Two teams are off today, as the White Sox and Cubs prepare for their two-game interleague set on the South Side that begins on Saturday. Otherwise, we’ve got 14 games, 28 teams and all of the games will be played at night, as we’ll have no day baseball to distract from the end of the work week.
Over the last seven days, the league-wide K% is down to 21.7%, a level that we haven’t seen for a full season since 2017. With the K% down to 22.5%, this season and last season will mark the first back-to-back seasons with K% decreases since 2002-03. Last season was the first season without a K% increase since 2005. You have to understand these changes and what they mean to make adjustments to your handicapping.
I have not adjusted well, as May has been a tough month. Increased sample sizes are actually hurting me because of how different this season has been, as a lot of my normal indicators for positive or negative regression don’t carry as much weight. The battle continues and I’m doing my best to create better fortunes moving forward.
Cubs/Reds: Apparently the play yesterday would have been to keep riding Great American Ball Park as an over venue. The Reds scored 20 runs on 20 hits in a thrashing of Justin Steele and the Cubs bullpen. Steele had 19 strikeouts and allowed one earned run on four hits in 11 innings in his two previous starts against Arizona and then got shelled here. Baseball is a funny, high-variance game to say the least.
The Hunter Greene Experience is really something. He gave up five runs in six innings, but had 16 whiffs. The raw stuff is there. The command is not.
Rockies/Nationals: German Marquez looked bad again, as he was lucky to just allow five runs on six hits over six innings. Marquez allowed 13 hard-hit balls and only had two strikeouts. He only had six whiffs in 46 swings and his spin rates were down across the board. There’s still something going on here. I need to be more aggressive about fading him. I would have yesterday, but I have no stock in Patrick Corbin, nor do I want to make that investment. Corbin only had four whiffs in 40 swings and gave up three runs in 6.1 innings.
As I mentioned yesterday, even though we’ve seen some love for the Nats recently, we didn’t really see any with Corbin on the hill. Market confidence in him mirrors my confidence in him.
Phillies/Braves: The best way for the Phillies to win is mostly avoid the bullpen. Getting 8.1 innings from Aaron Nola with 10 strikeouts is a good way to do that. The Braves are striking out a ton and they also swing and miss a lot, which is a big reason why this offense continues to disappoint. Nola looks really good this season and the strikeouts increase his margin for error with a defense that ranks 29th in the Statcast Outs Above Average fielding metric.
Brewers/Cardinals: The Brewers are now 11-4 in one-run games after knocking off the Cardinals 4-3 to make yesterday’s only pick a loser. Adam Wainwright wasn’t sharp at all and allowed 10 hits over five innings. The Brewers probably could have won in even bigger fashion. Lauer did only have eight whiffs in 45 swings and issued four walks. The Cardinals just didn’t get any batted ball luck. They remain a good bet against lefties, though that does seem priced into the market a bit at this point.
Dodgers/Diamondbacks: Baseball can be such a cruel game. There were 31 hard-hit balls in yesterday’s 14-1 win for the Dodgers. Arizona was 5-for-13 on that type of contact. Los Angeles was 14-for-18. Arizona scored one run with an xBA of .422 in the contest. Every game is subject to batted ball variance, but to a higher degree now with the decreased K% trend around the league. In this one, the Dodgers won that battle in a big way.
Yankees/Rays: Eight more excellent innings from Nestor Cortes with one run allowed on four hits over eight innings of work. The Yankees took advantage of the Rays bullpen for some insurance in the 7-2 win. New York just keeps on winning games. I liked what Aaron Boone did to lead off Aaron Judge against left-hander Ryan Yarbrough. I’d like to see that continue for however long DJ LeMahieu is out.
Guardians/Tigers: It goes against their usual philosophy, but I think we’re really close to seeing the Guardians make some moves. The lineup has gotten really stagnant and Terry Francona still insists on putting Myles Straw and Amed Rosario at the top. Straw is hitting .240 with a .647 OPS and Rosario is batting .238 with a .580 OPS. Now that Josh Naylor has cooled off, this offense has turned back into a pumpkin again. Tarik Skubal is a tough customer, but the Guardians aren’t going anywhere right now and I think it’s about time to be more aggressive with their personnel. That may be a league-wide trend with the Super Two deadline approaching, which allows teams to get a fourth year of arbitration eligibility and an extra season of contract control with prospects. I believe this year’s deadline is about three weeks away.
Red Sox/White Sox: Michael Wacha’s regression did hit yesterday with five runs allowed in 4.1 innings of work, but Dallas Keuchel was worse, as the Red Sox won 16-7. Several relievers in the White Sox pen are showing cracks from the high workload earlier in the year. The White Sox gave up 33 runs to the Red Sox in this series and Boston scored one run on Wednesday.
How’s this for a crazy stat? The White Sox have not won a single game when they’ve allowed five or more runs. They are 22-3 when allowing four or fewer runs and 0-19 when allowing five or more runs. You’d think they could have won a couple by accident.
Blue Jays/Angels: Toronto won, but there have to be more lingering concerns about Hyun Jin Ryu. Ryu only threw 65 pitches with decreased velocity and some mild spin rate decreases. He only had two whiffs in 27 swings. He left with elbow tightness that is not expected to be serious, but he’s walking a fine line right now. He induced some weak contact, but the lack of swing and miss is very concerning.
Rangers/Athletics: Frankie Montas deserved a better fate last night. He struck out 11 and allowed just an unearned run, but the A’s bullpen threw some gasoline on the game in the ninth and the Rangers won 4-1. Martin Perez lowered his ERA to 1.60 with seven innings of one-run ball in what has been a simply astonishing season to date for him. Texas still isn’t really hitting with regularity, but this team has been getting some pretty quality pitching.
Weather: There were quite a few rain concerns yesterday, but the games pretty much went off without a hitch. Rain is hanging around today as well, with Giants/Reds, Rockies/Nationals, Guardians/Tigers and Phillies/Mets threatened to various degrees.
Rox/Nats, Phillies/Mets, Orioles/Red Sox and Marlins/Braves have some helping winds blowing out, with Boston and Queens are the two locations with the stiffest breezes.
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.
Rockies at Nationals (-115, 9.5): This total is up from 8.5 with over juice or 9 with under juice to 9.5 at most shops. You know what I know about the Rockies road offense and the betting markets know that, too, but we’re still seeing this total take a lot of over dollars. It is going to be pretty warm and humid at Nationals Park, which typically becomes a pretty good yard for offense in the warmer months. In past seasons, this Austin Gomber/Aaron Sanchez matchup probably would have opened 9.5 or maybe even 10, so we’re seeing some on-the-fly adjustments from bettors to the warmer conditions.
Marlins at Braves (-140, 9): We’re seeing another totals move here. The wind is blowing out in Atlanta and we’ve got some more humid conditions. Market confidence is generally pretty low in Ian Anderson and his high walk rate, but the Marlins are a really poor offensive team. I think this totals move says a lot.
Orioles at Red Sox (-170, 10): We’re up to 10 at several shops for this one as well, as humid conditions in Boston are expected to help the ball carry more. Obviously the Red Sox offense has been spectacular for a while now as well, but I actually like Kyle Bradish and Garrett Whitlock, but the markets are still looking for a higher-scoring affair. Once again, too, we have another suspect offense in the Orioles in a game with a heightened total.
In general, I think we’re going to see a lot of totals activity. Astute bettors have picked up on the declining K% and have likely talked with sources regarding the humidor and its impacts as humidity picks up around the league. Also, in the current run environment with decreased strikeouts and more balls in play, sides are going to be subject to far more variance based on sequencing and batted ball luck. The totals market is probably the right place to be attacking right now.
What I’ll Be Watching
Chase Silseth: Start No. 1 and start No. 2 against Oakland were very different outings for Silseth. He threw six shutout and allowed just one hit in the first one, but allowed three runs on six hits in 4.1 innings in the second one. After allowing two hard-hit balls in 14 batted ball events on May 13, he allowed eight in 14 BBE in the second start on May 20. Now he faces a Blue Jays lineup that makes a lot of hard contact. Silseth does draw a right-handed-heavy lineup here and righties are just 2-for-21 against him so far with a couple walks and a hit-by-pitch. I’ll be curious to see how the kid does today against a much more talented lineup.
Brandon Woodruff: In theory, this should be a good spot for Woodruff to experience some positive regression. He has a 4.76 ERA with a 3.69 FIP and a 3.24 xFIP in his 39.2 innings of work. His 65% LOB% and .324 BABIP are big reasons why he has a high ERA. While I don’t love this matchup for St. Louis, it is important to note that Woodruff has faced the Pirates twice, Reds twice, Nationals, Marlins, Cubs and Cardinals. He threw five shutout innings in his second start of the season against St. Louis. Given the right-handed-heavy lineup and the Cardinals’ issues against above average righties, this should be a spot for Woody to thrive, but we’ll have to wait and see.
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
Royals/Twins Over 8.5 (-105): This line is all over the map. You can find over 8 (-120) and some books even have 8.5 at -110 already. Shopping around is always extremely important, as we know. I’ll grade it at -105, since that’s basically the consensus number between the lines that are out there.
Bailey Ober and Brad Keller just faced these respective lineups last time out. Ober had more success with one run allowed on three hits in his first start back after a stint on the IL and one bad rehab start. Keller allowed four runs on five hits over seven innings and has now given up 13 runs on 22 hits in his last 19.2 innings of work. His early-season improvements seem to be falling by the wayside, which is sort of what I would have expected with Keller. He has a .229 BABIP that is still helping his 3.20 ERA, but his 3.99 FIP and 4.16 xFIP suggest that his regression is far from finished.
Over his last three starts, Keller has allowed 33 hard-hit balls in 70 batted ball events. He pitches to a ton of contact and the Twins rank sixth in wOBA over the last two weeks, so they’re swinging the bats well. The Royals actually rank fifth and getting Ober for the second time in a row should help. I recently did a segment with Derek Carty on Betting Across America and he said that projections show that a pitcher is likely to do worse the second time facing a team in as many starts.
That’s what I’m hoping for here. We also have a Twins bullpen that I’ve pegged as a regression candidate and a Royals bullpen that has a 4.76 ERA for the season with a lot of walks. One big reason why the Twins grade so well offensively of late is a walk rate of 11.1%. It would have been nice to get 8 at better juice, but that’s what you run into with posting times and content creation. Still, I think that move is correct and I’ll take the over 8.5 at -105.
Astros -1.5 (-125) over Mariners: I don’t play a lot of run lines, but this situation seems to warrant one. Chris Flexen has allowed 14 runs on 23 hits over his last 14.1 innings of work. For the season, his Hard Hit% now sits at 47.1% and he has allowed 18 barrels for a Barrel% of 12.9%. He has given up a ton of high-quality contact and righties own a .294/.360/.539 slash with a .390 wOBA. Tonight, Flexen faces a right-handed-heavy Astros lineup that ranks 10th in Hard Hit% and has been a much better offense on the road.
I’ve talked a lot about how Minute Maid Park really seems to be suppressing offense. Houston ranks seventh in road wOBA at .324 with a 116 wRC +. The Astros also rank fourth in HR/FB% away from home. T-Mobile Park has traditionally been a good pitcher’s park, but we’ve seen an offensive uptick there in recent days and I’d expect Houston to keep rolling in that regard.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that Justin Verlander goes for the Astros tonight. Verlander has a 1.22 ERA with a 2.83 FIP and a 3.28 xFIP. There are some regression signs in those numbers, but Verlander is stingy with walks and has only allowed 28 hits in 51.2 innings of work. It’s hard to have ERA regression if you are allowing such a low number of baserunners. Teams have to be able to create run-scoring opportunities and they really have not against Verlander.
While Flexen is allowing hard contact all over the place, Verlander hasn’t allowed a barrel in his last three starts and his Hard Hit% is 37.8%. The Mariners rank 24th in Hard Hit% and 13th in Barrel%. There is a high correlation between contact quality and winning games. The Astros should make the higher-quality contact, along with putting more balls in play. This should be a really good matchup all around for the Astros, who are also rolling right now with a 22-7 record in their last 29 games.
We’ll be rolling out some more baseball tools soon, including a tracker of my picks that will update in real-time, but for now, I’m tracking my picks in this spreadsheet HERE.