There were some pitching changes and scratches yesterday around Major League Baseball, which serves as a good reminder to talk about something very important. When you go to lock in a baseball wager, make sure you are selecting the option that your bet only applies to the two listed starting pitchers. NEVER select “Action”. Action means that you are locked into that team regardless of the starting pitchers and you are also locked in at a revised moneyline based on the new pitchers.
For example, let’s say you bet on the Guardians with Shane Bieber on the mound at -130. Bieber is scratched with an illness and Eli Morgan starts. If you selected “Action”, suddenly you’ve bet on Morgan at whatever the new line is without doing an ounce of handicapping about him. Always make sure you are selecting the option that the listed pitchers must start. If that option isn’t available, read the House Rules or contact customer support to see what their default policy is.
Unrelated, a couple of quick things I found interesting this morning. There were 299 shutouts last season. We’ve had 52 already in less than four weeks of this season.
On average, teams win about 83% of the time with a lead after five innings. This season, teams are winning 90.4% of the time. The 2022 season features the lowest reliever ERA since 1992 and the lowest FIP since 1989. I would think some regression towards the mean shows up and we get some bullpen blow-ups with shortened rosters and the increased workloads, but this stat blew my mind today.
Braves/Mets: The Mets just keep on winning. Yesterday’s doubleheader sweep opened up a 4.5-game lead in the NL East, the largest of any division. The Braves are now down to 11-15 and are squandering a lot of talent. One guy whose talent may be melting away is Charlie Morton. Morton only had five whiffs in 45 swings yesterday. He has a 6.85 ERA in five starts and only 18 strikeouts over 23.2 innings. He’s also having serious control problems. The 38-year-old has gotten somewhat unlucky, as his contact management metrics are solid and his spin rates remain well above average, but the results are not there.
Carlos Carrasco, on the other hand, looked great again with 17 whiffs and eight shutout innings. This rotation is something special and Jacob deGrom still isn’t back.
Diamondbacks/Marlins: The scrappy Diamondbacks won another one-run tilt in South Florida yesterday and sit just one game below .500. This was a huge line move on the Marlins, a game that moved up about 50 cents, but the D-Backs got five off of Trevor Rogers and barely held on. There are some proven bats for Arizona (Marte, Peralta, Walker, Kelly) that aren’t hitting at all, yet this team is finding ways. They’re kind of intriguing going forward.
Reds/Brewers: Another day, another Reds run line loss. It’s comical at this point. Joey Votto is also on the COVID IL now, not that he was hitting at all. Of teams that played 162 games, the 2003 Detroit Tigers have the worst record at 43-119. The Reds are on pace for 21 wins.
Nationals/Rockies: I had some really anxious moments last night with the over 10.5 in this game, as German Marquez held up his end of the bargain, but Erick Fedde somehow did not. The Rockies were 4-for-16 on batted balls of 95 + mph against Fedde, who only had three whiffs in 44 swings. Fortunately, Marquez was awful again, with seven runs allowed on 10 hits over five innings. In looking at his release point, in-game velocity and results, I think he’s pitching hurt, but we’ll have to keep looking to fade him until proven otherwise.
Giants/Dodgers: Julio Urias was pulled after six shutout innings and 65 pitches by manager Dave Roberts in the Dodgers’ 3-1 win over the Giants. For his career, opposing batters own a .255/.310/.418 slash with a .311 wOBA against Urias the third time through the order, which is actually well above average. But, the numbers are certainly higher than a .292 wOBA the first time through and a .258 the second time. I think Dave Roberts may have been a tad aggressive here, but he knows his team better than I do.
Roberts said that he felt the Giants were getting good swings. Their last seven balls in play against Urias were 98.2, 95.6, 94.2, 98.5, 84.9, 95.1 and 74 mph. In any event, this is a watered-down Giants lineup missing Yaz and Belt, so the Dodgers aren’t getting the best version, but this was still a good game.
Twins/Orioles: Yesterday it was the Twins bullpen that held down the fort and allowed the offense to go off and score plenty of insurance runs, as Minnesota kept right on rolling. I did write about the Twins in my first installment of The Regression Report for Point Spread Weekly. I’d encourage you to check that out.
Yankees/Blue Jays: Two botched calls went against the Blue Jays and the floodgates opened in the 9-1 loss to the Yankees. Toronto was 1-for-11 with RISP, as their incredible struggles to score runs continued. I also wrote about that in The Regression Report. Jameson Taillon and Alek Manoah were both great before the Jays bullpen imploded in the seventh. For all the angst about the Yankees coming into the season, they’re playing awfully well now, but my main takeaway is still this Toronto offense with RISP. It has to end at some point.
Angels/Red Sox: Let’s keep an eye on Michael Wacha going forward. Wacha has a 1.38 ERA with a 3.88 FIP and a 4.13 xFIP. He’s got a .162 BABIP and a 94.3% LOB% with a very low strikeout rate. He’s also teetering on the brink of the highest walk rate in his career and his average exit velocity against is a career-worst 90.2 mph. He looks like a straight fade candidate to me, despite his good early-season results. He hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any of his five starts, but none of this looks all that believable.
Rays/A’s: Ryan Yarbrough looked all out of sorts in his return to the big leagues with just one whiff on 21 swings. He gave up a five-spot in the first, allowing a home run with an xBA of just .220. The game featured seven runs in the 10th inning, so the high score was a tad misleading, but it’s still hard to pinpoint the Rays right now. By the way, to further expand on Jason Collette’s note about the Rays infield defense from the weekend, the Rays have allowed the 11th-highest batting average on ground balls, slightly above the league average at .231. The Rays are at .238.
Most notably, the Reds have allowed a .306 (!!) batting average on ground balls so far, followed by the Nationals at .286 and the Giants at .284. The luckiest teams? Angels .186, Braves .191, Padres .193 and Brewers at .200.
Rangers/Phillies: The impacts of a bad bullpen and a bad defense were on display in Philly yesterday. Ranger Suarez came back out for the sixth after narrowly escaping disaster in the fifth. Joe Girardi has no trust in his pen, so he tried to milk another inning out of Suarez. A single and an error later and Seranthony Dominguez had to come into a leverage spot with two guys on. He got two strikeouts before giving up a two-run double.
Suarez threw 24 pitches in the fifth and loaded the bases before getting out of the inning, getting lucky on a barrel from Adolis Garcia with a .910 xBA that wound up a harmless fly out. He had no business coming back out for the sixth, but he did and it may have cost the Phillies the game. Bad relievers will push managers into lose-lose situations and that’s what happened here.
White Sox/Cubs: Why does reliever usage matter so much to me? Liam Hendriks pitched for the third time in four days in a back-to-back situation on Tuesday. His fastball velocity was fine, but his spin rate was down 152 rpm from his season average. He threw two sliders that were down 249 rpm. This could be a reporting error from Statcast, but the quality of a pitcher’s stuff absolutely declines with a heightened workload.
Cardinals/Royals: I wouldn’t call Brad Keller an above average righty, but he’s pitched well so far this season. Over 6.1 innings, the Cardinals only had five hard-hit balls and managed just four hits and three walks with zero runs. This is really becoming a theme for their offense against an average or better right-hander. When they win, it seems to be in spite of their offensive shortcomings. I need to take more advantage of this angle.
Weather: Not much today. Rain is in the forecast in a few places, including Denver and New York. Minimal wind impacts around the league today as well. Winds will be blowing out in Detroit and LA and that’s really about it.
Injuries: Check out our Injury Report (https://www.vsin.com/injuries/mlb/) right here at VSiN. Also, my friend @MLBDream on Twitter put together a great MLB beat writer list to follow.
Diamondbacks at Marlins (-160, 7.5): Another day with a big move on the Marlins at home. This is also a fade of Madison Bumgarner, a noted regression candidate from my Regression Report column. We saw Elieser Hernandez take money at home in his last start and we’re seeing it again today for the day game. This one starts too early to be actionable based on the article, but I am looking to fade Bumgarner moving forward.
Reds at Brewers (-280, 7.5): We’ve seen a heavy move on the Brewers in a big favorite role with Freddy Peralta against Vladimir Gutierrez. I’ve mentioned this before, but when Gutierrez is on the bump, bet against him early because his lines move in just about every start. He must be regarded as one of the worst MLB pitchers by the modeling crowd that shapes the lines.
Mariners at Astros (-225, 7.5): Aces taking money is a tale as old as time. Justin Verlander is the one today, as the market is fully out on Matt Brash of the Mariners. Verlander has looked like the same elite pitcher we’ve always seen. Brash does not look ready for the big leagues. This line has jumped about 30-40 cents.
Rays (-130, 7) at Athletics: I really like what Frankie Montas has done this season, but bettors are once again fading Oakland to back Corey Kluber and the Rays. Klubot has been rather effective so far with a 3.05 ERA and a 3.46 FIP in four starts. I don’t know if this is a buy on him, so much as a fade of the A’s. We’ll have to see in upcoming starts.
Yankees (-140, 8.5) at Blue Jays: Nasty Nestor Cortes is getting all the love today as the Yankees square off with the Jays and Yusei Kikuchi. Things have not gone well for Kikuchi thus far with a 5.52 ERA and a 6.62 FIP. Meanwhile, Cortes has a 1.31 ERA and a 1.43 FIP in his four starts.
Rangers at Phillies (-155, 8): We’ve seen a big move down on the Phillies here with Zack Wheeler on the bump against Martin Perez. I’m a little bit surprised by this one, but I don’t think market confidence is high in the Phillies, especially with their bullpen mishaps. Perez is typically not a guy viewed in high regard by investors, but the Rangers have moved down 20-25 cents.
What I’ll Be Watching
Dylan Bundy: It was all unicorns and rainbows for Bundy in his first three starts against the Mariners, Red Sox and White Sox with one run allowed on 10 hits in 15.1 innings of work. Then he gave up six runs on seven hits over six innings against the rays. Bundy still owns a 2.95 ERA with a 2.93 FIP and a strong 19/3 K/BB ratio. Credit to Bundy, who gave up four in the first on four straight hits to open the game and then settled in to throw five innings of two-run ball after that.
He draws a bad Baltimore offense here in a park that used to be a house of horrors for him. I’m on record as saying I don’t think Minnesota’s start to the season on the pitching side is sustainable. We shall see.
MacKenzie Gore: Gore’s MLB career is off to a fine start with three runs allowed on 12 hits over 15.1 innings of work. Two of those starts have come against the Reds, accounting for 17 of Gore’s strikeouts. In his debut against the Braves, he allowed two runs on three hits over 5.1 and only had three strikeouts with a lot of hard contact against. The Guardians offense isn’t exactly spectacular, but does profile fairly well against lefties and has the lowest SwStr% in the league. This will be a test of Gore’s fastball command, as he seems far less likely to just pump fastballs past Cleveland hitters as he did to the Reds, who have the fourth-highest SwStr% and the league’s highest K%.
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
Rockies 1st 5 (-145) over Nationals: I went back and forth between the total and the side here because I want to go against Patrick Corbin in some way, but it will be a cold and dreary night in Denver. With that in mind, I opted for laying the price on the Rockies. Corbin has a high strikeout rate, but it is a mirage. His SwStr% is down to 10%, his lowest since 2016 and it comes with a Z-Contact% (percentage of pitches hit in the zone) of 85.6%, his best mark since 2018. The quality of his stuff isn’t good enough for that to be sustainable.
He has already allowed seven barrels and has a Hard Hit% of 41.9%, marking his third straight season of 40% or higher. He ranks below league average in everything but K%, which, as I just said, is a mirage. His velocity continues to decrease and his results on his four-seam fastball and sinker are simply terrible. He does throw a lot of sliders, but that pitch has flattened out for him in recent seasons as well.
The Rockies have the best offense in baseball against lefties right now with a .387 wOBA and a 141 wRC +. They are running an unsustainably high BABIP and their numbers will come down, but probably not against a guy with bad command like Corbin. The Nationals, meanwhile, rank 21st in wOBA against lefties. They’ve been good offensively, but primarily against righties.
Austin Gomber has made three of his four starts on the road, which is why I contemplated the over, but he’s also a guy that allowed just a .254 wOBA at home in 47.1 innings last season. He was good up from May through July before injuries popped up and he spent the latter part of the season on the IL.
The 1st 5 line and the full game are roughly the same, so I’ll avoid a Colorado pen that ranks 30th in ERA with a high walk rate and a low strikeout rate and just fade Corbin.
Angels/Red Sox Under 8.5 (-115): It will be Reid Detmers and Garrett Whitlock in this matchup between the Halos and Boston. We’re used to Fenway Park being Coors Field of the East, but in the depressed offensive environment, the ballpark has yielded under seven runs per game through eight games. It is a small sample size, but I’ve talked about Boston’s offensive struggles to this point and they are quite staggering.
One big reason why is because the Red Sox have a 74 wRC + against lefties. They only have a .313 SLG in that split, so they haven’t generated any power against the side that should probably be more advantageous to them with the number of right-handed bats in the lineup. Detmers has a 5.19 ERA, but does have a 4.52 FIP and a 3.76 xFIP, as he’s gotten a bit unlucky with a 63.3% LOB% in his 17.1 innings.
Most importantly for this handicap, the Angels bullpen is in great shape. Losses are never good, but Raisel Iglesias, Aaron Loup and Ryan Tepera all have had at least two days of rest, so they’ll be ready to go in this one and manager Joe Maddon will likely use them even if trailing to stay sharp and keep the game where it is.
Whitlock has worked 16.2 innings and been thoroughly impressive with an 0.54 ERA and a 2.17 FIP. Two of his six appearances have been starts and he’s allowed an unearned run on five hits over seven innings with nine strikeouts and two walks. Righties only have five hits in 37 plate appearances with 12 strikeouts and he draws a righty-heavy bunch today. For his career, Whitlock has held righties to a .219 wOBA in 226 plate appearances.
With Monday off, the Red Sox pen is in fine shape as well, so the pitchers should be in line to rule the day at Fenway.
Guardians (+ 125) over Padres GAME 2: I like to see how Game 1 plays out first, but I think there’s some equity in betting on Cleveland in Game 2. It will be MacKenzie Gore against Cal Quantrill. The first game today will be started by Mike Clevinger, who is projected to go around 75-80 pitches, which could put a little strain on the Padres pen to start the day.
The Guardians are third in SLG on pitches of 95 + mph and run into Gore, whose fastball averages 95.5 mph. He throws it just shy of 70% of the time, so I think this is a decent matchup for the Cleveland offense, certainly better than the matchup that it was for the Reds. Gore is unlikely to get the same rate of swings and misses and is going to allow more balls in play here.
Quantrill doesn’t miss many bats, but has excellent command, so he’s able to limit hard control and maintain control of the game. The walks are an annoyance this season, but he’s a guy that should be able to thrive in the current run environment with the increased drag on the baseball. That wasn’t even the case last season, but he still had a 1.94 ERA and a 3.82 FIP in 88 innings over the second half.
Barring some kind of mess in Game 1, or heavy usage for Cleveland’s top leverage relievers, I’ll be on this game. It won’t be tracked for the sheet, but it is very likely to be a play.
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.