We’ve got a fairly light slate on Monday to start the last week of April, as there are only seven games on the betting board. While the slate is short on games, it is long on talent, as several aces take the hill for their respective teams. Pitchers are making their fourth starts this week, so we’re starting to get a more significant sample size with each passing day. Hopefully that will yield some good betting angles down the line.
Giants/Nationals: Five in a row in the ‘L’ column for the Nats, who have not scored more than three runs in six straight games and have been outscored 39-11 over this five-game stretch with the Marlins coming to town on Tuesday. The emphatic bounce back series from the Giants was rather impressive and they’ll host Washington next week to keep rolling along. Today’s game is a weird one, though, as they’ll face the Brewers in a game rescheduled as a result of the late start to the season. More on that one later.
Marlins/Braves: The Braves continued their weird, disappointing season thus far with a 5-4 loss to the Marlins. Atlanta was 1-for-14 with RISP in the finale and 3-for-26 in the series as a whole. Jesus Luzardo threw five solid innings with eight strikeouts and four walks. Bryce Elder walked six, but had his fair share of swings and misses. Kind of a weird game and weird series, but my big takeaway is that Atlanta is still really talented, just not firing on all cylinders.
Cardinals/Reds: I nearly laid the Cardinals price against a lefty, but noticed that Nick Lodolo had really limited hard contact nicely in his starts to open the year. Well, he didn’t do that on Sunday, as the Cardinals had 12 hard-hit balls against him, but they found fielders and he only allowed one run on five hits. He didn’t walk anybody, though, which was huge. Adam Wainwright’s home/road split issues continued, as he allowed four runs and 11 baserunners over five innings. The Reds probably should have scored more. Wainwright is dynamite at home and below average on the road. Keep that in mind.
Pirates/Cubs: Concern about JT Brubaker is the story here. The Pirates don’t have many reliable hurlers and Brubaker is one. He actually had nine whiffs in 18 swings, but his spin rates were down and his velocity was down substantially. He was yanked after 44 pitches. We’ll see what happens with follow-up testing, but something was clearly not right.
Mets/Diamondbacks: Another strong effort from Tylor Megill with X strikeouts over X innings. Madison Bumgarner continued to locate well and only allowed an unearned run over five innings, but he only had three whiffs on 30 swings. It feels like he’s toeing a thin line right now. He did only allow three batted balls of 95 + mph, though. I’ll have to dig in deeper before his next start and see what I find.
Dodgers/Padres: Remember when Cody Bellinger was a ruined player because he struck out a lot in spring training? LOL. The Dodgers jumped on Sean Manaea for seven runs in 4.1 innings and also worked three walks. It was about as impressive of an offensive performance as the Dodgers have had this season given how Manaea was throwing the ball coming into the game. Manaea had also faced the Diamondbacks and Reds in two of his three starts. We’re at the point where you really want to take that under consideration and not overvalue pitchers in upcoming starts.
Red Sox/Rays: Shane McClanahan had 21 (!!) swings and misses in 52 swings on Sunday. He also worked up to 86 pitches. It was another extremely impressive outing from a whiff standpoint and everything you see about him is totally real. McClanahan allowed both runs in the first inning and then shut it down to go seven strong. Kid’s a rock star.
White Sox/Twins: The Chicago bullpen blew the game, but Lucas Giolito racked up 17 swings and misses in his 4.1 innings and had nine strikeouts in his return. It was a huge start for Giolito and the White Sox. It was the first bad Liam Hendriks appearance since April 8, so nothing to be overly concerned about, but the bullpen will need to be strong with all of the other injuries the team is dealing with. There are a few guys with elevated walk rates that look a little iffy right now, too. I’ll be following closely.
Weather: Weather won’t be a big factor on Monday. Four games will be played in domes and the weather forecasts in Philadelphia, St. Louis and Anaheim all seem fine. It could be a bit breezy in St. Louis, with winds blowing left to right across the field.
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.
With only seven games on the board, we don’t have a ton, but there are a few of note.
Dodgers (-185, 9) at Diamondbacks: I’m a big fan of what we’ve seen so far from Merrill Kelly, but his 94.4% LOB% and his 0.59 ERA with a 2.61 xERA and a 2.65 xFIP are likely to encourage some bettors to wager against him in his upcoming starts. That’s part of the reason for this move, but also the Diamondbacks offense against Walker Buehler.
Red Sox at Blue Jays (-120, 8.5): I’m a little bit surprised we saw overnight money on Boston, given that we don’t know who won’t be able to make the trip to Toronto because of Canada’s vaccine policy. Jose Berrios has pitched poorly to this point with a lot of hard contact allowed, so a fade of him makes sense, but it’s hard to know if the Red Sox will be at full strength. We will know more later today.
Guardians (-115, 8) at Angels: The prices that we’re seeing on Shane Bieber are not prices that we typically see. In this game, we saw some early Cleveland investment as the California kid from Orange makes a homecoming start, but we’ve already seen some buyback. The Angels bullpen got quite a workout in on Sunday after using four relievers on Saturday. Cleveland used a throwaway arm in Kirk McCarty, so they should be the more rested of the two as well, which could have been part of the handicap and the initial line move.
What I’ll Be Watching
Merrill Kelly: My dude is off to an outstanding start this season. Kelly has always been a guy with above average spin rates and a four-pitch mix capable of having success, but it feels like new pitching coach Brent Strom has unlocked something special. Kelly has allowed one run on 13 hits over 15.1 innings with an 18/5 K/BB ratio in starts against the Padres, Astros and Nationals.
Sadly, though, this honeymoon may be short-lived. Kelly’s SwStr% is only 9.4%, so that doesn’t support his 28.6% K% at all. His Z-Contact% is 93.9%, so he’s not getting swings and misses in the zone, which you need to run a high strikeout rate. His O-Swing% is 37.4% per FanGraphs, which is over 6% higher than his career average. I think he’ll be a solid pitcher, but these early-season returns are not sustainable.
Jose Berrios: Will we see any improvements from Berrios in this start? Going into Sunday’s games, he ranked in the bottom 10% in exit velocity, Hard Hit%, xwOBA, xERA xSLG and Barrel%. Last season, he ranked in the middle of the pack in most of those categories. Thirteen fastballs have been put in play at an average of 97.8 mph and 13 sinkers have averaged 96.3 mph. We’ll see if he’s able to make any command fixes in this outing.
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
Giants/Brewers Under 7 (-105): This scheduling situation is beyond ridiculous. For the Giants, this game represents the end of an 11-game road trip, as they’ll head home to face the A’s in the Bay Area interleague rivalry on Tuesday. The Brewers played in Philadelphia last night for Sunday Night Baseball and will turn around after the game and head right to Pittsburgh.
This honestly feels like a game where both teams will be a little bit sleepy and sluggish in my opinion. The pitching matchup also looks decent for a low-scoring game in a quality pitcher’s park as well. Corbin Burnes gets the call for the Brewers and we all know what he’s capable of coming off of a Cy Young season with a 2.43 ERA and a 1.63 FIP. He’s allowed five runs on 11 hits in 19 innings to start this year.
Sammy Long gets the nod for San Francisco. He has a 4.95 ERA, but a 4.00 FIP in his 45.1 innings of work. Long did struggle at times last season, but has worked 4.2 scoreless frames thus far and has only allowed three of 17 baserunners to reach. The Giants won in blowout fashion on Sunday, so most of their primary relievers got a day of rest.
My lone concern here is that Devin Williams and Josh Hader have both pitched back-to-back days, so that could limit what Milwaukee does in the late innings. That’s probably a case for a live bet on the Giants if this one is close in the middle innings as Burnes starts to reach the end of his rope. Still, I’m not sure either team will be all that plugged into this one, so I’ll take the Under 7.
Mets (-155) over Cardinals: My early read on the Cardinals is that they’re going to continue to hit lefties well, but above average righties will present a problem. Max Scherzer certainly fits the definition of above average. The future Hall of Famer is off to a fine start with five runs allowed on nine hits over his 18 innings of work. He’s struck out 23 and walked seven, but five of those seven walks have been left-handed batters and he’ll likely only face three in this start. Most of the productive guys for St. Louis are right-handed and righties own a career .251 wOBA against Scherzer. They had a .233 wOBA last season.
Miles Mikolas is off to a fine start and he’s probably going to be fine, especially at home, but he ranks in the bottom 8% in Whiff% this season, so he doesn’t generate a lot of swings and misses. Scherzer does, so I’m expecting the Mets to put more balls in play and to do so with better contact quality than the Cardinals. St. Louis has a .294 wOBA and a 94 wRC + against righties this season. The Mets are second in wOBA and tops in wRC + in that split.
St. Louis’s bullpen has been great to this point, but with a 1.95 ERA with a 3.46 FIP. They’re running a .220 BABIP and an 85.9% LOB%, which is the second-highest in the league. They’re a regression candidate as far as I’m concerned. All in all, I can’t pass on Scherzer at this short price given the matchup and the splits.
Giants (+ 170) over Brewers: I'm interested in the Giants today, but I have to decide if I want to take the chance of fading Burnes against a San Francisco lineup missing Mike Yastrzemski, who tested positive for COVID yesterday. One thing I do think is worth considering is a live bet on the Giants depending on how the game starts. Josh Hader and Devin Williams both worked yesterday, likely leaving them unavailable today because they won't pitch three days in a row. I'll let you know if I decide to pull the trigger.
We’ll be rolling out a nice MLB package with some site enhancements and a tracker soon, but I’m tracking the picks in my own spreadsheet HERE for now.