We head into Tuesday with 17 games on the betting board thanks to doubleheaders in Washington and New York City. The first games of the double dips are the only daytime tilts we’ve got, so there will be plenty of time to handicap the card. As mentioned on Sunday and Monday, the information for today is behind the paywall, but the recap and weather info remain free for everybody, so I encourage everybody to still read the pitcher observations and other notes, even if you can’t afford to or won’t pay for a subscription.
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Let’s start by recapping my day on Twitter. Yesterday’s baseball discussions on the bird site were about the significant decrease in home runs around the league. I ran some numbers using Baseball Savant search data as well.
Average Fly Ball Distance Through April 18
2021: 318 feet
2022: 313 feet
BA & SLG on Batted Balls of 95 + mph (“Hard Hit”)
2018: .522 / 1.038
2019: .539 / 1.120
2020: .510 / 1.065
2021: .500 / 1.015
2022: .468 / .910
People smarter than me call it an increased drag coefficient. There is some question as to whether or not the baseball is different or if this is a result of the humidor that is now in place across all 30 parks (or a combination of both). The weather has undoubtedly been cold and with humidity added to the ball in some locales and taken away in others, some expected this to be the case. Home runs would be down in the colder months and up in the warmer months.
Average Exit Velocity (mph)
Those are all of the seasons of the Statcast era. Guys are hitting the ball harder than ever before right now, but are having lower results on hard-hit balls and the baseball is not traveling as far.
It is still pretty early, but these indicators suggest that offense should be down as the weather remains cold and may pick up to an even higher degree in the summer than usual. I’m not sure if it requires big, sweeping adjustments to the handicap, but I do believe it presently helps pitchers that give up a lot of home runs, but may not help them so much down the line. At that point, xFIP could end up being a much stronger indicator of negative regression than it has been in recent seasons in my opinion.
Anecdotally, friends have said to me that it feels like a lot of fly balls are simply dying on the warning track or right in front of it. The data backs that up. That’s the beauty of analytics and stats – as I’ve said before, they quantify and support what the eyes can see. Balls are getting hit harder, but aren’t flying as far with increased drag, moisture altering the weight in the drier climates and the cold weather wreaking havoc in the ones where the ball is dried out.
Make of that what you will. I think it’s a fascinating discussion.
Pirates/Brewers: My guy Zach Thompson fell victim to what got Eric Lauer in his first start. The dreaded grand slam will ruin a stat line pretty quickly. He still had 15 whiffs in 38 swings, but walked four and allowed some hard contact. It’s a work in progress. It was nice to see Lauer bounce back, though. The Brewers really need him. It was nice to see this under 8.5 hold, despite seven runs in the first four innings.
Phillies/Rockies: How about six scoreless innings from Chad Kuhl against the Phillies lineup? He only needed 68 pitches to get through six, but left hurt, which is a real bummer given how well his season has started. Kuhl left with a cut on his middle finger, so we’ll see if that costs him any time. It’ll be important to watch for blisters and other maladies moving forward given the lack of substance use on the ball. As if we needed another injury to worry about.
In the second inning, Charlie Blackmon attempted a sacrifice bunt after Connor Joe hit a leadoff single. For one thing, bunting is stupid. For another thing, bunting is exponentially stupid in the first inning of a game at Coors Field. The bunt lowered Colorado’s win expectancy by 1.9%. Fortunately for them, it wound up not mattering.
I’ll go on a rant about bunts one of these days, but not today. Just know that while they increase the chance of scoring one run, you play for one run. There is a time and place for it (eighth inning or later), but most bunts lower win expectancy and are a –EV decision.
Reds/Padres: The Reds lost, but Nick Lodolo (16 whiffs in 44 swings) looked a lot better than he did in his first start and the Padres continued to squander opportunities. They drew six walks against Cincinnati pitching on Monday night and had seven this, but only scored four runs, with two of them coming on a Manny Machado dinger. If this offense starts cashing in its chances, look out. The Padres are fourth in PA with RISP and 22nd in batting average. While they are eighth in runs, they’ve scored four or fewer runs in nine of 12 games. That’s not great, Bob.
The Reds have a 51 wRC + and have struck out in 27.6% of their plate appearances. This offense isn’t that bad, but this start is awful. We’ll get to a point where there’s some value in taking their big underdog prices, but we’re certainly not there yet.
Braves/Dodgers: Huascar Ynoa made it through 3.2 innings, leaving another long day for the Braves bullpen. Atlanta’s bullpen ranks fifth in innings pitched so far. Those guys have had a workout. For what it’s worth, they’re also second-to-last in LOB% and still have a 3.78 ERA. They’ve been extremely effective. Yesterday’s issue was that the Braves walked seven and the Dodgers walked zero. Teams that walk create more run-scoring opportunities and pitchers that issue walks have a lot more traffic control to deal with. Use that in your handicapping.
Twins/Red Sox: Dylan Bundy’s velo is still down, but he’s struck out eight and only walked one with one run allowed on six hits in 10.1 innings. He did get away with a lot of hard-hit contact in this start, though, as the Red Sox hit 10 balls of 95 + mph in play. I don’t see any huge changes besides more changeups and he’s really pulling the slider down and out of the zone, where hitters are chasing. We’ll see how long this lasts.
Orioles/Athletics: Another strong effort from Frankie Montas, who has thrown the ball well in all three of his starts. He continues to be a weapon for this surprising A’s team. Yesterday, though, Oakland scored four unearned runs off of Baltimore miscues. A 1-1 game in the sixth became a 5-1 game by the end of the inning. The A’s don’t walk, strike out too much and rank just outside the bottom five in Hard Hit%. This is a bad offense living right. Fade time is coming.
Rays/Cubs: Kyle Hendricks was respectable on a bad night for hitting with 13 whiffs in 37 swings against the Rays. He had eight whiffs on 14 swings against the changeup. When his changeup is on, he’s still effective. Shane McClanahan was much better, but the Cubs won the bullpen battle thanks to Keegan Thompson’s heroics with 3.2 innings of shutout ball.
Bettors were hesitant to back Hendricks, but the Cubs are now 4-0 in games started by a lefty and they were steamed in the previous three. It’s definitely an early-season angle to watch.
Weather: A lot of wind blowing out today, but cold temps and wind chills will be a big story. Winds are blowing out in Washington, New York, Detroit, Boston, Denver and Los Angeles. No games with significant wind blowing in, but as we know, the ball isn’t traveling as far with the cold weather and the humidors to this point.
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.
One big name today is Jose Altuve, who strained his hamstring and he is day-to-day. At least the Astros got Yordan Alvarez back off of the COVID list. Another is Dodgers reliever Blake Treinen, who is out for a few days at a minimum.
One More Note
Before we hit the paywall, I just wanted to mention some things about doubleheaders. I don’t really like to bet them. Managers typically go all-out to win Game 1, using their best relievers if necessary and using their best lineup. With the extended rosters here for April, managers have a lot more players available, so we may not see guys play both games.
I do gravitate towards the loser of Game 1 in Game 2, but it is never an auto bet. It depends on a lot of factors, but a manager will be reluctant to use the same relievers in Game 2 that he used to secure a win in Game 1, so you’ll want to note if the primary relievers were deployed or not.
Cardinals at Marlins (-110, 7.5): After his dominant debut, Jesus Luzardo is taking a little bit of money against a Cardinals team that has rocked left-handers to this point. I could make a case for both sides here, but some of the more influential money is on Miami. We’ll see where this line goes throughout the day after about a 10-cent move.
Pirates at Brewers (-250, 7.5): Corbin Burnes has taken a little bit of early scratch against the Pirates. As I wrote about in Point Spread Weekly a couple weeks ago, aces typically get bet up right away, especially against bad teams before recreational bettors start firing their ML parlays. If you want to bet an ace against a bad team, do it on the overnight lines. The same is true of Joe Musgrove and the Padres against the Reds today.
Phillies (-130, 11.5) at Rockies: The total has gone from 11 to 11.5 here just a day after the game finished with five runs. The Dodgers didn’t hit well in Coors Field in their first series in Denver. Just over nine runs per game have been scored at Coors Field this season. I certainly understand the move and don’t think highly of Kyle Gibson, but it’s one to note.
Braves at Dodgers (-145, 7.5): There has been a longstanding perception that the Dodgers aren’t very good against left-handed pitchers. It’s been the one noteworthy chink in their armor in some respects. Max Fried is taking the early coin today as a southpaw starting against LA. I don’t have an opinion one way or the other on that game, but the 10-cent line move caught my attention.
Rangers at Mariners (-135, 7.5): Jon Gray comes back from a blister issue to make his first start in 11 days. Robbie Ray gets the call for the Mariners with seven runs allowed on 13 hits with nine strikeouts and six walks. The Rangers have moved down about 10 cents here. I’m not entirely sure I agree with this line move.
Orioles at Athletics (-140, 8): We’re starting to see that anti-Oakland sentiment creep in. Chris Ellis is the starter for Baltimore today and he’s 29 with all of 30.1 MLB innings. He’s taking on Cole Irvin, a fade guy in my mind. Ellis has a 2.08 ERA with a 4.62 FIP in his six starts and two relief efforts, so he’s a guy that would typically get bet against. This line has come down 10-15 cents depending on the book. I agree with the sentiment, but I need a better price than this to fire on such an unknown like Ellis.
What I’ll Be Watching
Justin Steele: The Cubs southpaw has looked quite good through two starts. He’s struck out nine and walked three in 9.1 innings, including one start at Coors Field. He’s kept the ball on the ground at a 50% clip and has limited hard contact with a 34.6% Hard Hit%. He hasn’t generated a ton of swing and miss and is essentially a two-pitch pitcher, with 93% four-seam fastballs and sliders, but he’s been effective to this point. Daring guys to put the ball in play isn’t the worst strategy with the state of the baseball right now, so I’m curious to see how long he sustains this.
Patrick Sandoval: One of my favorite pitchers coming into the season has a tough assignment today against the Astros. Sandoval was a little inefficient in his 2022 debut, as he walked three over four innings against the Marlins, but also struck out six. He didn’t keep the ball on the ground like he usually does either. However, he limited hard contact and did so without a feel for his changeup. He threw that pitch about 30% of the time last season and only threw it 18% of the time in this outing. Against the Astros, he’ll have to use the changeup with all the right-handed bats. I’m selfishly hoping he gets rocked so that we can get some value on him in upcoming starts.
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
Mariners (-140) over Rangers: There’s nothing I dislike more for a pitcher than starting the season and having a setback. For Jon Gray, it was a blister on his pitching hand. You do all that work to get ready for the season, make one start and then get sidelined. He wasn’t sharp in his first start with three runs allowed on three hits and a ton of hard contact from a Blue Jays lineup that will do that to a lot of people. But, now, he hasn’t pitched in 11 days. Gray won’t be stretched out like some guys, which puts additional strain on what I believe to be a bad Rangers bullpen. The Texas pen does have the highest ERA in baseball to this point at 5.66. While sample sizes are small, there just aren’t a lot of good options back there.
Sure, Robbie Ray has struggled with his control in two starts, but Minnesota and Chicago were both cold-weather cities and now he’s pitching in the climate-controlled environment at T-Mobile Park. Furthermore, the White Sox maul lefties, so that start was hardly surprising. My guess is that we see a better pitch mix from Ray in this one. Also, the Seattle lineup is too good to be held down the way it has been to this point.
The Mariners have a big bullpen advantage as well. Everybody is rested on both sides with Monday’s off day, but Seattle has far more talent and several better arms to deploy after Ray leaves the game. I disagreed with the initial line move and agree with the buyback we’re seeing now. I’m on the Mariners.
Cubs (+ 105) over Rays: This line is anywhere from -105 to + 105, so make sure you shop around for the best prices. That is imperative. I’ll take a stab here with the Cubs because Matt Wisler is the opener, but then the Rays will go with left-hander Josh Fleming. He has impressive numbers to this point, especially with a big K% bump, but he’s faced the Orioles and Athletics, two lineups that have struck out a ton already.
Justin Steele is a two-pitch pitcher, which will limit him as he makes a second and third start against teams, but it shouldn’t be as big of an issue against the Rays. He’s got some very nice spin rates that should allow him to continue to limit hard contact. The Cubs should win the Hard Hit% battle and I like that there’s a little hidden value in that they get a lefty after the opener. Hopefully David Ross constructs the lineup in a good way.
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.