There are two things that I can’t stop thinking about from last night. The first is that Mike McCready remains the best guitar player I’ve ever seen live and he still absolutely shreds at the ripe old age of 56. The second is that using Liam Hendriks six times in eight days in the month of May is a fireable offense.
Pearl Jam had yet to come out when Josh Naylor hit his titanic grand slam and had some choice words for the cameras and White Sox fans. I was shocked to see that an 8-4 game necessitated an appearance from Hendriks in the mind of Tony La Russa. Managers trying to get stats for players is a tale as old as time. To qualify for a save, the bare minimum is that the tying run has to be on deck. That was the case when Hendriks came in to face Owen Miller. He allowed a single and then Naylor hit the no-doubter. For good measure, Naylor hit the game-winning three-run homer off of Ryan Burr, but this White Sox pen and La Russa’s usage of it will be a story over the next week or more.
Stats like having a starter go five innings to qualify for a win or all of the baggage that comes along with saves, including defined reliever roles, can be to a skipper’s detriment. I try to keep a mental file of the guys that will bend over backwards to do stuff like this because it can end up like what we saw last night.
Dodgers/Pirates: Full marks to the Cubs, who stepped up in a questionable spot, but we didn’t see that same effort from the Dodgers in the 5-1 loss to the Pirates. We’ll see what happens in this series going forward, but the Dodgers have only lost series to the Diamondbacks and Rockies thus far. The only thing that can stop this team is themselves and their own level of engagement. I think we can cash some plus-money tickets if we try and isolate some of those spots. Apparently yesterday was one of them with four hits and one run on a meaningless Edwin Rios pinch-hit homer in a 5-0 game in a game started by Jose Quintana.
Brewers/Reds: The Reds won again! And they beat a good pitcher! Well, Brandon Woodruff is usually good, but this season has been a mess for the Milwaukee righty. Woody has a 5.97 ERA over his six starts covering 28.2 innings. He is a clear positive regression candidate with a 3.55 xERA, a 3.57 FIP, a 59.3% LOB% and a .342 BABIP against, but he is also not locating well at all with a 44.2% Hard Hit%. Woodruff’s career-worst HH% was 35.4% back in 2018.
He’s throwing a higher rate of first-pitch strikes than ever and his SwStr% is also the highest of his career. There are a lot of positive indicators, but his command is still off.
Marlins/Diamondbacks: Tom Verducci wrote an outstanding article about first-year Diamondbacks pitching coach Brent Strom. Arizona eked out a 4-3 win, as the Marlins lost yet another one-run game, but the big takeaway for me continues to be how dramatically improved this D-Backs pitching staff is. In this offensive environment, it’s easier to win 4-3 or 3-2 and Arizona has enough offensive punch to do that much. I look for pitch usage changes or other philosophy changes coming into a season to try and find some betting value. Strom has changed everything about this staff for the better and the bullpen is even performing better than I expected. Coaching matters. Think of pitching coaches like defensive coordinators. You handicap those in football, right? Why not consider what pitching coaches are doing to have a positive effect on teams.
Cubs/Padres: Let’s look for some residual effects on Kyle Hendricks next time out. To help a beleaguered bullpen and push for a complete game (managers trying to get players stats), Hendricks threw 116 pitches in yesterday’s win over the Padres. That was the first time since June 4, 2019 that Hendricks threw at least 110 pitches and the most since he threw 123 pitches on August 1, 2016. He threw an absolute gem, but pitchers aren’t built for that workload anymore.
A’s/Tigers: I’m really upset with myself. I started putting the A’s in as a best bet yesterday and then realized that they had lost nine games in a row. For some reason, that took me off of the game, especially because my first impression was to be surprised that the Tigers were favored. Sometimes, you just have to trust yourself. The Oakland offense is still listed as missing on milk cartons, but Paul Blackburn’s 6.2 innings of quality work was enough to win. I’m also stunned at how bad the Tigers are. That season win total ticket may go down as my worst bet of 2022.
Guardians/White Sox: I’ve already covered this game a bit, but I cannot stress enough how much handicapping bullpen workload matters if you are betting full games. I also have to give credit to Zach Plesac. I haven’t been high on him at all, but after giving up the four first-inning runs, he didn’t give up another one until the seventh. Maybe that’s a building block for him and the team. His velocity also ticked up a day after Aaron Civale’s did the same. It would be nice to see Cleveland hurlers add some mph back.
Phillies/Mariners: I’m a big proponent of grading handicaps to see what I missed and what I got right. Sometimes you miss everything and that’s what happened in this game with the Phillies and Mariners. Credit to the Phillies for overcoming a really rough spot off of the doubleheader against the Mets. It was also a huge positive for them to see Ranger Suarez pitch extremely well with seven strikeouts in six innings. Sometimes you get a game dead wrong, but you can’t dwell on it. Into Tuesday we go.
Weather: Maaaaybe we’ve turned the corner. With 16 games on the betting board today, precipitation is not really a factor in any of them. It’s even warming up in a lot of places. The only game threatened by rain is Guardians/White Sox, but it may take a Josh Naylor cloud-piercing homer to get some sprinkles, as the wet stuff is supposed to hold off until overnight.
Wind could be a modest negative in Detroit, NYC and San Diego, with potentially helpful breezes in San Francisco and Anaheim.
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.
Dodgers (-240, 8.5) at Pirates: Dodger bounce back day? Maybe, but I also think Bryse Wilson is one of the lowest-graded starters for the modeling crowd, so we’re seeing some LAD investment to bump this line up as the highest on the board for Tuesday. Wilson is one of those guys to follow for overnight line moves. If you don’t see it, it will speak volumes.
Brewers (-185, 8.5) at Reds: There are some 8s juiced over -125 and some 8.5s out there. I just wanted to mention briefly that Great American Ball Park was one of the absolute best hitter’s parks in baseball last season and has been good to power hitters for a long time now. I don’t know how the baseballs will adjust to warmer weather, but this is a park I’d keep a close eye on. We saw 15 runs yesterday, which probably isn’t predictive in and of itself, but in terms of offensive upticks, this one might happen sooner rather than later.
Rockies at Giants (-205, 7.5): Operation Rockies Road Fade has been engaged once again, this time with Antonio Senzatela on the bump against Alex Wood. It doesn’t hurt that Senzatela has a 3.75 ERA with a 6.44 xERA, a 4.33 FIP and a 4.73 xFIP, but the Rockies get bet against on the road with regularity. If you look at their home/road splits, it’s easy to see why. I wrote about this in my season preview, but the Rockies entered this season 437-408 dating back to the 2011 season at home and 332-508 on the road. It makes sense to fade them away from Coors.
Blue Jays at Yankees (-170, 7.5): Market confidence is very low in Yusei Kikuchi. He does have a 4.35 ERA with a 5.69 FIP on the season, but he’s faced the Yankees twice, Houston twice and Boston once, so he’s had a rough set of assignments. It’s like he’s taking AP Calculus when he should be in Basic Algebra. All in all, outside of the walks, I give him credit for being halfway decent. The market doesn’t seem to be giving him much credit, though, especially with Luis Severino’s solid start to the season.
Rays (-120, 8) at Angels: Sometimes bettors get to decide which team should be favored. With Corey Kluber and Reid Detmers on the hill for their respective clubs, this game opened about a moneyline pick ‘em in the -105 or -110 range both ways, but bettors have spoken and they are siding with Kluber and the Rays. I think this says more about Detmers than anything else.
Phillies (-125, 7) at Mariners: The markets are against Robbie Ray and the M’s today. We could see this line swing back a bit if J.P. Crawford comes back to the Seattle lineup. Ultimately, Ray just hasn’t been as sharp and I think there are still segments of the betting market that want to fade him based off of last season’s 90.1% LOB%, which was the highest ever.
What I’ll Be Watching
Joe Ryan: The first one here was easy. Ryan has been very solid in five starts with a 1.63 ERA and a 3.08 FIP, but he’s faced the Mariners, Red Sox, Royals, Tigers and Orioles. The Astros represent a clear step up in talent and in class. All of the peripherals look great for Ryan. He’s limited hard contact and stayed off the barrel. He’s gotten some strikeouts and stayed away from walks. Everything looks really promising, but today is a big test. We’ll see if he aces it.
Mike Clevinger: Clevinger was very emotional going into his last start against the Guardians. He was facing his former team and close friend Zach Plesac in his first start since September 23, 2020. He went 4.2 innings and fell just shy of having a chance at a win, something that manager Bob Melvin pushed for. Clevinger only gave up one of the runs, but two inherited runners scored that were put on his tab. He walked two guys in the fifth as his pitch count climbed higher than the Padres wanted it to go with 95 tosses.
He’s on an extra day’s rest here, so we’ll see what happens. He only allowed three hard-hit balls to the Guardians in 14 batted ball events, despite being behind in a lot of counts and not having much swing and miss. With each passing start, he should improve, but I’m not totally confident in him today against the Cubs.
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
Astros/Twins Over 7 (-110): This is a premier pitching matchup between Justin Verlander and Joe Ryan, but both guys have statistical profiles that look unsustainable. We’ll start with Verlander, who has a .192 BABIP against with a 92.4% LOB%. As a fly ball pitcher, he can maintain a low BABIP, especially because home runs don’t count towards that stat, but his career-best of .218 in 2019 was one of his two seasons below .240. He has a 1.93 ERA, but a 2.89 xERA and a 3.23 FIP, so we’re not talking about huge regression, but we don’t really need that with a total of 7.
As mentioned, this is a step up for Joe Ryan. Ryan has only allowed one hit in 14 PA with men in scoring position, so he’s gotten fortunate in that split, as evidenced by a 90.5% LOB%. He also has just a .212 BABIP against. Like Verlander, we’re looking at modest regression signs, with a 1.63 ERA, a 2.93 xERA and a 3.08 FIP. Still, it’s enough for me to take the shot here with a low total and some clear, sharp action on the over.
Even if the Astros don’t fully get to Ryan, I have the Twins bullpen pegged as a major regression candidate. Minnesota’s relief corps has a 3.03 ERA with a 3.71 FIP and is running an 82.9% LOB%, which is among the best in baseball. The Astros pen has some signs as well, running a 2.61 ERA with a 3.21 FIP. It just feels like the right kind of scenario to take a cheap under line.
Braves (-140) over Red Sox: This seems like a pretty hefty price to lay against Garrett Whitlock, but there is a method to the madness and why this line sits where it does. Whitlock has been terrific over 21.2 innings with a 1.25 ERA and a 2.16 FIP. That includes three starts with three runs allowed on just seven hits with 18 strikeouts against two walks. His hard-hit rate does suggest that the .196 BABIP he currently sports will be going up and his 90.2% LOB% should, in turn, go down.
Kyle Wright has been nails for the Braves thus far. His Hard Hit% sits at 33.8% and he’s only allowed four barrels heading into a start against a Boston lineup that is only batting .228/.279/.342 on the season. Atlanta’s offense has had its issues, but grades almost at league average, whereas Boston sports an 80 wRC +, sitting 20% below the league average.
Ultimately, even if these starters cancel each other out, the Braves rank third in bullpen fWAR and have a 3.28 ERA with a 2.77 FIP. Boston, meanwhile, ranks 26th in fWAR with a 4.19 ERA and a 3.95 FIP.
I’m also trying to bet on the Braves right now, who I think show a lot of positive stats and signs of some regression to their mean, which is a lot higher than the average team. It’s a bit of a chalky play, but one that I think is the right side.
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.