Shout-out to those spending Saturday in the (ball)park, despite it not yet being the 4th of July. Most of us will have to settle for just watching the games, as we’ve got 16 more on the slate thanks to a doubleheader between the Angels and Mariners. It is something of a rare Saturday in that we’ve only got two early starts to go with a bunch of 4 p.m. ET first pitches.
No article tomorrow, but you can hear my baseball analysis with my pal and host of The Run Line Ben Wilson from 8-10 p.m. ET on Sunday night. Based on the notes we’ve exchanged thus far, it’s going to be a hell of a show, so I hope you’re along for the ride.
As I won’t be doing an article on Sunday, I want to send out a Happy Father’s Day message to all the dads out there. I got my love of sports from my old man, who would get done working at the steel mill and still hit me fly balls at the top of a hill by our house until it was too dark to see anymore. I could never hit, but I could track a fly ball with the best of ‘em growing up thanks to him. Hope all you dads out there enjoy the day.
Phillies/Nationals: The Phillies played two and won two yesterday, scoring 13 runs over the doubleheader in D.C. The Nationals actually got a decent start by his standards from Joan Adon in Game 1 with four runs allowed on seven hits over five innings, but only managed three runs in the losing effort. Both teams had bullpen mishaps in Game 2, but Washington’s were worse in the 8-7 final.
Juan Soto is down to .216 with a .796 OPS for the season. While most of the league has picked it up offensively, Soto is slashing .161/.329/.348 since May 14 across 140 plate appearances. The Nationals have tons of issues, but they didn’t expect him to be one. That being said, his wOBA of .354 comes with an xwOBA of .413, so he’s had a ton of bad luck on his balls in play. A quick tip for you fantasy players out there.
Braves/Cubs: Sure, a 1-0 game to end a pair of streaks, as the Braves saw their 14-game winning streak come to an end and the Cubs ended their 10-game skid. Twenty-one of the 51 outs in the game came via the strikeout, as Keegan Thompson and Charlie Morton were both excellent. It had the feel of a getaway day game, but it was the series opener. Terrible handicap by me, but it sure felt like neither team wanted to be there.
Brewers/Reds: I don’t want to panic any Brewers fans, but Eric Lauer had a velocity drop yesterday, to go along with big spin rate drops on his curveball and cutter. He only had eight whiffs in 37 swings while giving up three homers and four runs on six hits. With Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta out indefinitely, it wasn’t the kind of start you want to see from Lauer. Something to monitor.
Giants/Pirates: As bad as the Braves/Cubs handicap wound up being, the Giants/Pirates one was dead on with an easy under at PNC Park. The teams only combined for 16 hard-hit balls and two were solo homers from the Giants. Carlos Rodon struck out eight over eight innings. Zach Thompson walked five and danced out of trouble a few times over his 4.1 innings, but only allowed five hard-hit balls. Pittsburgh really does have some good bullpen arms. If this team ever found an offense (or called up Oneil Cruz), they’d be a lot more interesting.
Marlins/Mets: It’s flown under the radar a bit, but Pablo Lopez has been struggling for a little while now. Over the last month, Lopez has made six starts with a 5.23 ERA and a 4.91 FIP. His best start in that span was actually six shutout innings against the Rockies at Coors Field. He’s given up 12 barrels in his last six starts, including five home runs. Four of the six have been on the road. You really do have to cap him and the other Miami pitchers differently on the road than at home.
Padres/Rockies: MacKenzie Gore finally had a rough outing, getting shelled at Coors Field in Colorado’s 10-4 win. The Rockies have been really good against lefties this season at home and on the road and had 12 hard-hit balls off of Gore while scoring eight runs on nine hits. Kyle Freeland only allowed four runs on eight hits, despite having zero strikeouts in seven innings.
Mike Clevinger worked in relief and had major velocity issues over his 36 pitches. It was his first appearance in 12 days after being on the COVID list and just his second since May 17. That deal has been a very bad one for the Padres.
Rays/Orioles: Sure, a 1-0 game between Shane Baz and Dean Kremer. Why not? Isn’t baseball weird sometimes? It’s flown under the radar a bit, but the Rays aren’t playing particularly well these days and the offense has been in the tank since Wander Franco got hurt. Tampa Bay is 7-8 in June and six of the losses have been by one run. They’re now 11-12 in one-run games.
As reader Jeff pointed out to me yesterday, the Orioles and pitching coach Chris Holt seem to be working very well together, piggybacking off of my article on the importance of pitching coaches. The four ERAs of yesterday’s hurlers? 2.35, 1.65, 1.35, 0.82, with the last one being failed starter Jorge Lopez, who recorded all four outs via the strikeout.
Yankees/Blue Jays: The Yankees are a wagon. Another day, another dub, this time by a 12-3 count over the Blue Jays. Ross Stripling needed 84 pitches to get through 3.2 innings and then Trent Thornton lit the game on fire with five runs allowed while recording only one out during New York’s eight-run fifth. Regression will find the Yankees, only because they’re on pace for 121.5 wins, but this team is (and has been) thoroughly impressive.
Rangers/Tigers: They’re not grrrrrrrrrrrreat! In fact, the Tigers are quite bad and even Tarik Skubal wasn’t enough to save them yesterday. Skubal gave up five runs on eight hits over five innings and needed 100 pitches to get that far. Jon Gray threw seven shutout innings, as the Tigers were shut out for the 10th(!!) time this season. Detroit has scored three or fewer runs in 45 of 64 games this season. They’re actually 22-9 when they score at least three runs, but now 2-31 when scoring two or fewer runs.
Royals/A’s: Daniel Lynch had 23 swings and misses in just five innings yesterday in Kansas City’s 5-1 win. It was a pathetic showing from the Oakland offense, which is scoring about 2.5 runs per game at home. Frankie Montas only had four strikeouts, but did have 18 whiffs over his five innings, as the defense didn’t help him out at all. For Oakland to win over Boston to end the road trip and then come home and play an absolute clunker is pretty bad against a bad Royals team.
I mean, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised, but they were -165 at some shops and only had four hard-hit balls and one run on five hits. Just an embarrassing team. It’s almost like they hate playing at home, where they are now 7-24. They’re 15-20 on the road.
Angels/Mariners: The Angels’ woes continued with an 8-1 loss to the M’s, as Robbie Ray struck out 10 over his seven innings. Michael Lorenzen had a rough outing and also hit Justin Upton in the head, prompting a postgame diatribe about the slickness of the baseball and MLB’s ineptitude. Nice league, Manfred.
Cardinals/Red Sox: The reinvention of Michael Wacha is one of the most fascinating storylines of the season for the Red Sox. Boston continued its winning ways and might chase down the Rays here soon. The Red Sox pen had a rough ninth inning, but Wacha allowed one run over 5.1 innings to lower his ERA to 2.28. There are a lot of regression signs in the profile, but he’s mixing his pitches well and keeping guys off the barrel.
Keep an eye on those Adam Wainwright home/road splits, especially when he goes to good hitting environments against good lineups like what we saw yesterday.
Twins/Diamondbacks: Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Madison Bumgarner allowed 13 hard-hit balls in six innings, but only allowed two runs on nine hits, including four doubles and a home run. His ERA sits at 3.45, but he’s MacGyvered his way to that with a 4.27 xERA, 5.01 FIP and 4.87 xFIP. His 80.3% LOB% seems highly unsustainable with a K% under 16%. I’ll be fading him soon.
Guardians/Dodgers: The Guardians are one game out of first place and have played six fewer games than the Twins because of all the rainouts. Cleveland really stole one yesterday, as they won a 2-1 game without Emmanuel Clase or Eli Morgan. Zach Plesac also got away with a lot of hard contact and the Guardians made very little throughout the night.
If you want to find a good team, find a good bullpen. There are a lot of things I don’t believe in with the Guardians, but the bullpen is truly outstanding and that can cover up a lot of other weaknesses.
Weather: Lots of wind in various places today. Winds are blowing out in Pittsburgh, Oakland, Detroit, Cincinnati, Boston and Colorado. Winds are blowing in at Wrigley and across the field in New York and Washington. Rain isn’t much of a factor today, except for a chance in Colorado.
Injuries: Check out our Injury Report right here at VSiN. This is also a good resource at FanGraphs (sort by date) HERE.
Braves (-190, 7) at Cubs: We’re seeing some 7s in the market now with tough hitting conditions at Wrigley Field, but we’ve also seen the “ace bump” for Kyle Wright to some degree, as Atlanta is a huge favorite to get back to winning ways after yesterday’s hiccup.
Phillies (-190, 8.5) at Nationals: Once again, we’re seeing some love for Josiah Gray in the betting markets with about a 20-cent move on this line. Gray is the one guy that has upside in that Nationals rotation and the markets have been betting on him for a little while now. Again, it speaks to how much the starting pitcher influences the line, given that it’s Aaron Nola and a vastly superior Phillies team on the other side.
Yankees at Blue Jays (-140, 8.5): Alek Manoah is getting a lot of love in the betting markets on a regular basis, but this line move also has a lot to do with Giancarlo Stanton getting a day off. There was initial investment in Manoah, but an additional price increase when the lineups were released.
Twins (-120, 9) at Diamondbacks: As I’ve said a lot in the past, some line moves speak louder than others. The market backing a pitcher as bad as Dylan Bundy says a ton today. Bundy has a 5.87 ERA, but does have a 4.13 xERA and a 4.27 xFIP, so there are reasons to believe in some improvement. Luke Weaver is also making the start for Arizona and has only made two relief appearances over 3.2 innings thus far.
What I’ll Be Watching
Graham Ashcraft: The Reds rookie has been interesting in five starts to begin the season. He has a 2.22 ERA with a 3.63 FIP. Despite upper 90s velo on both the fastball and the cutter, he only has 15 strikeouts in 28.1 innings of work, but he’s also only allowed seven runs on 24 hits with a ground ball rate of nearly 59%. Even with all that velocity, his Hard Hit% is just 35.8% and he’s only allowed three barrels across 95 batted ball events. The sixth-round pick in 2019 moved rapidly through the Reds organization, especially when you consider he missed the 2020 season with no minor league baseball. He had better strikeout rates in the minors, so I think those could come soon and he draws a good matchup against a Brewers lineup that has been slumping for a while.
Dakota Hudson: Hudson is a guy that has had a successful career of outpitching his advanced metrics. This season, Hudson has a 3.29 ERA with a 4.41 xERA and a 4.20 FIP. That’s nothing new for him, as he has a 3.17 ERA with a 4.56 FIP and xFIP in his career over more than 315 innings. He’s an extreme ground ball guy perennially backed by a good defense that covers up his low strikeout rate and high walk rate. He draws a tough assignment today against the Red Sox and allowed six runs on nine hits over seven innings in his last start. Let’s see how he fares today against a good lineup in a good hitter’s park.
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
Padres/Rockies 1st 5 Over 6.5 (-110): Nick Martinez and German Marquez are two guys that I don’t think very highly of at present. Martinez has a 3.74 ERA, but his advanced metrics are concerning and he’s been very fortunate with men on base. Martinez has a LOB% north of 80% because opposing batters own a .290 wOBA with men on base and a .261 wOBA with men in scoring position. With the bases empty, Martinez is allowing a .366 wOBA. He’s also been lucky that six of his eight home runs have been solo shots.
The Rockies have hit lefties well all season because they have a very right-handed-heavy lineup. While Martinez is a righty, he has what we call “reverse platoon splits”. His best pitch is the changeup, which has allowed him to hold lefties to a .213/.315/.383 slash and a .313 wOBA. Righties, however, are batting .281/.346/.447 with a .347 wOBA. His K% against lefties is 30.6%, but that drops to 18.1% against righties. Therefore, the Rockies should be able to put a lot of balls in play at Coors Field today against Martinez and should also have traffic on the bases because of his high walk rate. He stranded two guys in the fourth, two guys in the fifth and left with the bases loaded in the sixth when he faced the Rockies a week ago, so they were getting chances as he turned the lineup over.
Marquez enters this start with a couple of nice outings to build off of, however, he’s going back home now and that has not been a good place for him this season. Marquez has allowed 11 of his 13 home runs at home and opposing batters own a .313/.354/.578 slash with a .399 wOBA in 178 plate appearances. His home numbers also include seven innings of one-run ball against the Dodgers during the opening week of the season.
The Padres offense has been livelier on the road, averaging 5.6 runs per game. Games at Coors Field have averaged 11.5 runs per game, so right on this total, as the Rockies have averaged 5.7 runs per game. Over the last 14 days, these two bullpens rank first and third in fWAR, so maybe it’s best to just take the 1st 5 Over and pay the premium. The 1st 5 total is 6.5, while the full game is 11.5, but you can see why looking at these two pitchers. I’ll take the 1st 5 Over 6.5 here.
Reds (-105) over Brewers: Graham Ashcraft really intrigues me. The top comp on his velocity and movement according to Statcast is Corbin Burnes, which is pretty nice company. Ashcraft throws in the upper 90s with a cutter/slider combination that induces a lot of ground balls and should ultimately induce more swings and misses. I’m also nerding out about his high spin rates that he pairs with that nice velocity. He was a great find out of UAB and part of a Reds organization that really revamped its pitching and player development over the last few years.
Ashcraft has only struck out 15 batters in 28.1 innings, but has also only walked five and has a low Hard Hit% at 35.8%. He’ll face a similar ground ball artist today in Jason Alexander, but Alexander has just six strikeouts in 74 batters against eight walks. Alexander’s Hard Hit% is a bit higher at 38.3%, but what stands out to me is that he has allowed 21 hits in three starts, but has only given up five runs. He’s really been fortunate with men on base, especially when you consider that he has a 4.7% SwStr%.
Ashcraft has more upside and better stuff, so I like that, but I also like trying to prey on this Brewers bullpen when they’re down and out of it a little bit. Josh Hader is on the paternity list until Monday. Brad Boxberger has worked back-to-back days. Devin Williams pitched yesterday, so he’d be in a back-to-back role if necessary.
I also like that the Brewers have been a terrible offense for the better part of a month, while the Reds have really gotten it going, particularly at home. Yesterday’s line was pretty telling about where these two teams stand right now with the Eric Lauer/Hunter Greene matchup. I think Cincinnati should be favored here, so I’ll take them with a line that implies a coin flip. Reds -105 for me.
I’m tracking my picks in this spreadsheet HERE.