A few teams enjoyed a planned off day and two others got an impromptu break on Monday, but we’re back to the full 15-game card on Tuesday. Not only that, but we have seven interleague games to add a little bit of spice to the April 12 menu. This is a really interesting day in baseball because we have some pitchers making their second starts against guys making their first starts and also starters that haven’t pitched in a long period of time because they haven’t really thrown since spring training ended.
Phillies/Mets: The Phillies have been on the wrong end of so many bullpen implosions that it seems only fitting to get one back. The Mets were cruising with a 4-0 lead before giving up a five-spot in the eighth. The bigger stories were the starting pitchers, though. Taijuan Walker had nine whiffs in 14 swings before leaving with shoulder discomfort and he’s headed for an MRI. His stuff looked great, so hopefully it won’t be serious.
Ranger Suarez only had five whiffs in 30 swings, but the hits he allowed by mph were 64.5, 92.1, 90.5, 83, and then 104.1 in his final inning. Alec Bohm also made two errors behind him. The stat line wasn’t pretty, but he deserved a better fate. I wouldn’t hold this one against him.
Nationals/Braves: Rather than burn relievers in a blowout, the Braves opted to use Tuesday’s projected starter Tucker Davidson in relief. He gave up five runs on five hits in 2.2 innings, as the Nationals had 23 at bats with RISP in the 11-2 win over Atlanta. The Braves are only 2-3, but it feels like this season is off to an ugly start. That’ll happen after a long postseason run sometimes.
Padres/Giants: Speaking of slow starts, the Giants have scored 12 runs over their first four games. The Marlins have some good pitching, but they only scratched out two runs against Nick Martinez and the Padres bullpen on Monday. The Giants were 0-for-10 with RISP in the game after only having nine AB with RISP in the series against Miami. They’ll be fine and should hit, so I am looking forward to the overreaction because the projection systems were so low on this team. I’ll be looking for buy spots.
Guardians/Royals: Another football score for these two teams, as the Guardians won 10-7 after Sunday’s 17-3 final. The Royals stole three bases off of the combination of Aaron Civale and Austin Hedges. I haven’t seen many teams really run on Civale in the past, so I’m curious what the Royals picked up on. Extra bases can matter a lot, so I’ll file this one away. Also, Emmanuel Clase, who allowed back-to-back singles in Saturday’s loss, gave up a two-run shot to Andrew Benintendi. This is a bad bullpen to begin with, but a continued bad stretch for Clase would be a huge concern.
Red Sox/Tigers: Situational plays are rare in MLB, but this felt like one with Boston coming off of an opening series against the rival Yankees and Sunday Night Baseball. As it turned out, Boston’s only hit against Matt Manning was a solo homer. He also gave the Tigers six innings in just 68 pitches. Efficient starters are worth their weight in gold right now. Ryan Brasier and Matt Strahm have pitched three of the last four days for the Red Sox. Their pen has been worked thus far and Matt Barnes left hurt yesterday.
A’s/Rays: Luis Patino left hurt for the Rays after just 11 pitches and the bottom fell out in the 13-2 loss. Patino is the fourth pitcher to leave with a side injury thus far and won’t be the last. For the A’s, Paul Blackburn had 12 whiffs in 29 swings with a bump in velocity and a balanced pitch mix the likes of which we’ve never seen. He’s always ranked above average for curveball spin rate and it was his primary pitch in this outing. If the A’s have truly optimized his arsenal, he may be worth some extra attention, especially at home in a forgiving ballpark.
Jays/Yankees: Alek Manoah looked unhittable for Toronto on Monday. He had 16 whiffs in 41 swings and gave up one hit in six innings. He also only allowed four hard-hit balls to a Yankees lineup that has a lot of guys that square up the baseball. The Jays had 14 batted balls of 95 + mph in this one. They were unlucky to only score three runs.
Mariners/Twins: Chris Flexen allowed eight batted balls the second and third time through the lineup against the Twins. They were hit at 110.2, 75.1, 96.2, 93.4, 104.7, 99.5, 109.2, 103.4. This may be a live betting angle to look at early in the season as pitchers fatigue a bit in the middle innings. The Twins scored three runs in the fifth, but had some really good swings in the third and fourth innings. Pitchers with marginal command could pay the price and Flexen was lucky he didn’t pay a bigger one.
Brewers/Orioles: A new catcher can be a tough thing for a pitcher. I didn’t like the way that Brandon Woodruff and Victor Caratini worked together last Saturday, as Woodruff was uncharacteristically erratic. Yesterday, Adrian Houser walked three over 3.2 innings and didn’t really have the ground ball stuff working. His velo and spin rates were actually up from last season. Something is off with the Brewers pitching staff thus far and I think there are some growing pains with Caratini. Going from Yasmani Grandal to Manny Pina to Caratini is a pretty drastic decrease in receiving ability. It seems like Omar Narvaez and Caratini are in a bit of a timeshare right now. I’m not sure everybody is on the same page when Caratini starts behind the dish. The Brewers added him right before the season, so there weren't really any spring training reps or side sessions.
Rockies/Rangers: Austin Gomber is somebody to keep a close eye on this season. The Rockies increased his slider usage last year and opposing batters hit .198 with a .339 SLG. He threw 33% sliders in his first start, a big increase from last season, and had eight whiffs on 15 swings. As last season went along, Gomber added spin to his slider and had another big spike in this start. Consider me very, very intrigued.
Weather: It looks like we’ll have winds blowing in on the South Side of Chicago and in the Twin Cities, but some stiff breezes blowing out in Anaheim and San Francisco. Dodgers/Twins looks most likely to get postponed, which could mean a doubleheader tomorrow, since the two teams won’t play again in Minneapolis.
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.
A few quick thoughts on some line moves:
Red Sox/Tigers: There are some skeptics about Rich Hill and possibly what I mentioned about the bullpen. The Tigers have moved down a little bit as a home dog today. I also think their lineup projects better against left-handed pitching and I wonder if the modelers have the same conclusion.
Guardians/Reds: I’m not sure if the market is fading Cleveland’s offense after the last two games, but money has come in against the Guardians and Shane Bieber here. The bullpen is certainly a concern, as Bieber will likely be capped at around 75-80 pitches. That may be why the line is moving down.
Marlins/Angels: The Marlins are taking some money for this one against the Angels, even though Mike Trout is expected to be back. Perhaps this is a fade of Patrick Sandoval and the “arm fatigue” he had that pushed his start back. Maybe this is a buy of Jesus Luzardo, who I think will fare better against NL teams that haven’t seen him, not the Angels, who have been exposed to his stuff. This is the one of the biggest movers of the day with a 15-20 cent line adjustment.
Royals/Cardinals: This one is the biggest mover of the day in what appears to be a fade of Dakota Hudson. This line has moved upwards of 25 cents at some shops. Hudson fits a betting tip that I’ve mentioned already as a guy with a low ERA and a high FIP. Those guys get bet against regularly and he has a career 3.14 ERA with a 4.66 FIP. He also only pitched 8.2 innings last season. Interestingly, though, we didn’t see much of a move against him yesterday in the postponed game against the Pirates. That says a lot about the market’s expectation of the Buccos.
What I’ll Be Watching
Tylor Megill: Megill’s first start was outstanding. It also came against the Nationals, so he’ll get a stiffer test from the Phillies today. After averaging 94.6 mph with the fastball last season, he was up to 96.1 mph in that first start. Was he just pumped up or was it something more? If Megill truly added velo, the extension he gets on his 6-foot-7 frame coupled with another tick of speed will make a pretty special combo.
Matt Brash: Brash was a spring training darling that made the Mariners roster. Brash pitched in college at Niagara and is a Kingston, Ontario native. Cold-weather pitchers can take some more time to get going because they have fewer reps, but also have fresher arms. Brash has only pitched 55 innings above A-ball, but he was thoroughly impressive in Cactus League action and has 150 strikeouts in his 102.2 innings of pro ball. The White Sox are a tough first assignment, but they are right-handed-heavy and he had a 34.4% K% against RHB last season.
Patrick Sandoval: Big Sandoval guy here. I wrote about him in my Angels preview as my player to watch. He had his first start pushed back because of “arm fatigue”, so that’s a little bit concerning. With over a strikeout per inning and a GB% of 51.1% for his young MLB career, he checks a lot of boxes for me as a pitcher with tremendous upside.
Martin Perez: Perez’s one skill abandoned him last season. He had some pretty spectacular contact management metrics up until last season, when 42% of batted balls were hit at least 95 mph. His previous high was 39.1% in 2018, but that was his only other season in the Statcast era over 37%. I’m curious to see if it was a byproduct of seeing the Yankees and Blue Jays too much or a sign of some regression. The Rockies aren’t a bad test case given it’s a home game for the Rangers.
Tuesday 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
Cubs (-115) over Pirates: The Pirates told Jose Quintana that he would start the home opener against his former team and they’ll stick with that plan, even though they easily could have matched up Zach Thompson with Drew Smyly and had a better chance to win. Instead, they’ll send out Quintana, who has not had an ERA under 4 since 2016 and is coming off of an ugly season with a 6.43 ERA and a 4.66 FIP in his 63 innings of work. Perhaps Quintana can rebound and salvage his career in Pittsburgh, but he has allowed a lot of high-velocity contact over the last four seasons and has seen a decrease in the command metrics.
While I’m not a big Smyly guy, his biggest issue is the long ball. His K/BB numbers are generally pretty good, but he allows too many home runs. The difference here is that the Pirates have been one of the few teams reluctant to make some launch angle changes. So far this season, the Pirates rank 28th in fly ball percentage. They ranked 28th last season and haven’t been outside the bottom five since 2018.
The Pirates don’t make a lot of quality contact and won’t barrel up many balls as the season goes along. The Cubs project to be a lineup that should be above average against lefties. I’ll lay the short price here.
Guardians 1st 5 (-110) over Reds: We’re not going to get Shane Bieber at this price very often and especially not against a lacking lineup like this. Tyler Mahle is an ace in his own right, but he’s not Bieber and especially not at home. Mahle had a 3.75 ERA and a 3.80 FIP over 180 innings last season because he had 101.2 innings on the road compared to 78.1 innings at home. He allowed a .364 wOBA at home and posted a 5.63 ERA with 19 of his 24 home runs against.
Righties posted a .344/.418/.701 slash with a .465 wOBA against him in Cincinnati last season over 180 plate appearances. For reference, Bryce Harper led MLB last season with a .431 wOBA and a .615 SLG. Early in his career, Mahle had huge platoon splits against lefties, but last season, he flipped the script and righties hit him much harder, posting a wOBA that was 100 points higher than what lefties produced. That would seem to benefit the Guardians here.
On principle, I can’t pass on Bieber at this price against a Reds lineup that doesn’t look great on paper will strike out a lot. The Guardians lineup is far from daunting, but they’re putting a lot of balls in play and have prioritized making contact. They’re worth a look at this small favorite price. I sort of expected to be paying more of a premium for the 1st 5. Avoiding the Guardians bullpen sounds good to me right now.
Astros (-150) over Diamondbacks: Madison Bumgarner moves up in place of Zac Gallen to make his second start of the season against Luis Garcia and the Astros. It will be Garcia’s first, but his upside is much higher than Bumgarner, coming off of a strong year with a 3.48 ERA and a 3.63 FIP. Garcia also had 167 K in 155.1 innings against just 50 walks.
Bumgarner went three innings and only allowed one run and one hit, but walked four against the Padres and only had four whiffs on 28 swings. His velocity was up, but his spin rates were down and he had issues controlling where the baseball was going. Bumgarner is cutter-heavy now and the Astros were seventh in batting average against cutters from lefties last season, with more or less the same lineup, sans Carlos Correa, but with Jeremy Pena instead. The Astros were fourth in wOBA last season against lefties and I’d expect more of the same this season. I’ll lay this price on Houston that is a little hefty, but maybe not hefty enough.
I’m tracking the picks in my Google Sheet HERE, but we are working on a tracker at VSiN.com that should be linked in tomorrow’s article.