After a short slate on Monday, we get the full MLB menu on Tuesday and all of the games will be played at night. We’ve got some really lopsided pitching matchups, but also several pitching matchups that look pretty interesting.
For a few quick housekeeping things, I’ll have a piece in Point Spread Weekly this week about handicapping bullpens, so I’d encourage you to check that out. Next week, I’ll start putting together “The Regression Report” for both PSW and also a segment on The Run Line, the MLB show I do with Ben Wilson on Sundays from 8-10 p.m. ET. Holden Kushner will be on the desk again this week while Ben handled his Vegas Knight Hawks play-by-play duties. Lastly, check out that $59 Summer Special. I’ve seen the NFL Draft Betting Guide and it is tremendous, but we’ll also have lots of NBA and NHL Playoffs, feature articles and will keep rolling out cool betting tools for subscribers. Sign up HERE.
Giants/Brewers: I’ve never really barreled up a baseball, but if it feels as good as when you nail a handicap, it has to be special. The Giants and Brewers put a huge scare into our Under 7 in a game that was 1-0 through seven innings, but as forecasted, Milwaukee did not use Devin Williams or Josh Hader and the Giants came back off of the bullpen. They won’t all work out as well as that one did, but it was nice to read a game perfectly. It just shows the value of critical thinking, being organized and being observant, all traits I’m hoping to convey to readers with this article because I want you to be able to see all of this on your own.
Rockies/Phillies: Maybe Kyle Gibson’s early increase in strikeouts and whiffs isn’t an anomaly. He had 17 more swings and misses yesterday over 5.2 innings against the Rockies. He only had four strikeouts, but his slider generated 10 whiffs on 17 swings and has a 48.9% Whiff Rate this season. His sinker Whiff Rate is what will drop and the pitch that will regress for him, but he’s had great results on it so far. Gibson ranks in 85th percentile in Hard Hit% and 82nd percentile in Whiff%. I’m not sure how long this can really last, but he’s a completely different pitcher if those things hold.
Mets/Cardinals: The Cardinals are now batting just .222/.303/.311 against RHP. They got to Trevor May to take a 2-0 lead, but gave up five runs in the top of the ninth to drop a 5-2 decision. I feel like this angle has legs. Max Scherzer will shut down a lot of teams, but he hasn’t been the only one to neutralize this St. Louis offense. Admittedly, we got lucky with the Mets pick yesterday, but the handicap on STL vs. RHP was correct. They only had one hard-hit ball against Scherzer and struck out 10 times.
On the plus side for the Redbirds, Miles Mikolas was awesome over seven shutout innings. They need more of that with Jack Flaherty still on the mend.
Dodgers/Diamondbacks: I’m pleased to say that my dude Merrill Kelly held his own against a potent Dodgers lineup, throwing a quality start with three earned runs over six innings. He would have had to be perfect against Walker Buehler to have a chance, as Buehler struck out 10 and threw the first complete game of the season. The Diamondbacks offense is still rough, but I’ll look at the glass half-full and think about how we can back Kelly moving forward.
Red Sox/Blue Jays: Before we get excited about Jose Berrios allowing two runs on five hits in seven innings, let’s look at the context. He allowed 11 more hard-hit balls of 95 + mph. The Red Sox were only 4-for-11 with three singles and a double on those batted balls, including a Kike Hernandez barrel that wound up a lazy fly ball. Maybe I’m harping too much on hard contact with what we know about the ball and its lack of carry this season, but it just shows that a pitcher is not locating well and it will hurt them in the long run. It already has hurt Berrios this season, but it didn’t yesterday. I’m still looking for spots to fade him.
Also, it would appear that Boston is just fine on the vaccine front with the position player group. Trevor Story didn’t play, but was not placed on the restricted list. The only guy the Red Sox appear to be missing is reliever Kutter Crawford. Tanner Houck can’t start in Toronto, so he’ll probably start on Friday in Baltimore.
Guardians/Angels: Shane Bieber had a slight uptick in velo going 6.1 innings against the Angels on Monday, but gave up a couple homers and three runs on seven hits. He only had six strikeouts and only 13 whiffs in 45 swings. The stats look good over his four starts, but I’m still concerned about the lack of velo. As my buddy Gage noted on Twitter, fastball velo matters a lot to Bieber. (https://twitter.com/GageEHC/status/1518798084632842240) His xwOBA (expected wOBA) on fastballs of 93 + mph is .292. Under 93, it’s .393. That is a huge difference and a red flag going forward.
Weather: The wind isn’t really blowing in at a decent clip anywhere today. There are a couple of games where precipitation could be a big factor, all on the East Coast in Philly, Washington and NYC. Winds blowing out tonight in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago, Atlanta and San Francisco, but we don’t have much warm weather to help ball flight.
By the way, Eno Sarris (and Ken Rosenthal) at The Athletic wrote a great piece on the new baseball, the humidor and the weather effects we’ve seen so far. Find one of those $1 a month subscription offers for there. Eno’s column alone is worth it, but reading what the team beat writers have to say will be worth the low cost.
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.
The biggest injury update today is that Jacob deGrom is on the mend and will start throwing soon. In other pitcher news, Andrew Heaney and Blake Treinen are not yet throwing, so the two Dodgers will take a little while to get back.
Brewers (-165, 7) at Pirates: The total has ticked down from 7.5 to 7 and the side has come down 10-15 cents in places with Brandon Woodruff and Mitch Keller in this one. Milwaukee is in a really rough spot here from a travel standpoint, which could be part of the move. I’m not touching this game, but we are seeing both bettors and bookmakers adjusting totals down a half-run or more as all the league-wide offensive numbers are getting a lot of press.
Marlins (-120, 7.5) at Nationals: Couple things here that are interesting - the first is that money is coming in on Washington. I believe Josiah Gray has been isolated as the only Washington starter worth backing. They’ll be an underdog in a ton of games going forward, but the markets trust Gray more than any other Nats hurler. Second, Sandy Alcantara is approached differently on the road vs. at home. These numbers include eight relief appearances with the Cardinals, but his road SLG is 53 points higher than at home and his wOBA against is 30 points higher as well. Another game I’m not betting, but keep that in mind with Alcantara.
Cubs at Braves (-155, 8): The Cubs have taken about 10 cents worth of line movement here as they face a lefty in Max Fried. I’ve talked about this a lot already, but the Cubs have been isolated as a team that projects well against lefties. With Marcus Stroman on the bump tonight, they’re getting some market support with that good offensive split. However, it’s still a pretty big line. Fried is not your average run-of-the-mill lefty.
Mets (-120, 7) at Cardinals: Jordan Hicks looked good in his first start, but not good enough to earn market favor here. This is less about Hicks and more about the Cardinals, though, as they draw another well above average right-handed starter. This should be a common theme until St. Louis proves otherwise.
Dodgers (-200, 9.5) at Diamondbacks: Remember how I mentioned prior to his last start that Zach Davies was not getting bet against and how it stood out to me? Today’s line has jumped upwards of 20-25 cents on the Dodgers with a fade of Davies. That’s more like the norm. If you can identify guys like Davies, you can get market value fading them early.
Orioles at Yankees (-270, 7.5): Jordan Lyles is another one. Last week, he was facing the A’s and we didn’t see a big line move against him. The O’s won that game. This week, he faces the Yankees and we aren’t seeing a big move against him. I’d never be enthused about backing Lyles, but I do think the lack of movement early in this game is intriguing.
Royals at White Sox (-150, 8.5): Laying -150 on Dallas Keuchel seems like a risky proposition, but we have a scenario here in which Chicago is facing a lefty and money comes in almost immediately in those games. That being said, the White Sox may be down Luis Robert and are definitely down Eloy Jimenez. They’re also still missing Yoan Moncada. The blind bet against a lefty has lost some of its luster.
Guardians at Angels (-160, 7.5): I’m a little bit surprised to see this move today. The Guardians do project to match up well with lefties based on their right-handed-heavy lineup, but even southpaw Patrick Sandoval can’t get bettors to back Cleveland. This team is a mess right now and also has a very poor bullpen. This line has jumped 10-15 cents and I’m a little discouraged because I’m concerned that Sandoval is pitching too well for us to get market value going forward. The total also opened 8.5 at some places and moved down to 7.5.
What I’ll Be Watching
Josh Fleming: The Rays utilize the opener/bulk reliever concept a lot. Fleming will follow Matt Wisler today against the Mariners and we’ve seen a pretty ample line move on the Rays in that game. Fleming has a 5.40 ERA in his 10 innings, but he’s fallen on the wrong side of luck and variance in two stats that I use as strong indicators of regression. He has a 54.8% LOB% and a .448 BABIP against. Two-thirds of the balls in play against Fleming have been grounders and he has had bad luck on those thus far. That’s why he has a 5.40 ERA with a 2.37 FIP and a 1.84 xFIP. Generally speaking, those are the guys that improve quickly and we’ve seen the market buy stock in Fleming and the Rays today.
Chris Paddack: Paddack’s velocity is down through two starts, but this Tigers lineup projects to struggle against righties because of all the right-handed bats. Paddack has allowed five runs on 11 hits in nine innings, but one of those starts came against a Dodgers team that knows him very well. He’s struck out seven and hasn’t walked a batter. His Hard Hit% against is just 32.3%, which is more like what we saw when he opened a lot of eyes in 2019. I’m cautiously optimistic that the Twins can figure something out with him and he has a good matchup today to keep the ball rolling.
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 (+ 120) over Rays: I’ve stared at this game all morning, but finally decided to pull the trigger. I’m a huge Logan Gilbert fan. His height and arm slot should make it hard for teams to pick him up right away that don’t see him often. His problem last season was the long ball with 17 homers, but as we know, the ball simply isn’t carrying this season. A fly ball pitcher should also do well at Tropicana Field where offense is suppressed.
The line move here is because of Fleming and the big ERA/FIP discrepancy. The Mariners are a top-five offense against lefties to this point and do project to perform well against them with some quality right-handed bats in the lineup. While being an extreme ground ball guy, Fleming has allowed a high rate of homers in the upper levels of the minors and has had some problems with it at times at the MLB level as well. That speaks to a command concern for me.
The Mariners bullpen got a much-needed day of rest yesterday to travel to the Trop. I generally don’t like going against line moves, but I’m really high on Gilbert and I don’t think that the markets are accurately rating Fleming for this bulk appearance. I think this game is closer to a toss-up, where the line originally was, so I’ll take my chances with Seattle getting a decent plus-money price.
Tigers/Twins 1st 5 Under 4 (-125): Laying some juice on this one, but with a total move down from 7.5 to 7, that’s to be expected with a 1st 5 bet. Eduardo Rodriguez has faced the White Sox, Red Sox and Yankees to this point in the season over his first three starts with a new team. His early-season returns are not surprising in light of that slate of opponents while working with different coaches and catchers. He looked more comfortable in his last start against the Yankees and now draws a Twins offense that is league average overall and below league average against lefties to start the season.
There is a stat I like to look at called Z-Contact%, which is percentage of pitches in the zone hitters make contact with when they swing. E-Rod’s is at 80.5% per FanGraphs, which would be the best of his career. The quality of his stuff is better than the results that he has had so far. He’s just been facing some really good teams.
The Tigers have a .282 wOBA and an 85 wRC + against righties this season. They would be even lower, but have a 9.6% BB%. Chris Paddack doesn’t walk guys and that has been his biggest selling point thus far in his career. He doesn’t generate a ton of strikeouts either, but the Tigers only have a .317 SLG against righties, so they have not made quality contact in that split. Through two starts, Paddack has allowed that low Hard Hit% mentioned above and is off to the best start of his career by SwStr%, despite the decreased velo. I like the Under 4 for the 1st 5, even with the -125 vig.
Joe Musgrove Over 5.5 Strikeouts (-160): Shop around here because if you can find lower vig, I like this one. Musgrove draws a Cincinnati lineup that has struck out almost 27% of the time against righties. Musgrove has had 21 K in three starts to this point and has peppered the strike zone to this point. Saw FanDuel had this at -136 this morning. DraftKings and BetMGM had -160. I won’t use these as official picks because of the varying vig and the difficulty with tracking, but at -136 or thereabouts, this looks enticing.
We’ll be rolling out a nice MLB package with some site enhancements and a tracker soon, but I’m tracking the picks in my own spreadsheet HERE for now.