MLB schedule today has 13 games
A new week begins in Major League Baseball with a lot of night games. We’ve lost one to cold weather and another is threatened (Guardians/Tigers), but it is a good night of action on the diamond. A lot of today’s pitchers are making their fourth starts of the season, so we’re starting to get closer to meaningful sample size with the stats. The more data points, the better. (Tracking sheet)
There were only 86 homers hit Friday-Sunday, but the league-wide BB% was up at 9.7%, so walks have continued at a high rate. Stolen bases were also 81-for-93 (87.1%), so those also remain a thing.
I’m seeing a lot of stats about home runs being up.
While they are up from 2022, they are actually lagging a little behind the 2021 pace, so my quote tweet is slightly inaccurate. Last season had some of the deadest balls we’ve seen in 50 years. It is not a good comparison to make. So, don’t let that fool you. Yes, homers are up relative to one of the worst offensive seasons we’ve ever seen, but still lagging behind a normal season like 2021. Offense is up because there are more walks, more hits, more baserunners, and more steals. Home runs are not an outlier this season.
Last quick note, temperatures have lowered this week in a lot of Midwest and East Coast cities. We even have some chilly evenings on the West Coast. Tough days and nights for hitting in a lot of places.
I’ll talk about that and more on a new episode of VSiN Daily Baseball Bets today.
Here are some thoughts on the April 17 card (odds from DraftKings):
Logan Webb got bumped back a day because of a rainout in Detroit on Sunday, so he’ll draw this start against the Marlins in his first one after signing a contract extension. Webb signed a five-year, $90 million deal that will kick in next season and buys out three years of free agency. It’s a good deal for both sides, as Webb owns a 3.53 ERA with a 3.21 FIP in 451.2 innings of work. Everybody handles contracts differently. Some guys tense up a bit trying to immediately justify the deal, while others just treat it like business as usual and maybe even relax with some financial security.
I don’t know which group Webb will fall into, but his stats signal a good bit of positive regression through three starts. He’s got a 4.76 ERA with a 3.98 xERA, 4.32 FIP, and a 2.48 xFIP. Webb has a 22/3 K/BB ratio in 17 innings, but has allowed four home runs. He’s allowed a .341 BABIP and has a 58.4% LOB%. BABIP and LOB% are two good indicators for positive regression under the right conditions. In this case, Webb’s high K% of 31.4% is a good sign. His Hard Hit% of 48.9% is not and the Giants aren’t a very good defensive team, though their early-season metrics look better than I expected.
Jesus Luzardo looks great for the Marlins in the early going. He was great last season in 100.1 innings of work with a 3.32 ERA and a 3.12 FIP, but he’s cut down on the walks and the homers thus far in 2023. His K% is down a little, despite an uptick in velo, but still grades highly at 27%. Luzardo has also induced weaker contact on the whole with a 1.9 mph dip in average exit velocity and a 5.1% drop in Hard Hit%. In two starts at pitcher-friendly Marlins Park, he has only allowed one run over 12.2 innings with 15 strikeouts.
The Giants are 29th in wOBA against LHP at .246 and have struck out in 30.9% of their plate appearances. By comparison, they are second in wOBA against right-handed pitching. Sample sizes are still pretty small, but San Francisco doesn’t profile as a good offense against lefties given the composition of the lineup. The Marlins are also much worse against righties than lefties to this point.
No play for me on this one, though, as I really like Webb, especially against this lineup and in this park. This may just come down to a bullpen game and the 1st 5 total is too low to gamble on in my mind.
Merrill Kelly has had a weird season to this point. He faced his archnemesis twice in the LA Dodgers and allowed two earned runs (four total) on nine hits in 9.1 innings. He also faced the Brewers last outing and allowed three runs on just one hit (homer). Kelly has 15 strikeouts in 15.1 innings, which is great. He’s also walked 12 guys, which is not great. He’s issued four free passes in each of his three starts, but has only allowed seven total runs and only 10 hits. He has a 2.93 ERA with a 4.76 FIP and a 5.05 xFIP, so the advanced metrics aren’t keen on his start to the season.
Kelly has altered his pitch arsenal this season to throw more cutters, changeups, and curveballs, which are all harder to throw in the zone. His Zone% is 41.3% per Statcast compared to 53.5% last season and his career mark of 52.7%. He’s getting more swings and misses and a couple more chases outside the zone, but he’s also throwing a lot more balls. Remarkably, hitters haven’t done much with the advantageous counts, but his average exit velocity is up at 91.8 mph and his Hard Hit% is 44.4%, over 8% higher than last season.
In other words, he’s flirting with disaster regularly, but so is Jack Flaherty, who has walked 14 batters in his three starts. He did just make a start at Coors Field with only one walk in 5.1 innings, so maybe he found something to fix the issue. He’s also allowed just three earned runs on nine hits in 15.1 innings. Like Kelly, the advanced metrics aren’t shedding a positive light on him, with a 1.76 ERA, 5.41 FIP, and a 5.91 xFIP.
The Diamondbacks only have a 4.9% BB% this season and their offense is really lagging behind most of the league with an 85 wRC+. They may not be able to take advantage of Flaherty’s wildness as the Cardinals may with Kelly. On the other hand, Kelly has quite a bit of upside and the new pitch mix should ultimately lead to weak contact and more strikeouts than most of his seasons. Not to mention another season with pitching coach Brent Strom.
Really tough handicap here, as the Cardinals are priced at a level they don’t really deserve again (see the Pirates series), but neither pitcher has trustworthy metrics.
Speaking of regression candidates, Kyle Freeland is on the hill for the Rockies in this one against the Pirates. Freeland has a 0.96 ERA with a 3.66 xERA, 4.34 FIP, and a 5.32 xFIP in his 18.2 innings of work. He’s running a .212 BABIP and a 100% LOB%, as both runs he has allowed have been solo homers. Freeland’s BABIPs by season in his career are .308, .285, .308, .305, .325, and .318, so we’re talking about a pitch-to-contact guy whose home park is very penal for that profile.
And Freeland has pitched to a lot of contact this season, as he has only struck out 11 of the 70 batters that he has faced. Furthermore, while Freeland’s Hard Hit% is just 35.2% and his Barrel% is 5.6%, his average exit velocity against is 90 mph, so he’s given up a lot of batted balls just below the 95 mph threshold for a hard-hit ball. His velocity is also noticeably down this season coming out of the World Baseball Classic. American pitchers like Kelly, Miles Mikolas, and Lance Lynn have all had some issues post-WBC. Freeland has, too, but we just haven’t seen them appear in his stat lines yet.
In his last start, he allowed a 52.9% Hard Hit% and all three of this season’s barrels to the Cardinals with an average exit velocity of 96.5 mph. He allowed just two runs on six hits over six innings. I think he’s really flirting with disaster, even more so than a guy like Kelly.
The question then becomes whether or not I can back the Pirates with Rich Hill. Hill has two respectable starts and one terrible start. He allowed seven runs on eight hits over four innings against the White Sox, but has allowed five runs on eight hits in 11 innings against the Astros and Reds in his other two outings. Hill only has eight strikeouts in 65 batters, so there isn’t much to like there, but the Astros don’t strike out much and he clearly didn’t locate well against the White Sox, who have hit lefties well for the last several seasons.
Is the 43-year-old Hill done? Maybe. I mean, he’s allowed 10 barrels in three starts, even if his Hard Hit% is 34%, so he’s certainly gotten his money’s worth on hard contact. He’s down to throwing 86-87 mph with the fastball and he’s getting virtually no swings and misses or chases outside the zone right now. However, his stuff against the Astros last time out was better, as he made a pretty big usage change to throw a lot more cutters and actually cut back on the curveball. He also seemed to make a mechanical change that resulted in more extension and a different horizontal release point.
It’s entirely possible his mechanics have just been a little wacky. He also had better velocity on the fastball in his last start. He didn’t get much more swing and miss, but he did see much lower exit velocities across the board. His spin rates were a bit better as well, which was likely a byproduct of the increased velo.
I feel like I’m trying really hard to talk myself into taking Dick Mountain and the Pirates. Maybe a little too hard. Though, it is worth noting that the Rockies have a 72 wRC+ against lefties, while the Pirates are a bit better with a 89 wRC+. Pittsburgh’s bullpen is up against a bit, though, too, so if anything it would be more of a Pirates 1st 5 look. I just couldn’t get there.
Max Fried returns to the Braves rotation after missing some time with a hamstring strain and he is a big favorite as Atlanta has rattled off six wins in a row since losing three straight to the Padres. It will be Ryan Weathers for the host Friars, as they look to get back to .500.
Fried did not make a minor league rehab start, rather just threw some bullpens and a sim game. I’m always extremely skeptical of pitchers that get hurt early in the season. You do all that work to get ramped up for the year and get your arm to where you want it by Opening Day and then you’re out for a while. Fried’s last actual game action was March 30. He looked good against the Nationals in that start over 3.1 innings, but I think it’s fair to wonder how he’ll look here against a quality Padres lineup.
It’s also fair to wonder how far he can go here and what his pitch count will be. I would guess Lucas Luetge would be first out of the pen for the Braves, who were rolling with nine bullpen arms, but one likely goes down to activate Fried (probably Danny Young). I would guess the plan for Fried is like 60ish pitches, so keep that in mind if you’re looking at any props with him.
This is what I would call a subpar matchup for Weathers. The left-hander has seen a big velo spike this season, but he’s never really been a big strikeout guy. The Braves are beatable when you can induce a lot of swings and misses. The Royals did not and got swept. Weathers does a decent job of keeping the ball on the ground, but also allowed 20 homers in 94.2 MLB innings back in 2021.
Weathers is also left-handed and the Braves are second in baseball in wOBA against lefties. They have a .408 OBP, which is 22 points higher than anybody else. Weathers has only allowed a 16.7% Hard Hit% to this point over 30 batted balls against the Diamondbacks and Mets, but that rate will go up here for sure.
Another tricky handicap because laying -140 on Fried in a shortened start is a tall ask, but Weathers doesn’t match up very well here.
We’ll see southpaw David Peterson against the Dodgers here and that seems like a really bad matchup for him. Peterson has walked eight batters in just 14.2 innings of work and the Dodgers have the highest BB% against lefties at 15.9%. They’re running a .176 BABIP in that split, so it has hurt their offensive numbers, but they are drawing walks and making things interesting in those matchups.
Outside of the walk rate, Peterson has been both lucky and unlucky. The fact that he has only allowed eight runs is a real stroke of luck with 19 hits allowed, plus the walks. On the other hand, the .415 BABIP is not supported by his 30.2% Hard Hit% and 4.7% Barrel%. He’s done a good job of limiting hard contact and really shouldn’t have given up as many hits as he has. He’s faced the Marlins, Brewers, and Padres to this point.
The variance of baseball is pretty evident in this pitching matchup. May has allowed a Hard Hit% of 40.8%, but his BABIP against is just .143. He’s gotten pretty fortunate on balls in play, while Peterson has not, despite allowing a much lower rate of hard-hit contact. May has 12 strikeouts against seven walks in 18.1 innings of work. May has only allowed three runs on seven hits over 18.1 innings of work. He also has a noticeable lack of swing and miss to his profile thus far with a 7.4% SwStr%.
Another game that just seems kind of wonky. Peterson and May both have varying regression signs in their profiles and this game feels like it could go a variety of ways.
I don’t think this game gets played and we already saw Phillies/White Sox wiped out due to cold and wind. The forecast in Detroit looks really similar. If it gets played, you could certainly make a case for the under on a miserable day to hit with two subpar offenses, but who knows.
Hunter Gaddis is listed for Cleveland and Matthew Boyd for Detroit. Gaddis got smashed by the Yankees last time out, which was to be expected as a fly ball guy with below average command and not much in the way of strikeout upside. He gave up eight runs on eight hits in three innings. He has two bad starts and one good start to his name. He’s just a placeholder until Triston McKenzie comes back or the Guardians get more aggressive and bring up Logan T. Allen and/or Tanner Bibee.
The Tigers lineup stinks, so maybe this is one that Gaddis can handle, but you can see how much he’s valued in the betting market based on this line.
Boyd has allowed four runs on seven hits in his nine innings of work. He’s walked seven and struck out seven while mostly limiting hard contact against the Astros and Red Sox. His Hard Hit% is 25.9% through 27 batted ball events. The walks are the concern here against a Cleveland lineup that has been walking a lot in the early going. The Guardians are about a league average lineup against lefties because of that high walk rate and a little more batted ball success.
The Tigers are 30th in wOBA against right-handed pitching. My one reservation with Cleveland here is that we’re likely to see some Xzavion Curry again if this one gets played. Their bullpen remains up against it because they refuse to win by margin or get blown out. Emmanuel Clase, James Karinchak, and Trevor Stephan would all be pitching for a third time in four days and a fourth time in six days.
A rainout would actually be good for Cleveland. They could skip Gaddis and give the pen a day off on top of a scheduled off day on Thursday.
The Royals get to run it back against Jacob deGrom today in a repeat of the 8-5 loss from last Tuesday in Arlington. deGrom allowed two runs on seven hits with nine strikeouts over seven innings of work. Since his Opening Day blow-up, deGrom has only allowed three earned runs on nine hits with 20 strikeouts against two walks in 13 innings of work. It sure seems like he’s just fine and he even got victimized by some weak contact in that start against the Phillies.
Not only has deGrom posted a 27/2 K/BB ratio in 16.2 innings, his Hard Hit% is just 32.4% over 37 batted balls. It’s safe to say that he looks a lot like the same, dominant deGrom. He’s just had some bad batted ball luck with a .389 BABIP against and a 51.3% LOB%. That’s why he has a 4.32 ERA with a 2.22 xERA, 1.22 FIP, and 1.87 xFIP.
Now that we’ve established that there’s no reason to bet against deGrom, does a run line or a total make sense? Well, Jordan Lyles has allowed 11 runs on 21 hits in 17.1 innings, but he’s given up nine runs on 16 hits in his last two starts. Lyles worked around some loud contact to have a nice debut outing against the Twins, but he hasn’t been as fortunate with batted balls in his last two starts. He, too, has some positive regression signs with his BABIP (.345) and LOB% (63.1%), but I’m not sure that’s a profile I want to support.
The Rangers actually have the league’s top bullpen by fWAR and rank seventh in ERA and second in FIP, so this has been a pretty strong group for those looking to take a run line position. The Royals pen ranks 22nd in FIP and 26th in ERA. Texas’s bullpen has been lucky on the home run front, but the Royals have only hit 13 homers this season.
The Royals are also 29th in wRC+ against right-handed pitchers on the season. I generally don’t love laying run line prices at minus money, but deGrom is so much better than Lyles and I still have those Lyles home/road splits from last season fresh in my mind. He allowed a .359 wOBA and posted a 5.25 ERA with a 5.03 FIP away from the safety net of Oriole Park last season. I’m not sure you really get a bump facing a guy like deGrom for the second straight start, but it should help against a guy like Lyles. The run line price is held down by the low total of 7.5, but I would be shocked if the Royals do much of anything tonight.
Pick: Rangers Run Line (-1.5) (-120)
The Blue Jays got some overnight and early-morning love in the betting markets and are road favorites against Cristian Javier and the Astros. Toronto is sending Kevin Gausman to the bump in rare air for the Astros. They were a home underdog three times in 2022 and four times in 2021. This is definitely a role they are not in very often and the results have been mixed when they have been, going 3-4 over the last two seasons.
Gausman has made three starts and allowed three earned runs and three unearned runs over his 20 innings with 25 strikeouts against three walks. He has allowed quite a bit of hard contact with a 49% Hard Hit% to this point in starts against the Cardinals, Royals and Tigers. He actually has two starts with 11 hard-hit balls against and then a dominant outing against the Royals.
Javier has allowed eight runs on 18 hits in the early going. He’s struck out 14 and only walked two, but he hasn’t been quite as sharp as we saw him last season, especially later in the year. He has also faced the White Sox, Tigers, and Pirates, so this is a noteworthy step up in class against the Blue Jays. The weird thing for Javier so far is that he hasn’t been nearly as dominant against righties. Righties only posted a .232 wOBA against him last season with a 39.5% K%. Righties have a .338 wOBA with a 26.9% K% this season.
This is a decent time for the Blue Jays to be getting him and I certainly understand the line move with how good Gausman has been over the last few seasons and how the Astros are struggling a bit early this year. I don’t have a bet on the game of the night, though.
The Rays are back to playing bad teams as they head to Cincinnati to take on Hunter Greene and the Reds. You can see the respect that Greene garners in the betting market with this line. It also helps that the Rays are sending out Jalen Beeks to be the opener ahead of Cooper Criswell, who was just recalled from Triple-A. Criswell has already made three starts at Triple-A and has allowed seven runs on 15 hits in 11.2 innings. Only four of the runs are earned, but he’s allowed a couple of homers and hit three batters with 10 strikeouts and a walk.
Criswell threw three innings on April 13, so he should be good to do about the same following Beeks today. Jeffrey Springs is out at least two months based on the MRI results he got over the weekend, so the Rays are trying to cobble this thing together a little bit with Tyler Glasnow and Zach Eflin also on the IL. Tampa Bay does have Yonny Chirinos capable of working in a bulk role as well, but it looks to be Criswell today.
Greene has pretty much come as advertised this season for the Reds. He’s struck out 23 in 14 innings of work and allowed eight runs on 17 hits. He’s got a .457 BABIP against, so he’s been a little unlucky on batted balls. Most importantly, he’s only allowed one home run in starts against the Pirates, Phillies, and Braves.
Something I’ll be curious to see in this start is how the Rays handle velocity. They’ve seen the third-fewest pitches of 95+ mph. The Tigers, A’s, and Nationals don’t have a lot of hard-throwing dudes and neither do the Red Sox for that matter. They just haven’t seen good pitching this season with the schedule that they’ve faced thus far. It’s also going to be really unpleasant to face triple digits on a 44-degree night in Cincinnati with some breezy conditions.
I’ll take my chances with Greene against the Rays lineup here and I’m also okay with going against Beeks and a Triple-A pitcher in Criswell. Beeks has allowed a run in two of his four appearances and hasn’t pitched in five days, so maybe the plan for the Rays is to try and get him to turn the lineup over. Beeks is allowing more hard contact in the early going than he did last season with a 3.1 mph spike in average exit velocity and a drop in SwStr%, so he’s not in midseason form yet.
I have no interest in backing the Reds bullpen when Greene does exit the game, so it’ll be the 1st 5 here, even with the price chopped down a good bit. As always, shop around. Better prices are available, but DraftKings lines are what I cite and what I use for tracking.
Pick: Reds 1st 5 (+100)
Hayden Wesneski did not pitch well last time out, but the Cubs offense bailed him and us out in the win over the Mariners. Let’s see if Wesneski fares better against a lesser lineup here with a trip out to the Coliseum in Oakland. The Cubs defense really hurt Wesneski in that start with five unearned runs in 1.1 innings, but he also walked four and didn’t strike anybody out while giving up a ton of hard contact, so there was a lot of blame to go around.
Wesneski has allowed 10 runs on 11 hits in six innings and only has four strikeouts against six walks. He’s allowed 10 hard-hit balls and three barrels in 25 batted ball events. If he struggles here against a pretty bad A’s group, that would be a really bad sign. Wesneski hasn’t been able to work deep in either of his two starts, so we’ll see what happens to the Cubs bullpen here, as the depth guys haven’t pitched a lot lately, but the primary guys have.
Kyle Muller pitched well in his two home starts, but then went to Baltimore and got rocked by an Orioles lineup pummeling lefties this season. Muller is back at home now, where he has allowed three runs on eight hits in 10.2 innings of work. He’s given up a lot of hard contact this season, but mostly kept the ball on the ground to avoid any major problems. The Cubs are a top-10 offense against southpaws in the early going, so we’ll see how they do in this one.
I don’t have a bet here. It’s a pretty lofty number for Wesneski and I think Muller will be pretty decent at home as the season goes along. It’s also tough to go from Dodger Stadium and a big series at Chavez Ravine to playing the A’s in an empty Coliseum. The A’s also have the league’s worst bullpen, so it’s 1st 5 or nothing with them. I prefer nothing today.
Corbin Burnes seemed to be fixed last time out for the Brewers and now he’ll head to Seattle looking to build off of that start. One cool thing about MLB’s new schedule is that teams are visiting parks that they haven’t been to in a while and the Brewers are in Seattle for the first time since 2016.
That means Burnes gets a crack in a pretty good pitcher’s park. He went eight masterful innings with eight strikeouts against the Diamondbacks last time out after allowing 10 runs on 11 hits in 9.1 innings of work against the Cubs and Mets. Burnes had an 18% SwStr% in that start against Arizona after posting a 4.3% mark against the Mets and an 8.0% mark against the Cubs. He got a bunch of chases and also posted his best velocity numbers of the season.
If you are looking to bet the Brewers full game, keep in mind that Devin Williams needed 33 pitches for yesterday’s save, so I would think the Brewers would like to avoid him if possible tonight. That could mean some lesser arms in high leverage if the Brewers have a lead.
I could’ve done without Wesneski and the Cubs defense allowing a bunch of runs, but the handicap on Chris Flexen was correct in that 14-9 shootout. Flexen allowed eight runs on 10 hits in 21 innings in that start. He had two decent appearances at home against the Guardians and Angels, but had allowed some hard contact and gotten away with it. He’s also a guy with some big home/road splits.
He gets the ball at home here, so we’ll see if he can straighten it out. I still think the Mariners are a better team than they’ve been so far. I just don’t really think fading Burnes makes sense and certainly not to support Flexen.
Rangers -1.5 (-120)
Reds 1st 5 (+100)