Thursday’s schedule is very light, with only eight games and five of them during the day. There are a lot of interesting matchups on the board and we’ve seen some line movement based on who’s in and who’s out of the lineup with those early starts. A lot of teams are playing a game per day or slightly more than that during this current stretch, as MLB put together some five-game series and some scheduled doubleheaders to accommodate games that were pushed back due to the lockout.
As a result, we’ll see some teams attempting to steal some days off here and there for their players. Aaron Boone, for example, has given Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton each a day off here recently. Those things will move lines as modelers reset their projections based on the lineup release, so keep an eye out for that.
Braves/Brewers: The Braves just keep finding ways to lose. This time, it happened in 11 innings with THREE BLOWN SAVES, one in the ninth, one in the 10th and one in the 11th. This was after Atlanta scored four runs off of Corbin Burnes to take a 4-0 lead after three innings. I keep harping on it, but this team is extremely disappointing this season. While Burnes only had five strikeouts, he had 20 whiffs in 53 swings. Aside from Austin Riley’s three-run homer, the Braves did very little on offense again.
Giants/Rockies: It’s been a rough week. The best bets have run really bad and the handicaps have been poor. The Giants did very little against Kyle Freeland, but were still in a position to win. Gabe Kapler let Logan Webb start the eighth inning, but then pulled him after a soft leadoff single. He then went to lefty Jose Alvarez, who gave up a game-tying single and a two-run homer, both to right-handed batters. That loss hurt. Managerial decisions matter and Kapler made two errors here in my opinion.
Nationals/Marlins: On a day when Nick Pivetta threw a complete game two-hitter against the Astros, Pablo Lopez got knocked around at home by the Nationals. Lopez gave up three runs on four hits in three innings. He walked three, only struck out two and had a velocity decrease, but he only allowed three hard-hit balls, all of which were barrels. He just wasn’t sharp.
Josiah Gray had 15 whiffs on 27 sliders in this start and 18 whiffs total. In his last two starts, Gray’s primary pitch has been the slider. He gave up six runs and three homers to the Astros, but pitched better yesterday against the Marlins. If nothing else, the increased slider usage should give him more swing and miss upside, so his strikeout prop overs may go on a bit of a run.
Padres/Phillies: Blake Snell needed 84 pitches to get eight outs yesterday in his 2022 MLB debut. Fortunately long man Nick Martinez threw four excellent relief innings to save the bullpen for today’s matinee. Snell said he was going to work in more changeups this season, but only threw eight of them, with 81% of his tosses as four-seamers and sliders. There’s something about his profile I just don’t really like.
Zack Wheeler had 19 whiffs in 50 swings and a slight uptick in velo. My early-season concerns about him are gone.
Cardinals/Mets: It seems like we have the dreaded oblique injury for Max Scherzer. Scherzer took himself out of the game in the sixth yesterday after pulling a slider and pulling something in his side. The Mets are Metsing on the injury front again, with Tylor Megill sidelined and now Scherzer. This is also a team that far and away leads MLB in infield hits and is probably going to regress on offense. Buyer beware with the Mets for the next little while I think.
Tigers/Rays: The Tigers lost yet another starting pitcher yesterday when Eduardo Rodriguez left hurt in the first inning. E-Rod had a huge velo drop and looked like a mess in the 6-1 loss. It also looks like an oblique for him after throwing just 23 pitches. Pitcher injuries will be a thing all summer long.
The Tigers are now down Rodriguez, Casey Mize, Matt Manning (whose rehab start did not go well, as reader Kenneth pointed this out), Tyler Alexander, Michael Pineda and Spencer Turnbull. The starters for the upcoming Cleveland series are Tarik Skubal, Alex Faedo and Beau Brieske. Who knows what they’ll do after that.
Twins/Athletics: An offensive explosion at the Coliseum yesterday, as the Twins won 14-4 in a getaway day slugfest. The most impressive part is that Minnesota scored 14 runs without a home run. Of course, three runs were against position player Chad Pinder, but still. Sonny Gray also looked good over his six innings. The Twins have the Royals, Tigers, Royals again and Tigers again over the next couple of weeks, so the arrow is pointing up.
After that run, the Twins play the Blue Jays, Yankees, Rays and Mariners from June 3-15. That may be around the time I’ll fire on that White Sox to win the AL Central future.
Astros/Red Sox: I tweeted about this last night, but I can’t believe Nick Pivetta allowed a leadoff home run to Jose Altuve and then just one more hit in a complete game effort. Baseball makes no sense sometimes and this was one of those times.
Mariners/Blue Jays: So was this. Marco Gonzales allowed one run on five hits with three walks and only two strikeouts against the Blue Jays, who just refuse to live up to their offensive potential. I’m just at a loss with both the Braves and the Blue Jays. It’s a microcosm of the season as a whole, where a lot of things that should be happening don’t seem to be. It’s hard to bet on or against either team right now.
Angels/Rangers: The Angels pen is riding the struggle bus right now. Over the last seven days, the Angels pen has a 4.78 ERA and a 5.26 FIP. I said that some regression was coming for that group and it seems to be taking place right now. Even reliable guys like Ryan Tepera and Jimmy Herget have temporarily lost their immunity. Something to monitor. Something to maybe take advantage of and bet some overs with.
White Sox/Royals: Chicago had 16 hard-hit balls on Wednesday, including 12 off of Zack Greinke, and managed just two runs on 10 hits. It is amazing to look at the White Sox batting averages and see all of this hard contact with poor results. The White Sox don’t walk, which hurts their overall offensive profile, but this is a team with the lowest K% in baseball that ranks 21st in batting average, despite being third in Hard Hit% and sixth in Barrel%.
The Braves and Astros are teams with similar offensive profiles and low batting averages. I can’t really explain it anymore and as somebody as analytical and nerdy as I am, it’s killing me inside.
Weather: We’ve got helping winds on a warm day in Kansas City with a couple of pitchers perceived to be gas cans on the bump in Vince Velasquez and Carlos Hernandez. We’ve also got helping winds on a nice day in Chicago between the Diamondbacks and Cubs.
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.
Padres at Phillies (-110, 8): With Bryce Harper out again for the Phillies, we’ve seen the Padres go from small dogs to a virtual moneyline pick ‘em situation for this one. I can’t argue with the move. Yu Darvish has a 4.62 ERA with a 3.94 xERA and a 3.78 FIP. Kyle Gibson was rocked by the Dodgers last time out to normalize his numbers with a 4.10 ERA, a 3.53 xERA and a 3.92 FIP. I do believe more in Darvish than Gibson and the market seems to as well.
Cardinals at Mets (-185, 7.5): This is one of the biggest movers we’ve seen in a while. I’m sure many have picked up on what I’ve discussed with the Cardinals against above average right-handed pitching and Chris Bassitt fits the bill. Dakota Hudson has a 3.06 ERA with a 5.39 xERA and a 5.04 FIP, so a fade of him was inevitable. This line has climbed upwards of 40 cents at some shops.
Diamondbacks at Cubs (-125, 9): With the wind blowing out, this total has blown up, going from 8 to 9. We’re also seeing love for the Cubs and ground ball wizard Marcus Stroman. Zac Gallen has a 1.05 ERA with a 1.87 xERA and a 2.22 FIP, so bettors may be looking for some negative regression, whereas Stroman has a 5.13 ERA with a 4.68 xERA and a 4.19 FIP, so he looks like a positive regression guy.
White Sox (-140, 10) at Royals: We’re up to 10 on this total with the warm weather and two bad starters at Kauffman Stadium. Minimal movement on the side, but bettors seem fed up with losing money on the White Sox with a slight move towards the Royals.
What I’ll Be Watching
Marcus Stroman: Stroman returns from an extended bout with COVID-19, as he hasn’t made a Major League start since May 1. He threw seven shutout innings in that one and has made three good starts and two really bad starts this season. In that start, his GB% was 62.5%, but he is only at 45.6% for the season and has seen his GB% drop each of the last three seasons. It hasn’t negatively impacted his ERA in any way, but he hasn’t been the same serial worm killer that we saw early in his career. He’d better keep the ball down today with the warmth and wind on the North Side.
What concerns me here is that Stroman didn’t make any minor league rehab starts. Pitchers are still ramping up in late April/early May to some degree and now he’s gone 18 days without pitching in game conditions. It isn’t scaring bettors, who have moved the line heavily in his favor, but it does concern me.
Vince Velasquez: Pitching whisperer Ethan Katz has done really well elevating pure talent, with guys like Lucas Giolito and Dylan Cease, who simply have excellent stuff. Can he fix a guy like Velasquez? The 29-year-old keeps getting chances because he throws hard and can pitch in multiple roles, but he has a 4.97 ERA and a 4.60 FIP over 678.2 career innings.
So far this season, Velasquez ranks in the 7th percentile in average exit velocity, 11th in Hard Hit%, 6th in xwOBA, 5th in Barrel% and the numbers support how bad he has been with a 5.53 ERA and a 5.51 FIP. His numbers have looked like that most seasons and he still finds work. It’s amazing.
Glenn Otto: I considered Rangers/Astros 1st 5 under, but Otto is the tough part of the handicap. The Rangers properly realized that his fastball is not very good, as opposing batters hit .378 with a .568 SLG against it last season when he threw the pitch 48.9% of the time. This season, Otto’s FB usage is down to 28.4%, but he’s also throwing fewer sliders, even though that was a solid pitch for him last year.
The Rangers are trying to deepen his arsenal, so he’s increased the usage of both his curveball and changeup. In his first three starts, he allowed five runs on eight hits over 14.1 innings, but just gave up eight runs to the Red Sox in four innings. His raw stuff compares to guys like Alex Manoah and Mike Clevinger in terms of movement and velocity, but the command is not on the same level as those two guys. We’ll see how he does facing the Astros for a second time, but I’ll be trying to bet on him when he starts facing some weaker 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.
VEGAS LINES | ODDS BY STATE | MLB MATCHUPS
Red Sox (-120) over Mariners: We’ve got The Old Man and the Kid today at Fenway Park, as Rich Hill takes the mound for the Red Sox and young fireballer George Kirby toes the rubber for the Mariners. Hill has quietly been outstanding of late, allowing just two earned runs over his last four starts. His only blemish last time out was an unearned run until the seventh inning, which he started because the Red Sox had a big lead against the Rangers.
Seattle ranks 17th in wOBA against left-handed pitchers, but a lot of that has to do with a high walk rate in that split. They aren’t making a lot of quality contact in general and only have a .351 SLG against southpaws, which ranks 20th. The Mariners rank 28th in Hard Hit% and Hill’s Hard Hit% this season is just 33.3%, so I’m not anticipating a lot of good contact from Seattle.
Kirby’s first two starts have been impressive with just one earned run allowed on seven hits, but he’s made two starts in good pitcher’s parks at home and at Citi Field. Seventeen of his 30 batted balls have been hit at least 95 mph, but he’s had a lot of luck on hard contact thus far. His average exit velocity against is 94.4 mph on those 30 batted balls.
The Red Sox show some positive regression signs on offense, particularly with runners in scoring position, which is something I wrote about in Point Spread Weekly. Today would be a nice day for that to come to fruition.
I’m expecting some tougher times for Kirby moving forward and Hill seems to match up well against the Mariners with a rested bullpen in support. I'm putting my faith in a man who goes by the nickname "Dick Mountain". What could go wrong?
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.