Ten games usher us into a new week on the diamond. We’re about a month removed from when the baseball actually started to carry again, so we’ve finally gotten some worthwhile sample size to think about from the “second season” of the 2022 season. From Opening Day to May 13, teams batted .235/.308/.375 with a .302 wOBA. From May 14 until now, teams are batting .249/.316/.410. The big SLG spike is what has really stood out.
Pitchers may need to go back to focusing on strikeouts instead of pitching to contact like they started to do when the ball was dead. It’s tough to make all of these midseason adjustments as a bettor, but hopefully now we can all settle in to what has become the league’s new normal.
Before I get into today’s article, a reminder to check out The Run Line with myself and host Ben Wilson. Thought we had an excellent show last night and covered a lot of important topics. Give it a listen. (HOUR 1 | HOUR 2)
Diamondbacks/Phillies: The Phillies bullpen had mostly stabilized prior to yesterday’s meltdown, but my focus is on Ranger Suarez. He’s the weak link in what has been an outstanding Phillies rotation otherwise. I talked about this on last night’s show, but I’d find a different fifth starter and put Suarez at the back end of the pen, especially with Corey Knebel injured. Suarez has a 4.40 ERA and walked four over 4.1 innings. Instead of trying to get six innings from Suarez one day per week, why not try to get them over three or four days out of the pen?
With Bryce Harper back and swinging it well, the Phillies probably remain a play-on team, especially when the top four in the rotation have FIPs of 2.13 (Wheeler), 3.24 (Nola), 3.64 (Gibson), and 3.43 (Eflin).
Pirates/Braves: Ben and I talked a lot about the Braves on last night’s show. Atlanta turned its winning streak up to 11 with a sweep of the Pirates yesterday. All you can do is beat the teams on the schedule, but the Braves’ streak is comprised of the D-Backs, Rockies, A’s and Pirates. It’s exactly what the team needed to get back in the race, but they faced a lot of low-strikeout pitchers, so the offense played up. The Nationals may not provide much more resistance, but moving forward, we’ll have to see how the Braves fare. They do have the league’s best bullpen, which should go a long way as the season goes along.
Brewers/Nationals: The Brewers may have stopped a skid yesterday, but this team isn’t hitting and is missing two key starting pitchers in Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta. Since that May 14 date I referenced above, the Brewers rank 24th in wOBA and it’s been even worse over the last 2-3 weeks. The offense went in the tank and now the pitching has question marks. Tough team to back at present.
Reds/Cardinals: It figures that Dakota Hudson’s regression would show up against the Reds. He gave up six runs on nine hits over seven innings, but he did save the bullpen and that’s huge at this time of the year. The Cardinals nearly came back off of the Cincinnati bullpen, but this was one of the few road-game explosions for the Reds offense, which leads the league in R/G at home.
Dodgers/Giants: What a weekend for the Giants. San Francisco swept the Dodgers in the three-game set at Oracle Park and only allowed four runs over the three games. The Giants have a bunch of pitchers with huge ERA-FIP discrepancies because the defense has been so bad. If San Francisco can figure something out about that, this Giants team is destined for something special. With Walker Buehler out three months now for the Dodgers, they’re showing some cracks.
Rockies/Padres: German Marquez actually had a good start yesterday for the Rockies against a Padres team that has been carried by its pitching most of the season. Marquez went seven innings with two runs allowed on six hits and we saw a big change in his pitch usage. It was the third start in his last five with more curveballs than sliders and his sinker usage has really spiked over the last three starts while throwing fewer fastballs. Both pitches stick, but the adjustment from the curveball at the expense of the slider is an interesting development.
Marquez was throwing the slider around 35% of the time up until May 21, when we saw the usage of that pitch drop considerably. Opposing batters are hitting .259 with a .534 SLG on the slider. They’re batting .177 with a .258 SLG on the curveball. I’ll be watching to see if this change holds and if his effectiveness with the CB is legit.
A’s/Guardians: The Guardians have won 11 of 14 with this stretch against the Tigers, Royals, Orioles, Rangers and Athletics. They play three at Colorado this week before a 17-game stretch against the Dodgers, Twins, Red Sox, Twins and Yankees. Cleveland will feature prominently in this week’s Regression Report once again.
Blue Jays/Tigers: Since joining the rotation, Ross Stripling has worked 11 scoreless innings and allowed two hits. To be fair, he’s faced the Royals and Tigers, but Stripling is a viable starter and a guy that could provide a big lift with Hyun Jin Ryu hurt.
On the Detroit side, Tarik Skubal’s velocity and spin rates were down. He had some long innings, which was likely part of it, but I think that’s something to monitor for an org where a lot of pitchers have already gotten hurt this season. It may be a pattern at this point.
Rangers/White Sox: Speaking of pitchers being hurt, just as the White Sox are getting Lance Lynn back from a knee injury, Michael Kopech left with one. We’ll see what the MRI says, but Yasmani Grandal also left hurt and reliever Aaron Bummer has a strained lat. The White Sox have had no injury luck. The Grandal one is big. He’s not hitting, but he’s an excellent defensive catcher with great receiving skills. The hits keep coming for this team.
Orioles/Royals: So, this goes without saying probably, but I’ll say it anyway. In the new offensive environment, bad pitching has been punished a lot more than good pitching. The Orioles have some good relievers, but some bad starters. This series between a couple of subpar offenses featured 48 runs over four games. A lot of the overs that we’ve seen to balance out the early run on unders have come as a result of bad pitching.
Red Sox/Mariners: Boston went 8-2 on a West Coast swing with stops in Oakland, Anaheim and Seattle. Now they return home to face the A’s, Cardinals and Tigers. This is a huge stretch for Boston. The last 14 games going into the All-Star Break are against the Rays and Yankees. They’ve successfully made up a lot of ground and have been the best offense in baseball over the last six weeks. This homestand looks set up for success as well. The prices will be quite high against Oakland, but I’ll be looking to back them against St. Louis.
Mets/Angels: The Mets won 4-1 in a game dominated by starting pitching, as Taijuan Walker struck out 10 over six and Patrick Sandoval had 20 swings and misses over his six innings. Buck Showalter went to Edwin Diaz for a five-out save and it worked beautifully, as he struck out all five batters. The Angels struck out 38 times in this series and have the league’s second-highest K% over the last 14 days. Everything has fallen apart at once for this team.
Weather: We’ll have some gnarly weather around the country the next couple of days, but the MLB slate is minimally affected today. White Sox/Tigers is the most threatened, but they might be able to get the game in before the heavy stuff comes. Otherwise, Braves/Nationals and Padres/Cubs have slight rain chances. The wind is blowing in a little from RF at Wrigley. That’s about the only game with wind.
Injuries: Lots of these this weekend, so be sure to check on all the latest updates. Check out our Injury Report right here at VSiN. This is also a good resource at FanGraphs (sort by date) HERE.
Marlins at Phillies (-130, 8): One-way money has pounded this line down between the Marlins and Phillies with Sandy Alcantara and Aaron Nola in an excellent pitching matchup. We’ve seen upwards of 25 cents worth of movement on Miami at some shops. This has been a very sharp move in nature backing the Marlins.
Braves (-140, 10) at Nationals: The surging Braves have moved down a little bit for this one, as bettors are backing Josiah Gray and the Nationals. This line has moved about 10-15 cents in favor of Washington. We’ve seen a few moves on Gray this season, who seems to be the most trustworthy (or at least projectable) of the Washington starters. Ian Anderson goes for Atlanta.
Reds at Diamondbacks (-150, 8.5): The most notable thing here has been a move down on the total from 9.5 to 8.5. We’ve seen a lot of offense over the last four weeks, but this total has really taken a lot of sharp under money. That’s a line move to respect. Merrill Kelly allegedly made some mechanical adjustments prior to his last start and pitched well against these same Reds.
Twins at Mariners (-110, 8.5): We’ve seen some Chris Archer interest and money on the Twins today as they fire up a series in the Pacific Northwest. Chris Flexen goes for the Mariners and he’s been pretty good at T-Mobile Park since returning stateside, but the Twins offense has certainly been better than Seattle’s.
What I’ll Be Watching
Aaron Nola: Nola draws a Marlins lineup that is actually up to fifth in both wOBA and wRC + against right-handed pitching. Nola has a 3.50 ERA with a 2.67 xERA and a 3.24 FIP on the season. He’s been really good, but there is one glaring problem. Nola has a .193 wOBA against the first time through the lineup and a .299 the second time through. In 70 plate appearances the third time through, Nola has allowed six of his 10 home runs and has a .352 wOBA against with an 8.31 ERA. He gets pushed because the Phillies bullpen isn’t very good. Nola has only allowed two runs the first time through the order, so maybe a 1st 5 under play makes some sense here in a great pitching matchup, but his times through the order penalty is very noticeable.
Monday Best Bets
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Padres (-130) over Cubs: Today’s card is a really tough one, but there are enough matchup advantages to make the Padres a play today against the Cubs. Justin Steele has a 4.79 ERA with a 3.38 xERA and a 3.35 FIP, so there are positive regression signs in the profile, but there’s a reason why his numbers look like that. The Cubs infield defense has not played well. Specifically, the left side of the infield against right-handed batters. The Padres should have seven of those in the lineup against the left-handed Steele today.
This is the better split for the Padres, who rank 11th in wOBA against southpaws. A big reason why is a 10.5 BB%, which should play well against Steele, whose 12.3% BB% is a big deal. Steele has only struck out 17.9% of righties, but has walked 12.2% of them, so he’s allowed a lot of balls in play and a lot of traffic on the bases.
The Padres, meanwhile, have one of the best defensive teams in baseball, especially on the infield. Yu Darvish gets the start here and has pitched well in the majority of his starts. He’s allowed 19 of his 27 runs in three of his 11 starts. He still has a 3.61 ERA with a 3.39 FIP on the year. He’s only allowed five home runs. The Cubs have done better against righties than lefties, but that’s largely due to a 10% BB%. Darvish has only walked 15 batters this season and only six over his last seven starts.
I strongly considered the under in this game, so the idea of a lower-scoring environment should benefit the better defense and that is clearly the Padres. The Padres also have a bullpen advantage here against a Cubs unit that has a 5.00 ERA over the last 30 days. The Padres have a 2.92 bullpen ERA in that span. I’ll lay the number here against a struggling Cubs team where the matchup advantages are in San Diego’s favor.
I’m tracking my picks in this spreadsheet HERE.