I don’t know about all of you, but I’m happy to see the month of May come to an end. The entire month felt like a season within a season, as we saw the transition from the dead ball to the livelier ball that created a lot more offense in the second half of the second month of the season. Warmer weather and humid conditions contributed to an offensive uptick, but it still felt like throwing darts with a good buzz on because there were some games with 20 runs and still a fair share of 3-1 and 3-2 games.
Hopefully June provides a little more consistency and clarity as opposed to massive adjustments on the fly. We’ll see what the first day of the month holds, as we’ve got a jam-packed card with a lot of games and a lot of left-handed starters.
Giants/Phillies: Things are not going well in Philadelphia. The Phillies have dropped five in a row, seven of eight and 12 of 16. Offense picked up around the league, but Philadelphia’s took a nosedive. In this current stretch, the Phillies are also just 1-4 in one-run games, as they just keep finding ways to lose. Yesterday’s featured more bad defense accompanied by the musical stylings of Boots Randolph’s Yakety Sax.
The cherry on top was another bullpen melt. The Phillies were also 3-for-17 with RISP. They’re pretty toxic to bet on at this point, even with some pretty good starting pitchers and a lot of offensive potential.
Nationals/Mets: Patrick Corbin gave up seven runs on 12 hits in 4.1 innings and the Mets scored 10 runs on 17 hits overall. Washington scored zero runs. Juan Soto has the 25th-lowest percentage of fastballs thrown among 164 qualified hitters and his average is down to .232. Things are really looking bleak for the Nationals. As for the Mets, well, let’s see what happens when the schedule ramps up starting this weekend in LA.
Padres/Cardinals: I scared myself off of taking the Cardinals against a lefty, but they needed extra innings to beat the Padres by a 3-2 count. Blake Snell had 15 whiffs and only gave up two runs over six innings. That paled in comparison to Adam Wainwright’s 10 strikeouts over seven shutout frames. Wainwright had 10 strikeouts with only nine swings and misses, which is crazy.
San Diego is down to a .297 wOBA and a 93 wRC + on the season. This is not a very good offensive club, which may be another reason why we’ve seen a lot of anti-Padres sentiment in the marketplace. Their 36 HR are the fifth-fewest in baseball. This does really appear to be an overachieving team.
Braves/Diamondbacks: Atlanta can’t be losing games with seven runs scored, but it happened yesterday, as the Diamondbacks won in walk-off fashion after erasing a 5-2 deficit. There were some positives for the Braves, as Matt Olson went 4-for-5 with a homer and four RBI to snap out of a skid and the team had a 50% Hard Hit%. But, it still went down as another loss to the scrappy Snakes.
Charlie Morton only had five whiffs on 36 swings. His command has really failed him this season. The curveball still has an elite spin rate, but it was hit hard yesterday and he struggled despite a velo bump. Something to watch moving forward.
Pirates/Dodgers: Baseball is a weird game. The Pirates won yesterday, which means that 25% of the Dodgers’ losses this season have been against Pittsburgh. Julio Urias gave up a two-run homer in the first and another in the second, but ultimately finished with 18 whiffs on 52 swings and eight strikeouts over six innings. Los Angeles only had three hard-hit balls out of 20 balls in ball. They drew seven walks, but had very little quality contact. It happens. Even the bad teams win 60 games and the good teams lose 60 games. It grabs headlines, but I wouldn’t adjust your thinking on the Dodgers one bit.
Twins/Tigers: These AL Central rivals split a twin bill yesterday with a Game 1 win for the Twins and a Game 2 win for the Tigers. The Twins only managed three hits in Game 2 against Joey Wentz and the Tigers pen. Now that the weather is warming up, a doubleheader makes for a really long day at the ballpark. I wonder if Game 2 unders after a high-scoring Game 1 is a good approach.
Angels/Yankees: The Angels are reeling. Yesterday’s loss extended the streak to six in a row, as the pitching has really faltered. The starters have struggled and the bullpen has been awful. Houston’s lead is up to five games in the AL West and may continue to grow. I was talking with LA CityCast host Danielle Alvari (check out my appearance on today’s pod!) about how some teams that hit well with the dead ball could be overvalued now that the playing field has leveled off. I wonder if the Angels are one of those teams, as we see their pitchers have another awful day.
White Sox/Blue Jays: A strange game north of the border here, as the starters allowed 22 hard-hit balls, but also had 32 combined swings and misses. Kevin Gausman allowed 13 hard-hit balls, but only gave up three runs on six hits. Lucas Giolito had an uncharacteristically bad outing with six runs allowed on eight hits, though he still struck out eight.
The Blue Jays offense has really gotten going over the last week, as they’re riding a six-game heater. It felt like only a matter of time, especially with their RISP splits.
Rays/Rangers: The Martin Perez Experience used to be unpalatable, but he fired seven shutout innings to lower his ERA to 1.42 in the 3-0 win over the Rays. The Rangers hit two homers in the fourth and that was all the offense in this game after Monday’s 14-run outburst. Perez only threw 85 pitches in his neat and tidy seven innings. It’s amazing to see what he’s doing, as he had 30% usage of each of the changeup, sinker and cutter and commanded them all well.
Reds/Red Sox: The Redlegs beat the Red Sox yesterday behind a dominant outing from Luis Castillo, who had 22 whiffs on 47 swings over six nearly flawless innings. He struck out 10 and walked three, while only allowing one hit and two hard-hit balls. It takes a lot to slow down the Boston offense right now, but he had it and his right-on-right changeup was a big part of the equation. His velo and spin rates were both up as well, so he seems to be in rhythm with his fifth start of the season in pocket.
Weather: Rain will be looming in a lot of places today, so it comes down to timing and placement. With the humid weather, we get a lot of scattered storms, so it’s kind of a crapshoot. Angels/Yankees is the most threatened, but a late rain delay in Royals/Guardians could be a thing. Wind is not a big factor today.
Injuries: We’re seeing a lot more injuries these days. A lot of position players and pitchers are dealing with soft tissue things. Check out our Injury Report right here at VSiN. This is also a good resource at FanGraphs (sort by date) HERE.
Nationals at Mets (-250, 8.5): We’ve seen about 20 cents worth of movement on the Mets, who are sending Carlos Carrasco against MLB debutant Evan Lee. The 25-year-old 15th-rounder has a 3.60 ERA and a 3.56 FIP at Double-A this season. It’s hardly surprising to see the Mets taking money here.
Padres (-130, 8) at Cardinals: The markets are lined up to fade Dakota Hudson in this matinee matchup in Missouri. Hudson has a 3.22 ERA with a 5.61 xERA, a 4.86 FIP and a 4.84 xFIP. Darvish, of course, is an above average right-hander, so he should be a guy that has success against this St. Louis lineup.
Astros (-220, 7.5) at Athletics: Justin Verlander gets the “ace bump” 20-cent line move today against the A’s. Cole Irvin is also a guy with a 3.15 ERA, a 5.00 xERA and a 4.22 FIP, so there is some market sentiment against him, though that will be a lot more evident in his road starts moving forward.
Angels at Yankees (-180, 8): I’m actually a little bit surprised to see this total come down from 8.5 to 8, as this feels like a really bad matchup for a pitch-to-contact lefty like Reid Detmers. Nestor Cortes has been outstanding, though, so I guess that’s the thought process. This line has moved a little on New York, but the total is what caught my eye.
Rays (-120, 7.5) at Rangers: We’ve even seen a 7 pop into the market for this total, as Jeffrey Springs faces off against his former team. It will be Jon Gray for the Texas team here, as different books have had different line moves on the side. It’s the total that grabbed my attention, but the side movement has been rather fascinating.
What I’ll Be Watching
Jose Quintana: In a season that has been a little wacky, Quintana turning the clock back to 2016 has been one of the more interesting developments. The veteran southpaw has a 2.15 ERA in his 46 innings of work with a 4.21 xERA, a 3.23 FIP and a 4.01 xFIP. He’s only allowed two homers this season after surrendering 12 in 63 innings last season. His 4.5% HR/FB% is ripe for regression and his pedestrian K/BB stats don’t grade all that well in the eyes of FIP and xFIP. But, he hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in a start and has only allowed two earned runs over his last four starts, including six shutout innings against the Dodgers on May 9.
His contact management numbers look decent with a 35.8% Hard Hit% and a low Barrel%. I’m just wondering how long he can sustain this because he hasn’t had an ERA under 4 in six seasons.
Michael Kopech: The White Sox right-hander has not pitched since May 22, as Chicago decided to give him a little bit of extra time to rest and recover. In eight starts, Kopech has worked 42 excellent innings with a 1.29 ERA and a 2.71 FIP. He hasn’t allowed a home run yet and has only allowed 17 hits. He’s walked 19 batters, but the Blue Jays don’t really walk, so this would seem to be a decent matchup.
On the other hand, Kopech is an extreme fly ball guy that hasn’t allowed a home run yet, hence the 4.60 xFIP he currently has. With some extended downtime, I wonder if he won’t be completely sharp and if some of that regression does come through with a Toronto offense that is scorching right now.
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
Braves/Diamondbacks 1st 5 Over 4.5 (-110): Let’s run this one back and try to cash another 1st 5 over in the desert. This one is 4.5 with Kyle Wright and Madison Bumgarner as the listed hurlers.
Wright had a velocity drop last start, as his average fastball velo was 1.2 mph lower than his season average and all five of his pitches saw decreases in speed. He also had some modest drops in spin rate. Over his last two starts, 12 of the 27 balls in play have been hit at least 95 mph, so his Hard Hit% is on the rise with two of his three worst performances of the season in that department. He faced the Marlins and Phillies in those two starts and the Philadelphia offense has been in the tank for the last two weeks. The Whiff% and results on his curveball have both worsened from April to May and the same is true of his fastball as well.
Like last night, this is another good matchup for the Atlanta offense. Bumgarner only has a 15.6% K%, which should neutralize Atlanta’s biggest offensive problem. MadBum has allowed a ton of hard contact as well, posting a career-worst 43.4% Hard Hit% this season. He’s pitching to a ton of fly ball contact, which helps a Braves lineup whose offensive strategy is to elevate. As a result, Bumgarner has allowed nine homers in his 48.1 innings. Atlanta ranks fifth in Hard Hit% and second in Barrel%, so the Braves should make a lot of hard contact this afternoon. The Braves also rank fourth in wOBA against lefties, so this should be another good matchup.
With all that in mind, Over 4.5 for the 1st 5 is the play here.
Twins (-115) over Tigers: After yesterday’s double dip and some warm weather, things will cool down a little bit for the fourth game of this five-game series between the Twins and Tigers. Detroit ace Tarik Skubal is getting a lot of respect in this line. Deservedly so, as the southpaw has a 2.44 ERA with a 2.68 xERA and a 2.04 FIP, but some context needs to be added to those numbers.
Skubal’s last four starts have been against Cleveland twice, Baltimore and Oakland. He’s been hit around by the White Sox and Twins and the only other good lineup he faced was Houston in a start where he allowed his only two homers of the season. Skubal has gotten away with a 41% Hard Hit% by carrying a low walk rate and keeping the ball in the park, but he draws a Twins lineup that ranks third in HH% at 42.1%. The Twins are also fifth in Barrel%. They’ve made a lot of high-quality contact.
The Tigers have not. Minnesota has almost twice as many barrels and the Tigers rank 28th in Barrel% at 5.8%. Detroit is dead last in Hard Hit% at 33.7%. That’s important because Bailey Ober pitches to fly ball contact. The Tigers are the only lineup to not have a barrel against Ober this season and Detroit also only had three hard-hit balls in that game.
Minnesota probably won’t get a ton of length from Ober, who hasn’t worked all that deep into games, but the bullpen is actually in really good shape off of yesterday’s doubleheader, including flamethrower Jhoan Duran, who hasn’t pitched in four days. Emilio Pagan is also well-rested, as is positive regression candidate Tyler Duffey.
With a Minnesota lineup that ranks in the top 10 of most offensive categories against lefties, and a lot of reasons to pick against the Tigers lineup, I’m on the Twins today.
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.