A big day of baseball doesn’t start until after 2 p.m. ET, as we’ll have lots of evening and nighttime games to consider on Saturday. As much of a baseball guy as I am, though, we’ve got three Game 7s in the NHL and there is nothing like a decisive game in the hockey playoffs. If you’re not a hockey fan, give them a chance. If you are, then you already know what I’m talking about.
We had three games with 20 or more runs yesterday, as batters collectively put up a .254/.323/.432 slash line and 160 runs across 15 games. With yesterday’s barrage, the slash line for May is now .240/.310/.386, so offense is slowly rising a bit, but, as I mentioned earlier in the week, a lot of that simply has to do with a lower K% as pitchers aren’t scared of contact anymore.
The league’s BA and SLG on high-velocity contact still remain well below previous seasons, so we’re still dealing with the same dead ball. We are seeing more and more from pitchers and teams about the inconsistency of the baseballs within a game, so that merits watching as this continues to be a black mark for the league.
A quick reminder that I don’t do the article on Sundays with all the day games, but you can hear me on The Run Line with Ben Wilson from 8-10 p.m. ET.
Reds/Pirates: The Cincinnati offense stayed hot with eight runs against Mitch Keller and the Pirates bullpen. Road Tyler Mahle remained a good bet with six quality innings and eight strikeouts. As dire as things looked for the Reds early on, they’ve been playing great ball over the last week and Mahle should continue to be a guy we can try to make money on away from home.
Brewers/Marlins: We had a filth fest in Miami yesterday in Milwaukee’s 2-1 win. Corbin Burnes and Pablo Lopez combined for 18 strikeouts in 14 innings and just two runs on eight hits. The two had 36 combined whiffs, with 20 for Lopez. His Whiff% on the changeup was 31.3% last season, but it sits at 45.3% this season with increased usage. Will the voters be open to giving the Cy Young to a pitcher on a non-contender? He lowered his ERA to 1.05 in this game and there is nothing in the profile that suggests he can’t remain elite.
Padres/Braves: I never really had any intention of playing San Diego, but I mentioned yesterday how the line move didn’t make sense or feel right. Use some intuition when surveying the market. You know more than you think you do. The Padres won 11-6 thanks to a complete meltdown from the Braves bullpen, but my big takeaway here is that I saw a line move I didn’t agree with and it played out. It won’t always happen, but it may pay off in the long run to trust those reads.
Giants/Cardinals: Yesterday’s picks went 2-1 thanks to this victory with six solid innings from Logan Webb. Interestingly, Webb only had one strikeout in the game, but also only allowed four hard-hit balls. The Cardinals have the fifth-lowest rate of hard-hit balls against right-handed pitchers this season, ahead of the Diamondbacks, Padres, Twins and Reds. Hopefully we can hit this angle a few more times.
Phillies/Dodgers: The Dodgers are in a funk right now, coming up on the short end of a 12-10 decision yesterday. The Phillies got the win, but used six relievers in the process and they’re up against it a bit right now, as Andrew Bellatti, Brad Hand and Jeurys Familia have each worked three of the last four days and Jose Alvarado, Seranthony Dominguez and Corey Knebel all pitched back-to-back days Wednesday and Thursday. Just something to keep in mind heading into today’s game.
Orioles/Tigers: This was one of those cases when we did see a line move against Jordan Lyles and the market was right. We’ve actually seen some moves on him of late, but this one was against him with Tigers starter Eduardo Rodriguez stepping down in class. Detroit held Baltimore to two runs, which meant they had a chance to win. For all of the tough offenses E-Rod has faced, a 3.72 ERA to this point is not shabby at all.
Red Sox/Rangers: Here’s an example of why I always look at the box score in detail. A stat line of seven innings of one-run ball on just three hits looks really good for Nick Pivetta, but he allowed 10 hard-hit balls and an average exit velocity of 93 mph. He only had eight whiffs in 46 swings. The Rangers just had no luck on their balls in play. This was a pretty nasty push for over bettors and a really bad beat for those that had 8.5. When a pitcher has a start like that, I don’t take it at face value and neither should you.
Guardians/Twins: I was hoping to see something positive from Aaron Civale yesterday, but all we got was a continuation of what we’ve seen all season. Bryan Shaw threw gasoline on that fire giving up five runs without recording an out. Once again, the Twins pitching regression was at the forefront and I was on the sidelines. I should have been on the over here. In retrospect, 8 was a cheap total.
Yankees/White Sox: My only takeaway here is that the White Sox bullpen has gotten some rest. Blowouts are never good because losses are a bad thing, but Chicago played a long string of close games and Tony La Russa abused his bullpen. Liam Hendriks hasn’t pitched in four days, Kendall Graveman hasn’t pitched in three and most everybody else is back to a regular workload. We can get back to looking at the Sox for full games now.
Royals/Rockies: Kyle Freeland had two whiffs in 41 swings yesterday and also saw velocity decreases across the board. He gave up eight runs on 12 hits in 4.2 innings and a lot of hard contact. I guess the play was to fade both pitchers instead of just Greinke, but the Rockies did allow six unearned runs, which didn’t help the cause. Even before yesterday’s game, Coors Field had yielded an average of 10.4 runs per game, so offense is very much not dead there.
Weather: It looks like delays are possible tonight for Orioles/Tigers, Reds/Pirates, Astros/Nationals and Mariners/Mets, but we should get all 15 games in. Weather is very fluid, so if you are investing in a game where the starters may be impacted by rain, it is something you want to keep an eye on.
As far as wind goes, Guardians/Twins is forecasted to have some helping breezes. Otherwise, not much to write home about.
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 at Cardinals (-110, 9): We’re pretty much staring at -105 or -110 both ways here, as the side hasn’t moved much, but some places did open this total as low as 8 and it’s been bet up to 9. The 8.5s that are out there are heavily juiced to the over. Jakob Junis and Dakota Hudson are the listed starters here. I’m not sure if Junis fits the “above average” righty angle, but the total move implies that the Cardinals may have a little more success offensively against him.
Padres at Braves (-140, 8): Another move on the Braves today. We saw one yesterday as well. I do think Atlanta is a buy team. I guess San Diego looks a bit like a sell team, too. The Padres + 3 inBaseRuns record, Pythagorean Win-Loss record and 3rd Order Win%, showing that they should be 18-15 instead of 21-12. When you see the three alternate standings metrics line up, that’s a team that will get bet against a fair amount.
Brewers (-120, 7) at Marlins: Here’s another example. The Brewers are 21-12, but 3rd Order Win% has them about three wins worse than their actual record. I’m not sure I’d be running to fade Eric Lauer given how dominant he’s been, but Trevor Rogers has a 5.00 ERA with a 3.92 xERA and a 3.99 FIP, so that’s also part of the line move here.
Cubs at Diamondbacks (-160, 8): Zac Gallen and the Snakes are getting some love today against Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs. Gallen usually gets some attention and Hendricks gets attention for all the wrong reasons. It’s important to profile these guys and know when they’re pitching so that you can get on the good side of a line move.
Yankees (-160, 9.5) at White Sox: This is a pretty simple line move. Jordan Montgomery is pretty good and Dallas Keuchel is not good at all. It is rare to see money come in against the White Sox when they face a lefty, but the presence of Keuchel has that kind of effect. It is worth noting that this total has ballooned from as low as 8 to 9.5 or 9 with extra vig. That’s how bettors are backing the Pale Hose against a southpaw today and they can do so without investing in Keuchel.
Astros (-150, 8.5) at Nationals: Here’s one of those line moves that sounds alarm bells in my head. Erick Fedde has pretty bad Major League numbers, but we’re seeing money on him and Washington against Cristian Javier and the surging Astros. With Houston on a massive tear and Fedde on the bump, maybe this line was just set a little too high, but it is always striking when bad pitchers take sharp investment and that’s the case here.
Royals at Rockies (-155, 11.5): We’re up from 10.5 to 11.5 here at Coors Field after yesterday’s 14-10 final. Carlos Hernandez and German Marquez have both allowed a lot of hard contact this season, so the line move on the total is hardly surprising. I happen to think Marquez is pitching hurt or at least through some major mechanical issues, but Hernandez is a guy I don’t like at all. It’s tough to be on the sidelines when you have a strong desire to fade a pitcher, but price matters, too.
What I’ll Be Watching
Charlie Morton: I understand the overarching theme of fading the Padres and backing the Braves, but what we’ve seen from Morton has not inspired confidence. He has a 5.65 ERA with a 5.09 FIP in his six starts across 28.2 innings of work. He’s only struck out 23 and walked 17, as he has his lowest K% since 2015 and his highest BB% ever in a career that dates back to 2008. Morton’s contact management numbers are still above average, though he does have his highest Hard Hit% since 2016. He’s coming off of a really solid start, but I’m not really buying any stock yet.
Hyun-jin Ryu: Ryu allowed 11 runs on 11 hits in 7.1 innings of work against the Rangers and Athletics and then went on the injured list for a forearm issue. In his lone minor league rehab start a week ago, he allowed five runs on five hits in four innings, but only two runs were earned. He struck out six and didn’t walk anybody. Ryu will be on a pitch count here against the Rays, but the Blue Jays do have a pretty well-rested relief corps. He told reporters he felt good after the game and threw 74 pitches, so I’d assume he’s around 80 or so today. The Jays need all the pitching that they can get until the offense gets going, so this is a big start for him and the team.
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
Orioles (+ 105) over Tigers: The Bruce is loose for the Orioles this season. Bruce Zimmermann has made four of his six starts at now pitcher-friendly Oriole Park at Camden Yards and does have some home/road split action, which I think is the reason why he and the Birds are a small dog here. Zimmermann’s two road starts have been against the Angels and the Yankees, so I’m not all that worried about the big discrepancy between the two sets of stats. I’m also not that worried about his high exit velocity against because he’s staying off the barrel and the two starts against the Yankees have been outliers.
Detroit makes very little quality contact and only has a .329 SLG against left-handed pitching. The Tigers are running a .338 BABIP in that split. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a BABIP higher than a SLG in any split. That is insane. As their BABIP naturally regresses, so, too, will their OBP and they’ll fall down the list in terms of their performance against southpaws.
Michael Pineda has a 3.43 ERA with a 5.54 xERA and a 5.04 FIP. He’s not missing many bats with a 9.2% SwStr% and a 14.3% K%. His .250 BABIP against is wholly unsustainable with a Barrel rate over 10% and a Hard Hit% of 47.1%. He, too, has faced the Yankees and has an outlier, but he’s given up six barreled balls in starts against the Twins and A’s.
Detroit’s bullpen is also a regression candidate with a .234 BABIP against that has led to a 2.88 ERA with a 3.60 FIP. In my estimation, I’m getting the better starter, the better offense and the better bullpen and getting it at a plus-money price. Win or lose, I have to make that play, so I’m on the Orioles this afternoon.
Guardians/Twins Over 8.5 (-115): If vintage Shane Bieber makes an appearance today, it is what it is. For right now, Bieber is a shell of his former self. He’s got a 4.13 ERA with a 4.42 xERA and a 3.38 FIP. The low FIP is a byproduct of a low home run rate, which may be the next thing to go haywire on him. Bieber has a career HR/FB% of 14.3%, but is running at 8.6% through six starts thus far. Given the rate of hard contact against him, I’m concerned that number will be on the rise soon.
Bieber’s velocity is gone. He’s averaging under 91 mph this season with the fastball after averaging at least 92.8 mph in every other season. He spoke after his last start about a lack of conviction. He knows he isn’t throwing hard and, while the team has downplayed it for the most part, it still can’t feel right as a pitcher. Bieber is not throwing as many curveballs as he did previously, becoming more of a two-pitch pitcher. One of the pitches is his fastball and he never really had that great of a fastball. He’s a Corey Kluber clone in that he gets outs with the slider and the curveball, not the four-seam.
Even when he has had success, he’s still allowed some hard contact. This is trending as his fourth straight season with a Hard Hit% over 41% and his third in a row over 43%.
The Twins are throwing out Devin Smeltzer, who is a soft-tossing lefty that used to profile as the type to give the Indians fits, but not anymore. As the Guardians, Cleveland has a contact-based approach with more aggressive in the strike zone. The old lineup constructions would wait back and all the sudden be hitting with two strikes against junkballers and made weak contact. This lineup attacks earlier in the count, which is a good strategy against a low-walk pitcher like Smeltzer.
I’ve mentioned this angle before, but usually you’d like to get a pitcher to the big leagues on a high note. Smeltzer allowed six runs on eight hits in his last start. If nothing else, the Guardians will put a lot of balls in play, which should create chances. Also, it’s going to be warm, a little humid and the wind is blowing out at Target Field. We saw a lot of runs last night and I think we’ll see enough runs for an over tonight.
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.