The fourth month of the MLB season is upon us and teams are reaching the midpoint of the season over the next few days. As we approach that point, I want to take a minute to thank all of the readers, especially those that have sent feedback. I hope I’ve given you some different things to think about when it comes to handicapping and analyzing baseball.
Whether you read the article to follow the picks, fade the picks, for the information or just to try and educate yourself on different ways and means of interpreting the game and all of its stats, it means the world to me to have my work read and appreciated. I’m certainly happy with how things have gone to this point and hope that they continue, but my goal creating content in this business for a decade has been to help with the why and how to bet instead of just what to bet. I’m not here to stroke my own ego or take victory laps. I’m here to be a resource and share whatever I can to help.
I know these daily articles can be a heavy lift sometimes with a lot of content and a lot of thoughts, so I sincerely appreciate anybody and everybody that reads every day, most days, once a week or is reading for the first time. Have a happy and safe holiday weekend, friends.
Braves/Phillies: The Phillies had some fun yesterday with a 14-run outburst against Ian Anderson and the Braves. Darick Hall hit a couple of homers and Kyle Schwarber’s torrid June came to a fitting end. Pitching with a big lead, Aaron Nola did give up four runs and two homers, but still punched out eight and had 16 whiffs. I’ve mentioned how the market doesn’t like Anderson and starts like yesterday’s won’t help his cause.
Brewers/Pirates: David Bednar is dealing with a barking back and some in the Pirates community on Twitter have been unhappy with Derek Shelton’s usage of one of their best trade chips. I’ve mentioned how Shelton has been using Bednar for multiple innings. It seems like it may have taken its toll, as he gave up three runs on four hits yesterday for his first appearance June 25. If Bednar isn’t right, Pirates full game is a really tough bet to make.
Reds/Cubs: June was a solid month, but it ended in ugly fashion with Reds/Cubs 1st 5 under. There were 22 runs scored in the game and eight in the 1st 5. Kyle Hendricks was really solid, but Graham Ashcraft was not. Hendricks struck out seven over six quality innings, as he continued to be a tough pitcher to pin down. Ashcraft only gave up three hard-hit balls, but one was a grand slam, so that hurt a little bit. A start like that may create some future betting value on him, as I still think he’s really talented.
Padres/Dodgers: Joe Musgrove bounced back nicely with 10 strikeouts over seven innings, but the Padres mustered just one run in Manny Machado’s return. San Diego only hit four balls hard and the Dodgers had seven hard-hit balls against Musgrove. A good pitcher’s duel seems like a good tone-setter for the series.
Twins/Guardians: Aaron Gleeman’s tweet says it all about the head-to-head season series between these two. The Twins have been at least 82% to win five different games against Cleveland and have lost all five. The lead could be 11 games. Instead, the lead is one. The Guardians have played six fewer games and trail by four in the win column.
The Twins bullpen is bad, but Rocco Baldelli isn’t helping. Two nights ago, Franmil Reyes, who needs a map and a compass in the batter’s box because he is so lost, was up after Josh Naylor. The old adage is to never put the winning run on, but you could have gone righty-righty and faced a hitter mired in a horrific, season-long slump. Instead, Naylor walked it off. Yesterday, same thing with Andres Gimenez, as Reyes was on deck.
The margin for error is really thin when working with a subpar bullpen and Baldelli has been asleep at the wheel. Players still have to execute, but the manager has to put them in a position to succeed. Using Tyler Thornburg for almost 50 pitches on Thursday was also inexcusable. Somebody had to be able to come in and have a better chance at getting Gimenez out.
The Trade Deadline becomes extremely interesting for these two teams now, as both need pitching.
Yankees/Astros: This was a really weird scheduling quirk. The Yankees and Astros each gave up a day off to fit in a game that was moved because of the lockout. The two teams played like it. There were only 265 pitches in the 2-1 Houston win and both teams moved on to the next thing.
Yordan Alvarez and Jeremy Pena remain day-to-day following Wednesday’s collision. It was big for the Astros to win without them. Playing exclusively New York teams since June 21, the Astros went 7-2. Justin Verlander said the Astros didn’t need to prove themselves during that stretch, but I’d bet if you caught them off-the-record, they’d say those games meant a little more. Let’s see if they bury the Angels now. I could see a letdown against Kansas City next week if so.
Rays/Jays: The Rays have major offensive problems, man. Isaac Paredes hit a solo homer and that was the only run against Yusei Kikuchi and the Jays bullpen. Wander Franco looks like a guy trying to work his way back into it, but Tampa Bay is missing a lot of offensive pieces. The Rays finished June with a .292 wOBA. The only teams worse? Diamondbacks, Angels, Tigers, Athletics. That’s not the kind of company you want to keep.
Athletics/Mariners: Logan Gilbert allowed a lot of hard contact and only had three strikeouts against the Athletics yesterday. Fortunately for him, the lineup crushed Adrian Martinez, but I have some concerns about Gilbert going forward. He has allowed a lot of hard contact and has a xERA of 3.98. He has an 82.1% LOB% that is propping up a 2.66 ERA. His Hard Hit% is up to 46%, yet he’s running a .277 BABIP. Gilbert’s probably a fade candidate when he gets some tougher matchups, especially on the road.
Weather: We haven’t had much rain to worry about lately, but that changes today. Pop up thunderstorms and unstable weather threaten a few games for postponements and delays today. Chances are higher in some places than others, but Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit and Cleveland are the major hotspots. Otherwise, it will be warm for the majority of the outdoor games (LA excepted), so good hitting weather across the country.
Injuries: Lots of updates and new injuries from the weekend, so keep an eye on those. Check out our Injury Report (https://www.vsin.com/injuries/mlb/) right here at VSiN. This is also a good resource at FanGraphs (sort by date) HERE.
Cardinals (-135, 9.5) at Phillies: This is a line move that stands out. St. Louis has moved down 10-15 cents here, despite facing a lefty in Bailey Falter. This looks to be a fade of Miles Mikolas, who has a 2.57 ERA with a 3.22 xERA and a 3.34 FIP. He’s also had a really high workload lately. This move makes sense, but it is striking to see money against St. Louis against a lefty.
Marlins at Nationals (-135, 9): I’ve mentioned this just about every time he pitches, but the market really does believe in Washington’s Josiah Gray. Today, the Nats are a clear favorite and have been bet into a bigger one against Trevor Rogers and the Marlins. What is especially odd here is that Gray has a 3.82 ERA with a 4.31 xERA and a 5.06 FIP, while Rogers has a 5.86 ERA, a 4.79 xERA and a 4.88 FIP. The two guys have opposing signs of regression, but bettors with influence are on Washington. That says a lot.
“Ace Bumps”: The “ace bump” is a phenomenon I’ve covered a lot. We’re seeing them on Max Fried and the Braves against the Reds, on Corbin Burnes and the Brewers against the Pirates and on Gerrit Cole and the Yankees against the Guardians. It’s a good reminder that if you want to bet aces, you have to do it right when the lines open.
Angels at Astros (-165, 8): This is not the first time that the market has been against Michael Lorenzen. He has a 4.24 ERA with a 3.76 xERA and a 3.97 FIP, so he’s actually been quite good for the Angels starting for the first time in a long time. Modelers must not think highly of him, likely due to his K/BB ratio. Guys with low strikeout rates and average to below average walk rates are getting bet against regularly (Lorenzen, Hudson, Quantrill, etc.).
Athletics at Mariners (-180, 8): Bettors are all over Oakland and the over in this one. Marco Gonzales has a 3.31 ERA, but a 4.70 xERA and a 5.38 FIP. The A’s are a top-10 offense by wOBA against lefties on the road. This line has dropped upwards of 20 cents and we’ve seen the total go from 7.5 to as high as 8.5 in the market. Some shops did open 8, but are sitting there with extra juice on the over.
What I’ll Be Watching
Glenn Otto: Our old friend missed about three weeks due to COVID and came back with a dud against the Nationals with six runs allowed on six hits in two innings of work. Otto has bobbed and weaved through most of his starts, as he’s allowed 14 runs in two of his nine starts and 12 total runs in the other seven. He’s got an ugly 5.31 ERA and a 5.19 FIP, but those two really bad starts skew his numbers.
That being said, even in his “good” starts, he’s walked 19 batters in 36.1 innings of work. He’s got a tough assignment today against the Mets and he’s probably still pretty rusty, as he only made one rehab start and was pretty bad, as eight of 16 batters reached and he allowed four runs on six hits. I’m kind of rooting for another dumpster fire in hopes of backing him as soon as he gets back into rhythm.
Jose Berrios: Berrios has gotten a lot of virtual ink on these pages this season. That’ll happen when you have a 5.86 ERA with a 6.43 xERA and a 5.28 FIP in 78.1 innings of work. His Hard Hit% of 47.6% is the highest among 64 qualified pitchers. His 12.7% Barrel% is also the highest among that data set. But, he faces the Rays today. A Rays team that just failed to hit Yusei Kikuchi, who has been similarly awful for most of the season.
If Berrios gets tagged today, that’ll be really bad. Given that he’s allowed 17 runs and seven homers in his last 13.2 innings, I don’t really have high hopes. He’s also only struck out two of the last 39 batters he has faced.
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
Athletics/Mariners Over 8 (-120): We’re laying some vig here, but this one is probably on the way up to 8.5 pretty soon. For what it’s worth, 8.5 with reduced juice is still good enough to play. A’s manager Mark Kotsay is really caught between a rock and a hard place with James Kaprielian. Oakland needs to keep running him out there, despite his 5.88 ERA and 6.11 FIP because it doesn’t really matter this season and there’s no point in putting extra stress on other arms. The bigger problem is that the Oakland bullpen is awful and Kaprielian gets worse as the game goes along.
He’s actually held opponents to a .266 wOBA the first time through the order this season, but that number balloons to .410 the second time through and .478 the third time through. It’s crazy to think that Kaprielian has actually been worse at home than he has on the road, with a .374 wOBA against at home and a .345 wOBA against on the road, but that speaks to just how bad of a pitcher he actually is. Seattle is actually seeing Kaprielian for the third time this season in just 12 starts, which makes it even harder for him to be effective.
Marco Gonzales shut down the A’s in Oakland a couple of starts ago, but the A’s are a much different, much more competent offense on the road. Since May 29, Gonzales has a 2.82 ERA, but that comes with a 4.96 FIP. He’s had a .193 BABIP and an 85.7% LOB% in those six starts. He’s only struck out 20 and walked 15 in those 38.1 innings. He’s basically getting by with smoke and mirrors and regression is on the horizon. Facing a lineup that just saw him 10 days ago could be the catalyst.
If nothing else, as bad as these two starts are, the Oakland bullpen has been a gift that keeps on giving for over bettors as well. One of the hard parts about handicapping for content and trying to publish an article around the same time each day is that you sometimes miss a better line, but I think we’re looking at a game that gets over 7.5, 8, and even 8.5 here, so I’ll take the Over 8 at -120.
I’m tracking my picks in this spreadsheet HERE.