We’re back to mostly normal on Monday, as we’ll have 11 games and 10 of them will be played in the evening. Most pitchers are making their third starts of the season by this point, which is a good thing because increased sample sizes are beneficial for handicapping the card. A lot of numbers can be skewed in small windows, but the true talent level of a player comes through as more innings and plate appearances are accrued.
As mentioned yesterday, the article goes behind the paywall today, which was planned. My observations of the previous day will be above the article cut-off, so free readers will still have a lot of things to chew on. We’re running a $59 Summer Special right now that gives you VSiN Plus All-Access through July 31, so that’s going to bet your best bet for continuing to read the entirety of the article until our next offer comes along, which is likely to include all of our premium content for the football season.
Before I go too far, you can check out the archived version of The Run Line, our MLB-exclusive betting show on VSiN with myself and host Ben Wilson. (HOUR 1 & HOUR 2)
Lots of good thoughts on that program and we’ll be doing it up until football season on Sundays from 8-10 p.m. ET.
Nationals/Pirates: Patrick Corbin only had six whiffs in 37 swings and dealt with some decreased velocity in his third start of the season for the Nationals. He has 11 K against eight walks in 12 innings. The quality of the stuff just isn’t really there anymore. The Nationals did take money against Jose Quintana and the Pirates at some shops, but I can’t see myself really betting on Corbin anytime soon.
Diamondbacks/Mets: The Diamondbacks were shut out by David Peterson and the Mets bullpen on Sunday. Arizona is now 6-for-56 (.107) with men in scoring position. Their 69 PA with RISP are the fifth-lowest in baseball (interestingly, three AL Central teams have fewer – Twins, Royals, Tigers). It’s a bad offense, but it won’t continue to be this bad. No team will be that much of a statistical outlier. I think what’s more amazing is that they’ve managed to win three games with offense like this. New pitching coach Brent Strom is doing some good things with the staff already.
Arizona has also faced the Padres, Astros and Mets, so two preseason division favorites per some sportsbooks and a team that had a win total in the mid-80s. Now they play the Nationals, so we’ll see if they can improve a bit.
Phillies/Marlins: I talked about this on The Run Line last night, but Zack Wheeler’s start was extremely concerning. Getting battered by the Marlins down in a pitcher’s park is bad enough, but Wheeler’s fastball velocity was nowhere to be found. His four-seam fastball and sinker were both down about 3 mph from his year-over-year average. He threw his slowest fastball since April 2018. He did only give up two hard-hit balls, but walked three and gave up seven runs on eight hits. He only had four whiffs in 27 swings in his first start against the Mets. I’m thinking we could see an IL stint here for Wheeler. If nothing else, reports of an upcoming MRI aren’t out of the question.
He threw 95-96 in the first and second innings, but he was down to 92-93 towards the end of his outing. I’m thoroughly concerned.
Cardinals/Brewers: There was a lot to unpack from this game. Aaron Ashby gave up three unearned runs, but he danced around danger for the most part in that outing with four walks in four innings. The big concern for me is Devin Williams, who faced seven batters and allowed two hits, three walks and had a wild pitch. Williams does not look sharp at all right now and the Brewers need him at the back end of the bullpen with Josh Hader. Williams had three days off prior to throwing 37 pitches in this outing. He’s unavailable today I’m sure.
The Cardinals lead the league in wOBA against LHP at .420 and rank third in wRC + at 172. Their .625 SLG leads the league as well. Small sample alert, but also, this lineup does project well in that split with so many right-handed bats.
Cubs/Rockies: Speaking of teams against lefties, the Cubs have taken money in every game against a southpaw starter and beat Austin Gomber and the Rockies on Sunday. Drew Smyly was solid over 4.2 innings of work and threw 14/18 first-pitch strikes, which is huge for him. If you’re betting the Cubs against a lefty, attack the overnight line.
Braves/Padres: It was excruciating watching yesterday’s Braves/Padres game while holding an under ticket. The teams combined to go 0-for-13 with RISP and only managed seven hits. The Padres only scored two runs with eight walks. San Diego is tied for fourth in PA with RISP, but ranks ninth in runs scored by not cashing in enough of those chances. They loaded the bases in the first and second, had two on in the fourth and two on in the sixth and managed two runs.
There were 20 batted balls of 95 + mph in the game. The teams were a combined 6-for-20. Remember, those have a league-wide batting average of .500 or better on an annual basis. Maybe it wasn’t a great handicap, but it wasn’t that bad of one either and it’s important to think about games in that way.
Yankees/Orioles: I know all of the Monday Morning Quarterbacking about the Yankees will be about the offense, but how about another excellent start from Nestor Cortes? He had 15 whiffs in 43 swings and struck out 12 over five innings. In two starts, Cortes now has 9.1 scoreless innings with 17 K against one walk. He had a 2.90 ERA with a 3.78 FIP last season in 93 innings while posting over a strikeout per frame. Starting pitching is the concern for the Yanks and Cortes looks great to this point in his second season with a cutter.
Twins/Red Sox: Michael Wacha went five shutout innings and only allowed one hard-hit ball. In two starts, Wacha has allowed one run on just three this. The Red Sox have scaled back the use of his cutter, a pitch that had a .375 BA and a .586 SLG last season. He’s thrown it only 15.2% of the time through two starts, his lowest rate since 2015. I’m not sure it’s sustainable, but any time a pitcher embraces a positive arsenal change, I pay attention.
A’s/Blue Jays: The A’s go home to Oakland leading the league in runs scored, which is not what I expected after 10 games. They’ve also struck out in 26.4% of their plate appearances and aren’t hitting for a lot of power. So, what’s the deal? Oakland is batting .373 with RISP and is running a .422 BABIP. The BA is 33 points higher than anybody else and the BABIP is 35 points higher than any other team. Regression is coming and it will likely come swiftly. I’ll look to fade them on the upcoming homestand (and do lean that way today).
Astros/Mariners: Matt Brash only had nine whiffs against the Astros, but that’s because he only had 23 swings. Houston was extremely patient with the rookie and worked six walks in 5.1 innings. Michael Brantley hit a two-run homer in the sixth, but the game was 6-0 Mariners at that point. Brash has faced two of the best lineups in baseball at making contact to this point and has done well, all things considered. His next start will be at home against Kansas City, who currently has the second-lowest K% in baseball, but also has the worst wRC + and wOBA. I’m curious to see how big of a favorite he’ll be.
Giants/Guardians: The Guardians were swept by the Giants and scored four runs in three games. The ball doesn’t carry at Progressive Field in April and the Guardians almost always start out slowly on offense, so what they did in Kansas City and Cincinnati was an outlier. At least their catching tandem got its first hit of the season yesterday. The Guardians now play the White Sox, Yankees, Angels, A’s, Padres, Blue Jays, White Sox and Twins into mid-May before playing the Reds for two games. It could get very ugly, very quickly for them.
Weather: Rain and snow are in the forecast in Cleveland for Guardians/White Sox and in Chicago for Rays/Cubs. All-day rain in Washington already postponed the D-Backs/Nats game and the forecast looks dicey in Queens for Giants/Mets as well. It’s a pretty ugly weather day in a lot of places.
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.
As I mentioned yesterday, COVID has made another appearance around MLB, as the Mets and A’s have multiple players on the list and now the Red Sox are taking extra precautions with masked employees and backup catcher Kevin Plawecki on the list. It remains a fluid situation, but one to monitor, especially as the Red Sox face the Blue Jays, Rays and Jays again in the next three series.
Reds at Padres (-170, 7.5): The Reds are really bad and we’re getting to a point where no line seems to be high enough. Sean Manaea and the Padres have taken about 10-12 cents worth of money for this one in what appears to be a straight fade of Cincinnati. We’ll see a lot of those moving forward.
Braves at Dodgers (-200, 8): Another hefty favorite has taken a bit of money with the Dodgers getting love in support of Clayton Kershaw following his perfect game bid. The Braves are sending Huascar Ynoa to the mound. The Dodgers are off to a really nice start and the Braves have been all over the place.
(EDIT: GAME PPD) White Sox at Guardians (-130, 7.5): This wasn’t a line move, rather an adjusted line with Shane Bieber starting in place of the originally scheduled Triston McKenzie. The Guardians should also project well against lefties and they get one here in Dallas Keuchel. The markets don’t love Keuchel anyway. This game probably gets postponed, but we’ll see if there’s any additional market movement before first pitch.
Angels at Astros (-140, 9): I don’t understand this line move. Joe Maddon said in the postgame that he believes Mike Trout will be out after getting hit on the hand by a pitch yesterday, yet this line has moved about 10 cents in favor of the Angels. I don’t really get that one. My guess is that when the lineups are released and Trout isn’t in it, this line swings back the other way.
Orioles at Athletics (-190, 7.5): This is a really big number, but one that has grown on the A’s with Frankie Montas on the bump against Spenser Watkins. Watkins had an 8.07 ERA with a 6.37 FIP in 54.2 innings last season with 10 starts and six relief appearances. This is less about Oakland and more about the Baltimore starter. I think we may see some buyback on the O’s here as the day goes along.
Rays (-140, 8) at Cubs: This is the first time this season the Cubs have not been steamed against a left-handed starter as they face Shane McClanahan. Kyle Hendricks gets the call for the Cubs and market confidence is low after his disastrous last start against the lowly Pirates. The wind is blowing out on a disgusting night to hit, so we’ve seen the total go from 8 with under vig to 8 with over vig.
What I’ll Be Watching
(EDIT: GAME PPD) Shane Bieber: Bieber has the right kind of arsenal for attacking a right-handed-heavy White Sox lineup. The curveball and the slider both have glove-side run to go away from righties. Bieber’s decreased velo and spin rates are concerns for me coming off of last season’s second-half injury. It’ll be a miserable night in Cleveland, if the game even gets played, so it may be tough to get loose. In any event, Bieber’s underlying metrics suggest regression and I’m not a fan of the decreased whiff rate. Whether he starts today or tomorrow, I’ll be watching all of those things.
Michael Lorenzen: Lorenzen struck out seven over six excellent innings last Monday against the Marlins, but now draws a far more dangerous Astros lineup. Let’s see if the reliever/outfielder turned starter can navigate much choppier waters. A good start here would go a long way in making me believe he can be a guy that pitches in the rotation, even if it is only the second start of the year. Joe Maddon has been pushing his starters with the extra day of rest, as Lorenzen threw 89 pitches in his first start. I’ll be curious to see how far he goes and how fatigued he gets today.
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
Pirates/Brewers Under 8.5 (-105): I’m a Zach Thompson believer and also feel like Eric Lauer has found a nice home in Milwaukee. That will be today’s pitching matchup at American Family Field and this under looks like a good bet.
Thompson gave up two runs on five hits in four innings in his Buccos debut, but did take a liner off the shoulder that ended his day early. He only allowed five hard-hit balls on 14 balls in play and only one barrel, a Willson Contreras solo shot. Thompson had a solid 3.24 ERA and a 3.69 FIP in 75 innings last season with the Marlins and contact management stats suggest that it was no fluke.
Eric Lauer gave up four runs in 4.1 innings last time out, but they all came on one swing. Cedric Mullins hit a grand slam after a walk, catcher’s interference and another walk. Otherwise, he only allowed four hard-hit balls and allowed only one more baserunner after the Mullins homer. He had a 3.19 ERA and a 4.04 FIP last season.
The two bullpens have pitched well to this point and there are a variety of available arms that should be effective against a couple of lineups that grade average or below. I’m on the under here.
Rockies (+ 145) over Phillies: This price is just a bit too high in my estimation. It will be Aaron Nola for the Phillies against Chad Kuhl of the Rockies and Philadelphia is a hefty road favorite. Nola has 12 strikeouts in 9.1 innings, but has also given up three home runs to this point. He’s allowed seven runs on seven hits and seems to be fighting with his command a bit. Coors Field is a big, huge, spacious outfield and the Phillies are a really poor defensive team, so balls in play will be problematic for Nola.
Furthermore, he’s a guy that has had some pretty pedestrian batted ball results on his fastball and sinker throughout his career. Because breaking balls aren’t as effective in Denver, we oftentimes see pitchers rely more on the hard stuff, which I think will allow the Rockies to make higher-quality contact.
Kuhl throws really hard and typically keeps the ball on the ground more than in the air. Nola does as well, but the difference is that the Rockies are a much better defensive team. We saw some big spin rate gains from Kuhl in his last start, as his slider was up nearly 200 rpm and his curveball was up nearly 300 rpm. Whether or not that’s sustainable is anybody’s guess, but any improvement is a positive.
I’ll take a stab at the underdog price with the Rockies. I do think this line could go up throughout the day with Nola and with the perception of the Phillies offense at Coors Field, so you might want to wait on it. It’s not a luxury I have doing the article.
With the article going behind the paywall today, 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.