We’ve got 16 games on the board for Saturday and nine of them have a total of 8 or lower, even though the weather seems to be taking a turn for the better in a lot of the cooler-weather cities. Unders are cashing at over a 62% clip thus far in the season, which is simply ridiculous. The tide will turn and oddsmakers are starting to lower totals, but the humidor and its crippling effects on fly balls and hard contact are really taking a toll on scoring.
I’ve talked about it a lot already and will talk about it more on The Run Line tomorrow night from 8-10 p.m. ET with pinch hit host Holden Kushner. The stats are just eye-opening to this point, at least for a nerd like me.
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Pirates/Cubs: All good things must come to an end. The Cubs are now 4-1 against left-handed starters after the loss to the Pirates and Jose Quintana. Quintana went 4.2 innings and only had seven whiffs on 37 swings, but the Cubs only had three hits against him. Keegan Thompson pitched really well in relief of Drew Smyly, who had an off day as he gave up a couple homers. Thompson hasn’t allowed a run in four games over 13.2 innings with some outstanding contact management numbers. I wonder if the Cubs may move him into the rotation soon over Mark Leiter Jr. He may also just be really valuable in a relief role.
Cardinals/Reds: The Reds lost on the run line for the 10th time in 12 defeats as the Cardinals escaped with a 4-2 decision. Hunter Greene was erratic with four walks in his 3.1 innings, so St. Louis had some success against a righty, but this game still stayed comfortably under the total. The Reds are so bad that they have to improve at some point, but I guess that point hasn’t come yet. If the Cardinals pitching continues like this, unders when facing a RHP will make a ton of sense.
Giants/Nationals: I think Patrick Corbin is cooked. Corbin gave up seven runs in 1.2 innings on seven this with three walks and four strikeouts. He hasn’t been the same since being pushed to the brink during that 2019 World Series run and he has now allowed 17 runs on 24 hits in 13.2 innings this season with 11 walks. Corbin’s stats since the start of 2020? A 5.81 ERA with a 5.03 FIP in 46 starts over 251 innings with 48 HR allowed and a K% of just 19.4%. Woof.
Brewers/Phillies: Why is handicapping bullpen usage so important? The Brewers led 2-1 after seven innings on Friday. Normally that would be Devin Williams and Josh Hader time. Even with Thursday’s off day, Hader and Williams would have been pitching for a fourth time in six days. Williams had thrown 65 pitches over those three appearances. Craig Counsell opted to use neither. It looks like it was Aaron Ashby’s fault, but he allowed singles with exit velocities of 78.4, 50.4 and 67.4 mph to load the bases. Brad Boxberger came in and allowed two missiles for singles (101.3, 102.8) and the damage was done. The Phillies won 4-2.
You have to look and see who is available and speculate as to whether or not the managers will err on the side of caution. If you aren’t sure, it might save you some money. If you are pretty sure, it might catch you a winner.
Marlins/Braves: Kyle Wright was one of my pitchers to watch yesterday and he dazzled. He had 20(!!) whiffs on 50 swings over six innings with 11 punchouts. He only needed 95 pitches, which is a stunning level of efficiency. With an extra tick of velo and increased curveball usage, this kid looks like a different pitcher. I’m trying to temper my excitement a little bit because he’s faced the Reds, Padres and Marlins, but I think we’ll have some value on him moving forward. His usage changes have transformed him into a different pitcher after posting a 6.56 ERA and FIP in his first 70 innings.
Also, Trevor Rogers had a nice bounce back start for the Fish. Of their Big Three, he’s probably the guy I trust the most in road starts.
Mets/Diamondbacks: We had bullpen melts both ways in this one. David Peterson and Zac Gallen combined for two runs on five hits in 10.2 innings, but the game ended 6-5 thanks to the relievers. I must be living right because the Mets were a pick yesterday and they found a way to survive while only having six hard-hit balls.
Arizona’s bullpen faced 22 batters and had zero strikeouts. Their K% is down to 14.7%, 4% lower than any other team in baseball. If you’re betting Arizona (seek help), but also, only bet 1st 5 lines with them. That relief unit is very poor.
Dodgers/Padres: I don’t think the Nick Martinez experiment will last. He’s only allowed seven runs in 14.2 innings, but he’s walked 10 and given up five home runs already. His LOB% is technically 100%, which is an early-season statistical anomaly, but it means that a lot of his baserunners haven’t scored and he’s still running a 4.30 ERA with a 7.95 FIP. He’s a regression candidate with bad numbers. He has faced the Dodgers, Braves and Giants, so three good lineups, but I don’t have high hopes moving forward.
Blue Jays/Astros: The Blue Jays have been hurt a lot by the changes to the baseball. They only scored four runs yesterday, but hit 15 balls of 95 + mph in the win over the Astros. Toronto is still hitting too many ground balls for my liking, but they make a lot of violent contact and have been held down by the baseball. Yet, they’re still 9-5. In the summer months, when the baseball plays differently in the warmer weather, this team is going to be extremely dangerous.
White Sox/Twins: The White Sox are very fortunate that Michael Kopech has been as good as he has. He turned in another strong effort yesterday with five shutout innings in a 2-1 loss. The White Sox only had three hard-hit balls against Bailey Ober and the Twins bullpen. This offense has not been where it needs to be thus far. The lineup construction has been messy from Tony La Russa, who is actively holding this team back, and the injuries have played a part, but Jose Abreu has a .627 OPS and Eloy Jimenez has a .606 OPS. I think the White Sox will ultimately be fine, especially if guys like Kopech keep performing, but this is not a great start.
Orioles/Angels: Pitching is easier to develop and alter than hitting in my humble opinion and the Orioles are proof of that. This pitching staff has been awesome, especially the bullpen, to this point and John Means isn’t even there. Bruce Zimmermann worked six solid innings yesterday in the 5-3 win. The Baltimore offense is pretty terrible right now and may continue to be that way, but this pitching staff is really making significant strides. In the current low-scoring run environment, they should be a feisty dog for the next little while.
Royals/Mariners: Home/road splits really do matter. Chris Flexen allowed 10 hard-hit balls over his seven innings, but the Royals managed just one run on six hits and that one run was a Salvador Perez solo homer. T-Mobile Park suppresses power and allows a pitch-to-contact guy like Flexen to have success. He also throws a lot of strikes and doesn’t walk people.
Brad Keller pitched surprisingly well again, as his error was his own undoing before two Mariners hits that accounted for all four runs. I’m not sure this is sustainable, but the Royals need some kind of silver lining so I hope for their sake that it might be.
Rangers/Athletics: Admittedly, I had no idea who Glenn Otto was coming into the season. He had 15 whiffs in 35 swings yesterday against an A’s team that will strike out a lot, but it was an impressive start for the 26-year-old. The raw stuff by velo and movement draws comps to Freddy Peralta, Alek Manoah and Jose Urquidy, so that’s pretty nice and Alex Chamberlain of FanGraphs wrote before the season that Otto’s slider is comparable to Mike Clevinger and Adam Ottavino. I think I need to pay more attention.
Weather: Winds are blowing out to LF at a good clip at Wrigley Field on a 75-degree day, which is why that total sits at 10 and may keep rising for Zach Thompson vs. Kyle Hendricks. White Sox/Twins features winds blowing in heavy from RF, but we still have an 8.5 there because of Vince Velasquez and Dylan Bundy. Otherwise, it’s our first really tame weather day of the season.
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.
Giants(-165, 8) at Nationals: I mentioned yesterday that I feel like the modeling crowd has determined that the Nationals are one of the league’s worst teams. We saw money on the Giants yesterday and are seeing money on them again today in this matchup with Alex Wood and Aaron Sanchez. It may also be a fade of the Nationals against lefties, but I think it’s more than that. This line has jumped 15-20 cents and may not be done.
Pirates at Cubs (-165, 10): Unders are hitting at better than 62%, but wind is the great equalizer in Chicago, which is why this total is up to 10 and even heading towards 10.5 at some places. We’ve seen nibbles of interest on Pittsburgh with Hendricks on the hill for the Cubs. The markets weren’t keen on him for a while, but last season’s returns really hurt his perception even more.
Brewers at Phillies (-140, 8): A move on Milwaukee here in a start that I’ll be watching VERY closely for Zack Wheeler. I’ll talk more about him in a minute. This hasn’t been a big line move, but the Brewers have taken a few cents worth of movement.
Cardinals at Reds (-105, 8.5): This is a dilemma for bettors. Dakota Hudson is a guy that regularly gets bet against because of his 3.26 career ERA with a 4.70 FIP. On the other hand, Tyler Mahle allowed a .511 SLG and a .364 wOBA at home last season. His ERA was 3.33 runs higher at home than on the road. He’s lucky he pitched 101.2 innings away and just 78.1 innings at home. Cincinnati has taken mild investment to this point.
Marlins at Braves (-150, 8): This is one of the biggest movers of the day. Ian Anderson had a 3.58 ERA with a 4.12 FIP last season in 128.1 innings and I’m not sure that bettors are fully on board. I love the raw stuff and I think the initial line was closer to correct with Elieser Hernandez and a below average Marlins offense on the other side, but this one has moved about 20 cents.
Guardians at Yankees (-180, 7.5): This total has taken a tumble down from 8.5 to 7.5. Nestor Cortes has pitched extremely well for the Yankees to start the campaign and Cal Quantrill had a 1.94 ERA and a .271 wOBA against in 88 innings in the second half last season. The side hasn’t moved a ton, but we have seen a little ebb and some flow with bets on both sides.
Royals at Mariners (-160, 7.5): I hope you read what I wrote about Matt Brash after his last start because this line shot up like a rocket overnight. We’ve seen a 25-cent move on the Mariners and it may not be done because piggybackers are coming to come in and expose the books further with ML parlays. If you grabbed the overnight price, congratulations. Great number.
What I’ll Be Watching
Zack Wheeler: I wrote after Wheeler’s last start about his velocity decline. Sadly, Statcast updated the numbers from that game and his velo decrease doesn’t look nearly as significant as the 3 mph it was originally listed at. I’m pretty annoyed, to be honest, but maybe there were some errors or bugs in the system. Either way, he has 10 whiffs in 56 swings this season and is not throwing the ball past people. While the injury indicators aren’t quite as strong now that Statcast updated its numbers, Wheeler is still off to a slow start this season and his velo did decline throughout the course of his last start against the Marlins.
Tyler Mahle: The Cardinals have definitely had their way with lefties, but Mahle is a righty, so I’ll be curious to see if he can overcome last season’s splits. I mentioned the home/road ones above, but how about a huge swing against righties last season? Mahle had allowed wOBAs of .274, .299, .294 and .295 from 2017-20. In 2021, righties posted a .357 wOBA against him. He had allowed 20 HR in four previous seasons against righties and allowed 18 last season alone. I’m not entirely sure what led to the dramatic turn of events, but let’s see how he does against a righty-heavy Cardinals lineup today.
Saturday Best Bets
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Reds (-110) over Cardinals: I’m going to follow through on my assessment that the Cardinals will struggle with above average right-handed pitchers. They rank second in wOBA at .405 and second in wRC + at 168 against lefties. They are 18th in wOBA at .294 and have a 93 wRC + against righties, so they are 7% below league average in that split. Sure, it’s better than the Reds, who are dead last in basically every offensive category, but they simply cannot continue to be this bad.
Tyler Mahle’s outlier season against righties last year obscures the fact that he’s been really good against them throughout the course of his career with a strong K/BB rate and solid peripherals otherwise. He struggled at home last season and it will be warmer in Cincinnati today, but the ball isn’t carrying as well anywhere and he’ll have a breeze blowing in to work with.
Dakota Hudson has not been sharp in either of his two starts against the Royals and Brewers. Kansas City’s offense isn’t that far off from Cincinnati’s right now either. Hudson doesn’t miss many bats and also hasn’t worked deep into games yet. The Cardinals bullpen has been worked a bit lately as well. I think Giovanny Gallegos is unavailable after working three of the last four. Genesis Cabrera has worked two of the last three. Nick Wittgren has worked back-to-back days. Drew VerHagen is hurt. There aren’t a lot of fresh arms with that Cardinals group. The Reds used five relievers yesterday, but did have Thursday off.
Think about how bad the Reds have been. Now think about how they’re a slight favorite per most shops in this game. That says a lot, right? I’ll give them a shot today.
A lot of games felt close, but missed the cut for me today. A few quick thoughts:
Guardians (+ 170) over Yankees: This one is running out a little bit higher now. It’s too close to first pitch to really finish my deep dive, but the Guardians do project well against lefties, even one off to the kind of start Nestor Cortes has had. I’m trying to back Cleveland in that split, though Owen Miller is a big part of that and he’s still on the COVID list. When Miller is back, I’ll likely be on this team more frequently against LHP.
Athletics (-130) over Rangers: I’ve been really impressed with Frankie Montas to start the season. I’m just not sure I’ve been impressed enough to overcome my perception bias of Oakland, a team that I think is really going to fall off the pace very soon. Martin Perez has had ugly results, but has mostly limited hard contact well this season. I was close to firing here in support of Montas, but the A’s just have too many worrisome indicators of negative regression.
Orioles (+ 220) over Angels: I may end up taking this for a half-unit to win 1.1 units, assuming the line doesn’t go up more. Noah Syndergaard is running a 68.6% GB% with a .200 BABIP, so he’s been living right on batted balls. I’m less concerned about the five strikeouts in 11.1 innings than I should be because he has a SwStr% of 13.9%, so the strikeouts could be coming and may come here against a Baltimore lineup that has whiffed a ton.
I am getting the better bullpen at over 2/1, so that’s something that is pretty attractive to me. Spenser Watkins doesn’t miss bats, so I’m a bit worried about how he fares in this start. Needless to say, a + 220 dog isn’t expected to win. The break-even rate at + 220 is 31.25%, so if you view this like a 65/35 type of game, you’re getting a lot of line equity (about 35 cents worth). I’m leaning towards it being closer to that. I’ll post on Twitter or update the article if I decide to take it. I’ve got some time to decide with a late start.
With the article going behind the paywall, 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.