MLB betting market report: Daily picks, advice for Friday 4/22

By Adam Burke  (VSiN.com) 

April 22, 2022 11:03 AM
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One day game at Wrigley Field alters an otherwise perfect day and night for handicapping in Major League Baseball. The other 14 games will all conclude under the lights and that means that bettors will have ample time to get their thoughts together and get their picks in.

Before I look back at yesterday and dig into today’s card, it’s worth mentioning that of the seven NL games, every single one of them has a left-handed starter and two of them have two left-handed starters, including a Jose Quintana vs. Drew Smyly rematch. You almost never see that, as teams face a righty about 70% of the time. It’s quite a fascinating day for a nerd like me.

Yesterday’s Recap

Giants/Mets: Influential bettors that steamed up the Mets were right on with this game, as Anthony DeSclafani gave up five runs over five innings and Carlos Carrasco threw another gem for the home team with 7.2 innings of two-run ball with seven strikeouts. What a boost Cookie would be to this rotation if he can stay in tact and keep throwing the ball well. Carrasco’s Cleveland teammate Francisco Lindor is off to a scorching .308/.419/.615 slash with four homers. In fact, just about everybody in the Mets lineup is hitting. They’ll cool off, but with their starting pitching, it will be hard to fade them, even if they wind up being overpriced soon.

Diamondbacks/Nationals: Break up the D-Backs! They’ve won two in a row for the first time this season. I mentioned yesterday that the markets were not fading Zach Davies as they usually do. Arizona won. The markets didn’t fade Jordan Lyles in Oakland the other day. Baltimore won. The line moves that happen are significant, but so are the line moves that don’t. If you pick up a tendency from sharp bettors that shape markets and see them betting against a pitcher regularly, it should really pique your interest when you don’t see that in one of their starts.

Davies struck out seven over five innings. The last time he struck out at least seven batters in five or fewer innings? July 23, 2019.

Cardinals/Marlins: The under came through nicely for us yesterday, as Pablo Lopez threw seven shutout innings with nine strikeouts. He’s outstanding at home (much like Sandy Alcantara) and simply has to be priced differently at home than on the road. The Cardinals scored seven runs in this series, with five against lefty Jesus Luzardo and two against reliever Anthony Bender on a Nolan Arenado dong. Right-handed starters with above average stuff will shut this lineup down based on what we’ve seen so far. They’ll hit lefties (though regression is coming there), but we can fade them against quality RHP.

Surprisingly, Jordan Hicks still sat 99.6 with the fastball over his three innings. It was a solid first start for him.

Pirates/Cubs: I found it interesting that early bettors were backing journeyman Mark Leiter Jr. over Bryse Wilson. It may just have been a Cubs over Pirates thing, but Wilson only had two whiffs in 24 swings yesterday. He walked four and gave up three runs on three hits in three innings. The 25-year-old righty would be a reliever with any other team, but it’s the Pirates and they can afford to see if he can start. I think he’s been isolated, much like Vladimir Gutierrez of the Reds, as one of the worst pitchers in baseball and bettors are going to fade him on the overnights and in the morning. Be prepared for that.

White Sox/Guardians: xBA, or expected batting average, can be a flawed stat at times that does require some extra context, but the Guardians had six runs on 13 hits with a xBA of .225, while the White Sox had three runs on eight hits with a xBA of .339 in yesterday’s game. Cleveland is sound defensively and pays attention to the details. Chicago is not sound defensively and pays little attention to the details. The White Sox just win on their pure talent.

Luis Robert left yesterday’s game hurt and the injury bugs have been swarming this team early on. The first-place Guardians are the only team in the division with a positive run differential to this point. As somebody holding a season win total under ticket, I’m a little discouraged. As a fan, the team is way more interesting than most previous versions. I still think it’s Chicago’s division to lose, but these injuries are a lot to overcome already.

Yankees/Tigers: Speaking of batted ball luck, the Yankees had nine hard-hit balls against Michael Pineda, but could only manage three hits in the 3-0 loss to the Tigers. This is a theme once again for the Yankees, much like it was last season. They currently rank 26th in BA on batted balls of 95 + mph or higher at .403 (league average is .463). Their SLG is just .732 (league average is .887). Bad luck follows them around on the offensive side, which is why Brian Cashman hasn’t been as aggressive as some would like. Their metrics usually look fine, but their offensive results have not. I’ll monitor this to see if the tide starts to turn.

Side Note: Other laggards on high-velo contact? Royals (.333 / .697), Orioles (.385 / .641), White Sox (.390 / .705), Astros (.398 / .870).

Twins/Royals: Joe Ryan got bet up yesterday and the Twins came through with a 1-0 victory. The Royals offense stinks, but this cat is no fluke. Ryan worked six shutout and had five strikeouts with 12 whiffs on 37 swings. Minnesota’s scouting staff did an excellent job getting him for a rental player in the Nelson Cruz deal. Shy of some early control nerves against Seattle on a rough day to pitch, he’s been terrific. He is an extreme fly ball guy to this point, though, which means we’ll have to watch him in the summer when the negative effects we’re seeing from the humidor right now get turned around.

Orioles/Athletics: Finally an over for the Orioles, but my eyes are on Paul Blackburn. He only had two whiffs on 21 swings and had some pretty noticeable velocity declines. Blackburn left after five innings and just 62 pitches. He’s been throwing his curveball a lot more and I think he was pulled to err on the side of caution. It may be costly, but fading him in his next start at San Francisco could be a good course of action.

Rangers/Mariners: The stat line won’t really show it, but Marco Gonzales threw the ball well yesterday. Four of the six runs he allowed were unearned and he had 16 whiffs with 12 coming on the changeup. The defense failed him in the fifth with two errors and Gonzales, who was approaching 90 pitches, fell apart and gave up a double, homer and another double to lose the lead. It was an encouraging start, even if the outcome was poor. He still fits the mold as a guy that can pitch well at home, so I’ll look for spots to back him.

This is another example of why you can’t just look at results. You have to look at the context of a game on a deeper level.

Friday Resources

Weather: Winds are blowing out in New York and Anaheim, while breezes are blowing in for games in Chicago and Minnesota. When you think about a total of 7.5 with Quintana and Smyly starting for their respective teams, you instinctively have to think about the wind. Hopefully in the next week or so, Mother Nature will start to be a little bit nicer in the cold-weather cities with a lot of precipitation.

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.

Line Moves

Pirates at Cubs (-170, 7.5): In that Quintana/Smyly barnburner, we’ve seen a 15-20 cent move on Chicago. Quintana throws left-handed, so it’s a pretty obvious move. Interestingly, this line was Cubs in the -120ish range for this particular matchup in Pittsburgh, but now we’re seeing this one upwards of -170 and that’s definitely not just a home field adjustment. Smyly has actually pitched well and Cubs lines are on an elevator to the top floor against southpaws. Keep that in mind.

Cardinals (-120, 8) at Reds: I think bettors may be really surprised to see the Cardinals such a short favorite against a 2-11 Reds team. Steven Matz and Hunter Greene are the listed starters here. Even stripped to the bone, the Reds offense should play different at home. Also, as I mentioned, the Cardinals are going to not perform as well against righties with good stuff. Greene has really good stuff. We’ve even seen some mild investment in the Reds here. I can’t take Cincinnati at this short of a price, but when you boil it down, the line makes sense.

Giants (-130, 9) at Nationals: We’ve seeing a Patrick Corbin/Nationals fade today with the Giants in town. San Francisco’s offense has been a bit marginal, posting just a .217/.289/.361 slash to this point, but they’re taking the money. I think modelers are starting to view Washington as one of the worst teams in baseball, so I think we should anticipate more line moves against them.

Mets (-120, 8.5) at Diamondbacks: This is another one much like the Cardinals/Reds that will catch bettors off-guard. The difference is that Zac Gallen is more of a household name than Greene, at least for now. This is a long trip west for the Mets and the Diamondbacks have won two in a row with an offense that has unsustainably low numbers. Another interesting line I won’t bet, but I think recreational bettors will be jumping all over the Cardinals and Mets without thinking it through.

Dodgers (-155, 8) at Padres: We’ve seen a 10-15 cent move on the Padres here, which surprises me a bit. Nick Martinez is a good story coming back from a long stint in Japan, but he’s probably not a MLB-caliber arm and the Padres bullpen has its fair share of question marks. Remember that these early moves are based on the modeling crowd and their win probability projections, so it may simply be that the Dodgers are overpriced in the marketplace, but they’re also 9-3, so why shouldn’t they be priced at the top of the market?

Red Sox at Rays (-150, 8): This game has featured a 15-20 cent move on Corey Kluber and the Rays. Tampa Bay knows Michael Wacha well from last season and his stint with the Rays, but, man, this is a big number against a pretty good Red Sox lineup. Both guys have thrown the ball well to this point, but obviously Wacha is not highly-rated. What’s also interesting here is that we’ve seen Boston take some money recently against the Twins and Blue Jays. Therefore, this move says a lot.

Rockies at Tigers (-150, 7.5): The Rockies road fade is engaged for this interleague tilt against the Tigers. Tarik Skubal and the Motor City Kitties have gone up about 20 cents against Antonio Senzatela and a Rockies team that has played 10 of its first 12 games at home. Colorado plays well at home on an annual basis, but the road is a far different animal and bettors have pounced today. I can’t blame them, as this line has really taken off.

What I’ll Be Watching

Ranger Suarez: Suarez has gotten pretty unlucky to this point with a .357 BABIP, but I cautioned everybody about this coming into the season when he had a .257 BABIP with a 59.2% GB% last season. He plays on an awful defensive team and it has shown to this point. His two starts have been marred by defensive miscues and some unfortunate happenings, but he’s also only struck out five of 38 batters to this point.

The southpaw has also issued four walks and allowed 10 hits to the 34 right-handed batters that he has faced. Milwaukee is not the greatest of lineups and they’ve had their struggles against lefties, but that’s why they added Andrew McCutchen, Hunter Renfroe, Mike Brosseau and Victor Caratini in hopes of offsetting that shortcoming. They should be throwing seven righties at Suarez today, minus Kolten Wong and Christian Yelich, so this is a very interesting start for Suarez.

Kyle Wright: Wright has the chance to be really impressive again today against the Marlins. He’s throwing harder this season with an extra tick of velocity on his fastball and the Braves have optimized his pitch usage by reducing the use of his slider and increasing the use of his curveball and changeup. Through two starts, he’s struck out 15 and walked just one while allowing two runs on seven hits. He’s a kid that had strong minor league numbers that didn’t translate to the big leagues, but the Braves have been outstanding when it comes to pitcher development.

The betting markets seem pretty skeptical, as they’re siding with the Marlins and Trevor Rogers, but it takes time to adjust to pitch usage changes and I don’t think Wright’s alterations have been fully realized yet.

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

Mets (-120) over Diamondbacks: In this matchup between David Peterson and Zac Gallen, it will likely come down to the bullpens. Gallen is only making his second start of the season after a spring training injury slowed him down. Peterson is making his third, but he’s only faced 33 batters over those two starts, pitching into the fifth inning once. Both guys should start to get stretched out a bit more, but I don’t see more than a five-and-fly from either guy today.

That gives the advantage to the Mets, who have a much deeper, much more effective bullpen. The Mets have a 3.19 ERA with a 3.14 FIP as a pen and one of the league’s highest strikeout rates. Arizona has a 4.13 ERA with a 4.36 FIP and the league’s lowest K% as a bullpen by 2.7% over the Tigers. The Mets rank fourth in that department. There are a lot of things that have held Arizona back this season, but a 25.8% K% is one of them and it was over 28% just a few days ago.

I do like Peterson, so that’s part of the handicap as well. I don’t necessarily like him more than Gallen, but he’s good enough to match Gallen or come close, at which point the Mets’ bullpen and offensive advantages should come to the forefront. This price looks cheap to me. Sure, Gallen is starting, but half or more of the outs likely have to come from the bullpen in this one, so I’m on the Mets.

Mariners (-125) over Royals: I am not a believer in what Brad Keller has done to start the season, but that isn’t the only reason why I like the Mariners today. Kansas City’s paltry offense draws a tough assignment here because Chris Flexen is a dramatically different pitcher at home than he is on the road.

In his first home start, Flexen faced 24 Astros batters and only six reached.  Last season, Flexen had a 3.23 ERA in 97.2 innings with a .257/.292/.378 slash against and a .289 wOBA. He doesn’t miss a lot of bats, but pitches to the ballpark and should have success with it against a Royals lineup slashing .206/.259/.321, despite having the fourth-lowest K% in the league. The Royals also don’t walk, so they have to hit their way on base. That’s easier said than done in this ballpark. When Flexen does exit the game, Kansas City will have to contend with the best bullpen in baseball by K% and one that has a 2.55 ERA with a 2.77 FIP to this point.

Keller is inducing ground balls and has only allowed two runs on five hits in 13 innings, but his .129 BABIP against is not at all sustainable with his high rate of worm-burners. His F-Strike% (first-pitch strike percentage) is over 71%, well above his career average of 58.6%. As he gets behind in more counts, his walk issues are likely to reappear. His O-Swing% (chase rate) is also unsustainably high relative to his career numbers. Regression is coming for Keller. The Mariners are a patient lineup that has walked at the highest clip in baseball to this point. This line is also too cheap and I’m on Seattle.

With the article going behind the paywall, I’ll wait to fill in the picks on the tracking sheet HERE and we also have that new tracker coming at VSiN.com soon as well.

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