I’ve come to find out that increased sample sizes can be a blessing and a curse. The dead ball was more of a read and react situation early on in the season. Because we have stronger and more predictive sample sizes, I’ve gone back to old practices, like looking for positive and negative regression through Hard Hit%, BABIP and other indicators of contact quality. This, however, is a season unlike any other and maybe those methods won’t be as fruitful.
This could be an exercise in overthinking because the article best bets are in a bit of a slump over the last few days and I’ve been fighting with myself on what makes the cut and what doesn’t. Naturally, the leans or the high-priced moneylines have come through, while the tracked plays have not. You’ll battle ups and downs like this when betting any season, but baseball especially. The goal is to not let it snowball out of control and wipe out any gains you’ve made or exacerbate any losses you’ve already had.
I’ll discuss more in the recap, as trying to clear my head and look at the present over the past and future is today’s goal.
Diamondbacks/Dodgers: In the first scheduled doubleheader in forever at Dodger Stadium, the home team won both games, including a resounding 12-3 win over Merrill Kelly in Game 2. Kelly’s regression hit in a huge way, allowing eight runs on five hits with four walks over just two innings. Regression is easy to forecast, but hard to nail down. All of the sudden, Kelly’s 3.27 ERA is now higher than his 2.95 FIP and looks closer to his 3.76 xERA. Sometimes regression happens very fast and other times it is a more gradual process. This was the former.
Nationals/Marlins: The Nationals offense has gone back in the tank. Washington scored score two or fewer runs in five of the last six games, with a 13-run outburst in the middle. Because of the pitching, this team, much like the Phillies, needs at least five or six runs per game to have a good chance at a win. If you see a low offensive projection on Washington, like today with Pablo Lopez on the mound for the Marlins (or this weekend facing Eric Lauer, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta), you have to think it will be extremely tough for them to have any chance at a win.
Padres/Phillies: If MacKenzie Gore is going to piggyback certain starters now as a long-relief weapon, he’s going to be extremely valuable to this San Diego club. Gore threw three shutout innings in relief of Mike Clevinger in the 3-0 win over Philadelphia. If it’s Clevinger he’s going to follow, that is a really tough matchup.
Cardinals/Mets: Miles Mikolas threw another quality start for the Redbirds, but did allowed three runs on seven hits over six innings. Only two were earned, but he allowed 10 hard-hit balls. I’m still targeting him as a fade guy in road starts against good offenses, so hopefully we can get some winners with that angle. Doubleheaders are important for monitoring bullpen usage throughout the week, so keep an eye on these two teams, specifically the Mets, who got nine relief innings yesterday and used just about everybody in the pen.
Pirates/Cubs: Jeremy Frank (@MLBRandomStats) tweeted this excellent nugget. The Cubs are + 30 in run differential against the Pirates and -25 against everybody else. They have a .777 OPS and a 2.28 ERA against Pittsburgh, but a .652 OPS and a 4.33 ERA against the other teams they’ve played.
As an aside, Joel Luckhaupt tweeted the splits for the Reds, who are + 15 against the Pirates with a 2.79 ERA and -79 with a 6.78 ERA against everybody else.
Braves/Brewers: The Braves offense continues to mystify me. They managed just one unearned run and four hits against Adrian Houser, but did manage to win the game by shutting out the Brewers. Houser had six strikeouts and only allowed four hard-hit balls. I just cannot figure out what Atlanta’s offensive issues are, outside of the high K%, but teams have overcome that before. Even though I think the Braves are a play-on team, it makes them hard to bet right now.
Giants/Rockies: This is the game that I’m mad at myself about from yesterday. All along, I’ve screamed from the rooftops to fade Chad Kuhl. With the Giants a reasonably priced favorite with a huge pitching advantage, I didn’t do it and San Francisco won 10-7. I saw some stuff on Twitter about Kuhl’s slider and how the pitch has been grading and I let it influence my thinking enough that I stayed away. He allowed six runs on eight hits in three innings.
Alex Cobb wasn’t much better, but this was a missed opportunity and fading Kuhl will only get more expensive as he keeps throwing out these starts.
White Sox/Royals: Another missed opportunity, though this one is more understandable. I wanted to take the under in Game 2 with Brady Singer on the mound for the Royals. Chicago can’t hit righties and they proved that again by scoring just four runs in games started by Jon Heasley and Singer. Singer had 18 whiffs over his seven brilliant innings. Betting the second game of a doubleheader when you don’t know how Game 1 will play out is a real challenge, but one where maybe I should have made an exception.
Tigers/Rays: Another dominant start for Shane McClanahan and another rough outing for Beau Brieske. The Tigers aren’t any good, but their list of injured pitchers does feature their guys with upside. Brieske isn’t really one of them based on what we’ve seen so far. Cheap overs or opposing team total overs in his starts may not be a bad look.
Mariners/Blue Jays: Two starters that had allowed a lot of hard contact, Yusei Kikuchi and Jose Berrios, both spun excellent starts against the Mariners the last two days. Berrios only had four swings and misses in this start, though, so I’m far from ready to call him fixed. Logan Gilbert had 16 whiffs, but came up on the short end because of a bases loaded triple from George Springer, who struck out in his other three at bats.
The Blue Jays have played one of the hardest schedules in baseball to this point and it is lightening up a bit. The buy sign may be lit for them now.
Astros/Red Sox: I can’t say I saw Nate Eovaldi getting blown up the way he did yesterday, allowing nine runs on eight hits, including FIVE home runs, in 1.2 innings of work. Jose Urquidy allowed 12 hits over five innings, only struck one and allowed 12 hard-hit balls. There could’ve been even more offense in this game.
That being said, I feel like we’ve seen prolonged stretches of nothingness this season. We had nine runs in the first inning of Angels/Rangers the other night and only two runs the rest of the way. The Astros scored 13 runs in four innings and didn’t score again in this game. The Red Sox only scored one run after the fourth inning. Maybe this speaks to the alleged inconsistency of the baseballs. I’m not sure, but it feels like it’s happened a fair amount.
Angels/Rangers: It turned out that Reid Detmers was not very good on the heels of his no-hitter. The Angels bullpen was worse, but Detmers didn’t make it through the fourth inning after extending himself to 108 pitches in his complete game effort. The Rangers scored seven runs in the eighth for the win.
Reds/Guardians: This game did manage to go over the total, thanks to a couple of bullpen melts. I’m getting real tired of this offensive environment where starters put up KBO stat lines. Zach Plesac struck out three batters over six innings. Connor Overton struck out two. They combined to allow just four runs on nine hits with just 15 combined swings and misses. It’s really hard to fathom.
Weather: Rain threatens Reds/Guardians this evening and there are some sprinkle chances late in Yankees/Orioles, but it’s not a bad day for weather overall. We don’t even have any wind to discuss.
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.
Giants (-160, 11) at Rockies: We’ve got a couple of line moves here, with one on Logan Webb and the visiting Giants and one on the total, going from 10.5 to 11. Coors Field games have been chock full of offense, so even with a strong starter in Webb, this total has gone up. When I see something like this, it makes me think about a run line play. The line is moving on the better starter and the total is moving up, suggestive to me that the modeling crowd and other bettors project a strong offensive day for the Giants.
Diamondbacks at Dodgers (-290, 8.5): The usual 10-20 cent line move on an ace is in play today with Walker Buehler and Zach Davies. We haven’t seen a lot of money against Davies this season, and even this move is tempered a bit, but it’s another example of betting the aces early. The Gerrit Cole/Jordan Lyles matchup for Yankees/Orioles is another.
Nationals at Marlins (-200, 7.5): Same story here with Pablo Lopez at home. I like Josiah Gray long-term, but he also shows some modest regression signs with a 4.34 ERA, 4.90 xERA and a 5.39 FIP. Lopez, meanwhile, has been one of the best in baseball to this point. This line move was obvious, it was just a matter of scale.
Cardinals at Mets (-190, 7): I’m not saying that I’d fade Max Scherzer today, but what I am saying is that Scherzer is NOT getting that ace treatment with a line bump. In fact, the line has come down. That says a lot to me about this game. I don’t think I have the stomach for it, but there are strong indicators that St. Louis is the right side just based on the context of the line move.
Tigers at Rays (-160, 7): Eduardo Rodriguez has faced a really tough slate of opponents to this point, so he’s getting a little bit of love here. The fact that he has a 3.72 ERA with a 3.83 FIP over seven starts that include the Astros, Dodgers, Twins, Yankees, Red Sox and White Sox is pretty impressive. This total is also down to 6.5 in some places with Drew Rasmussen on the hill for Tampa.
Twins (-170, 7) at Athletics: This feels like a little bit of a big price for Sonny Gray pitching back in Oakland, but this line jumped around 20 cents at some shops this morning. It’s a pretty interesting move, given that Gray has a 3.68 ERA with a 4.86 FIP and Daulton Jefferies has a 4.84 ERA with a 3.85 FIP and a 3.37 xERA. Usually we’d see an opposite line move with those two profiles, but we don’t here.
Angels (-180, 7.5) at Rangers: Shohei Ohtani and the Angels have jumped up 25-30 cents here against Dane Dunning and the Rangers. Dunning has pitched well with a 4.06 ERA and a 3.27 FIP, but it is the Angels taking all of the early money here.
What I’ll Be Watching
Blake Snell: Snell returns to the Major Leagues after three minor league rehab starts. He allowed five runs on nine hits in 13 innings with 19 strikeouts against two walks. He pitched at High-A, A and Triple-A, so he’s faced a wide variety of opposing batters. Snell had a 4.20 ERA with a 4.86 xERA and a 3.82 FIP last season over 27 starts, but he only worked 128.2 innings. The Padres have adopted the same approach as the Rays, which is to limit Snell’s exposure the third time through the order. The Padres pen is well-rested, with the exception of Gore, who pitched in long relief yesterday. Snell went five innings in his last rehab start, but only threw 59 pitches. I’d expect somewhere around 70 today, as he draws a pretty good Phillies lineup.
Zack Greinke: What a strange season it has been for Greinke. He’s back in Kansas City where it all started and has a 3.52 ERA with a 3.42 FIP in his seven starts. He’s faced 158 batters and has 14 strikeouts and just three walks. He’s fully embraced the pitch-to-contact thing, which should work given the dead ball that we have this season. His Hard Hit% of 42.4% is pretty scary, but he’s managed to stay off of the barrel and get a lot of pop ups and aerial contact. He had allowed three or fewer runs in each of his first six starts before pitching in Colorado last time out.
He draws the White Sox for the second time today, with a lineup that makes a lot of violent contact and the one that hit him the hardest thus far.
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
Giants (-160) over Rockies: It’s a big price to lay, but I think it’s justified for the matinee in the mountains at Coors Field. Logan Webb and Kyle Freeland face off in this one and Webb is a positive regression candidate, while I think Freeland is showing some very concerning signs.
I mentioned this prior to Webb’s last start against the Cardinals, but more strikeouts are coming. His K% has fallen from 26.5% to 16.2%, even though his stuff is clearly good, as evidenced by his improved Hard Hit% and Barrel%, and his rate of swings and misses is still around league average. Hitters are chasing more against Webb, but are making more contact on pitches outside the zone. That should probably slow down and he should get more swings and misses as a result.
Freeland, on the other hand, doesn’t have much growth in the whiff department and is actually running the highest SwStr% of his career, but it hasn’t really led him anywhere. His velocity is down this season and he just averaged 89.2 mph with the fastball in his last start, a terrible outing against the Royals with eight runs allowed on 12 hits.
The Giants, despite a .246 BABIP against lefties, still rank in the top 10 in wOBA in that split. They should be able to rectify that a bit against Freeland, who has a Hard Hit% of 42.5% this season and has had an average exit velocity against of 90.3 or more mph in each of his last five starts.
San Francisco’s bullpen has a 3.65 ERA and a 3.40 FIP, while Colorado’s has a 5.43 ERA and a 4.37 FIP, so there is a big discrepancy between the two bullpens as well. It’s a big number, but I don’t think it’s big enough, so I’m on San Francisco.
Reds/Guardians Under 8 (-110): There is a real disconnect in my mind between this game and last night’s game. Last night’s game with Connor Overton and Zach Plesac had a total of 8. This game with Tyler Mahle and Cal Quantrill also has a total of 8. Maybe I’m missing something, but Mahle and Quantrill certainly project better than those two guys, even if Mahle is off to a rough start this season.
Mahle fits the exact mold of a positive regression guy. He has a 5.89 ERA, but a 3.56 xERA and a 3.44 FIP over eight starts covering 36.2 innings. There are a lot of encouraging signs in Mahle’s profile. He’s struck out 40 over those 36.2 innings. He’s only allowed three home runs in eight starts. His Hard Hit% is above average at 36.2% and his Barrel% is well above average at 5.7%. We also have his career home/road splits in play here. He has a 5.11 ERA with a .346 wOBA against in 239.2 innings at home and a 3.90 ERA with a .305 wOBA against in 286.1 innings on the road.
Quantrill has a 3.93 ERA with a 4.07 FIP with some below average K/BB numbers, but he’s only allowed two home runs this season. He’s faced some decent offenses, with the likes of the Yankees, Angels, Padres and White Sox in his last four starts and still has okay numbers for the season. His Hard Hit% is just 34.6% and only 13 of the last 56 batted balls he has allowed classify as hard contact.
It will be a cool, damp, rainy night in Cleveland. The ball doesn’t carry well there in April or May and shouldn’t on a night like tonight. The Guardians don’t walk, which should cut down Mahle’s BB% and the Reds do, but also swing and miss a lot, which increases Quantrill’s margin for error. This should be a low-scoring, boring affair in Cleveland tonight.
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.