This weekend is a tough one for MLB handicapping. The All-Star Break begins after Sunday’s games and that means that we have a lot of players that are looking ahead to a little R&R. Not everybody will be motivated over the next few days. You probably want to try and rely more on teams that are on prolonged hot streaks or teams full of veterans. You probably want to shy away from teams that have had a rough patch that will be happy to be away from the field for a few days.
I’ll try to isolate some of those as I go along. My pentathlon entry did not do well, but after losing the total on the first day, I went for high-risk, high-reward plus-money prices aside from the heavy favorite on the White Sox on Wednesday. My three bets were + 181, + 205 and + 700. It’s different with the 7/1 HR prop I had on Nathaniel Lowe, but + 181 and + 205 equate to implied probabilities of 35.59% and 32.79%, so those weren’t really expected to win.
If I had known that $226 would be the winning amount (with five $100 bets), I’d have really altered my strategy in a big way, but I anticipated more positive variance from the field with the nature of the contest. A lot can happen in a five-pick sample size, especially with the prop element. Hopefully we do it again (or maybe in another sport) and I can approach it differently.
Pirates/Marlins: Miami’s low offensive output in the four-game series against Pittsburgh was along the lines of what I expected, though the odds never really lined up to take advantage. The Marlins scored 11 runs over the four games, as their offense did regress against righties as expected. Ironically, the only play I had in the series was an over that got there due to extra innings. It’s better to be lucky than good.
The two teams were 4-for-30 with RISP yesterday in a 3-2 game that went 11 innings, so that one could have gone differently. Marlins starter Braxton Garrett had 23 whiffs on 49 swings with a very impressive start.
Padres/Rockies: Nobody is really talking about it, but the Padres are falling back to earth. San Diego has lost three in a row, five of six and 14 of 20. The lackluster offensive output has caught up with them, as they rank 18th in wOBA and 17th in wRC + for the season. Over the last 14 days, San Diego is 20th in wOBA at just .293. The pitching has also faltered. This is a team I’m going to study over the Break to see if I think their struggles will continue or if they can right the ship.
Dodgers/Cardinals: Tyler Anderson fired six shutout and only allowed three hard-hit balls in the 4-0 win over the Cardinals. I’ve been running under the assumption that the Cardinals have just continued to hit lefties, but their wOBA by month against southpaws has been .349, .346, .323, .283. Paul Goldschmidt’s homerless streak now dates back to June 28 and he’s only driven in two runs since then. Meanwhile, Nolan Arenado is slashing .404/.491/.745 in July. Per DraftKings, Arenado, who leads MLB in fWAR, is 35/1. Goldschmidt is -110. Hmmmmm.
Mets/Cubs: I didn’t really understand the move on the Cubs yesterday and wish I would have backed up my opinion with a wager. The Mets absolutely fit the bill of a veteran team charging forward, while the Cubs are a young team locked in an ugly season. I think winning that series against the Braves gave the Mets a little bit of extra life. Carlos Carrasco fired six solid innings and the Mets had 17 hard-hit balls, including 13 against Keegan Thompson, in the 8-0 win.
Today’s game has already been postponed with a ton of rain in Chicago.
Brewers/Giants: Corbin Burnes outpitched Carlos Rodon yesterday, as he went 7.1 innings with 10 strikeouts and just one earned run allowed. Rodon was yanked after five with seven strikeouts, but he danced around danger with eight hits and three walks. Milwaukee is set up to have 12 more home games than road games in the second half and also has two games in hand on the Cardinals. It’ll be tough for St. Louis to win this division.
Royals/Blue Jays: Missing 10 players, including several starters, the Royals pulled a massive upset over the Blue Jays and Kevin Gausman with a 3-1 win. Toronto was a $4 favorite at some places. Angel Zerpa allowed a bunch of hard contact, but the BABIP gods were on KC’s side in this one. I don’t know if the Royals can repeat the feat any other day this week, but this situation gives them a little life at the end of a long first half.
The Blue Jays, meanwhile, just fired their manager during a stretch with three off days since May 30. There’s not much left in the tank for them right now.
Red Sox/Rays: Mad respect for the Rays. They’ve dealt with so many injuries and so many hurdles this season, but they’re going to likely go into the Break in second place in the AL. They swept a four-game series against the Red Sox after getting swept by the Reds, which is crazy, but that’s six wins in the last seven games against Boston. I had very low expectations with Wander Franco out again, but credit to them for stepping up.
Tigers/Guardians: Triston McKenzie heads into the Break having thrown 21 straight scoreless innings against the Yankees, Royals and Tigers with 23 strikeouts against six walks. I still hate the contact management profile and feel like McKenzie is a guy that we can buy or sell with regularity throughout the end of July and August. He’s very matchup-dependent. The Yankees start was an outlier.
White Sox/Twins: I was this close to adding the White Sox to the card yesterday. The difference between Johnny Cueto and Sonny Gray wasn’t that big in my mind and I have serious concerns about the Twins bullpen. I wish I would have, as the ChiSox won 12-2 and picked up a game in the ALC standings. Quietly, the White Sox are 9-6 over their last 15 and are one game away from .500. I’ll be watching the rest of this series very closely.
Mariners/Rangers: This game took a year or two off of my life. There were 15 baserunners in the first three innings, as the Mariners left the bases loaded twice and the Rangers loaded the bases with nobody out in the second and only scored one run for a 4-0 lead. It took until the eighth to go over, as the Mariners scored three off of the Texas pen and turned their win streak up to 11. Marco Gonzales is still luckboxing his way through the season. I thought when Texas loaded the bases in the second, we were going to see that huge ERA killer. We didn’t, but one is probably still coming.
Astros/Angels: The Angels lost yet again in a game started by somebody not named Shohei Ohtani. This is pretty incredible now. It took the Astros extra innings, but they won 3-2. Jose Altuve left hurt and now joins Yordan Alvarez and Michael Brantley on the sidelines. Injuries are about the only thing that can derail Houston, as this is a really good team. Altuve’s injury is a bruise after getting hit in the shin. Hopefully follow-up imaging doesn’t show anything further.
Reds/Yankees: Condolences to under bettors here, as this was a 1-1 game until the eighth when all hell broke loose. Luis Castillo will be a popular trade target and he looked great with seven innings of one-run ball. Nestor Cortes also bounced back and pitched well. Aaron Boone opted not to use Clay Holmes and Michael King for a third straight day and tried to get Jonathan Loaisiga on track after an IL stint. It backfired, even though the offense bailed him out.
This bullpen is running a little thin right now and now the Red Sox come to town.
Weather: As mentioned, Mets/Cubs has already been PPD’d with a split doubleheader coming tomorrow. Pirates/Rockies may have a delay, but the chances are small. Otherwise, it’s all systems go and it’s a bit cooler in a lot of places today, so we’ll see what that means for offense.
Injuries: Lots of updates and new injuries from the weekend, so keep an eye on those. Check out our Injury Report right here at VSiN. This is also a good resource at FanGraphs (sort by date) HERE.
Phillies at Marlins (-160, 7): A big number for Sandy Alcantara again today, but we’re not seeing the usual line movement on Miami. The offensive projection for the Marlins is certainly lowered without Jazz Chisholm Jr. and I think the books have just finally caught up with pricing Miami at home.
Braves (-165, 9.5) at Nationals: Bettors had no interest laying $2 on Ian Anderson, as we’ve seen this line drop upwards of 40 cents in the market. Patrick Corbin goes for the Nationals and I don’t have much faith in him against this Atlanta lineup, but the line move is pretty indicative of the market’s stance on Anderson. Corbin has at least been better lately, but still owns a 5.70 ERA with a 5.77 xERA and a 4.55 FIP.
Pirates at Rockies (-140, 11): Let’s keep an eye on this line throughout the day. The Rockies are the best offense in baseball against lefties at home and they draw one here in Jose Quintana. German Marquez has not pitched well this season, but I still wouldn’t be surprised to see a northward line move on Colorado into a bigger favorite.
Brewers (-130, 7) at Giants: Brandon Woodruff and Alex Wood are the starters here and we’re seeing a well-defined sharp move on Woodruff and the Brewers. This line has jumped about 15 cents. If Christian Yelich comes back today, we’ll see another move up on this number. One note is that Devin Williams is unavailable after pitching three straight days, but Josh Hader should be.
Tigers at Guardians (-180, 8.5): The total is the intriguing part of this move. I don’t really have high hopes for either offense on a nightly basis, but this total is up from 8 to 8.5. DraftKings actually opened 7.5, which was apparently a bad number. The Guardians have inched up from a side standpoint, as Zach Plesac has actually been pretty good, but bettors aren’t terribly confident in Drew Hutchison.
Mariners (-155, 8) at Rangers: I don’t really get this line move. This line has fallen about 15 cents with Robbie Ray on the hill for Seattle. Sine June 12, Ray has allowed four runs on 18 hits in 39.2 innings of work with a 46/11 K/BB ratio. I realize that the Rangers are a top-five offense against lefties and one of the best in baseball since June 1, but this isn’t some run-of-the-mill lefty.
Furthermore, Matt Bush is the opener for Taylor Hearn, who has a 5.86 ERA with a 5.91 xERA and a 4.79 FIP on the season.
What I’ll Be Watching
Michael Kopech: There was no question as to which pitcher would go in the first spot here. Kopech has a 3.35 ERA with a 3.94 xERA and a 4.47 FIP, so there are some negative regression signs in the profile anyway. He’s running a .208 BABIP, which has been a huge help. His BB% is also high at 11.9%. This is Kopech’s second start in 10 days against the Twins, so they’ve recently seen him and they hit four homers off of him in that outing.
The reason Kopech is here, though, is because he had a huge velo decrease last time out of nearly 2 mph on the fastball from his previous start and he’s down almost 3 mph from his season average. Kopech missed all of 2019 and 2020 and threw 69.1 innings across four starts and 40 relief appearances last season. He’s already thrown 78 innings this season. I’m very concerned about some of the health red flags I’m seeing.
Luis Patino: The Rays have activated Patino from the 60-day IL, but he’s made six rehab starts in the minor leagues. He’s allowed seven runs on 19 hits in 17.2 innings, as he made two starts in the summer development league and four at Triple-A, allowing six runs on 16 hits in 14.2 innings in those starts. He’s struck out 19 and walked five. He’s only 22 years old, but started pro ball at 17 and has been a highly-touted prospect ever since.
He’s worked 95.1 innings at the MLB level with a 4.53 ERA and a 4.70 FIP. He’s only expected to work 1-2 innings, despite maxing out at five in the minor leagues. It looks like the options behind him are Ralph Garza Jr. or Shawn Armstrong, the former Oriole who threw 41 pitches on Sunday. Luke Bard threw 53 pitches on Monday, so it could be him as well.
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
Red Sox (+ 150) over Yankees: This is a little bit of a gamble, but there is a method to the madness tonight. Nathan Eovaldi comes off of the IL for the Red Sox at the same time that Garrett Whitlock is expected to be activated. Because Eovaldi threw about 60 pitches in his lone rehab start and Whitlock made two appearances covering 4.2 innings, my guess here is that we see a piggyback between the two. I haven’t seen an official announcement, but they’re being activated on the same day, so that doesn’t seem like a coincidence.
Those are two pretty good pitchers to stack up. Eovaldi has a 3.16 ERA over 68.1 innings. His 4.30 xERA and 4.53 FIP are due to a high home run rate, but he allowed five homer runs in one start and allowed seven homers in his first four starts, so they were really clustered together. Whitlock has a 3.51 ERA with a 3.73 xERA and a 3.44 FIP this season. He was used exclusively as a relief weapon last season and had a 1.96 ERA with a 2.94 xERA and a 2.84 FIP in 73.1 innings, so working multiple innings out of the bullpen is something he’s plenty comfortable with.
I do like Jordan Montgomery, who is making his second straight start against the Red Sox, but there are some regression signs in his profile with a 3.19 ERA and a 3.79 FIP. His Hard Hit% is 39.1% over his last five starts, including 15 hard-hit balls out of 28 balls in play in his last two outings. He’s given up nine barrels in those five starts after allowing just 19 in 17 starts. Everybody’s wearing down a bit and I think Montgomery could be susceptible to some hard contact tonight.
The Red Sox are a top-10 offense against LHP since June 1 with a .340 wOBA and a 118 wRC +. With the Yankees bullpen having some issues right now, especially the velocity drop for Clay Holmes and the injury to Ron Marinaccio that has been a bigger factor than people realize, I feel like this is a good spot to take a gamble on Boston. T
White Sox/Twins Over 9 (-110): Devin Smeltzer has avoided the White Sox up until this point, but the left-hander now draws the league’s top lineup against southpaws. Smeltzer just faced a Rangers lineup that hits lefties well and allowed seven runs on eight hits in 3.1 innings, so I’ll take a start like that from him. He’s actually allowed six home runs in his last 9.1 innings of work while giving up 10 runs on 14 hits.
Regression has found the 26-year-old, who still has a 3.92 ERA despite a 5.54 FIP, a 4.90 xFIP and these two most recent outings. His 83% LOB% is not sustainable with a 15% K% and I don’t find his .234 BABIP to be sustainable with a 40.4% Hard Hit% either. In his last three starts, 24 of 47 batted balls have been at least 95 mph and he’s allowed eight of his 15 barrels. His command is absolutely on the fritz.
Now that guys like Tim Anderson and Eloy Jimenez are playing every day, the White Sox should be even stronger against lefties. As it is, they still lead the league for the season in wOBA at .348 with a league-leading 129 wRC +. Arbitrary start date, but the White Sox have a .368 wOBA and a 141 wRC + since June 1 against lefties. Only Texas has a higher SLG and wRC +.
So, the White Sox should match up very well with Smeltzer. I would also expect the Twins to do well against Michael Kopech. I outlined all of my concerns above, but will add to them. Ever since he came back from an early exit against Texas on June 12, he’s struggled. In his last five starts, Kopech has a 6.15 ERA with a 7.17 FIP. He’s seen some BABIP regression and also allowed eight home runs in that span. He’s got just a 21/14 K/BB ratio and has allowed a 13.6% Barrel%.
My worries about the Twins bullpen are well-documented and I’m not expecting Smeltzer to work deep into this game. I also have major concerns about Chicago in middle relief and Kopech profiles as a guy that will likely exit around the fifth inning as well. It will be in the 80s and humid in Minneapolis, so the weather should provide a little boost as well. I’m on Over 9 at -110 here.
I’m tracking my picks in this spreadsheet HERE.