MLB Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Friday, September 15th

By Adam Burke  ( Managing Editor) 

September 15, 2023 11:25 AM

MLB schedule today has 15 games

We’re back to a full slate in Major League Baseball, as all 30 teams take the field on Friday. The MLB regular season ends two weeks from Sunday, unless a Game 163 is needed to decide the AL West. We wouldn’t have a play-in game for the Wild Card, as the spot would simply go to the team with the better head-to-head record. With 13 games against division opponents, it would be impossible to have a tie if the Wild Card teams are within division. If the H2H record is a tie outside of the division, then it goes to the “intradivision” record, so record against the four other teams within the division.

It looks like the Wild Card races will be coming down to the wire, which means paying a premium on those teams on a pretty regular basis, unless they are facing each other.

We’ve got a lot of things to get to today, so let’s dive right in and try to find a play that looks better than the nothing burger on yesterday’s card. Wish I had taken that Twins run line, though.

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Here are some thoughts on the September 15 card (odds from DraftKings):

Atlanta Braves (-170, 9) at Miami Marlins

The NL card is full of big favorites, including the Braves in this one. I mostly just wanted to touch on this game to note that Bryce Elder has stabilized a bit. He allowed seven runs three times in the span of a month and five runs in another start, but he’s allowed eight earned runs over his last five starts. I’m still not in love with the underlying metrics and he’s a reliever to me come playoff time, but he’s stabilized a bit.

I guess I could also mention that Johnny Cueto has allowed 24 runs in his last 31 innings, including 10 homers. He’s allowed eight runs on 10 hits in 8.2 innings in two September starts. The Braves are coming off of clinching the NL East on Wednesday, but did have a day off to nurse hangovers and fly down to Miami.

Cincinnati Reds at New York Mets (-115, 7.5)

The Reds are a short dog against David Peterson and the Mets in this one, as Hunter Greene takes the hill following two really good starts. After allowing 14 runs on 15 hits in 6.2 innings following his return from the IL, he’s allowed two unearned runs in his last 11.1 innings with a 15/5 K/BB ratio. Greene has had some issues throwing strikes, but he’s done well to limit hard contact in those last two outings and got a little bit of swing and miss back.

The Mets put Peterson back in the rotation as of August 4 and he’s allowed 15 runs on 33 hits in 32 innings of work. He’s winless over those seven starts, but has a 4.22 ERA with a 4.98 FIP in that span with 35 K against 17 BB. He’s allowed four runs twice and three runs once, with all of those outings over his last four starts. He has allowed a 44.8% Hard Hit% and a 10.3% Barrel% in that span, so he’s definitely allowed some loud contact.

Cincinnati played yesterday and lost, but was able to give Alexis Diaz, Lucas Sims, and Ian Gibaut all the day off after those three guys worked Tuesday and Wednesday. I lean with the Reds in this one, but I don’t feel strongly enough to jump in with it. I’m not a big Peterson guy, but the Reds are only 17th in wOBA against LHP over the last six weeks.

Philadelphia Phillies (-142, 8.5) at St. Louis Cardinals

There are a couple of reasonably-priced favorites on the NL card, with the Phillies here and the Cubs coming down the line. This one features Aaron Nola against Zack Thompson. Nola has a 4.64 ERA with a 3.83 xERA and a 4.21 FIP over 176.1 innings of work. He’s got over a strikeout per inning and a nice walk rate, but he’s got a 15.9% HR/FB% and has allowed a career-high 31 homers this season.

He’s also allowed 11 runs over his last nine innings of work. He did throw seven shutout at home against the Cardinals on August 27 with nine strikeouts in what has easily been his best start of the second half. He actually has a 5.18 ERA over his last 10 starts, though he does have a 3.99 FIP and a 3.52 xFIP, so the advanced metrics paint a prettier picture, but he has a 62.7% LOB%. For the season, he has a 65.8% LOB%, which would be his second season over the last three with a LOB% under 67%.

Thompson will make his sixth straight start here and seventh of the season. Over that span, he’s posted a solid 3.71 ERA with a 3.52 FIP over 34 innings pitched. His one relief effort in his last seven outings was four innings in a bulk role. He actually worked in a seven-inning start two outings ago. He’s allowed nine runs on 17 hits in his last 16 innings.

The Cardinals have won three straight series over the Braves, Reds, and Orioles, so I guess they aren’t just playing out the string like I expected them to. At least not right now. It’s tough to lay this number with Nola given how poor he’s been at working out of jams.

I will be curious to see how Busch Stadium plays over these final two weeks. It’s actually been a pretty good park for offense throughout the summer, but past iterations have been better pitcher’s parks. It’s cooling off now with first-pitch temps in the mid-70s and creeping into the 60s as the game goes along. Let’s see if that helps Nola’s homer problem.

San Francisco Giants (-225, 10.5) at Colorado Rockies

Well, I got my wish and now it’s time for the handicap to hopefully follow through. Logan Webb and Chase Anderson are listed for tonight, as the rain has moved out and the Giants and Rockies will play a single game this evening and a doubleheader tomorrow.

Here’s what I wrote yesterday, edited to reflect today:

Chase Anderson faced the Giants six days ago at Oracle Park and allowed six runs on six hits in just 3.1 innings. He’ll face them again today, but do so at home, as the Giants head to Denver on the heels of taking two of three against the Guardians. Anderson has a 6.49 ERA with a 6.40 FIP for the season and just came back to the team on September 3. He’s allowed eight runs on 10 hits in 7.1 innings since his return.

Webb comes in with a 3.40 ERA, 3.70 xERA, and a 3.28 FIP during what has been a very solid 2023 campaign. He’s on track to set a new career-high in fWAR, but this start is one where I have some reservations.

First, Webb has had good numbers since the start of August with a 3.16 ERA and a 2.93 FIP, but he has only struck out 37 in 51.1 innings. Second, he has allowed a 46.8% Hard Hit% in that span. While he is an extreme ground ball guy and that has kept him out of trouble for the most part, especially since his only two below average starts have been against the Braves, he’s going on the road here.

Home: 102.2 IP, 2.37 ERA, 2.93 FIP, .227/.259/.337, .259 wOBA

Away: 90.1 IP, 4.58 ERA, 3.69 FIP, .267/.301/.432, .315 wOBA

There are some defined home/road splits here for Webb. The big K% decrease from 25.3% in the first half to 19.2% in the second half is a concern to me. His HR/FB% jumps from 13.6% at home to 19% on the road.

It will be cool in Colorado tonight, but it is still a road start at elevation. Maybe he goes out there and pitches really well. I still think San Francisco has a high offensive projection against Anderson, who has allowed a .401 wOBA in 63 innings as a starter this season and just allowed three barrels and a 46.2% Hard Hit% against the Giants last time out.

Pick: Over 10.5 (-115)

Chicago Cubs (-142, 8.5) at Arizona Diamondbacks

This line jumped about 10 cents this morning with Justin Steele up against Brandon Pfaadt. Steele has not allowed more than three earned runs in a start since May 26. Pfaadt just allowed four runs on seven hits, including three homers, to the Cubs five days ago. Steele allowed one run over six innings six days ago against Arizona. So, we’ll see what each guy has in store for this one. 

Steele definitely has the higher projection and the Diamondbacks are a bottom-10 offense against lefties since the start of August. The Cubs offense has cooled off considerably, as they have fallen out of the top 10 against righties since August 1, so maybe the under is the way to look in this one, but I’m not going to be involved in the game.

Tampa Bay Rays (-135, 8.5) at Baltimore Orioles

We’ve got a few competitively-lined games in the AL tonight, including Game 2 in this huge AL East series between the Rays and Orioles. Tampa Bay’s bullpen has not allowed an earned run in 34 innings and that was the difference last night, as the Rays pen fired four shutout innings and scratched out a solo homer against Kyle Bradish in the seventh to score a 4-3 win.

The Rays pen racked up seven strikeouts against zero walks in four hitless frames. Keep in mind their recent dominance when handicapping this one, as Zach Eflin takes the hill against Jack Flaherty. Eflin has a 3.53 ERA with a 3.08 FIP for the season, but a 4.01 ERA with a 3.03 FIP in the second half. He’s only allowed six homers and has a 59/8 K/BB ratio over 58.1 innings of work, but has had a few rocky outings. He’s only allowed nine earned runs over his last five starts since allowing six runs on nine hits on August 13.

Flaherty has not found much success with the Orioles. After looking great in his first start, he’s allowed 22 runs on 31 hits in his last 21.2 innings of work. He’s allowed nine runs in just eight September innings and a 47.2% Hard Hit%. We automatically assume that smart organizations will be able to get the most out of Trade Deadline acquisitions, but sometimes the changes are too much to think about and execute all at once. Sometimes negative variance hits. Flaherty has also had some problems maintaining his velo.

It looks like the Rays definitely have the edges in this one, but that -135 price tag also seems pretty fair (and has been rising). I’m not excited to rush and back the Rays at that number.

Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays (-135, 8)

The biggest series of the season for the Blue Jays begins tonight. Toronto was swept and humiliated by the Rangers over the last four days and needs something to feel good about. The sweep took Toronto 1.5 games back of the Mariners for the final spot. The Red Sox are 7.5 games out and are just one game over .500 after losing three of four to the Yankees.

Jose Berrios and Brayan Bello are the listed starters for this one. Bello has allowed three runs in each of his last three starts, but he’s a far cry from where he was around the All-Star Break, as life has settled down a bit for him and he’s been able to focus more on the task at hand. He’s got a 3.14 ERA with a 3.54 FIP over his last 28.2 innings of work.

Regression signs are still present for Berrios, who has a 3.63 ERA with a 4.62 xERA and a 4.15 FIP in his 171 innings of work. At his point, it’s hard to say we’ll get them, but you never know. We had some, as he allowed 16 runs over four starts to finish out August. He’s allowed four runs on nine hits in his last 13 innings, but he’s faced Oakland and Kansas City in that span. The Red Sox are a pretty clear step up in class.

There are a lot of intangibles around this handicap. The Jays coming off the sweep. The Red Sox coming off of yesterday’s shocking Chaim Bloom news and manager Alex Cora’s white flag last weekend. Just not enough to feel like I have an edge one way or the other.

Texas Rangers (-120, 8) at Cleveland Guardians

The Rangers and Guardians square off this weekend, as Texas seems to have a lot of positive vibes rolling and Cleveland has very few. The Guardians went 2-4 on their West Coast swing, but did lead in every game against the Giants, suffering an excruciating extra-inning loss on Wednesday to round out the trip. Now they’re back in Cleveland, where the temperatures have cooled and the realities of the end of the season have arrived.

Jon Gray gets the call for the Rangers here and his recent struggles are why this line is where it is. Gray has allowed 15 runs over his last five starts and actually has a 5.05 ERA since the All-Star Break. He does have a 3.65 FIP in that span, as he;’s allowed a .376 BABIP and a 68.8% LOB%. The high BABIP does come with a 43.1% Hard Hit%, so he’s reaped some of what he’s sown, but he has only allowed a 5.4% Barrel% in that span.

Lucas Giolito followed up the worst start of Cleveland’s season at the worst possible time by allowing four runs on four hits to the Angels. He has allowed nine home runs in his last three starts and 11 homers in his last five. Since making his first start with the Angels, he has allowed 16 homers in eight starts and owns an 8.02 ERA with a 7.45 FIP over 42.2 innings.

Maybe I’m a square, but this line is too short and I’m on Texas. I’m not even sure Cleveland is invested on a nightly basis, but I know Texas is and, while Gray has struggled, Giolito’s been a hell of a lot worse lately.

Pick: Rangers -120

Detroit Tigers (-122, 7.5) at Los Angeles Angels

Skipping over Twins (Bailey Ober) and White Sox (Jesse Scholtens) and Astros (Cristian Javier) vs. Royals (Zack Greinke)...

We head to Anaheim for this one between Tarik Skubal and Griffin Canning. Skubal comes in with a 3.47 ERA and a 2.20 FIP, as he’s been either really good or really bad in his 12 starts. Skubal has allowed four or more runs four times, has one middle of the road start, and has allowed two or fewer runs in seven of his starts. He’s allowed a 41.8% Hard Hit%, but just a 4.4% Barrel% and has a 75/13 K/BB ratio in his 62.1 innings of work.

Canning has a 4.34 ERA with a 4.25 FIP over 110 innings of work. He’s back in the rotation full-time now and has allowed six runs on 17 hits over 18.1 innings of work in his last three starts. I still think guys like Canning and Patrick Sandoval need a change of scenery to an organization that does better with pitching, but we probably won’t get that.

I don’t have a bet in this one. I thought I’d like Skubal and the Tigers, as I think they’re still playing hard and I can’t really say the same about the Angels, but Canning has thrown the ball well and Detroit’s offense, while improved, is still below average since August 1 against RHP.

Los Angeles Dodgers (-115, 7.5) at Seattle Mariners

Skipping over Yankees (Gerrit Cole) at Pirates (Johan Oviedo) and Padres (Seth Lugo) at Athletics (Sean Newcomb)...

The only interleague game with a competitive line is the Dodgers and Mariners, as we’ll see Bobby Miller and George Kirby. Kirby makes his first start after using the media to complain about manager Scott Servais’s decision to push him past 90 pitches last time out. Kirby gave up a game-tying two-run homer to Rene Pinto and the Mariners eventually lost 7-4.

It was probably nothing more than frustration from Kirby, who has allowed 15 runs over his last four starts, but it is a continuation of what we’ve seen from the Mariners and their young pitchers lately. All of those guys are dealing with some measure of fatigue. Kirby had a start skipped to end August in hopes of getting him back on track. It didn’t really work. It was the third time in five starts that he’s exceeded 100 pitches in that Rays outing and he hasn’t gotten a whole lot of run support lately, so these are all high-stress innings.

This will be his first start at home since August 12, as his last four starts have all fallen on the road. He has a 2.87 ERA over 75.1 innings at home with a .255 wOBA against. Compare that with a 3.99 ERA and a .313 wOBA against on the road, where he’s +62, +54, and +89 in BA, OBP, and SLG.

Youngster Bobby Miller has allowed 14 runs over his last four starts, with four or more in three of them. He’s fallen on the wrong side of variance in those starts with a 64.1% LOB% and just a 28.6% Hard Hit% and a 6.5% Barrel%. His velocity still looks great and he’s got a 14% SwStr%. It looks to me like he’s just been the victim of some bad luck rather than any sort of noticeable decline in his skills or his performance.

Kirby has allowed a 49.3% Hard Hit% in his last four starts and a 10.1% Barrel%. He’s not locating all that well and I do think he’s getting a bit tired. The Dodgers can be had at a better price elsewhere in the market, so shop around, but I think we’ve got a straightforward handicap with the better team just a small favorite and I think the Dodgers put more balls in play off Kirby than the Mariners do against Miller.

Pick: Dodgers -115

TL;DR Recap

SF/COL Over 10.5 (-115)

Rangers -120

Dodgers -115

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