unquantifiable as well.
Cubs/Rockies: The Cubs beat lefty Kyle Freeland to validate some of that early money on Chicago against a southpaw. This seems like it could be a growing trend in the betting markets. The Cubs absolutely do project to be a solid lineup against lefties and they touched Freeland up for five runs on nine hits over 5.1 innings. The Cubs even hit into FIVE double plays in the game. I wrote about looking at the overnight lines in today’s Burke’s Betting Blurbs for the VSiN newsletter. It’ll be a good practice with Cubs vs. a lefty odds for sure.
Reds/Dodgers: Luis Cessa opened for Reiver Sanmartin as the Reds were blown out by the Dodgers. Sanmartin threw five shutout innings after Cessa allowed three runs in the first. The Dodgers ran Walker Buehler up to 98 pitches and he only got through 5.2 innings due to three walks and 16 foul balls. It wasn’t the most impressive start for him, but the velo and spin rates looked fine, so I don’t see any major reason for concern.
Mariners/White Sox: A trend is emerging with the White Sox. It is early, but they have the lowest wOBA in baseball at .249 against right-handed pitchers. We all know that they can mash lefties. In this series, they struggled with righties Matt Brash and Logan Gilbert. They did get four runs on seven hits in five innings off of Casey Mize, but he doesn’t generate much swing and miss. I think we can successfully fade the White Sox against right-handed pitchers with above average K% and SwStr% marks. Guys that have plus stuff and throw right-handed can beat this team. I’ll be looking for those spots.
Jays/Yankees: Kevin Gausman had 21 whiffs in 55 swings against the Yankees, but came up on the short end because the offense was shut out for the second time in three days. For reference, there were 22 whiffs TOTAL in the Cubs/Rockies game. Gausman had misses on 13 of 22 swings against his splitter, so his money pitch was working. Toronto was 0-for-9 with RISP and loaded the bases in the ninth with nobody out on three Aroldis Chapman walks, but went strike out and double play to end the game. What an interesting series this was.
Tigers/Royals: The Tigers lineup is projecting like the White Sox lineup for me. I think they match up better with lefties and are going to be subpar against righties with good stuff and above average swing-and-miss rates. They had 10 batted balls of 95 (+) mph against Zack Greinke. While they only managed four singles, they made authoritative contact. He doesn’t have the same stuff or same swing and miss that he once did. Maybe a lot of lineups fit that mold, but given that both lineups are heavy with right-handed batters, it means more to me. A lot of lineups can throw lefties out there to utilize platoon advantages. The Tigers are thinner in that department, especially because switch hitter Jeimer Candelario hits better from the right side.
Weather: Rain will threaten some games today and wind remains a bit of a factor, though not as much as we’ve seen on other days this season. Winds will be blowing out to RF in Boston, New York, Cleveland and Dodger Stadium. Winds are blowing out to LF in Baltimore and Chicago. Winds will be blowing in for games in KC and Denver.
Injuries: Check out our Injury Report right here at VSiN. Also, my friend @MLBDream on Twitter put together a great MLB beat writer list to follow.
Diamondbacks at Mets (-220, 8): The betting markets are not keen on Zach Davies. He’s a low-strikeout pitcher whose ERA generally outperforms his FIP. He has a 4.14 ERA and a 4.41 FIP in 836.2 innings, but his 3.55 ERA in 2019 came with a 4.56 FIP and his 2.73 ERA in 2020 came with a 3.88 FIP. Because the only components to FIP are K, BB, HR and HBP, it doesn’t take into account how well Davies has suppressed hard contact throughout his career, but the betting markets fade him in spite of that knowledge anyway.
Nationals at Pirates (-110, 9): To this point, we have not seen an Erick Fedde fade. That says a lot to me about the Pirates and Mitch Keller because we usually see money come in against Fedde without a second thought. Sometimes the line moves that don’t happen are the most notable.
Phillies at Marlins (-125, 7.5): Pablo Lopez has become a market darling. He took money last week against the Giants on the road and he’s taking money today against the Phillies at home. Lopez is one of those guys where grabbing him on an overnight line, especially at home, is likely to yield some closing line value (CLV), which means that you got a better number than the closing line at first pitch.
Cubs at Rockies (-115, 9.5): Marcus Stroman is getting the love for this matchup against German Marquez. Stroman’s ground ball rate should be a big asset at Coors Field and Marquez does have some home/road splits, as you would expect. However, his home FIP is 3.82 and his road FIP is 3.88, so it’s been about sequencing and batted ball luck. His BABIP against is 41 points higher at home, so he’s simply allowed more baserunners on balls in play and they’ve found ways to score because it’s Coors. That total has also dropped from 10 to 9.5.
Reds at Dodgers (-240, 9): It’s a big line, which should scale down the size of the move, but this is the second time that Vladimir Gutierrez has been bet against this season. Gutierrez had a 4.74 ERA with a 5.22 FIP last season, so we see that ERA-FIP discrepancy, but also, he doesn’t really miss bats, which is another thing that bettors will fade.
Twins at Red Sox (-130, 10): The Red Sox are one of the bigger movers this morning. I’m a big Nick Pivetta guy, so I’m scratching my head a little at the magnitude of the line move. The Red Sox opened in the -110/-115 range. Joe Ryan had good minor league numbers and peripherals. We’ll see what happens here. The Red Sox pen is pretty dicey at the moment as well.
Athletics at Blue Jays (-180, 9.5): Surprised to see this move. Ross Stripling isn’t a beloved figure in the betting markets and the A’s have been really good as underdogs, but Toronto goes back to the friendly confines and we’ll have to see if any Oakland players are unable to play because of vaccine mandates. Daulton Jefferies was good in five innings and 48 pitches against the Phillies, but this lineup is a tougher test.
Tigers at Royals (-125, 8): I don’t know if Tarik Skubal pitches well against the Royals today, but this is an example of what I mean about evaluating who pitchers have faced. The southpaw Skubal had a brutal draw against the White Sox in his first start. Now he draws an easier Royals bunch and the line has moved down on him. Brad Keller did shut down a Guardians lineup scoring runs in bunches, but I’m still not sure this Cleveland lineup is that good. Neither is Detroit’s, but you can see why Skubal would take early funds. In line with those thoughts, the total has also gone from 8.5 to 8.
What I’ll Be Watching
MacKenzie Gore: The Padres top pitching prospect makes his MLB debut against a very good Braves lineup. Gore threw five shutout innings in his 2022 debut with seven strikeouts in what was his seventh Triple-A start. He has 55.2 innings at the Double-A/Triple-A level. His expectations have been tempered a bit by injury and control. He has 311 K in 238.1 innings against 81 walks, but the control issue really popped up last season after missing all of 2020 with no minor league ball due to COVID.
Joe Ryan: Boring name, interesting pitcher. Ryan had 326 K in 226 minor league innings before getting called up last season. He was barely on prospect lists and doesn’t have a ton of pedigree, but his minor league numbers were truly spectacular. He tries to stay up in the zone with the fastball and pitch above the bat path, allowing his 91 mph fastball to appear quicker and also have hitters make contact with the bottom half of the baseball. Being a fly ball pitcher at Fenway is a concern, but I’ll be curious to see what he does with a strong offense today.
Drew Rasmussen: Rasmussen was a hard pitcher for me to figure out last season. He had a 2.84 ERA with a 3.09 FIP. Despite a 50.2% Hard Hit%, his BABIP against was only .255. Remember that batted balls of 95 (+) mph are classified as “Hard-Hit balls” and have an annual batting average of .500 or better. How Rasmussen pitched around so much hard contact is a mystery to me. Furthermore, with all that hard contact, he still had better road numbers than at home, even though Tropicana Field is an elite pitcher’s park. He allowed a .287 wOBA at home and a .222 wOBA on the road, with 10 more road innings. Safe to say I’ll be intrigued to see how he does today against the White Sox.
Friday Best Bets
Shop around for the best lines! I’m using a market consensus number that should be widely available to most, but every cent matters, so do the best you can to get the best line possible.
VEGAS LINES | ODDS BY STATE | MLB MATCHUPS
White Sox (-125) over Rays: I just wrote about it, but Drew Rasmussen is a guy that allows a ton of hard contact. As a full-time starter from Aug. 12 through the end of the regular season, over 53% of the balls in play were hit at least 95 mph, yet he somehow carried a .198 BABIP against. His K% also took a massive tumble once he moved into a starting capacity, as he only struck out 16.9% of opposing batters. If I know that the White Sox have a favorable matchup for hitting the ball hard, I’m going to have a lot of interest in that kind of setup.
Dylan Cease’s jump in 2021 was no fluke. He posted a 3.91 ERA with a 3.41 FIP under the watchful eyes of pitching coach Ethan Katz, who has been a great find for this White Sox team. Cease cut down the walks, commanded the zone better and made some slight improvements in terms of contact quality against.
Tampa Bay has had a lot of bullpen attrition already due to injury and they’ve been forced to throw out a lot of random dudes. Chicago’s primary relievers have been used quite a bit already, but all of them got a day off yesterday, so they should be pretty fresh today if protecting a late lead. The White Sox should put more balls in play and more balls in play at a higher rate of speed, which does have a high correlation to winning. I’ll take that chance today and lay the favorite price.
Astros (-115) over Mariners: Let’s keep an eye on this game and this line. The Astros have had an illness rolling through the clubhouse, as Yordan Alvarez has missed time and some coaches have been out sick as well. I’d like to see a lineup and make sure everybody is there before I really think about committing.
Jake Odorizzi is an extreme fly ball guy and T-Mobile Park is a good place for that. Also, the Mariners lineup has really struggled to this point with a .192/.292/.338 slash. The Mariners also played yesterday and their two primary relievers, Paul Sewald and Drew Steckenrider, both pitched. The Astros had an off day to rest their primary relievers, who had worked three of the last four days. Marco Gonzales might just be done and will put a lot of strain on the bullpen.
It’s a light day for me. Just not much on the card that I like.
I’m tracking the picks in my Google Sheet HERE, but we are working on a tracker at VSiN.com that should be ready to go later this week.