Monday brings us some really interesting matchups, especially in terms of situational spots. We don’t think much about situational spots in MLB because the teams play 162 games in 188 days and are mostly used to the grind, but there are some that really stand out today because of rainouts and weekend doubleheaders. It is imperative to be handicapping bullpen usage to a higher degree with fewer off days at this time of year, the reduced roster sizes and the doubleheaders that a lot of teams were forced into over the weekend.
Some people asked about the Sunday article and I just want to clear the air and repeat that announcement. We made the executive decision not to do a Sunday article. The number of day games and being located in the Pacific Time Zone really limits the card and the lead time for the article. Fortunately, you can still get me for two hours on The Run Line, which I recorded last night with Ben Wilson. You can listen on-demand (HOUR 1 / HOUR 2).
Mets/Phillies: One of those teams in a rough situational spot is the Phillies, who come off of the series with the Mets and head west to face the Mariners. Philadelphia split a doubleheader with the Mets on Sunday, losing to Max Scherzer, but beating Chris Bassitt. Philadelphia has lost five of six and has played eight more home games. It will be interesting to see how this road trip goes, as the Phillies are 3-7 away from home.
Brewers/Braves: Sunday was a good day for the Braves. They knocked around Aaron Ashby and got five good innings from Charlie Morton to lower his ERA to 5.65. Morton is a really important piece of the puzzle for the Braves, who have won three of four and might be starting to figure things out. I’m watching Atlanta closely for signs of a breakout. Their fly ball-heavy offensive style has been neutralized by the dead ball, but warmer conditions may start to change that and they’ll be a play-on team if so.
Pirates/Reds: Break up the Reds! For the first time this season, Cincinnati won a series, doing so over the lowly Pirates with 21 runs scored over the three games. Given that the Reds are missing some strong players in Joey Votto, Jonathan India and Nick Senzel, we have to give them a lot of credit. I keep saying that no team can be this bad, so we may be finding some spots to play on Cincinnati moving forward, as horrifying as that sounds.
Cardinals/Giants: Jakob Junis had another fine outing for the Giants, who limited the Cardinals to just four hard-hit balls in the 4-3 win. Dakota Hudson allowed 11 hard-hit balls over his 4.2 innings and also walked four guys. The Giants left some runs out there, which has been the story of this season. San Francisco may be approaching a period of sustained good play. They have the second-highest BABIP against as a pitching staff and that should be coming down as play continues. The offense is better than what we’ve seen lately as well. I may have some bets on them in upcoming games.
Rockies/Diamondbacks: Zac Gallen twirled another gem with seven shutout innings as the Rockies’ woes continued. German Marquez had the bare bones definition of a quality start with three earned runs over six innings, but still walked four and gave up four runs. He did look better in this start, as his velocity ticked up a bit, so maybe that’s a good sign going forward, but I’m still extremely skeptical.
The Rockies are 16-12, but are now just 5-7 on the road have scored just 33 runs in those 12 games. The annual home/road splits are still there.
Marlins/Padres: Another day, another one-run loss for the Marlins. This time, it was Jorge Alfaro’s walk-off 449-foot blast that made the difference. Miami is now 5-9 in one-run games. Toronto leads the league with 15 (10-5). The poor Marlins have run really bad in close games thus far and that should stabilize a bit as the season goes along.
Dodgers/Cubs: The Dodgers, meanwhile, have only played two one-run games and have lost both of them. All 19 of their wins have been on the run line. They’re more than doubling the opposition on a nightly basis and look to be an absolutely flawless team. Marcus Stroman, who is a positive regression candidate, was scratched with COVID-19 for the Cubs, who are in a terrible spot playing the Padres tomorrow night in San Diego. Justin Steele left hurt, so the bullpen had to pick up five more innings after a doubleheader yesterday. The Cubs are in a bad way right now.
White Sox/Red Sox: The White Sox came up with another close victory on Sunday to sweep Boston at Fenway Park. Winning is great, but the White Sox bullpen is really up against it right now. Liam Hendriks was unavailable after pitching five of the last six days. Several relievers have worked four of the last six days. Chicago will certainly take the wins, but beware this week if you’re betting full-game lines with them. That pen has to show the signs of wear and tear soon.
Royals/Orioles: The Orioles have developed some huge home/road splits on the pitching side this season. With the left field wall moved back and raised in height, we’ve seen a lot of low-scoring games in Baltimore and a lot of good performances from their starters, much like the ones we saw from Bruce Zimmermann and Jordan Lyles in the double dip. On the road, however, Baltimore’s pitchers still have an ERA north of 5. Much like the Marlins, they’ll have to be handicapped and priced much differently based on venue.
Rangers/Yankees: Not much offense in the Bronx yesterday, as the teams split a doubleheader. Glenn Otto pitched really well over five innings and he is a guy that I am looking to bet on when the opportunity presents itself. Not for nothing, Jordan Montgomery was really good for the Yankees in that start as well.
The Rangers still can’t get going offensively. It hasn’t mattered if Brad Miller or Kole Calhoun has led off against a righty, the Rangers just can’t figure it out. Corey Seager and Marcus Semien have both been awful and Nathaniel Lowe’s power has disappeared. There will be a buy point (on guys other than Otto), but I’m not seeing many signs of it now.
Blue Jays/Guardians: The Guardians keep scratching and clawing and it’s admirable to see. The Blue Jays continue to be disappointing on offense and that has to turn at some point. I sent out some tweets about Shane Bieber during Saturday’s start with his decreased velocity and spin rates and my concern levels have reached DEFCON 5. I can’t believe he hasn’t gone for an MRI. I don’t know if Bieber gets right or not, but the Guardians do have the third-lowest LOB% as a pitching staff and may be in line for some positive regression in that department. They’re a much better team than I expected.
Athletics/Twins: Chris Paddack didn’t follow completely in the footsteps of Dylan Bundy, but he only lasted 2.1 innings against a pretty bad Oakland offense on Sunday. I’m still not a believer in the profile. While he didn’t experience what Bundy has gone through in his last two starts, we are starting to see the regression I expected. Minnesota plays a very weak schedule over the next few weeks, but after that, I think it will be time to really start betting against them.
Weather: After a weekend full of wet weather, there is no precipitation in the forecast for any of today’s games. However, we have a lot of wind considerations. Winds will be blowing in for Royals/Orioles, Rangers/Yankees, A’s/Tigers, Guardians/White Sox and Cubs/Padres. Of those games, the most notable is on the South Side, where 20 mph breezes will be blowing in from RF for the Zach Plesac vs. Michael Kopech matchup.
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.
It’s actually been a pretty light day for line movement, but we should see some more throughout the afternoon.
Rockies at Giants (-240, 6.5): The Rockies Road Fade has been activated again, this time with Austin Gomber against Carlos Rodon. Part of the 20-cent move could be Rodon’s presence as well, but we generally see money get bet against the Rockies in most of their road games, so today looks to be a continuation of that.
Phillies at Mariners (-120, 7.5): We saw about 10 or so cents of Mariners interest in this one, even though Seattle has struggled of late, but then the line slid back the other direction. The really bad situational spot for the Phillies could be part of this one, but I also feel like the modeling crowd may be down on Chris Flexen. It's been an interesting back-and-forth at different books, so we'll have to wait and see where this line settles.
What I’ll Be Watching
Luis Castillo: The Reds right-hander makes his 2022 debut against Brandon Woodruff and the Brewers. Castillo faced 45 batters in three minor league rehab starts and allowed a run on seven hits with 16 strikeouts and eight walks. The walks are a bit concerning, but he overpowered minor leaguers with those 16 strikeouts in 10.1 innings of work. Castillo fits the profile of the kind of pitcher I love to back, as he has an elite ground ball rate with over a strikeout per inning.
That being said, the Reds have been far and away the worst team in baseball at converting ground balls into outs. Don’t be surprised if Castillo has some bad BABIP luck in the early going.
Elieser Hernandez: Hernandez draws a surging Diamondbacks team that has been winning with pitching and timely hitting. We see a lot of love for Marlins pitchers at home, but not always on the road. Hernandez has had a really interesting start to the season, with a 6.66 ERA with a 6.16 FIP, but a 3.79 xERA and a 4.56 xFIP. The ball isn’t carrying, yet he has allowed seven home runs in five starts over 24.1 innings of work. Also, his Hard Hit% is just 31.6%, as only 24 of 76 balls in play have been hit at least 95 mph. He’s gotten very unlucky on his hard contact to this point. Five of those six homers have been hit in his two road starts. This is a road start, so I’ll be looking to see if he can right the ship in any way.
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
Guardians/White Sox Over 7.5 (-115): Despite the hurtful winds blowing in from RF, I’m still on the over in this game. Zach Plesac has a 4.44 ERA and it could be even worse based on his 5.73 xERA and his 4.75 FIP. It is unfortunate for the Guardians that his 2020 strikeout spike was a mirage, as he’s back to pitching to contact and a lot of hard contact at that with a 47.3% Hard Hit%.
For the second straight season, Plesac’s average exit velocity is over 90 mph. He’s also run a high Barrel% each of the last two seasons and is on track for a career-worst double-digit mark this season. The White Sox will be part of “The Regression Report” in this week’s Point Spread Weekly. Chicago is third in Hard Hit%, but has had very little success on high-velocity contact, making this offense a clear positive regression candidate. My hope is that warmer weather in the Windy City helps.
Michael Kopech is off to an excellent start this season, but there are regression signs in his profile. Kopech has a 1.17 ERA with a 3.18 xERA and a 2.64 FIP. He has walked 11 batters in his 23 innings, but those free passes have not been all that hurtful yet, thanks to a .232 BABIP and an 84% LOB%. It will be hard to sustain that low of a BABIP with a 41.1% Hard Hit%. Kopech’s strikeout per inning pace likely won’t be as effective against a Cleveland lineup that has the second-lowest K% in baseball.
I’m also looking at both bullpens here and don’t like what I see. The White Sox pen has great numbers, but Aaron Bummer just hit the IL. Liam Hendriks has pitched five of the last seven days. Matt Foster has pitched four of the last six. Chicago’s pen has worked a ton lately. Cleveland’s primary relievers have also been used a lot, with appearances four of the last five days for Emmanuel Clase and Bryan Shaw. Some tired relievers could be shaky here. All in all, I’ll take a shot with the Over 7.5, also keeping in mind that we’ve seen the vig move up, despite the wind, which says a lot to me.
Mariners (-120) over Phillies: Philadelphia is in a terrible spot on Monday. After playing two against the Mets, the Phillies had to hop a plane for the almost six-hour flight to Seattle. With Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin on the shelf due to COVID-19, the team has had to do a lot of shuffling. While the bullpen isn’t in terrible shape due to rainouts on Friday and Saturday, the bullpen just isn’t very good overall, which has to be a factor in every Phillies game.
It could be a big factor here as well. Ranger Suarez has a 4.63 ERA with a 5.31 FIP in his five starts across 23.1 innings this season. Suarez has not been helped by his defense at all, but has also created his own problems with 10 walks and four home runs allowed. The Mariners are 12th in wOBA against lefties with the league’s highest walk rate and have been very unlucky with a .234 BABIP. That could change with balls in play against this poor Phillies defense.
Chris Flexen also pitches to contact, but he’s an entirely different pitcher at home compared to on the road. Last season, Flexen allowed a .257/.292/.378 slash at home with a .289 wOBA. On the road, he allowed a .281/.329/.457 slash with a .335 wOBA. T-Mobile Park is very forgiving for pitchers and Flexen was able to use that to his advantage, especially because he threw 15.2 more innings at home than on the road.This season, Flexen’s wOBA against at home is 30 points lower than on the road, albeit in small sample sizes.
Even though the Mariners were forced to use their primary relievers in the game against the Rays on Sunday, their bullpen is still much deeper than Philadelphia’s. Seattle should be the right side in this one.
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.