MLB Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Monday, July 17th

By Adam Burke  ( 

July 17, 2023 12:42 PM

MLB schedule today has 10 games

We’ve got 10 games on the Monday betting board and all of them are late starts. I’m a little surprised to see 10 teams with the day off, given that we just had the All-Star Break, but it is the heart of summer with hot, humid days, so giving the players a little extra time seems sensible.

As noted by some, the ball was FLYING during the first weekend of the second half. Overall, the league batted .249/.323/.427 with a .325 wOBA, 106 wRC+, and all of that despite a 23% K%. The season-long numbers are .248/.320/.411, with a .318 wOBA and a 22.7% K%.

But, it was the monstrous jump in HR/FB% that got people talking. The season average is 12.3%, but we saw a 13.9% HR/FB% Friday-Sunday. Balmy temps and lots of humidity certainly helped, but we’ve had that throughout July and the HR/FB% from July 1- 9 was 12.8%.

Are the juiced balls back? I wouldn’t go so far as to say that. I think it’s largely a combination of pitchers being on extra rest, especially relievers, so it throws them out of their routines and makes them less sharp. That said, the average fly ball distance of 319 feet was four feet more than what we saw from March 30-July 9 and two feet more than July 1-9.

I don’t think we see a correction in these numbers with a lot of pitchers going over the next three days that haven’t pitched in a long time. We’ll have to wait until guys get settled back in to find out, but I do think it merits keeping an eye on.

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Here are some thoughts on the July 17 card (odds from DraftKings):

San Francisco Giants (-145, 10) at Cincinnati Reds

The Reds have some wounds to lick after getting swept at home by the Brewers in their biggest series in about a decade. After getting beaten up by the Brewers in early June, the Reds called up Elly De La Cruz. After getting beaten up by the Brewers in mid-July, they called up Christian Encarnacion-Strand. CES was slashing .331/.405/.637 with 20 homers, a .440 wOBA, and a 153 wRC+ in Triple-A. So, he adds another dimension of power to the Reds lineup as they head into this series with the Giants.

San Francisco ace Logan Webb is on the bump here. Over 126 innings this season, Webb has posted a 3.14 ERA with a 3.58 xERA and a 3.23 FIP. He’s got strong K and BB peripherals and a 60.3% GB%. He checks a lot of boxes for the type of guy that you’d like to bet on. This is a road start in a hitter’s park, though, so I’d have some reservations. He’s worked 62.1 innings at home and 63.2 innings on the road, so nearly identical sample sizes. His ERA is 2.22 runs higher on the road, and by slash, he’s +32, +39, +56 by BA/OBP/SLG on the road. His wOBA is 40 points higher.

However, his FIP is 2.91 at home and 3.54 on the road, so a lot of his road issues have come about as a result of bad luck, as his LOB% is nearly 12% lower and his BABIP is 23 points higher. That being said, his K% is also 4.6% lower, so he’s allowed more balls in play.

Brandon Williamson goes for the Reds here with a 5.21 ERA, 5.68 xERA, and a 5.17 FIP over 46.2 innings and 10 starts to begin his MLB career. Williamson has a below average 19% K% with a 9.5% BB%. His 64.4% LOB% on a big deal that has hurt him. He’s allowed eight homers, but none in his last three starts, which could be a good sign going up against a Giants team that will hit dingers. He’s also done well to neutralize lefties, holding them to a .272 wOBA. Righties do have a .486 SLG against him and have hit all eight homers he has allowed, including six at home in 26.2 innings.

If you’re looking to bet on home run props, I think the next few days present great opportunities. Obviously there are some signs for Williamson here, but he hasn’t pitched since July 6. Webb hasn’t pitched since July 9. Guys are off their rhythms. That said, Webb has 21 strikeouts in his last two starts and has only allowed one homer in his last five starts.

An easy pass for me in this one, but some important takeaways for the future.

Miami Marlins at St. Louis Cardinals (-110, 8.5)

Miles Mikolas will be the first pitcher to make his second start in the second half after a rain-shortened outing against the Nationals last time out. He has a 4.12 ERA with a 4.88 xERA and a 3.80 FIP over his 115.2 innings of work this season. Most of his peripherals look similar to past seasons, except for a .304 BABIP that has come about from a 40.6% Hard Hit%. Mikolas’s previous career-high was 36.6%, so he’s allowed a lot more hard contact this season.

He worked three perfect innings against the Nationals on Friday, but then the rains came and the game was suspended. Mikolas has not allowed a run in his last 10 innings and he’s in the advantageous position of having shaken off some rust already, though I do wonder how he does on short rest. I guess what he did essentially amounted to a bullpen between starts, but it’s still a weird spot for a starter.

Jesus Luzardo is having an excellent season and one of the main reasons why the Marlins are having such a fine year. He’s got a 3.29 ERA with a 3.53 xERA and a 3.23 FIP in his 109.1 innings of work. Luzardo has a 29.1% K% with a very strong 6.1% BB% and a 14.4% SwStr%. He’s missed a lot of bats this season and parlayed that into a lot of success.

Like most Marlins pitchers, you do worry a bit when the road comes calling. He’s been able to throw 66.2 innings at home and just 42.2 innings on the road. On the road, his ERA is 2.21 runs higher at 4.63. His slash goes +87, +66, +158 by BA/OBP/SLG and his wOBA is 91 points higher away from home. He’s allowed seven homers on the road compared to five at home. His road K% is 5.5% lower as well and his HR/FB% goes from 7.1% to 16.7%.

Luzardo hasn’t pitched since July 9, but he’s been extremely good in his last five starts, allowing just four runs on 19 hits over 31.2 innings with 40 strikeouts and six walks. That includes a home start against the Cardinals on July 4. In his eight road starts, he’s allowed six runs twice and four runs once.

I don’t think I can take either side here.

Washington Nationals at Chicago Cubs (-140, 9)

Wrigley Field will welcome the Nationals to the visitor’s clubhouse as Washington and Chicago meet on Monday night. The Nats will send out MacKenzie Gore and the Cubs will counter with Drew Smyly as two pitchers that needed a bit of a respite get back to work. 

For the full season, Gore has a 4.42 ERA with a 5.05 xERA and a 4.24 FIP in 89.2 innings of work. Over his last six starts, though, Gore has a 6.31 ERA with a 5.04 FIP. He’s allowed five or more runs three times and one or no runs three times, though one of those starts was a rain-shortened effort against the Reds in which he only faced five batters. Gore has faced five batters since July 1, when he allowed seven runs to the Phillies in 2.2 innings.

In that span, Gore has allowed an obscene 56.8% Hard Hit% and a 16.2% Barrel%. Certainly there’s some hope that a little bit of rest will allow him to come back stronger, but he is a guy who has allowed a 47.1% Hard Hit% and an 11.3% Barrel% for the season, so a lot of his recent bad numbers are just corrections to his expected stats. What greatly concerns me is that his last three starts had SwStr% of 7.7%, 6.3%, 5.9%, so his stuff was getting less and less explosive heading into the Break.

Since June 15, the Cubs have been about a league average offense against lefties with a .324 wOBA and a 103 wRC+. The same is true for the Nationals, with a .322 wOBA and a 100 wRC+ as they take on Smyly, who really hit the skids as the weather heated up. Since May 28, Smyly, who has a 4.31 ERA and a 4.83 FIP for the season, has a 6.75 ERA with a 6.57 FIP. In those eight starts, he’s allowed at least three runs in seven of them and four or more runs in four of them. 

In that span, Smyly’s K% sat at just 15.1% and his BB% was just 11.8%. He hasn’t pitched since July 8, so maybe he comes back stronger, but his control was erratic and he allowed nine homers in that span. If we shrink it down even more, Smyly allowed 14 runs in his final 11.1 innings with four homers allowed and just a 10/8 K/BB ratio.

With this total moving up to 9 with over juice, though, I’m going to pass. There’s a chance that both guys take advantage of a little rest and come back stronger. I do agree with the line movement and there’s certainly a chance for some offense, but I won’t be invested in it.

Tampa Bay Rays (-125, 8.5) at Texas Rangers

Shane McClanahan returns from a barking back for this series opener down in Arlington as the Rays and Rangers meet in a battle of the best records in the AL. The Rays took two of three from the Royals, while the Rangers swept the Guardians to get the second half going. Tampa Bay seemed to want no part of Sunday’s game, as it was an 8-4 ending that took place in under two hours.

McClanahan comes in with a 2.53 ERA, 3.98 xERA, and a 3.86 FIP in his 96 innings of work across 17 starts. His K% is down to 26% and his BB% is up to 9.8% this season. This will be his first start since June 30 after spending time on the IL with that aforementioned back injury. He did not make any rehab appearances, so it has just been side sessions and bullpens for him. He left his last two starts early, going just 3.2 and 3.0 innings on June 22 and 30, so he hasn’t gotten a ton of work lately. 

McClanahan has allowed three or fewer runs in 15 of his 17 starts, but we’ll have to see how he looks from a health standpoint. He has a 44.6% Hard Hit% and a 12% Barrel% in his last six starts, so maybe rest was what he needed. It’s rare to get him at a price like this and, let’s be honest, the Rangers have not been the juggernaut recently that people think they are.

I mentioned Texas’s major regression with RISP prior to the All-Star Break. They found some offense against the Cleveland bullpen, taking advantage of relievers who have either been shaky at times or were on extended layoffs. Everybody for the Rays except for Robert Stephenson has gotten into a game after Saturday’s doubleheader.

Fading Dane Dunning is something that I’d really like to do going forward. He has a 2.84 ERA with a 4.72 xERA and a 3.83 FIP in his 92 innings pitched. His low 15.9% K% coupled with a 77.8% LOB% just doesn’t jive for me. He’s also got just a .268 BABIP against with a 40.1% Hard Hit%. The Rangers are an excellent defensive team, so that factors into the equation, but he’s got a lot of negative regression signs in the profile.

The Rangers are just 24-22 against teams .500 or better. The Rays are 33-24. Texas is also just 15-19 in the last 34 games, so they’ve struggled much like the Rays have. McClanahan is just a better pitcher than Dunning and the Rays, who get Yandy Diaz back from the paternity list, are a pick for me today. Shop around, as you can do a few cents better out there.

Pick: Rays -125

Detroit Tigers (-130, 9.5) at Kansas City Royals

I mentioned the Tigers as a play-on team in the second half because they got some pitching back to make them a much more attractive team to wager on. What did I do? Well, I faded them on Friday and paid for it. They actually took two of three from the Mariners, holding Seattle to just six runs over the three games. Now we’ll see what they can do with the Royals.

Matt Manning takes the mound today with some negative regression signs in his profile. He has a 3.72 ERA with a 4.41 xERA and a 5.15 FIP over five starts and 29 innings pitched. He only has 20 strikeouts in 29 innings, so FIP isn’t going to be a fan, plus he allowed four homers in his first two starts in April. Since returning from the IL on June 27, he’s allowed six runs on eight hits in 17.1 innings pitched. His last start was part of a combined no-hitter against the Blue Jays on July 8 when he went 6.2 innings.

Manning’s three starts since returning have been against the Rangers, Rockies at Coors, and the Blue Jays, so this is a huge step down in class. Since June 15, the Royals are 29th with a .280 wOBA and a 72 wRC+ against righties. The Tigers are only 25th themselves at .294 with an 86 wRC+, as this team just continues to fail to find hitters that can contribute at the MLB level.

Maybe they’ll do so today against Jordan Lyles. Lyles is 1-11 over 17 starts and the Royals have lost 16 of those 17 games. He has a 6.42 ERA with a 4.85 xERA and a 5.51 FIP in his 96.2 innings of work. I talked about how Lyles has some positive regression signs in his profile with a 53.1% LOB% and he actually has pitched better of late. It’s not necessarily pretty, but he does have a 4.89 ERA with a 4.00 FIP in his last 35 innings pitched.

Lyles has allowed five runs twice in those six starts, but remember the start against the Reds saw Lyles allow all five runs in the second inning and only one baserunner otherwise over six innings. Since then, he’s allowed eight runs on 20 hits in 17 innings to the Tigers, Rays, and Guardians, including a 12-day layoff.

So, I’m not rushing to fade Lyles like a lot of people are. I give him credit for being a veteran on a bad, young team through all of this and trying to go out there every five or six days and provide some length. No bet for me in this game.

New York Yankees at Los Angeles Angels (-130, 9)

These two teams are both very hard to watch right now. The Yankees have lost six of eight after Sunday’s bullpen meltdown and the Angels have two wins since June 28. Yet, here the Angels are laying a decent-sized number at home with Griffin Canning and his 4.62 ERA against Luis Severino.

Canning has a 4.29 xERA and a 5.05 FIP to pair with that 4.62 ERA over 74 innings pitched. He’s been a guy I’ve talked about a lot, but I can’t recall betting on or against him at any point this season. His last two starts heading into the All-Star Break were trash, as he allowed nine runs on eight hits over 8.2 innings with four homers allowed against the Diamondbacks and Dodgers.

Canning has allowed an obscene 46.5% Hard Hit% and a 9.4% Barrel% this season. In three starts before getting rocked by the Dodgers to end the first half, Canning had SwStr% marks of 17.9%, 17.2%, and 15.8%, as he’s shown flashes this season and has a 12.3% SwStr% for the year, but he’s been inconsistent as hell. I’ve focused a lot on his pitcher usage and he’s been better about throwing fewer fastballs this season, but he’s still allowed a .532 SLG on the pitch.

But, he does draw a Yankees bunch that is 28th in wOBA against RHP since June 15 at .283. The Angels are actually second in baseball at .358 with a 128 wRC+. Of course, Mike Trout had a 178 wRC+ overall from June 15-July 3 before suffering the fractured hamate.

The Severino story is just sad at this point. Over 2017-18, Severino was worth 11 fWAR and was one of the game’s most exciting pitchers. He pitched 18 innings from 2019-21 and came back to have a decent season last year, only to get hurt again and now be a shell of himself. He’s got a 7.38 ERA with a 7.01 xERA and a 6.38 FIP in his 42.2 innings pitched this season. In his last two starts prior to the Break, he allowed 16 runs (14 earned) on 19 hits in 6.2 innings pitched.

After allowing two earned runs in his first two starts, he has allowed 37 runs (33 earned) on 53 hits in his last seven outings. That even includes six random shutout innings against the Rangers in which he gave up a ton of hard contact, but the BABIP gods shined down on him.

I can’t trust the Angels at this price, even against Severino, but who wants to back a profile like his?

Boston Red Sox (-155, 8.5) at Oakland Athletics

Well, I can save some time here, as the Red Sox will go with an opener and then Nick Pivetta in a bulk role. Pivetta has a 4.83 ERA with a 4.88 xERA and a 4.72 FIP in 69 innings pitched. The A’s will roll with Paul Blackburn, who has pitched one inning since July 2, as he appeared in relief against the Red Sox on Sunday.

He’s got a 4.86 ERA with a 3.77 FIP, but he’s allowed four or more runs in three of his seven starts and that would likely bury the A’s offense, even against a gas can like Pivetta. Moving on.

Minnesota Twins at Seattle Mariners (-140, 7.5)

The top pitching matchup of the night takes place in Seattle between Sonny Gray and Logan Gilbert. Minnesota rides a high into this series, having taken advantage of the A’s for a three-game sweep, while the Mariners dropped two of three to the Tigers and scored just six runs in the process.

That seems like a bad sign against Gray, who has a 2.89 ERA with a 3.90 xERA and a 2.85 FIP in his 99.2 innings of work. Gray has made 18 starts and just allowed more than three runs for the first time this season. He got tagged by the Orioles for six runs on six hits in his second straight start against them. 

I’m willing to chalk it up to an outlier and do like Gray coming out of the Break. Health has been a question for him. He only threw 119.2 innings last season and 135.1 innings in 2021. With nearly 100 innings already this season, I think a little bit of extra rest can only be a good thing for him. He draws a Mariners offense that continues to strike out a lot and he has an 11.4% SwStr% with a 24.1% K%. 

Gray has allowed just three home runs this season with a 48.5% GB%, so he has the strikeouts, has the ground balls, and has the home run avoidance. Unfortunately, what Gray also has here is a tired bullpen. Jhoan Duran was used three straight days for saves in Oakland, so he’s unavailable tonight. Griffin Jax, Emilio Pagan, and Jovani Moran would all be pitching a third time in four days. While I like Gray and his projection, I don’t love where the Twins pen is at right now.

Gilbert is having a fine season himself, as he has a 3.66 ERA with a 3.35 xERA and a 3.47 FIP in his 108.1 innings of work. He’s actually been unlucky with a 67.9% LOB% and had experienced some big positive regression in that department with eight runs allowed over his final five starts of the first half. He had an 85.8% LOB% in that span, although he did see a big strikeout decrease to a 19.4% K% in those 34.1 innings. Gray’s K% waned in the latter part of the first half as well.

Because we’re trading 10-15 cents on the 1st 5 line here, I’m going to pass on this game. I think both pitchers can have success, but the 1st 5 total is also 4 with heavy under juice. I’ll find ways to play Gray in the near future.

Los Angeles Dodgers at Baltimore Orioles (-120, 9.5)

Exciting, young arms start this game, as we’ll see Emmet Sheehan and Grayson Rodriguez in a very interesting series between the Dodgers and Orioles. Sheehan has made four MLB starts and has allowed 10 runs on 14 hits with 20.2 innings under his belt. He’s only struck out 16 of 82 batters faced and walked eight. He’s allowed three home runs, but I think more are coming and today could be the day.

Sheehan throws a ton of fastballs. He’s got a 5.38 xFIP because of the relative lack of homers compared to his fly ball rate. On a hot, humid day in Baltimore, the ball could be carrying quite well at Camden Yards. Sheehan has allowed a 43.1% Hard Hit% and a 10.3% Barrel% to start things off. He also hasn’t pitched in 13 days, as the Dodgers didn’t push him for another start before the Break after he allowed five runs in 3.2 innings against the Pirates with four walks. 

The Orioles have a .327 wOBA with a 108 wRC+ against righties since June 15. I think this could be a difficult spot for Sheehan.

Which version of Rodriguez do we get? He got pummeled at the MLB level to start the season with a 7.35 ERA, 6.02 xERA, and a 5.93 FIP in 45.1 innings over 10 starts. He allowed a 52.2% Hard Hit% and a 12.7% Barrel% in 134 batted ball events. He was sent down to the minors and dominated, posting a 1.69 ERA over 37.1 innings with a 54/15 K/BB ratio. His final start on July 9 was cut short with three innings pitched, so he hasn’t thrown much in the last 13 days, but he had three double-digit strikeout games in the minors.

Now, though, he faces the Dodgers, who are about the furthest thing from a Triple-A lineup not named the Braves. When Rodriguez was up, he gave up 13 homers and 11 in his final five starts as the weather started to warm up. It’s July now and the ball is carrying quite well. He also had a 10% BB% in the Majors and an 11.2% BB% in the minors, so I don’t love that against a patient Dodgers lineup.

It’s a pretty lofty total here, but I like the Over 9.5. I’m not sure both starters work very efficiently, which should bring lesser relievers into the game. The home run potential is really high in this one, so hopefully they aren’t all solo shots.

Pick: Over 9.5 (-105)

Cleveland Guardians (-125, 9.5) at Pittsburgh Pirates

Without Shane Bieber, the Guardians will start Xzavion Curry and then follow him with a cavalcade of relievers, which, if what we saw in Texas is to be believed, is a really scary proposition. Pittsburgh will counter with Quinn Priester, who is making his MLB debut.

Curry has actually thrown the ball well this season with a 3.04 ERA, but he has a 5.02 xERA and a 4.00 FIP. He’s pitched in the lowest of low leverage, being used 23 times in mostly blowouts. Only Chris Flexen and Tyler Alexander have a lower gmLI among pitchers with at least 40 innings, which stand for Leverage Index When Entering the Game. He is tied for last in pLI, which is Average Leverage Index for All Events.

In other words, starting is a big deal for Curry. While the early innings aren’t exactly full of leverage spots, he’s pitched with virtually no pressure and now there is some. He only has a 16.4% K%, but also just a 5.1% BB%, but, again, he’s pitching in low leverage, so it’s about throwing strikes and putting balls in play. He’s allowed a 45.4% Hard Hit% in that environment. Curry threw 20 pitches on Saturday, so this will truly be an all-hands-on-deck effort for Cleveland. 

Priester had a 4.31 ERA with a 3.85 FIP in Triple-A when he was pulled after one inning on July 14. His manager then told him that his next outing would be in Pittsburgh. The 22-year-old has mostly performed well in his minor league stops and has 20 Triple-A starts to his name with a  4.27 ERA and 94 strikeouts against 42 walks in 97 innings.

Priester was the 108th-ranked prospect for FanGraphs entering the season, as he might be a guy that has to pitch backwards, in that his secondaries project better than his fastball. He is a ground ball guy, so the four-seamer has some sinker-like action. That can be scary in a debut start because guys can overthrow sometimes and that might leave a hittable fastball in the middle of the plate.

The question is whether or not the Cleveland lineup can capitalize on those mistakes. Priester’s debut also isn’t the only one, as Endy Rodriguez has been called up to the big leagues and Liover Peguero, who played one game in 2022 against the Giants, is also back. The Pirates have things to be excited about today, which could be a good pick-me-up after the sweep at the hands of the Giants.

Ultimately, while I think the Pirates have a little bit of value, I don’t have a bet here. Cleveland tends to beat inferior opponents and has for a long time. Pittsburgh is an inferior opponent and has gone 21-44 in the last 65 games. While super intriguing, I’ll pass on this one. Priester’s success could be very BABIP-dependent and I don’t want to gamble on that one way or another.

TL;DR Recap

Rays -125

LAD/BAL Over 9.5 (-105)

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