The first few days of the MLB season have been a crash course in variance. We’ve seen some craziness already, including a 13-1-1 day to the under, followed by a day in which five teams scored double-digit runs, two others scored nine (including the Pirates!) and another scored eight. Underdogs have been barking to this point, which a lot of people expect early in the year.
We’ve got 12 games on Monday, with some new series beginning and some other series finishing up.
Mets/Nationals: Sometimes baseball makes no sense. The Mets got bet against three straight games to open the season and won them all, but lost yesterday when the market moved pretty heavy on them against the Nationals. It did take a Trevor Williams blown save in the eighth for it to happen. Williams has no business pitching in high leverage, but Buck Showalter must have felt some of his guys needed the day off. This is why handicapping bullpen usage is so important.
Reds/Braves: Hunter Greene had 14 swings and misses over his 92 pitches while averaging 99.7 mph with the fastball in a 6-3 win over the Braves. Atlanta was 0-for-8 with a walk and five strikeouts the first time through the order against Greene, but 3-for-7 with a homer, sac fly, walk and only two strikeouts the second time through and 1-for-3 with a homer the third time through. That will be Greene’s big test moving forward – turning over a lineup once they catch up to the velocity. It was still an impressive debut.
Pirates/Cardinals; Guardians/Royals; Mariners/Twins: Yesterday was weird. The Pirates scored two runs on 15 hits in their first two losses to the Cardinals, but had nine runs on 15 hits yesterday. The Guardians had one run on 12 hits in their first two losses and scored 17 runs (6 in the first!) on 22 hits yesterday. The Twins had four runs on eight hits in their first two losses and scored 10 runs (5 in the 1st!) on 10 hits yesterday.
The Twins hit six home runs in that game against the Mariners. All but one of their runs have come via the home run this season.
The Guardians might be a good bet against left-handed pitching. I started thinking about that yesterday morning and nearly pulled the trigger on them. They had eight right-handed bats plus Steven Kwan, who has been on base 12 times in 14 PA so far. Missed opportunity on them and with yesterday’s two leans coming in, but the official pick losing.
Dodgers/Rockies: The Dodgers went to Coors Field and only scored 11 runs over three games. What makes baseball so tough to handicap is also what can make it so interesting. The variance from day-to-day is crazy, frustrating and can be downright cruel. The Rockies bullpen only allowed one run on eight hits over 13 innings.
More importantly, Julio Urias didn’t look sharp and also had some low and concerning velocity numbers. He only had four swings and misses and his fastball velocity was down nearly 3 mph. The Dodgers have actually had several guys with low velo in this series, so I’ll be watching closely.
Marlins/Giants: The Marlins are just 2-for-22 with RISP with 10 strikeouts to start the season. The Giants only had nine AB and 13 PA with RISP in the series to Miami’s 27 PA. The Giants were fortunate to win that series. It says more about how the Marlins are a formidable team in my opinion. The timing and sequencing of hits decides a lot of games.
Rays/Orioles: Corey Kluber threw 65% curveballs and cutters yesterday against the Orioles. He was around 56% last season and 52% in 2019. If that’s going to be the plan from the Rays, Kluber’s upside is quite a bit higher. He still threw his sinker 28% of the time, which is a bummer, but he should have more swing-and-miss upside focusing on his best pitches. I know people will scoff and say it was the Orioles, but optimizing the usage of your best pitches is something every pitcher should do.
White Sox/Tigers: I’m still mad at myself about not firing on this game. The White Sox scored five runs on seven hits off of Tarik Skubal in four innings. They’re going to mash lefties all season long. If they’re going against a lefty starter with a reasonable price, take them.
Red Sox/Yankees: The Red Sox were 3-for-26 with RISP in this series with a couple of sac flies. They had plenty of chances, but had issues executing at key times in the game. They did avoid the sweep across three close games, though, so they head to Detroit on a positive note. These two teams won’t play again until 7/7.
Weather: Rain in the forecast in St. Louis and Detroit; very stiff winds blowing out at Oracle Park in San Francisco; winds blowing out to LF in Baltimore, as we’ll see the new-look left-field wall that has been pushed back significantly – Rotogrinders
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.
Pirates at Cardinals (-190, 8): We’ve seen some ebbs and flows in this game already, with some initial bets on the Pirates and some buyback on the Cardinals at some shops. Others have not taken much action at all and have largely stayed put. Weather may wipe this game out, though.
Mets at Phillies (-150, 9): The Ranger Suarez hype train is picking up steam already, literally and figuratively. The Phillies are taking the early dollars here with Suarez, who had a 1.36 ERA and 2.72 FIP in 106 innings, on the bump against Taijuan Walker. Walker had a 4.47 ERA and a 4.57 FIP in his 159 innings with a bit of a home run problem, which would seem to play to Philadelphia’s strengths.
Padres at Giants (-145, 8.5): I said last night on The Run Line with host Ben Wilson that this line felt a little light. It has moved up a few cents since then. It will be the first stateside start for Nick Martinez since 2017 and the Giants will send out a solid arm in Alex Wood.
Brewers (-150, 9) at Orioles: We’re seeing a bit of Brewers money leak into the market this morning. The Brewers looked pretty bad against lefty Justin Steele and were just outside the bottom five against lefties last season in this matchup with Adrian Houser and Bruce Zimmermann.
Rockies at Rangers (-135, 10): The biggest move of the day has been on the Rangers, as they’ve gone up about 20 cents against the visiting Rockies. I detailed the home/road splits for the Rockies in my season preview and they are quite stark. I think that’s a driving force here.
What I’ll Be Watching
Ranger Suarez: There is so much hype and expectation for Suarez that it will be tough for him to meet the high standards. He worked 106 MLB innings last year and had a .257 BABIP with a 59.2% GB%, which is extremely fortunate. He does induce a lot of weak contact, but the Phillies are a bad defensive infield. He had an 86.3% LOB% as well, which was a major outlier. He hasn’t worked that many innings since 2018 and we’ve already seen a lot of pitchers with injuries. I expect him to be an above average starter, but I think his expectations need to be tempered. We’ll see how he looks today.
The baseball: Yesterday was weird, as we saw a ton of home runs one day after almost every game went under the total. Humidors are in all 30 parks, which should help offense in some, but lower offense in others. We’ve seen an enormous increase in hit by pitches with no foreign substances allowed. Fly balls aren’t not traveling as far to this point as they did through April 10 last season. It will take some time to get the right sample size of data, but I’m watching these things closely.
Monday 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
[Editor's note: Monday's Pirates-Cardinals game was postponed to June 14]
Pirates 1st 5 (+ 160) over Cardinals: Zach Thompson will likely be the best starting pitcher in this Pirates rotation. The 6-foot-7 right-hander was with the Marlins last season and posted a 3.24 ERA with a 3.69 FIP in 75 innings. He was in the 76th percentile in exit velocity against and 82nd percentile in Hard Hit%. He had some unfortunate results on his fastball with a .311 BA, but a .257 xBA per the Statcast numbers. He had some well-defined platoon splits, as lefties had a .346 wOBA and righties had a .245 wOBA, but he’ll get six righties in today’s lineup.
Dakota Hudson is a ground ball guy that has had walk rate issues in the past. He had Tommy John surgery to end 2020 and worked 8.2 innings to finish the 2021 season. While Hudson’s extreme ground ball prowess should ultimately work in his favor with a good defense, he’ll still be subject to some batted ball variance. This one is worth the plus-money shot to me.
Tigers (+ 105) over Red Sox: I talked about this game on The Run Line last night. It’s a tricky spot for Boston with a late game in the Bronx to fly out to Detroit and take on the Tigers on a wet and rainy day in Motown. Michael Wacha had reverse platoon splits last season, meaning righties posted a .349 wOBA and lefties a .310 wOBA. His best weapon has always been a changeup, which neutralizes the platoon advantage, but isn’t always the most effective pitch against righties. Furthermore, Wacha had a 5.61 ERA with a .352 wOBA against in starts outside of the pitcher-friendly Tropicana Field confines.
Matt Manning is a guy who was better than his 5.80 ERA would suggest. He had a 4.62 FIP and fell victim to a 61.9% LOB%. He couldn’t get out of innings and it hurt him. That being said, he allowed 29 of his 55 earned runs in four of his 18 starts, so he had some real ERA killers to go along with a lot of solid work. Manning allowed three or fewer runs in 13 of 18 starts. I think the Tigers are a pretty live, small dog today.
Marlins/Angels 1st 5 Over 5 (-120): I’m not keen on Michael Lorenzen as a starting pitcher. The 30-year-old right-hander has primarily been a reliever the last several seasons, but as a starter, he’s posted a 4.95 ERA with a 5.08 FIP and a .364 wOBA against. His K% as a reliever is 21.2%, but just 16.7% in a starting capacity and his BB% is 10.7%. Most of those numbers came all the way back in 2015 when he was mostly a full-time starter. He’s only made five starts since then, but his control issues are going to be magnified back in this kind of role and the Angels do have some big middle relief concerns.
Elieser Hernandez has some promise and potential, but hasn’t been able to stay healthy. He’s spent the entirety of his MLB career with the Marlins, so his home/road splits are pretty drastic, given how friendly his home park is for pitchers. He’s got a 5.82 ERA and a 5.84 FIP in 103.2 innings of work on the road. He’s allowed a .272/.345/.542 slash with a .370 wOBA. Hernandez’s issue has always been the long ball and the Angels do have plenty of guys with pop.
As mentioned above, the Marlins had chances against the Giants, but just failed to get key hits at important times. The Angels are a much worse defensive team and Lorenzen’s lack of control should give them some chances to score in this one. I’ll avoid the bullpens with the 1st 5 here and trade a full-game 9.5 to deal with the -120 juice.
It’s still early in the season and I’m still finding out a lot of information on these teams. Everybody wants picks, but I’m also trying to educate and inform readers about as much as I can. I’ll be tracking this season’s article picks HERE and feel free to use that format to track your own picks if you’d like.