Sometimes less is more. In the draft for yesterday’s article, I had written up the Cubs/Brewers over as one of the picks. Like I mentioned in the write-up, both teams had pitch-to-contact starters on the mound and the Brewers bullpen was noticeably shorthanded and fatigued. Rather than stick with my initial thought, however, I backed off the total and went with the Cubs at an underdog price. They never had a prayer in the 11-1 loss.
I got greedy. I looked at the -115 on over 7.5 in a season chock full of unders and got selfish. It cost me a winning bet. You’ll meet these forks in the road many times over the course of any season and picking the correct choice between the two could be the difference between a winning and losing season. Sometimes your gut instinct and intuition are simply on point and you have to roll with them.
After more than a decade in this business, those lessons still need to be reinforced and new ones need to be learned. Never stop striving to be better, smarter and more confident.
Padres/Pirates: How many starts does it take to reevaluate your position on a pitcher that you like? I’ve reached that point with Zach Thompson. The baseball is carrying with the effectiveness of a wiffle ball bat against a brick, yet Thompson has allowed four homers in 14.1 innings. He has a 10.05 ERA and five of his 21 runs allowed are unearned. The 28-year-old came into the season with a career 3.24 ERA and a 3.69 FIP after 75 innings with the Marlins. He now has a 4.33 and a 4.21 after just four starts with Pittsburgh. Woof.
Phillies/Mets: Okay, I’ll be “get off my lawn” guy. I’ll pass on combined no-hitters. It’s an interesting footnote to some degree, but nothing like a complete game no-hitter from a starter. There were only eight total hard-hit balls in this game, four for each team. The Mets were 4-for-4 on theirs with three singles and a Pete Alonso homer. The Phillies were obviously 0-for-4. Baseball is quite a sport.
Also, after a 15-cent line move on Tylor Megill, I’m convinced that we’ll be paying a premium on him moving forward.
Cubs/Brewers: Milwaukee hit six home runs yesterday after hitting 15 in the previous 20 games. There were 44 home runs hit across the 15 games after we had just 11 homers in 13 games on Thursday and 26 homers on Wednesday in 15 games. I don’t know if I’m trying to make a point here or not, but it’s interesting with all the buzz about the baseball. Anyway, the Cubs are a regression candidate, as I’ll talk about Sunday night on The Run Line in my new segment called The Regression Report. I’ll also be writing about teams and players to watch for regression in Point Spread Weekly moving forward as well.
Diamondbacks/Cardinals: In a case study of how much pitching matters, the Diamondbacks have scored 3.1 runs per game this season. The Reds have scored 3.2. Arizona is 9-12 after a rather shocking upset win over the Cardinals with lefty Madison Bumgarner on the hill. The Reds are 3-17. Arizona has allowed 4.0 runs per game, while the Reds have allowed 5.9. If you can hang in there, you can give yourself a chance and Arizona has done that pretty impressively of late. I give them a ton of credit for not having one of the league’s worst records to this point.
Reds/Rockies: Speaking of the Reds, another run line fade led to yet another winner for anybody that laid the -1.5 with the Rockies. Cincinnati wasn’t a big underdog, but played like one in the 10-4 loss. Since averaging 99.7 and 100.2 mph in his first two starts, Greene is down to 95.8 and 96.7 in his last two outings. I’m assuming he was told to scale it back a little bit, but his spin rates are also down. I’ll keep a close eye on the prized 22-year-old and hope for the best.
Nationals/Giants: The Giants only scored four runs in 14-4 loss at the hands of the Nationals, but 18 of 27 balls in play from San Francisco were hit 95 + mph, including 13 against starter Aaron Sanchez over five innings. The Nationals were 11-for-23 with RISP, while the Giants were just 1-for-6. San Francisco is missing Brandon Belt and Mike Yastrzemski on the COVID list, along with two relievers. This lineup will look different for a few days.
Red Sox/Orioles: The Red Sox only managed three runs on six hits, but it was good enough for a win over the Orioles. I’m still amazed at how poorly this offense is performing, but this is another instance where pitching has saved the day. The Red Sox have only scored 3.6 runs per game, but have also only allowed 3.8 runs per game. I would think this offense has to get going sooner rather than later with all that talent. I guess we’ll see.
Astros/Blue Jays: League-wide trends are important to keep in mind, like how unders were cashing at a 60% clip for a long time before falling down to around 57% now. Each game needs to be handicapped in a vacuum as well. I got scared off by the 8.5 on the total for this game and 18 runs were scored. It was over the total by the fourth inning with two pitchers likely to allow a lot of hard contact. In fact, of the 57 balls in play, 32 of them were hit at least 95 mph. Jose Urquidy allowed 11 of them himself over five innings of work. Every Astros hitter had at least one high-velocity batted ball. Another lost opportunity with this game that stings the morning after.
Guardians/Athletics: Today in “Baseball makes no sense”, the Guardians and A’s had a total of 6.5 yesterday and 17 runs were scored. Both Aaron Civale and Frankie Montas struggled, as Montas allowed a third-inning grand slam to Andres Gimenez, who is a bright spot for this Cleveland bunch thus far. Cleveland’s offensive eruption was a surprise, but so was another awful start for Civale against a bad offense. The markets were heavily against him here and that probably continues.
Mariners/Marlins: Remember when Matt Brash was the next big thing just a few weeks ago. I, too, got caught up in some of the hype. After a strong first start against the White Sox, Brash has now allowed 11 runs in 11.2 innings of work with 12 walks against just 10 strikeouts over his last three starts.
By the way, how about the Marlins off to a strong 11-8 start? The offense is a bit better than I expected and the pitching was always going to be the team’s best attribute. They’re a fun ballclub and we did see some love for Elieser Hernandez at home here. Keep in mind, they’re going to take money more often than not in home games.
Braves/Rangers: Ian Anderson navigated around hard contact to allow two runs on three hits in six innings. He allowed 10 hard-hit balls, but the Rangers weren’t able to make much out of it. The top of this order really continues to struggle and the guys that are supposed to set the table have not. If you see Marcus Semien and Corey Seager really start to get going, that will be the time to start investing more in the Rangers.
Weather: Rain threatens a few games today, as the Diamondbacks and Cardinals may have a lengthy delay at the start. Weather is also a factor in Chicago, where it is up into the 60s. Maybe we’re putting the cold weather in the rearview as the calendar flips to May tomorrow.
Winds will be blowing in at a very stiff clip if the Angels and White Sox get the game in. Notable winds will be blowing out for Yankees/Royals and especially Nationals/Giants.
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.
The poor White Sox may have another injury, as Andrew Vaughn was hit on the hand by a pitch in the ninth inning yesterday. Their run of bad luck this season is beyond belief.
Diamondbacks at Cardinals (-150, 7): It’s Merrill Kelly Day and he and his Diamondbacks teammates have garnered some favor in the betting markets. We’ve seen upwards of a 20-cent line move here. A big part of that does have to do with Nolan Arenado’s suspension. Both guys are regression candidates to a degree with Miles Mikolas holding a 1.21 ERA and Kelly running a 1.69 mark. Not a game I’m invested in, but I think Arenado’s absence is the biggest driving force here.
Padres (-155, 7.5) at Pirates: A little bit of love for JT Brubaker and the Pirates here. If you want to try to get ahead of line movements, there are two major indicators: ERA-FIP and LOB%. How much higher or lower is a pitcher’s ERA than his FIP? In the case of Brubaker, he has a 6.46 ERA with a 4.73 FIP. His LOB% is 49.5%, which is among the lowest in the league. Even against the Padres, bettors will speculate on some better returns.
Reds at Rockies (-140, 11): Bettors are not convinced that Chad Kuhl is the real deal, so they’re willing to side with the Reds today. Kuhl has a .190 BABIP against and an 86.7% LOB%, so those are two indicators of negative regression. I am surprised that Connor Overton is getting some favor as a guy that has mostly pitched as a reliever throughout pro ball and has just 15.1 innings to his name. I guess that’s how skeptical the market is of Kuhl with a 10-15 cent move on the visitors.
Twins at Rays (-190, 7.5): Shane McClanahan has gotten a lot of support already today for this matchup with former Tampa Bay right-hander Chris Archer. This move is two-fold. The first part is that the market loves Shane Mac and should. He’s got elite stuff and peripherals. The second is that Archer has a 3.18 ERA with a 5.22 FIP in his 11.1 innings of work. He’s running a 90.2% LOB% with a low strikeout rate and a high walk rate. Those are all indicators of negative regression and will create line moves.
Yankees (-220, 8) at Royals: We’re back to the auto 20-cent line move on Gerrit Cole, as his price goes up on the overnights basically every time he pitches. That’s the case again today against the Royals and Carlos Hernandez. It’s been like this for a while, so if you think you might want to invest in a Cole start, do it early.
Mariners at Marlins (-110, 7.5): Flipped favorite scenarios are pretty rare in MLB, but we have one here today with the Marlins now laying a short number against the Mariners. Robbie Ray and Jesus Luzardo are the slated starters in this one. The markets seem to be skeptical of Ray coming off of last season and his 90% LOB%. I can’t really blame them.
Tigers at Dodgers (-350, 7.5): The Dodgers have been steamed into an even bigger favorite for this matchup between Clayton Kershaw and Beau Brieske. The Tigers are off to one of the worst starts in the AL and my season win total ticket appears to be on life support already. If I remember correctly, this is the biggest favorite role of the season thus far and it has become an even bigger one.
What I’ll Be Watching
Justin Steele: After a promising first start against Milwaukee, Steele has allowed nine runs on 12 hits in 10 innings of work with nine walks against just seven strikeouts. The walks have been exacerbated by more elevated contact, as his ground ball rate has dropped with each start. He hasn’t allowed a lot of hard contact, except for his start against the Rays, and has only allowed one barrel, but balls have found holes and the walks have made matters worse. Milwaukee only has an 84 wRC + against lefties on the season. After watching Kyle Hendricks struggle again, the Cubs would really like to see something here from Steele and so would I.
Kyle Gibson: I’ve been extremely skeptical of Gibson to this point. My concerns with the Phillies defense have been covered at length, but the veteran right-hander has been able to pitch around them with an increased strikeout rate and a lot more swing and miss. Gibson is running a .193 batting average against with a .228 BABIP. I really don’t expect either to continue and I don’t think his 25.6% K% is sustainable given his career-high is 22.7%. Even with the career-high in K%, he’s only got a 74.5% LOB%. Regression is absolutely coming. He has an 81.2% Z-Contact% when his career average is 8% higher than that. He may be a slightly different pitcher with more cutters, but I’m not buying the sustainability of most of these metrics.
Saturday 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
Astros 1st 5 (+ 120) over Blue Jays: The recent stat lines would suggest that Jose Berrios is coming around. He has only allowed six runs in his last 18 innings after a disastrous start to the season against the Rangers, but he’s been very fortunate to limit the damage. In each of his four starts, Berrios has a Hard Hit% of 50% or higher and an average exit velocity of 93 mph or higher. He’s given up a ton of hard contact and has shown very little command to this point, but the deadened baseball and a good defensive squad have limited the damage. I’m not sure how long that will continue with command this poor.
Luis Garcia has struck out nearly 29% of right-handed batters and draws a lineup with seven righties today, plus left-handed windmill Bradley Zimmer. While Berrios’s Hard Hit% is 54.1%, Garcia’s is just 34.9%. He’s allowed a high barrel rate as a fly ball pitcher and that has hurt him the third time through the order, which did make me decide to sacrifice a few cents. In his last start against Toronto, Garcia took a 5-2 lead into the sixth, but gave up a three-run shot to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The third time through has been an ongoing issue for Garcia, but he should get some early run support here. Dusty Baker just likes to push starters and I’d like to hopefully minimize that if possible.
So, I’ll stick with the 1st 5, especially with a couple of bullpens that got a lot of work in yesterday, as three relievers for each side threw at least 20 pitches.
Phillies/Mets Over 7.5 (-115): After throwing out a bunch of numbers regarding Kyle Gibson, I have to see this fade through in some way. It won’t be by backing the Mets, who are sending out Taijuan Walker for his first meaningful pitching appearance since throwing two innings in his first start and heading to the IL. Walker is said to be stretched out to 80-85 pitches based on side sessions and sim games, but I have real concerns about guys that start the season, get hurt and have to ramp things back up coming out of spring training.
Frankly, I’m not that big of a Walker fan anyway, as he’s had some home runs issues at various points. His 9.8% Barrel% was the highest of his career in a full season and so was his 39.4% Hard Hit%. I don’t really expect him to be all that sharp in this start and the Phillies remain a dangerous lineup, despite yesterday’s no-hit effort.
Like I said above, I don’t believe in Gibson’s swing-and-miss uptick. I don’t believe in the Phillies defense behind him. A .228 BABIP with that group of butchers is simply not going to continue. I’m betting on regression to the mean here with Gibson because it’s going to come at some point. It may not be today and that’s the hard part of doing this kind of handicapping, but it’s going to come and I’d hope to be on it when it does.
Against a Mets lineup that currently ranks fourth in wOBA and third in wRC +, I’ll hope for today to be that day.
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.