With each passing day, we’re getting a bigger sample size and finding out more about this season. If you missed yesterday’s article with the early-season returns on the baseball, the decrease in fly ball distance and the lowered production on high-velocity contact, I’d recommend checking it out. It’s some pretty eye-opening data.
All 30 teams are slated to be in action and we’ve got one doubleheader in Cleveland now that the sun has reappeared.
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Cardinals/Marlins: St. Louis continued its torrid pace against lefties by scoring four runs over 4.1 innings off of Jesus Luzardo. The cardinals have a .410 wOBA against lefties and their .584 SLG leads the league. With a right-handed-heavy lineup, they could stay near the top of the league, though their park factor at Busch Stadium will suppress offense a bit.
St. Louis does have the fourth-fewest PA against RHP and they are only slugging .376 in that split. Their offensive numbers are propped up by this pace against southpaws, so offensive regression will be coming.
Diamondbacks/Nationals: Arizona scored one run over 18 innings in games started by Josiah Gray and Joan Adon in yesterday’s doubleheader. The Snakes are now batting .156/.277/.265 as a team with a .257 wOBA. They’re bad, but not this bad. They have a 13% BB%, but a 28.1% K% and have hit for no power. They’re actually 12th in average exit velocity and 20th in Hard Hit%. There will be chances to bet on this team as regression to the mean takes place.
Phillies/Rockies: Kyle Gibson’s K rampage ended in Denver, as he only struck out three. He did only allow six hits, though, so the Rockies didn’t have much success on balls in play. They also only had three hard-hit balls. Maybe Gibson’s gains are for real. I’m still highly skeptical. To this point, his Hard Hit% against is 22.2% and his average exit velo is 85.4 mph. He hasn’t been under 88 mph since 2018 and his HH% has been at least 37.7% or higher the last three seasons. He’s also faced the A’s, Marlins and Rockies, albeit at Coors Field. I’m hoping to make some money fading him soon.
Braves/Dodgers: As I mentioned yesterday, there’s a market perception about the Dodgers being “bad” (in a relative sense) against lefties. They validated it yesterday by getting shut down by Max Fried. What’s more interesting to me is that Walker Buehler only had two strikeouts and only has 11 K against six walks in 15.2 innings of work. His SwStr% is 12.2%, so that’s good enough to support a league average or better strikeout rate, but his CStr% (called strike percentage) is way down and he’s not finding the zone nearly as much. His spin rates are down quite a bit, too. I’m keeping a close eye.
Yankees/Tigers: Gerrit Cole and Tyler Alexander combined to get just eight outs, leaving the two bullpens to work a long, hard day in Motown. When games like that happen, you want to keep an eye on the future. In a vacuum, it may not be a big deal, but if a starter leaves the game early again in an upcoming game, that’s where the issues really start to mount. Fortunately, both teams had Monday off, but monitor this situation.
Blue Jays/Red Sox: Since scoring 10 runs on Opening Day, the Blue Jays have only scored 33 runs over their last 10 games. They’re still third in Hard Hit% (White Sox, Yankees) and seventh in average exit velocity, so they’re making good contact. However, they also have the third-highest GB% (Cubs, Rockies) offensively, so they’re not driving the baseball for extra-base hits. I’m not really sure what the deal is with this team, as they had the fifth-lowest GB% last season. It could just be the list of pitchers that they’ve faced, but they’re not elevating the ball and it’s to their detriment right now.
Angels/Astros: It took 85 pitches to get through four innings, but Patrick Sandoval only gave up an unearned run and the Angels rocked Framber Valdez without Mike Trout in the lineup. Sandoval’s start probably wasn’t good enough to really skew his upcoming lines, but I was hoping he’d get tagged so I could get some future value.
I thought it was interesting that Jeremy Pena led off in Jose Altuve’s absence. It’s also still fascinating to me that this lineup is so good that Kyle Tucker and Pena hit sixth and seventh or eighth regularly. Insane.
Twins/Royals: In two starts against the Guardians and Twins, Carlos Hernandez only has one strikeout in 8.2 innings. He allowed 10 hard-hit balls yesterday and has allowed seven runs on 14 hits. I’m not really a big fan of the command profile. The raw stuff is intriguing, but he can’t locate it. The Royals have been limited to nine games, but their starters have 23 K in 42.2 IP. Even with a deadened baseball, that won’t get it done. This team looks pretty awful this season in the early going.
Once this series with the Twins ends on Thursday, the next 12 games will be against the Mariners, White Sox, Yankees and Cardinals. I think we can fade away there.
Orioles/Athletics: On Sunday, I wrote about how the A’s have significantly overperformed with RISP to this point. Well, they were 1-for-10 yesterday, but still took home a 2-1 decision over the Orioles. They were batting .373 with RISP with a .422 BABIP going into Sunday’s game. They are now batting .258 with a .305 BABIP. That’s the thing about early-season sample sizes – they can change very quickly. This still isn’t a very good team and we’ll find fade spots, but their numbers with RISP corrected in the blink of an eye.
Rays/Cubs: The Cubs did their part against Josh Fleming, but Justin Steele was unable to keep the Tampa offense at bay, splitting yesterday’s picks. One random note – Matt Wisler got five outs as the opener for the Rays yesterday on 18 pitches and every single one of them was a slider. The Cubs still look dangerous against lefties, but Steele’s bad outing hurt that bet. Maybe the play was the over, but it’s hard with what we know about the baseball and cold weather thus far.
Weather: Winds are blowing in for the games in Colorado and Detroit, with big breezes out to LF at Wrigley Field. Both Drew Rasmussen and Marcus Stroman tilt towards the ground ball side, with Stroman one of the league’s leaders pretty regularly. That’s why we’re only seeing a 9 on that total.
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.
COVID is definitely a thing around MLB right now. The Guardians put Cal Quantrill, Owen Miller and Anthony Santos on the COVID list this morning. With the extra roster spots through May 2, this isn’t just roster manipulation. MLB isn’t testing, so players are self-reporting symptoms.
The Red Sox now have both catchers on the COVID list. Teams will put unvaccinated players on the COVID list throughout the season to manipulate the roster for games in Toronto, but with the Blue Jays on the road, that is not the case right now, outside of what Oakland did last weekend.
Phillies (-110, 11) at Rockies: Colorado has won six games as a plus-money underdog to this point, as they’ve been the best team in baseball to back, but they are a slight dog again today. The total has fallen from 11.5 to 11 with Zach Eflin and German Marquez as the listed starters. Balls aren’t carrying. Home runs are down. I just think most high totals will be bet down right now and this one applies.
Braves at Dodgers (-125, 8.5): The Braves have taken a bit of money here with a 10-cent line move or so against the Dodgers. It’ll be Charlie Morton and Tony Gonsolin. The Dodgers have only given up 31 runs in 11 games, but this is the second day in a row we’ve seen Atlanta investment with a relatively short favorite number. Yesterday’s made sense with Fried on the bump. I’m less understanding about this one.
Reds at Padres (-190, 8.5): Two things are happening here. The first is that the Reds are simply terrible. The second is that the market is betting against Vladimir Gutierrez again. The modeling crowd must have him graded as one of the worst pitchers in baseball. He’s been bet against in his starts this season and that was a trend last season as well. If you see his name on the card, you may want to bet against him on the overnight line to get a good price and then see what happens.
Cardinals at Marlins (-140, 7.5): I’ve mentioned this already, but it feels like Miami’s Big Three of Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez and Trevor Rogers will take money at home in nearly every start. That’s the case today, as the markets are against Miles Mikolas once again. This is a perfect storm with the desire to back Alcantara and fade Mikolas. It may look like an uncomfortably big number for a Marlins team that can’t hit, but influential bettors trust the pitching at home.
Giants (-120, 6.5) at Mets: Another 6.5 total here in this series. Carlos Rodon is taking the money following two impressive starts to begin his Giants tenure. I’m a big Chris Bassitt guy and am a tad surprised to see the line moving so definitively. If the line keeps running out, I might come back on the Mets, but we’ll see how it progresses.
Angels (-125, 8.5) at Astros: We’ll see if Mike Trout can return to the lineup for the Angels, which would probably push this line back, but the markets are going against Shohei Ohtani here after a rough outing last time. Let me preface this by saying that I am NOT a team vs. pitcher stats guy. The sample sizes aren’t large enough. However, some in the market do believe in them and Ohtani has a 5.92 ERA in six starts against Houston. I do believe those things can drive line moves. I just don’t personally put stock in them because it’s six starts and there’s nothing statistically predictive to them.
Rangers at Mariners (-150, 8): Logan Gilbert and the Mariners have become a bigger favorite against Dane Dunning and the Rangers. This is the correct line move in my estimation and I only mention it because I think we’ll continue to see Gilbert’s prices driven up. He’s highly thought of in the baseball and betting communities. He’s becoming one of those ace-like pitchers that you have to bet early to get in front of a line move.
Orioles at Athletics (-125, 8): I’ve been in this business a long time. I’m not sure I can recall another time in which the betting markets moved a number on Jordan Lyles. Now, that may be mild hyperbole, but it basically never happens. It says a lot to me about the current perception of the A’s and what they’re doing. Fascinating line move.
What I’ll Be Watching
Triston McKenzie: So, I’m not a McKenzie guy. He generates a lot of swing and miss, but also has serious command and control problems. His career K% is 28.5% and his BB% is 10.6%, plus he’s allowed 27 HR in 160.1 innings of work. When you consider that over 39% of plate appearances against him end in a K or BB, that’s a lot of home runs relative to contact.
Against a White Sox lineup that doesn’t strike out much and makes a lot of loud, violent contact, I’d like to see something from him. He has a 30.8% K% against right-handed batters and the White Sox have a lot of them, so my hope is that he matches up a bit better than most. It’ll be an interesting start to follow to say the least.
Blue Jays Offense: Nick Pivetta gets the call for the Red Sox today and he’s become a pretty extreme fly ball pitcher. He’s also a guy with poor command and has allowed a lot of home runs with a 17% HR/FB%. In two starts thus far, 17 of 24 batted balls have been hit at least 95 mph. This is the kind of guy that the Blue Jays need to attack and punish. I’m hoping that they’ll do so.
Wednesday 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
Diamondbacks 1st 5 (+ 105) over Nationals: The time has come to take a shot on the Diamondbacks. Merrill Kelly is one of the guys that I’ve had my eye on for a while. He’s got a diverse pitch mix with nice spin rates across the board and has a really good pitching coach in Brent Strom (formerly with the Astros) to help unlock more of his potential.
In two starts against quality lineups thus far, Kelly has 13 K over 9.1 innings versus the Padres and Astros. He hasn’t allowed a run on seven hits and four walks. He’s added some more depth and spin to his changeup, which has been his primary swing and miss pitch. It’s a good one to have against guys like Juan Soto and Josh Bell to neutralize their platoon advantage.
Erick Fedde has also made sweeping changes as well, throwing far more curveballs last season and carrying that over to this season. Perhaps it works out, but I still can’t shake the fact that he was in the bottom 35% in average exit velo, Hard Hit%, xwOBA (expected wOBA), xERA, xBA, xSLG, Barrel% and K% last season. He’s just not a good pitcher. For an Arizona lineup that is performing unsustainably bad offensively, I’d like to think Fedde could be the cure for what ails them.
I’m giving up about 10 cents on the full-game line to avoid the Arizona bullpen, but I’ll make that trade with a group that has the lowest K% in baseball by 4.3%. Diamondbacks 1st 5 for me.
Blue Jays/Red Sox Over 9 (-115): As mentioned above, this has to be an optimal kind of matchup for the Blue Jays against Nick Pivetta. He doesn’t keep the ball on the ground, allows a ton of hard contact and has below average command. In two starts this season against the Yankees and Twins, 17 of 24 batted balls have been hit at least 95 mph and Pivetta’s average exit velocity in those two starts are 98.2 and 99.5 mph. That’s beyond awful. By exit velo, Hard Hit%, xwOBA, xERA, xBA, xSLG and Barrel%, Pivetta ranks in the bottom 1% this season. If the Blue Jays can’t hit him, something is terribly wrong.
Jose Berrios has not been sharp either. He was better in his second start against the Yankees, but still allowed three runs on six hits over five innings with a ton of hard contact. While Berrios’s contact management numbers aren’t quite as bad as Pivetta’s, he’s still allowed 11 hard-hit balls on 20 balls in play and five barrels.
We should get the hard contact we need for an over here. Hopefully the BABIP gods are on our side.
Mets (+ 110) over Giants: I do still have that lean in this game. I am a really big Chris Bassitt guy. Both pitchers have been great to this point, but they’ve also faced poor lineups. Carlos Rodon has shut down the Marlins and Guardians, while Bassitt has tamed the Nationals and Diamondbacks.
If this line keeps running, I’ll have some interest in the Mets. For now, I’m biding my time.
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.