Ten games are on the betting board for Thursday as 10 teams travel or enjoy a day off at home. We’re two weeks into the season today and we’re starting to see some outliers that are likely to come back to the pack. You don’t want to blindly bet on or against these statistical anomalies, but you do want to keep in mind that they are unlikely to stay at their current rates.
For example, four teams (Rockies, Guardians, Rays, Angels) have a BABIP (batting average on balls in play) over .320. Nobody had a BABIP higher than .310 last season (White Sox). Similarly, 10 teams have a BABIP under .270 (Diamondbacks, Astros, Reds, Twins, Whtie Sox, Royals, Mariners, Brewers, Cardinals, Rangers). Nobody had a BABIP lower than .273 last season. That scale may look a little different early on with the deadened baseball, but there are six teams under .250. That won’t sustain.
The lowest BABIP against last season was .260 (Dodgers). There are seven teams under .260 right now (Guardians, Angels, Mariners, Padres, Dodgers, Mets, Diamondbacks), with the first three under .240. Early in the season, I look for these types of unsustainable outliers and factor them into my handicapping process. While balls in play are fickle, the range between No. 1 and No. 30 will be around 50-60 points in most seasons. The range right now is 99 points.
This is just one metric. There are a lot of others, like performance with RISP, LOB% and batting fortunes on high-velocity contact that I’ll look at on a regular basis, just to name a few.
Again, I’m not saying that these are blind bets you need to make. I’m just saying that we base our bets on probability and expectation and the probability is high that outliers will regress to the mean and the expectation is that it will generally happen sooner rather than later.
Phillies/Rockies: German Marquez did not have it yesterday. He was lucky to only give up four runs on eight hits. Three of the hits were homers, but he allowed 14 batted balls of 95 + mph to the Phillies. Zach Eflin probably deserved a better fate with the quality of his stuff, but it’s Coors Field and things happen. This is precisely what the Philadelphia offense will need to do to counteract the pitching and defense. Maybe asking for nine runs per game is excessive, but their target should be at least six every night. Eflin had 16 whiffs in 48 swings with good velo numbers and spin rates, so that’s a great sign going forward, especially with my Zack Wheeler concerns.
Braves/Dodgers: I should have been on the Dodgers yesterday, as I disagreed with the line move, but “coulda, woulda, shoulda” will drive you crazy in this business. If his prices aren’t too high, Tony Gonsolin will be a good pitcher to back. Through two starts, he’s decreased the use of his four-seamer, which yielded a .298 BA and a .564 SLG last season. Instead, he’s thrown more sliders, a pitch that had a 47.8% whiff rate on swings last season and opposing batters only hit .118 with a .275 SLG against. The pitch accounted for nine of his 12 whiffs yesterday. I pay a lot of attention to early-season usage changes because they often create value and I really like the new pitch mix for Gonsolin, as he’s increased the usage of his splitter as well.
Reds/Padres: Apparently we can all just bet against the Reds on the moneyline and the run line and retire early. Cincinnati has lost nine in a row and 11 of 13. Only two of the losses have been by one run. They have a team ERA of 6.00 and are batting .177/.247/.277 with a .243 wOBA and a 49 wRC +, meaning they are 51% below league average offensively. This is so beyond bad that it can’t continue to be this bad, but this team is horrible and ownership should be ashamed.
That said, they have played the Braves, Guardians, Dodgers and Padres. The games against Cleveland weren’t as lopsided as 10-5 and 7-3 would suggest, as the Guardians scored six runs in the top of the ninth in the first game and got to Nick Lodolo in his MLB debut in the second. Once they face lesser competition, I think it’ll be worth betting on some positive regression. Unfortunately, their next 12 games are against the Cardinals, Padres, Rockies and Brewers. They have eight games with the Pirates from May 6-15.
Cardinals/Marlins: Miami lost, but Sandy Alcantara was outstanding over eight shutout innings. The Cardinals offense is substantially better against lefties than righties, but this was yet another example of Alcantara’s prowess at loanDepot Park. Sadly, Alcantara is just 9-17 in home Miami starts despite a 3.17 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) over 252.2 innings. He’s only allowed 209 H in those 40 starts. If you can’t stomach betting the Marlins, unders still make sense.
Diamondbacks/Nationals: To my point about the Reds, Arizona came into yesterday’s game batting .156/.277/.265 as a team. They left yesterday’s game batting .168/.282/.281. The numbers are still awful, but they took a big step towards semi-respectability with an 11-run outburst against Erick Fedde and the Nationals. Lost in the offensive explosion was another good outing for Merrill Kelly, who did allow some hard contact, but gave up one run on six hits. A contender will get a nice pitcher later this year.
Giants/Mets: What Carlos Rodon is doing is thoroughly impressive when you consider his pitch usage changes. Rodon has thrown over 66% fastballs this season. He’s throwing a lower percentage of sliders and still carving up opponents. He is throwing his curveball a little more to keep guys honest, a pitch he added last season, but he’s gotten rid of what was a bad changeup in 2021. Twenty-one of his 29 strikeouts have come on the fastball, which has an increased spin rate this season. The Giants have been good at getting extra velo and extra spin and they’ve done both with Rodon. As long as he’s healthy, he’s going to keep this up.
White Sox/Guardians: I tweeted about this yesterday, but Shane Bieber had thrown all of three four-seam fastballs of 90 or lower mph prior to this season and one of those came in his last start of 2021 after a long IL stint. He’s already thrown 21 such fastballs this season. His command remains elite and he still had 17 whiffs in 47 swings yesterday, but his fastball velo is a major concern for me. It hasn’t impacted his performance yet, but I’m still very concerned, both as a bettor and as a Guardians fan.
Yankees/Tigers: Aroldis Chapman’s velo was down significantly yesterday and he had zero swings and misses on eight swings. He also only had four called strikes in 15 pitches. It was chilly in Detroit and this was a back-to-back for Chapman, but still. His velo was down in Tuesday’s appearance as well. Something to monitor.
Angels/Astros: Remember how I said team vs. pitcher stats mean virtually nothing to me? Shohei Ohtani had a 5.92 ERA in six prior starts against the Astros. Yesterday, he gave up one hit and struck out 12 over six nearly flawless innings. Small sample sizes aren’t really worth your time with things like that.
Blue Jays/Red Sox: Right handicap, wrong result with the over here. Maybe the 1st 5 over was the play, but the full-game over 9 failed to get there despite six early runs. Boston was 1-for-14 with RISP, so that was the difference in the game. The stats will show that Jose Berrios pitched well with six innings of one-run ball, but he allowed 11 hard-hit balls. The command still isn’t there for him and he only had eight whiffs in 49 swings. He’s hard to fade because of the Jays offense, but team total overs or other forms of the over make sense.
Twins/Royals: The Royals offense could be best described as “flaccid”. They won 2-0 yesterday, but are batting .215/.267/.330 with the league’s lowest BB% and the sixth-lowest Hard Hit%. They actually have one of the lowest strikeout rates in the league, too. They just don’t make quality contact and it’s really going to hurt them, especially as it warms up and the ball carries better in KC. I haven’t done much on or against them, but this offense stinks and I’m finally realizing how bad it is.
Rangers/Mariners: Logan Gilbert threw 6.2 shutout innings, but allowed 12 hard-hit balls to the Rangers yesterday. The Rangers were only 4-for-12 on them with a double and three singles. He’s a guy with a fly ball split whose profile is elevated by the current state of the baseball. Even though the hard contact worries me, I don’t think he’ll be negatively impacted for now. In road starts in good hitting environments in the summer months, I’ll look to go against him, so file that nugget away.
Orioles/Athletics: Along with fading the Reds to retire early, you can bet Baltimore unders and have a private island to retire to. The 12 games for the Orioles have seen a total of 61 runs. Their pitching has been solid, but their offense has been offensive. With RISP, the Orioles are batting .105/.228/.210 and they’re batting .141/.256/.208 with men on base. *If* the pitching holds, those offensive numbers should positively regress. We might see some equity betting on this team soon.
Weather: Winds are blowing out in Cleveland, New York, Boston and Washington D.C., with the winds blowing in a little in KC and across the field in Detroit. We do have lots of getaway day games today, so temperatures should be a bit better.
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 Mets (-135, 8): Fades of Anthony DeSclafani have become commonplace these days. The Giants right-hander has been bet against in every start this season and it was happening a lot last season as well. I don’t really understand the hate. He’s a really solid pitcher. Carlos Carrasco has thrown the ball well and this line has actually jumped 10-20 cents.
Diamondbacks at Nationals (-125, 9): Sometimes the line moves that don’t happen stand out more. Zach Davies is not a beloved figure in the investment community, but we’re not seeing market movement against him. That says a lot to me about the Nationals and Josh Rogers. It doesn’t mean I’m betting either side here, but when I don’t see a line moving with a guy like Davies, it catches my attention. Much like what we saw with Jordan Lyles of the Orioles yesterday.
Cardinals at Marlins (-125, 7.5): Similarly, I’m used to seeing Pablo Lopez get steamed at home and that hasn’t happened today. Who knows what Jordan Hicks will provide in his first MLB start after 114 relief appearances. He made three starts at Triple-A last year and last started in 2017 before that.
Pirates at Cubs (-160, 9): Mark Leiter Jr. is 31 years old and has only pitched 117.1 innings at the MLB level, yet this line has moved quite significantly in Chicago’s direction against Bryse Wilson and the Pirates. Bryse Wilson is 24 with more career MLB innings than Leiter, but has a 5.54 ERA and a 5.55 FIP. I’m not sure that warrants a 20-cent line move, but I’m also not really interested in the Pirates today.
Twins (-135, 8) at Royals: This line has gone up 20 or so cents with Joe Ryan on the bump for the Twins and Zack Greinke for the Royals. I wholeheartedly agree with this line move and give props to those that got in early. If Ryan has another strong start, his prices will start to balloon, so this may have been the last buy-low opportunity.
Orioles at Athletics (-125, 7): This total has gone down to 7 with two paltry offenses and a lot of buzz for the under run of the Orioles. The side is pretty interesting with Oakland lined as such a short favorite, but I think the markets are seeing the indicators I am about that team falling off the pace quickly.
Rangers at Mariners (-125, 8): Another big line mover here, as we’ve seen more notable action with two weeks worth of data points today than any other day. This line has also crashed about 20 cents, with Marco Gonzales in a favorite role against Taylor Hearn. Gonzales is not a guy that influential bettors love with his 3.00 ERA and 6.85 FIP from this season in two starts that mirrors his 3.96 ERA and 5.28 FIP from last season in 25 starts.
What I’ll Be Watching
Carlos Carrasco: Carrasco has looked the part thus far against the Nationals and Diamondbacks. How does he look against a better lineup? He’s struck out 13 and walked just two in 10.2 innings of work. The Giants have a solid group of hitters that got off to a slow start, but seems to be coming around a bit now. Let’s see if Carrasco is able to keep the mojo rolling now that he’s finally healthy after an offseason procedure to remove a bone spur in his elbow.
Jordan Hicks: I am not in love with the idea of Hicks as a starter. His best attribute is his velocity and pitchers typically lose 2-3 mph off of their fastballs as a starter, simply because they can’t go all-out for one inning anymore. Hicks is a two-pitch pitcher with a fastball/slider combo. He’ll mix in an occasional splitter and he’ll probably have to use it more to neutralize the platoon advantage as a starter. As a reliever, he’s shut righties down with a .139/.270/.173 slash, but lefties do have a .361 OBP against him. That’s where I worry about him in a starting role.
The problem today is that the Marlins only have three left-handed bats, so he may end up having a lot of success. I will, however, be looking to fade him moving forward, particularly on the road against left-handed-heavy lineups.
Thursday 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.
It’s a tough one today with a lot of day games. Life on the west coast is great for sports, but not MLB day games and the time it takes to write up all these words.
VEGAS LINES | ODDS BY STATE | MLB MATCHUPS
Cardinals/Marlins Under 7.5 (-115): Despite my reservations about Jordan Hicks, this should be a good matchup for him. The Marlins only have three left-handed bats on the entire roster, though Jesus Sanchez, Joey Wendle and Jazz Chisholm Jr. have all hit them well to this point. However, Hicks has proven to be an extreme ground ball pitcher in his MLB appearances and a continuation would require the Marlins to string together multiple hits to score runs. That’s easier said than done given how Hicks has dominated righties.
The Cardinals bullpen will get a workout today, but owns a 1.76 ERA and a 3.07 FIP in 41 innings of work thus far. Even though Giovanny Gallegos is likely unavailable, the rest of the group is in fine shape. The Marlins pen has been good in its own right with a 3.32 ERA and a 4.38 FIP in 40.2 innings. The high FIP is a byproduct of allowing some homers, but loanDepot Park suppresses power.
In 65.1 innings at home last season, Pablo Lopez held the opposition to a .215/.279/.343 slash with a .272 wOBA. In his career pitching at home, he has a 2.89 ERA in 202.1 innings of work with a .231/.289/.360 slash against and right-handed batters, of which the Cardinals have many, only have a .256 wOBA in plate appearances down in Miami. By comparison, Lopez has allowed a .332 wOBA on the road and has a 5.48 ERA over 138 innings.
There are a lot of factors pointing towards an under, as the starters should have good matchups in a pitcher-friendly park and both bullpens have performed very well to this point.
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.