MLB schedule today has 15 games
We’re back to normal around baseball on Friday with 15 games and all of them start at 6:40 p.m. ET or later. With a busy day on diamond, we can put Thursday in the past and never speak of it again. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes it rains.
There weren’t many takeaways from Thursday’s seven-game slate, though we did have a lot of runs in a warm day game at Oriole Park and also saw Jeffrey Springs leave hurt for the Rays, who are never going to lose again. Springs said in a postgame interview that there was no pain, just numbness, so hopefully he’ll be fine and can continue his path towards being one of the game’s top starters.
Not much more to add and I’ve got a lot to get to, so let’s do it. (Tracking sheet)
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Another new episode of VSiN Daily Baseball Bets will be posted in a little while.
Here are some thoughts on the April 14 card (odds from DraftKings):
Taijuan Walker and Connor Overton top the board by rotation number with the Phillies and the Reds in Game 2 at Great American Ball Park. Walker just faced the Reds and allowed two runs on three hits with five walks and five strikeouts in 4.2 innings of work. That was slightly better than his 2023 debut against the Yankees with four runs allowed on four hits in 4.1 innings. Walker has 10 strikeouts and eight walks in 41 batters faced, so he hasn’t allowed a lot of balls in play to this point.
The ones he has have not been hit very hard, as he has a Hard Hit% of 34.8%. Walker did have a noteworthy velocity drop from his first start to his second start, as he dropped 2.4 ticks on the four-seamer per Statcast and 1.7 mph on the sinker. As is often the case with a velo drop, his spin rates dropped, as he lost over 100 rpm on his fastball and 140 rpm on his curveball, which he doesn’t use much, but his cutter was also affected and he didn’t even throw a slider.
Walker threw 43.8% splitters in that start and that’s a pitch less dependent on velo and spin rate, so he made the adjustment knowing that he was not really doing well on the gun. He also faced a lot of left-handed batters and he attacks them with splitters and four-seamers, which also explains the low slider usage.
Walker did throw the ball well in the WBC with good velo, but it seems like he may be navigating a bit of a dead arm period now.
Overton is also making his second straight start against the same team. He hasn’t been impressive at all this season with nine runs allowed on 14 hits in just eight innings of work. He’s struck out nine and walked four against the Cubs and Phillies. Overton did only allow two hard-hit balls and one barrel against the Phillies in that outing, but still allowed a lot of contact just below the 95 mph threshold.
What’s interesting is that Overton is getting a good rate of chases outside the zone and has a high swinging strike rate, but he still hasn’t found a lot of success. He’s also struggled early, as opponents are batting .563/.611/.813 the first time through the order in two games. As shaky as Overton is, there are some really big red flags with Walker and I don’t think he’s worthy of being this big of a favorite here. The Reds are a much better offense at home and I think they’re a live dog in this game.
But, I just couldn’t trust Overton enough to take this one. It was close and the Reds are one of a few dogs I like today. There’s also some rain in the forecast early and I don’t like delayed starts or rain delays once the game begins. It’s hard to gauge how teams do in those situations.
Southpaws meet in Miami here with Madison Bumgarner for the Diamondbacks and Trevor Rogers for the Marlins. I can’t imagine either pitcher is pleased with how the season has started. Bumgarner has allowed eight runs on nine hits with 10 walks in 8.2 innings of work. Both starts came against the Dodgers, so at least he gets a little bit of a break here, at least on paper. His first start was so bad that he was sent for an MRI. His second start wasn’t any better and probably should have been worse given the hard contact he allowed.
Rogers has allowed seven runs on eight hits in his nine innings of work, with both starts coming against the Mets. Arizona doesn’t have the same star power, but is an aggressive lineup that doesn’t strike out a lot. Rogers has nine strikeouts against four walks, but he has done a good job of limiting hard contact, unlike Bumgarner.
I really should be doing more to back the Diamondbacks this season, but Bumgarner is not exactly an easy guy to support. I do think this line is a little steep on the Marlins given that their offense rarely creates margin for error by scoring runs, but Bumgarner just might be that washed at this point.
Both offenses have been better against lefties to this point, as the Snakes have a .350 wOBA against southpaws and the Marlins have a .337 mark, but a total of 9 at Marlins Park is rather high. There was only one game last year with a total of 9 and it features Joan Adon and Edward Cabrera. There was only one in 2021 and that was between Jake Reed and Ross Detwiler.
The transition to being a starting pitcher has not gone well for Jake Woodford. The Cardinals right-hander has allowed nine runs on 13 hits in nine innings of work, including four home runs. He’s faced the Braves and Brewers, so those are two teams plenty capable of hitting the long ball, but he has already allowed five barrels and a Hard Hit% of 50%.
Even when he was a starter in the minors full-time, he had low strikeout rates and high walk rates, not to mention a home run problem. I’m not surprised with what we’re seeing here. He has a shallow arsenal with nearly 60% fastballs and sinkers and over 25% sliders. He just doesn’t have enough tools to be turning lineups over, but he’s also had issues getting through the lineup once. He was quite useful as a reliever last season, despite an anemic K% of 12.8%. He’s not finding nearly as much success in this new role.
This start means a lot to Oviedo, who was shipped to Pittsburgh in the Jose Quintana deal. Oviedo has one good start and one bad start to his name this season. He scattered five hits over 6.2 shutout innings against the White Sox after allowing five runs on six hits in 4.2 innings to the Red Sox. He gave up three homers in that start against Boston, but really shut down Chicago, doing a lot of it with the fastball. Oviedo threw a ton of sliders against Boston and made an adjustment against the White Sox.
What was really interesting is that he had a much higher O-Swing% against the White Sox with an arsenal change that you would have expected the opposite from, so that was impressive. Vince Velasquez actually had 18 whiffs in 46 swings yesterday against the Cardinals and he is not a very good pitcher. Since that first series against the Blue Jays, the Cardinals have only posted a .312 wOBA, as they’ve been off to a bit of a slow start.
This is just too big of a price on Woodford in my opinion. I’ll take the dice roll on the Pirates at plus money. DraftKings has a low price in the market at +135, which is unfortunate for the article, as you can find close to +145 or maybe better out there, but I see the Pirates winning here more often than the line implies. They’re actually playing really well and the lineup is much better than I expected, along with a bullpen that has ranked in the top five in several categories most of the season.
Pick: Pirates +135
Another game with a starter against his former team. Eric Lauer’s trade isn’t nearly as fresh as Oviedo’s, as he’s spent over a full season with the Brewers since being sent to Milwaukee in the Zach Davies/Trent Grisham deal a few seasons ago. Lauer was the subject of a lot of conversation after his most recent start due to a noticeable drop in velocity. With Aaron Ashby, Brandon Woodruff, and Adrian Houser already on the IL, Lauer’s health is critical for the Brewers right now.
After a decent first outing against the Cubs, Lauer struggled badly with his command against the Cardinals with six runs allowed on seven hits. He gave up two homers and an average exit velocity of 96.8 mph with a 60% Hard Hit% and his first three barrels of the season. He said after the game that he wasn’t really worried about the velo and was more worried about “finishing” his pitches.
To be fair, his velocity was down in that first start as well, but I’ll go ahead and be concerned for the both of us, Eric. Lauer saw a big K% spike in 2021 when he went from 91.8 mph to 92.5 mph with the heat. He saw another bump in 2022 up to 93.3 mph. He’s only sitting at 90.9 mph this season. Over the last two seasons, he’s had a 3.19 ERA with a 4.04 FIP and a 3.69 ERA with a 4.50 FIP. He was pitching around some negative regression to begin with, but now his velo is down substantially and his command and control have fallen along with it.
Fastball command is really the big deal for Lauer, as he allowed just a .193 batting average and a .366 SLG on his fastball last season. His spin rates are down big and his exit velocities against are up pretty much across the board.
Michael Wacha just turned in a serious gem against the Braves with 10 strikeouts over six scoreless innings with a couple hits and a walk allowed. That was a far better start than his first one against the Rockies with four runs allowed on six hits, but most that of that damage came in the fifth and sixth as he got tired. He looked much more in control during his second start.
I will note that Wacha’s velo and spin rates are down a little as well, but he has a changeup that neutralizes the platoon advantage. Right now, Lauer has nothing to keep righties at bay and the Padres project to be a good lineup against southpaws as the season rolls along. So far, they have one the lower K% marks, but only have a .267 BABIP to show for their efforts. I’d anticipate that improves quickly.
I don’t like this matchup at all for Lauer and like what Wacha has done so far to work more consistently up with the fastball and then tunnel the changeup off of that. He’s generated a lot more swing and miss than we typically see from him and more of it in the zone. Also, I like seeing him away from the AL East after two years in that division. However, -165 is a bit steep here on the price, especially when the Padres had to use all their top relievers for the second time in three days last night.
Justin Steele has only allowed one run on seven hits in 12 innings to open up the 2023 season with an 11/5 K/BB ratio. The Chicago left-hander has also done a nice job of limiting hard contact with just eight hard-hit balls and no barrels in 31 batted ball events. Steele was a breakout star last season with a 3.18 ERA and a 3.20 FIP in 119 innings with over a strikeout per inning and a 51.2% GB%. He also allowed just a 33.3% Hard Hit% last season.
He’s mostly a two-pitch pitcher with a fastball and slider, but he’s got exceptional command of both offerings and even locates well enough to keep righties at bay. He allowed just a .248/.318/.355 slash and a .300 wOBA to righties in 397 plate appearances last season. The walk rate is what I worry about in this start. The Dodgers went into Thursday’s off day with a 20% BB% against lefties in 110 plate appearances thus far. Steele does have a 10.2% BB% for his career and even had a 9.8% mark last season when he was so successful.
Noah Syndergaard has one good start and one bad start to his name thus far. He allowed six runs on eight hits and two homers in his second straight start against the Diamondbacks after allowing one run on four hits over six innings in his first. He hasn’t walked any of the 44 batters he has faced, but his two starts were complete opposites. He even went from a 12.5% Hard Hit% in the first to a 55.6% HH% in the second.
His velo was fine from one start to the next, but he didn’t get nearly as many chases outside the zone in the second start and the Diamondbacks were more patient, so they made an adjustment and he didn’t. Interestingly, even though Thor is one of the worst pitchers in baseball at holding runners, the Diamondbacks only swiped one off of him in that start. The Cubs are 10-for-13 in the SB department this season. Arizona is 17-of-18.
It looks like Syndergaard’s vertical release point was higher in his second start, which left more balls up in the zone that the Diamondbacks could pounce on. A smart organization like LA’s should notice a mechanical issue quickly and rectify it. Maybe they don’t and maybe it’s a sign of something more.
I got really close to taking the Cubs today, but Steele’s BB% worries me, especially with his ability to work clean innings early on and keep the team from having to play catch up.
Is it better to lose a 1st 5 bet with some shenanigans in the fifth inning or lose it with a NINE-RUN first inning from one team? I don’t know, but I’ll never speak of Thursday’s slate again after that mess. Jhony Brito was blasted by a pretty bad Twins lineup. Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa both ended up playing, but the rest of the patchwork unit was not impressive at all, yet they hammered Brito up and down the field.
They’ll try to keep the momentum going with Louie Varland, who made five MLB starts last season with a 3.81 ERA and a 4.30 FIP. Varland struck out nine over five excellent innings in his first Triple-A start and returns to The Show with terrific minor league numbers. The 25-year-old St. Paul native has a 2.59 ERA with 307 strikeouts against just 77 walks in 243 innings of work. At the upper levels, the Twins really did well to cut down on the walks and he’s a really interesting prospect.
Varland made his MLB debut at Yankee Stadium last year and struck out Aaron Judge for his first career punchie. Peyton Battenfield did the same for the Guardians earlier this week. Varland allowed two runs on three hits and struck out seven in 5.1 innings. In his five starts last season, he allowed 11 runs on 26 hits with a 21/6 K/BB ratio against the Yankees, Guardians, Angels, and White Sox (x2).
He certainly has some promise and some upside, but the Twins will have to deal with Nestor Cortes. Cortes has allowed three runs on 11 hits in 10.1 innings thus far with starts against the Phillies and Orioles. He’s struck out eight and walked two. His BABIP is on the high side at .344 with a 31.3% Hard Hit%, so that’s something to keep an eye on and something that should come down. He was brilliant last season with a 2.44 ERA and a 3.13 FIP and he should fare well today against that watered-down Twins lineup.
Of course, I also thought the same about Brito and, yeah…
Is today the day that the Rays go down? Their 13-0 record is on the line with a trek to Rogers Centre to take on the Blue Jays. Toronto had all sorts of problems with a pretty bad Tigers team in their first home series of the season. We’ll see what they do against the best team in baseball, at least at present.
Drew Rasmussen gets the call for the Rays on a day where Jeffrey Springs will get an MRI on his left arm. In two starts, Rasmussen has allowed just hits over 13 innings. He hasn’t walked a batter, hasn’t allowed a run, and has 15 strikeouts, but the Blue Jays are a way better group than the Nationals and Athletics. That said, Rasmussen is an excellent pitcher who had a 2.84 ERA with a 3.26 FIP over 146 innings last season. He made 28 starts and allowed three or fewer runs in 24 of them.
And that’s probably going to be good enough against the Jays if he can do that because Jose Berrios is on the mound. Berrios has allowed 14 runs (12 earned) in 9.2 innings of work so far. He’s given up 15 hits and does have 12 strikeouts against three walks, but his command profile continues to be subpar. He’s allowed a 51.6% Hard Hit% and three barrels to this point against the Royals and Angels. He had a 43.4% HH% last season with a 9.5% Barrel%. His last two seasons have been the worst in terms of barrels and last season was easily the worst in terms of hard-hit contact against.
To this point, his velo is down a little bit this season as well. I just can’t trust him in a lot of spots, especially now at home with the new dimensions to the ballpark. I wish I saw more cracks in the armor for Rasmussen because I’d look to play Over 9, but Rogers Centre was a little stingy in that Tigers series, so it’s been a bit of a slow start in what should be Coors Field Canada.
The White Sox are actually a small dog at most shops here for this matchup against the Orioles between Mike Clevinger and Tyler Wells. The Orioles won in dramatic fashion over the A’s yesterday and have really been swinging the bats well. The White Sox are without Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez, and Yoan Moncada has missed the last few days, so that may all factor into the equation here.
Wells had a 4.24 ERA with a 4.52 FIP last season and has worked 11 innings with four runs allowed on six hits with eight strikeouts and no walks this season. All four runs came against the Yankees last time out. He has a 3.27 ERA and a 4.30 FIP in the early going. What strikes me about the love for Baltimore here is that Wells is not the type of pitcher that the market typically likes to back. He’s a low-strikeout guy with wrong way ERA-FIP discrepancies as a starting pitcher. He worked exclusively in relief back in 2021. That isn’t typically a profile that induces a lot of confidence.
However, the White Sox are already underperforming again and now have some key injuries. Clevinger threw five really strong innings against the Astros in his Chicago debut and then followed it up with a pretty marginal effort against the Pirates with four runs allowed on eight hits in 5.1 innings.
I don’t think there’s much of an edge to this game. The one thing I will say is that Chicago’s bullpen is in much better shape, so that could be a live betting angle if this one is close. The Orioles logged a lot of pitches during that series against the A’s and their relievers have been used a bit more frequently. It hasn’t been enough to push me to a bet on Chicago, but it could be a factor.
It will be a cool night at Fenway Park for the lid lifter in this series between the Halos and BoSox. Patrick Sandoval gets the call for the Angels and Tanner Houck will go for the Red Sox. As you know, I am a big Sandoval guy, but he has only struck out four of the 44 batters that he has faced this season. He’s done an excellent job to limit hard contact with a 27% Hard Hit% in starts against the Blue Jays and A’s, but I’m curious where the strikeouts have gone.
Sandoval’s SwStr% is down at 10.6%, which is around league average for a starter. His F-Strike% is just 50%, so he has been working behind in the count a bit more than normal. His O-Contact% is a career-high at 71.1% after never being above 59.5%, so that’s what it is. He’s getting a similar rate of chases, but not getting guys to swing and miss when they do chase.
His spin rates are up a little even though his velocity is down a little, so the raw metrics on his stuff look good. He hasn’t used his slider quite as much, but I’m sure that’s coming, as he has only thrown 28 pitches against left-handed batters. Sandoval’s average exit velocity against on all five of his pitches was 89.1 mph or below. He’s also a strikeout per inning guy, so there’s a lot to like.
I like Tanner Houck, too, but he hasn’t located quite as well in the early going here. He’s allowed five runs on eight hits, but his Hard Hit% against is 44.4% through starts against the Orioles and Tigers. Houck had a strong 3.52 ERA with a 2.58 FIP in 2021 while primarily used as a starter. He had a 3.15 ERA and a 3.30 FIP last season while making four starts and 28 relief appearances.
Both guys are viewed in a favorable light as far as I’m concerned. They both keep the ball on the ground and have generally done well to avoid home runs. These are also two teams that don’t really run, as they’ve stolen 10 bases combined.
I like Under 9 in this one. I would have liked Under 9.5 a lot more, but it was bet down early the morning and overnight. These are two really solid starting pitchers and both bullpens had yesterday off to rest the primary arms. Also, the loss of a guy like Adam Duvall is big against a lefty here like Sandoval, as the normal Red Sox lineup is pretty left-handed-heavy and the bench platoon guys are much lesser hitters.
Pick: Under 9 (-105)
We’ve got Martin Perez and Luis Garcia in this one as the Battle of the Lone Star State commences. Perez had a spectacular 2022 eason with the Rangers and it was easily his best season as a Major Leaguer. He finished with a 2.89 ERA and a 3.27 FIP in his 196.1 innings of work. He cut down his home run rate in a big way and had the best season of his career from a LOB% standpoint.
Through two starts this season, everything looks to be about the same. He’s allowed three earned runs on 13 hits over 10.2 innings with a 12/3 K/BB ratio. His average exit velocity against is just 83.8 mph and his Hard Hit% against is just 25.8% in starts against the Phillies and Cubs. The Astros will be a good test for Perez, but he’s been locating effectively to this point and even has an early-season uptick in swinging strikes.
I’m not the least bit surprised that Garcia has a big spike in walks and a big drop in strikeouts in the early going. His entire pre-pitch routine had to be altered due to the pitch clock and it sure seems like that has had an impact on his performance. Garcia has an 11.1% BB% and a 17.8% K%, which are both quite a bit different than the 24.4% K% and 7.3% BB% that he had last season. In two starts against the White Sox and Twins, he has allowed seven runs on 13 hits in nine innings of work.
He just allowed a Hard Hit% of 61.5% in his start against the Twins and has already yielded four barrels so far this season. Garcia only allowed 34 barrels in 438 batted ball events last season. His velocity is also noticeably down, with a drop of 1.4 mph on his fastball. As primarily a two-pitch pitcher throwing fastballs and cutters now, the fact that his fastball has been so pedestrian is a huge issue at present.
I’m going to take a shot with the Rangers for the 1st 5 here. Garcia is really fighting through some things at this point and Perez seems to be pretty business as usual. The Astros are undoubtedly a tough assignment, but I’m finding a lot of dogs to my liking today, whether I’ve picked them or not (Reds, Pirates, Cubs, Rangers). Garcia had no feel for his cutter last time out and there was actually a pretty sizable spin rate drop on the pitch. It may just have been the weather in Minneapolis, but there are enough red flags in this profile for me to give Texas a look.
Pick: Rangers 1st 5 ML (+130)
The Giants have really hammered righties this season and now face a lefty in Joey Wentz as the Tigers look to build off of yesterday’s win over the Blue Jays. Wentz has struggled, though, as he has allowed eight runs on five hits and walked five in just seven innings of work. He’s only allowed one home run, which is a bummer for a Giants team that feels pretty dependent on the long ball at present, but Wentz is a fringy Major Leaguer at best at this point.
Sean Manaea’s first start of the season was interesting against the Royals last time out. The stat line looked great with six innings of one-run ball and eight strikeouts, but he allowed a 75% Hard Hit% and three barrels. He only gave up three hits, so he got remarkably lucky in that outing. I think a lot of people will be tempted to lay the Giants price or put them into moneyline parlays with Manaea coming off of a “good” start, but that was a lot of hard contact.
Also, Manaea has gotten some run about a big velo increase on his sinker, so that could sway some opinions. I still need to see more and see better command before I get interested.
It has not been pretty for Mr. Second Half Cal Quantrill, who has been better than many of the game’s aces after the All-Star Break, but has been average or so in the first half. He has not been average in his first two starts, as he has allowed eight runs on 15 hits in 9.2 innings over outings against the Mariners. Quantrill has only struck out six of the 47 batters that he has faced and is finding out that life as a pitch-to-contact guy in a post-shift world is a lot tougher.
I will say that Quantrill is pretty reliant on a cutter and I feel like I’m seeing a few pitchers that are cutter-heavy struggling early on in the season. Maybe it’s just a tough pitch to get a feel for early in the year or with the cooler weather and less grip on the baseball. I don’t know, but Quantrill is basically throwing nothing but sinkers and cutters and it would be nice to see a little more variance in the arsenal, especially because his sinker velo is down about a tick this year.
The Guardians offense doesn’t really hit the ball hard, which might play into the hands of Trevor Williams, who has almost always done well to limit hard contact. He has a career Hard Hit% of 33.2% and sits at 22.9% for this season through two starts. Williams has also only walked one of 43 batters and Cleveland’s offensive profile has been a little more reliant on the walk in the early going.
This is a weird game to handicap. In some respects, I think the Nats are live. On the other hand, they’ve been vastly better against left-handed pitchers and Quantrill is not a southpaw. It is worth noting that there will be a ton of balls in play in this game, so it could be a game subject to a high amount of variance. Cleveland’s base stealing prowess may come in handy here as well. Williams is actually pretty good at holding runners with only 23 stolen bases allowed in his career per FanGraphs, so that will be an interesting side note to follow as well.
Charlie Morton and Brady Singer are two guys at very different points in their respective careers. Singer started to morph into an ace last year just as Father Time seemed to be catching up with Morton. The veteran right-hander had his highest HR/FB% since 2010 and highest BB% since 2018. He also allowed the highest Hard Hit% of his career and far and away the highest Barrel%. The command just seemed to be on the fritz.
This season, Morton has allowed six runs on 15 hits in 10.1 innings to the Cardinals and Padres. He has done a much better job of limiting hard contact, but his K and BB numbers are now the ones under the microscope. His velocity looks fine, but his SwStr% is down and he’s not getting the same rate of chases outside the zone. He also has the lowest called strike percentage of his career since 2009.
There are so many red flags adding up with Morton that I think there will be chances to fade him as we go forward. I’m just not sure that the Royals offense will be the one to take advantage. The Royals are 29th in wOBA, better than only the Tigers, and 28 points behind the 28th-ranked Athletics. They have been a putrid offense, much to my chagrin, since I thought their offense could low-key be better this season.
Singer has allowed six runs on 10 hits over 11 innings. What worries me here is that he’s allowed a ton of hard contact with a 64.7% Hard Hit%. He’s not generating many swings and misses, which is how you neutralize the Braves lineup. His velocity is also a little light in the early going and he, too, has allowed a lot of zone contact. He is not getting many swings and misses outside the zone.
Morton at least goes from the Cardinals and Padres to a far lesser lineup where he has the chance to get right. Singer is being priced like the Singer of last season here and that’s not where he is at this stage of the season. If he flips the switch here and shuts down the Braves, so be it, but I’m getting a huge lineup advantage on Atlanta, a better bullpen, and at least a chance that Morton performs better when stepping down in class.
Pick: Braves -130
Because I need to record the MLB pod and my Ohio radio show, I’m up against it with time for Mets/A’s and Rockies/Mariners, but I didn’t have much to say about the big favorites in either game.
Angels/Red Sox Under 9 (-105)
Rangers 1st 5 ML (+130)