We’ve almost made it through the month of May, and what a month it has been. Teams collectively posted a .231/.307/.369 slash line with a .301 wOBA in the opening month of the season, but the 96 wRC + from that month shows just how much offense has picked up. Remember that wRC + is a metric where 100 is “average” and it is constantly adjusted for park factor and the run environment.
In May, teams are collectively hitting .245/.312/.396 with a .314 wOBA and a 104 wRC +. If we narrow that down to the last 14 days, we’ve seen a big offensive uptick with a .252/.317/.406 slash line, a .319 wOBA and a 108 wRC +. While that stretch would only put us on par with the 2015 or 2018 seasons, at least the ball isn’t as dead as it was.
As a result, bettors have been frantically adjusting, myself included. I would postulate that the “new normal” for the next few months looks a lot like this, or maybe a little bit higher because of the impact higher temperatures and humidity will have on the ball and its ability to carry on fly balls. We’ve also got the lowest K% we’ve seen since 2018, so a lot more balls are being put in play. These are all important things to note as we get ready to close the book on May and head into June.
If you didn’t catch it live, please check out two fine hours of radio with host Ben Wilson and yours truly on The Run Line. We talked about regression candidates, futures bets, teams you might want to buy, teams you might want to sell and a whole lot more. (HOUR 1 | HOUR 2 )
Giants/Reds: Tyler Mahle took a no-hitter through 6.2 innings at home, but the Reds still managed to lose 6-4 after a six-run meltdown in the eighth. The Giants are still finding ways to win ballgames despite some shoddy defense and lackluster pitching, which is what good teams do. The Reds? They find ways to lose games, which is exactly what bad teams do. It was yet another over at Great American Ball Park, though. That park has been the only one to play above its true form and I don’t think that stops as the weather warms up.
Rockies/Nationals: Overs were en vogue at Nationals Park this weekend, even with the Road Rockies, who are now finally over three runs per game on the road. This four-game set featured 46 runs, with 18 for the Rockies and 28 for the Nationals. Colorado is 5-15 over the last 20 games after improving to 16-11 on May 7. Some teams will be hurt more by a league-wide offensive increase because of their pitching staffs and the Rockies appear to be one of those teams.
Marlins/Braves: Another strong start for market darling Max Fried, who held the Marlins to one run across six innings. Elieser Hernandez’s home run woes continued by surrendering three long balls. At this point, Hernandez is not bettable on the road. At home, with a park that suppresses power, you could talk me into it. Not on the road. He has now allowed 14 (!!) home runs in 43.2 innings of work, with nine in 19.2 road innings. He’s allowing a .723 SLG on the road. If only the Marlins had a guy like Max Meyer in the minors. They are, at least calling up Edward Cabrera this week.
Brewers/Cardinals: It took a while, but we finally got one of those Miles Mikolas regression games. He allowed six runs on nine hits over 5.2 innings against the Brewers. He was pushed to 115 pitches and the middle innings did him in. Mikolas will not have an extra off day before facing the Cubs at Wrigley on Friday. That may be a spot to fade him.
Dodgers/Diamondbacks: It’s a bummer that the Dodgers are really hard to bet because of their huge prices because Tyler Anderson is a guy that we should be able to bet on at reasonable numbers. He threw six shutout innings yesterday to lower his ERA to 2.90. The 32-year-old with the 4.49 ERA has simply found a home in Dodger Blue, as he ranks in the Top 9% in exit velocity and Top 6% in Hard Hit%. He’s also in the Top 4% in BB% and Top 3% in Chase Rate. Batters are hitting .119 against his changeup with a 44.9% Whiff%, so he’s been able to effectively neutralize righties. What a phenomenal season for the veteran.
Pirates/Padres: Another strong start from MacKenzie Gore, who lowered his ERA to 1.71 with seven shutout innings against the Pirates. First-year pitching coach Ruben Niebla seemed to really focus a lot on Gore in spring training and it has paid huge dividends to this point. Now that the Padres are 13 games over .500, their prices are really reflecting how good they’ve been playing, but the alternate standings metrics view them as an overachiever.
Phillies/Mets: What looked like a stone-cold under through seven innings became a bad beat for totals backers on Sunday Night Baseball, as the Mets bullpen coughed up the lead, but the Phillies blew the save in the ninth and then lost in the 10th.
Ben and I talked a lot about the Mets on The Run Line yesterday and their upcoming schedule has the chance to bring them back down to earth a bit. They keep finding ways to win and generate offense with a pretty unimpressive hitting profile, but I think they’re going to level off a little bit soon.
Orioles/Red Sox: Twelve more runs yesterday for the best offense in baseball in the month of May. Boston’s .371 wOBA is 20 points higher than anybody else’s for this month and the team is batting .292 with a .337 BABIP. Boston also leads all of baseball in Hard Hit% this month. This is not a fluke and Fenway Park is back to hosting games with totals of 9.5 and 10. What a turnaround from this offense.
Yankees/Rays: The Yanks and Rays split this four-game set. The first game fell 7-2 Yankees. The next three games featured 12 runs combined, as all three went under some low totals. Tropicana Field continues to be a place with suppressed offense. Obviously these two teams have a lot of good pitchers, but that is one park where offense will continue to lag.
Royals/Twins: As I’ve talked about, regression comes in many forms. Sometimes it is a gradual process. Other times, you get a Zack Greinke. Greinke allowed five runs on six hits over four innings, including three homers yesterday. The 38-year-old is also being looked at for a forearm/flexor tendon injury. Through his May 8 start, Greinke had a 2.67 ERA with a 3.76 FIP and 4.99 xFIP. In his last four starts, he has a 9.50 ERA with a 6.25 FIP and has allowed five home runs.
Rangers/Athletics: Timing is everything in Major League Baseball. Yesterday, the A’s had 14 hits, drew six walks, watched five Rangers errors and still needed two in the eighth and one in the ninth to walk off Texas. Why? Oakland was 3-for-20 with RISP. They left the bases loaded in the first, men at second and third in the second, the bases loaded in the fourth and finally got to Dane Dunning in the fifth.
It was a start for Dunning that could have gone much worse. Looking at game logs and play logs can be really important when evaluating a starter’s performance, especially when looking for edges in a market where the lines have tightened up.
Blue Jays/Angels: Speaking of the timing of hits, these two teams scored 21 runs and were a combined 10-for-26 with RISP. The Blue Jays were 7-for-17 with RISP after struggling all season long to come away with the 11-10 win. Both Jose Berrios and Patrick Sandoval were awful in this one. Berrios had a velocity decrease and also saw some drops in spin rate over his 56 pitches. Some long innings may have been to blame, but I wonder if he’s fully healthy. His command throughout the season would suggest that he may not be.
Cubs/White Sox: My thoughts go out to under backers from this mess. This was a 1-0 game going to the bottom of the ninth when the White Sox tied the game on a wild pitch, then grounded out twice with the winning run on second. The teams each scored two in the 10th, one in the 11th and the White Sox eventually won in 12, but that was a disgusting beat on under 7.
Weather: It could be a big day for offense. Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer in the minds of most and we’ve got warm temperatures and a lot of wind blowing out. Both Brewers/Cubs games could be slugfests and the totals of 11.5 and 10.5 support that theory. We’ve got a total up to 10 in Cleveland with temps around 90 and winds blowing out. It’s warm in St. Louis with helping breezes and the same can be said in Philadelphia and Boston. I would not be interested in any outdoor unders today.
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 a lot of lesser-known pitchers and the potential for a lot of offense, we haven’t seen a ton of moves on sides. Totals have been bet up almost across the board again, but that’s been happening for several days now.
Game 1 Brewers (-125, 11.5) at Cubs; Game 2 Brewers (-130, 10.5) at Cubs: We’ve seen a hefty totals move up in Game 1 and I wouldn’t be shocked if Game 2 goes to 11. The Brewers have also taken money in this matchup of unknowns between Ethan Small and Matthew Swarmer. Game 2 is Aaron Ashby and Drew Smyly. On a bad day to pitch, I wonder if the market ultimately fades Smyly.
Padres at Cardinals (-110, 9): The total has been bumped to 9 here, but we’ve also seen a little bit of Cardinals investment. I can’t argue with it, as Nick Martinez has a 3.86 ERA with a 4.47 FIP. He’s got a high walk rate and a home run problem, which are two bad things on a warm day. Packy Naughton gets the start for the Redbirds in what will be a Johnny Wholestaff sort of day. Naughton is a multi-inning guy, but has maxed out at 3.1 innings this season.
Giants (-115, 9.5) at Phillies: With few household names starting, a Logan Webb vs. Kyle Gibson matchup looks pretty intriguing. The total has jumped from 8.5 to 9.5 here, which may seem surprising given how the two guys have performed. It will be hot in Philly, but these are also two really poor defensive teams and I can’t help but wonder if that’s a factor in the line move.
Twins (-140, 8.5) at Tigers: Byron Buxton is not in the lineup for the Twins, so we’ve seen this line jump down about 10 cents and it could move down a bit more. We’ve also seen the juice swing to the under on the total. There are overnight moves and then a lot of moves when the lineups get announced. Star players can move a number and this one of those cases.
Royals at Guardians (-150, 10): This is a pretty big favorite role for Zach Plesac given the way that he has pitched this season. The markets seemed to agree, as this line has dropped 10-15 cents. More notably, the total has skyrocketed from 9 to 10 with the aforementioned good hitting conditions. The Royals offense has also been a top-10 unit over the last couple of weeks, so they’ve gotten it going a bit.
What I’ll Be Watching
Paul Blackburn: There are some obvious signs of negative regression in the profile for Blackburn. He’s running a 1.70 ERA, which is not sustainable moving forward. The question of how much that regresses with a 2.72 FIP and a 3.39 xFIP is one that cannot be fully answered, but he has only allowed one home run in 47.2 innings of work and that, too, will not continue. His 84% LOB% with a low strikeout rate is also going to rise.
Blackburn squares off with a really talented Houston lineup today, one that has not seen him yet this season. Blackburn only walked three batters in his first six starts, but has walked nine over his last three outings. He’s still only allowed three runs on 12 hits in those 16.2 innings of work, but it does feel like he’s teetering on the brink of a really bad start. He is pitching with the safety net of the Coliseum and just about all of his starts have come in good pitching environments. Maybe today’s not the day, but the day is likely coming soon.
Glenn Otto: The man, the myth, the legend takes the hill tonight. Otto allowed eight runs in four innings against the Red Sox on May 14. In his other five starts, he’s allowed eight total runs with 21 strikeouts against 11 walks. The Rays are a solid lineup, but Otto’s last five starts have been against the Angels, Astros twice, Red Sox and Yankees. Over his last two starts against the Angels and Astros, only nine of 31 batted balls have classified as hard hit. The Rangers are playing a bit better, yesterday’s trainwreck aside, and Otto is a hidden gem in this rotation as far as I can tell.
Monday Best Bets
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Padres/Cardinals Over 9 (-105): We’ve got Nick Martinez and Packy Naughton on the bump to start this one at Busch Stadium. It’s an afternoon start in the Gateway City with very warm temps and helping breezes. Martinez is a fade candidate for me and the conditions certainly look nice for doing that. He has a 3.86 ERA with a 4.47 FIP in his 39.2 innings of work, as an 81.5% LOB% is doing a lot of heavy lifting.
Martinez has a double-digit BB% of 11.8% as a starter that should start to hurt him a bit more as well. He’s also allowed six homers in his seven starts and one relief appearance. What I really like about this matchup is that we have some hidden value because of Martinez’s reverse platoon splits. His best pitch is a changeup, which would be most effective against lefties as a right-handed pitcher. Lefties are batting .197/.305/.338 with a .295 wOBA. Righties, however, are batting .289/.353/.513 with a .375 wOBA. The Cardinals are pretty heavy on right-handed batters.
The Padres will start this game against the left-hander in Naughton and that has been the better split for them, as they rank ninth in wOBA at .326. They’re not as good against righties, but my expectation is that Andre Pallante follows Naughton. Pallante is an enormous negative regression candidate with an 0.82 ERA, but a 3.91 FIP and 4.15 xFIP in his 22 innings of work. He has a high walk rate, a low strikeout rate, a 97.9% LOB% and a Hard Hit% of 45.1%.
As far as the matchup against Naughton, Manny Machado is back in the lineup after missing a couple of games, so that should provide a nice boost, given his six homers against lefties this season .532 wOBA in 54 plate appearances. Given all of those factors, I’m on the over 9 and will list it at -105 here. You can find some + 100, but those are evaporating with Machado back in the mix.
Rays/Rangers 1st 5 Under 4 (+ 100): You may be able to find a stray 4.5 in this matchup with Drew Rasmussen and Glenn Otto, but 4 and under at even money is the predominant number in the marketplace. I just wrote about Otto and how he’s been pretty strong in all but one of his six starts. He’s got a really nice arsenal that comps with guys like Alek Manoah and Mike Clevinger in terms of velo and movement. Like I mentioned, he’s faced a lot of really strong lineups and now faces a Rays group that is only a few ticks above league average by wRC +.
The Rangers still aren’t really hitting with much consistency and Rasmussen is a tough customer. He’s got a 2.68 ERA with a 2.91 FIP in his nine starts covering 43.2 innings of work. His contact management numbers look reasonable with a 38% Hard Hit% and a low Barrel% of 6.6%. His 11.8% SwStr% is suggestive of a possible K% increase, especially if he starts to get more swings and misses in the zone.
The Rangers rank 27th in wOBA against righties a .283 and the Rays rank 21st, though the park factor has played a role in that. Still, they’ve struck out in 25% of their plate appearances against righties and haven’t walked much. I think those are two positives for Otto in this start. At even money (some + 105 out there, too), this is worth a look in one of the few games today that should be lower-scoring.
We’ll be rolling out some more baseball tools soon, including a tracker of my picks that will update in real-time, but for now, I’m tracking my picks in this spreadsheet HERE.