Opening Day 2022 has arrived! That also means the start of my daily MLB column with some best bets, market observations and other tidbits. My hope here is obviously to share some winners, but also to further educate and inform readers about some things that I’ve picked up on with line movements and help you identify some good betting angles or get ahead of said line moves.
I’ve been a huge proponent of trying to help my audience with how to bet instead of what to bet. So, that’ll be the goal of my daily article and hopefully you pull some good insights for it and that the plays follow suit.
We’ll be tweaking and tinkering with this article to see what works best early in the season, so if you have any feedback, hit us up or email me, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wind and Weather
The playing conditions will be big factors on Opening Day as seven of the nine scheduled games are slated to be played. Weather already wiped out Red Sox/Yankees and Mariners/Twins and several of the remaining seven games have a lot of wind.
Brewers/Cubs has 20 mph winds blowing out, but rainy, dreary conditions. Guardians/Royals will have stiff winds of 25 mph blowing out to RF and has the possibility of a rain delay. Same with Pirates/Cardinals, with 15-20 mph breezes. Weather matters for both totals and sides, as fly ball rates for both the offenses and the starting pitchers come into play. (Rotogrinders has the best MLB weather coverage in my opinion.)
One last note, not related to weather, all 30 ballparks now have a humidor. The league started with those in Colorado in hopes of curtailing offense and then put in Arizona, which went a long way in suppressing offense. There were 10 parks with humidors last season and now all 30 have one. They were previously used in the most extreme hitter’s and pitcher’s parks to store the balls and change the weight and other characteristics. I highly recommend a subscription to The Athletic for articles like the one Eno Sarris wrote about the humidors and their impacts.
We’ve seen some movement in the marketplace (remember, these lines have been posted for a couple days, so they’ve had a lot of time to sit and marinate; I’m using a rough consensus line, but you should shop around for the best prices):
Brewers (-175, 9) at Cubs: The Brewers have taken money to grow into a bigger favorite behind reigning Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes. This could be part of a Kyle Hendricks fade, who had a 4.77 ERA with a 4.89 FIP and 4.61 xFIP last season. Hendricks has always been a guy with a lower ERA than FIP because of low strikeout rates, so a lot of bettors have been skeptical. They were proven correct last season and seem content to fade him again.
The wind forecast died down a bit for Brewers/Cubs, but with chilly conditions and a couple of ground ball hurlers, I think a combination of the two pushed the total down from 11 to 9
Mets (-115, 9) at Nationals: A lot of Nationals love here today, as DK has the highest number on the board for the Mets. This line has progressively moved against New York. This should have been Jacob deGrom’s spot, but Tylor Megill gets the ball instead. Megill had a 4.52 ERA and a 4.69 FIP, but did have a 3.92 xFIP, as he allowed a very high rate of homers over his 18 starts. I personally don’t understand the Patrick Corbin love, as his velocity did come back last season, but he posted a 5.82 ERA with a 5.41 FIP. He, too, gave up a high rate of homers with a 22.6% HR/FB%, leading to a 4.29 xFIP. Sharp bettors seem to be buying a little bit into some positive regression indicators with Corbin, who had his worst K%, BB%, HR/9, HR/FB% and LOB% in several seasons.
Big favorites coming down: Money has hit the board on the underdog Pirates, Reds and Diamondbacks today, three teams with low win totals that had offseasons ranging from atrocious to boring. Bettors love to bet underdogs early in the season. With everybody getting into the groove of the season, the playing field is somewhat leveled.
It will be ring and banner day in Atlanta for the Braves against the Reds, which is an angle that some people might be betting against. I think it’s just a desire to bet dogs early with the expedited spring training, but everybody has their own justifications and philosophies for a bet and that may be one of them.
Astros at Angels (-115, 8.5): Opinions seem split on the game of the day between AL West rivals. Framber Valdez vs. Shohei Ohtani is a great pitching matchup and there are stars in both lineups. This is the one game where weather could be a positive for hitters on an unusually hot day in Anaheim with temps approaching 100 during the day and in the 80s around first pitch with a little breeze blowing out. Most of the market is 8.5, with DraftKings sitting at 9 due to a lot of action on the over.
What I’ll Be Watching
Yu Darvish: When the foreign substance crackdown took hold, Darvish’s spin rates dropped a lot. From July 3 through the end of the season, Darvish had a 6.65 ERA with a 5.05 FIP. The foreign substance crackdown really started in June and he was okay through that, but allowed 18 homers over his last 14 starts. He did miss time on the IL, so he may have been pitching through an injury, but I’d like to see Darvish dominate a bad Diamondbacks lineup for as long as he’s out there today.
Zack Greinke: With over 3,100 innings on his arm, was last season the beginning of the end for Greinke? The now 38-year-old had his lowest K% since 2005 and first under 20% since 2010. He gave up a career-high 30 home runs. He posted back-to-back ERAs north of 4 for the first time in his career (only pitched 6.1 innings in 2006) and the worst FIP of his career in a full season.
That being said, Greinke had a 3.41 ERA in 26 starts before ending the season with 21 runs allowed in 15.1 innings over his last four appearances and a stint on the IL. The Guardians lineup isn’t great, but I’d like to see something from Greinke early this season.
Thursday Best Bets
Shop around for the best line you can find! I’m just using a consensus number mostly.
Mets (-115) over Nationals: Bullpens are going to be such an integral part of the handicap all season long, but especially in the early going with starting pitchers not nearly as stretched out as they have been. I do prefer Megill to Corbin to begin with, but really prefer the Mets bullpen over the Nationals relief corps.
Righties posted a .387 wOBA against Corbin last season with a .562 SLG and 35 of the 37 homers he allowed. While Megill struggled badly against lefties with a .418 wOBA against, the Nationals don’t seem to match up as well as the Mets with their lineup construction in terms of those platoon advantages. The Mets added several free agents that are right-handed bats or switch hitters to improve upon a wOBA that ranked 25th against LHP last season.
Reds 1st 5 (+ 160) at Braves: This line was certainly too high at the open. Teams that have a lot of bad press in the offseason often get punished and that’s what happened here. Tyler Mahle is solid enough (3.75 ERA, 3.80 FIP, 210 K) to hang with Max Fried and has a high enough K% (27.7%) to battle it out with this Braves lineup. Atlanta does have a distinct bullpen advantage with a much deeper group, so I think the 1st 5 is the play. Mahle is also coming off of his best season from a Hard Hit% standpoint with a 33.9% mark, which was actually better than Fried.
Mahle had a .259 wOBA against and a 2.30 ERA with a 2.76 FIP in 101.2 innings on the road last season. Great American Ball Park is excellent for hitters and bad for pitchers. Mahle allowed 19 of his 24 homers at home last season. While Truist Field plays well for hitters in the summertime, it’ll be mid-50s tonight in Atlanta. This one feels like a worthwhile plus-money gamble.