MLB schedule today has 8 games
Eight games open up the second full month of the MLB season, as we turn the page from April to May. Hopefully the weather will start getting warmer and we’ll get the chance to see how the ball plays, instead of just speculating about how the late spring and summer months will play.
As I’ve mentioned, I’ve seen a lot of comparisons to 2022, which is just wrong. Expedited Spring Training, a late start (April 7), and the deadest ball we’ve seen since the ‘60s all had significant impacts.
Here are the March/April stats by year over the last three seasons:
2023: .247/.321/.405, .319 wOBA, 23% K%, 8.8% BB%, 602 SB, .298 BABIP
2022: .231/.307/.369, .298 wOBA, 23% K%, 8.9% BB%, 303 SB, .282 BABIP
2021: .232/.309/.390, .304 wOBA, 24.4% K%, 8.8% BB%, 354 SB, .283 BABIP
So, 2023 is absolutely tracking the best of any season since 2019. The HR/FB% is actually down (13.3% to 12.2%) from this season to 2021, but we’ve got a higher slugging percentage because of more balls in play and fewer strikeouts. Remember that 2021 started with foreign substances, but MLB started cracking down in May and then really cracked down in June.
In 2022, we saw a noteworthy spike in offense in mid-May. It’s an arbitrary endpoint to say May 15, however, there was a huge difference from the first six or so weeks to the rest of the season.
April 7-May 15, 2022: .234/.307/.376, .301 wOBA, 22.6% K%, 8.7% BB%, .282 BABIP, 10.4% HR/FB%
May 16-Rest of season, 2022: .245/.313/.400, .312 wOBA, 22.4% K%, 8.0% BB%, .293 BABIP, 11.6% HR/FB%
Each of the last two seasons, we’ve seen adjustments either to the ball or the use of foreign substances. Theoretically, this season should be more consistent over a six-month period, but we’ll have to wait and see if that’s the case. If what we see is what we get the rest of 2023 and we get warmer weather, that should mean a lot of offense going forward.
April was a decent month, despite a bad finish on Saturday with a couple of underdogs losing by one run. Hopefully May gets started on the right foot. (Tracking sheet)
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Here are some thoughts on the May 1 card (odds from DraftKings):
Atlanta Braves (-195, 9) at New York Mets Game 1
After having both Saturday and Sunday washed out, the Braves and Mets will try to play two on Monday. The forecast looks substantially better today, but it could be a long day at the yard with small chances for rain throughout the afternoon and especially into the evening. In other weather news, the wind will be blowing out to LF at a pretty good clip in both games.
This game has already started, but I wrote it up, so it stays in the article.
Spencer Strider gets the call in Game 1 against call-up Denyi Reyes, so the Braves are a massive favorite. Strider has been incredible this season with a 1.80 ERA and a 1.75 FIP in his first 30 innings. He’s allowed zero runs in three of his five starts and three runs in each of the other two. He’s struck out 49 of 115 batters, with at least nine punchouts in each start. It’s hard to expect anything other than greatness from Strider on a daily basis, but there are some regression signs with a .245 BABIP and an 81.3% LOB%.
Last season, when he had a 2.67 ERA with a 1.83 FIP, he had a .292 BABIP against and a 74.1% LOB%, so that’s a good barometer to use. However, “regression” for Strider is not what regression looks like for some other guys.
Reyes has maxed out at two innings and seven batters faced in five MLB appearances this season. He went 1.2 innings and faced nine batters back on April 23 in Triple-A, which was his last appearance. This is a really tough spot for the Mets. Max Scherzer is eligible to return on Tuesday, but may return on Wednesday with rain forecasted in Detroit. Carlos Carrasco, Justin Verlander, and Jose Quintana are all on the IL and so is Elieser Hernandez, who was supposed to be a depth option. Verlander may debut on Thursday. At least it’s looking up for the Mets.
Reyes, who has been with the Red Sox and Orioles, has worked 14 MLB innings and allowed two runs on 11 hits with a 10/3 K/BB ratio. This could be really dicey for the Mets. Reyes might go three innings max, so that will put the bullpen up against it. Nobody has pitched since Thursday with the rainouts and Friday’s rain-shortened affair, so at least everybody is pretty fresh. Expect to see a lot of Jimmy Yacobonis and Jeff Brigham today.
Tylor Megill will start Game 2 for the Mets and be opposed by Charlie Morton. Megill has allowed 11 runs on 25 hits this season with a 19/12 K/BB ratio. He’s not missing a whole lot of bats and has allowed five homers, so FIP hates him with a 6.02 mark, which is over two runs higher than his 3.96 ERA. Megill is also running a rather fortunate 87.1% LOB% to keep his ERA down under 4.
He has done a good job limiting hard contact overall with a 37.2% Hard Hit%, but has yielded a 10.3% Barrel%. The Braves are the best offense in baseball at making hard contact. Given Megill’s 6.55 xERA and 6.02 FIP, this may not be the best matchup for him. We’ll also see how much the Mets have in reserve for him after effectively throwing a bullpen game in Game 1.
Morton has some regression signs of his own with a 2.76 ERA and a 4.37 FIP. He’s given up 11 runs (nine earned) on 29 hits over 29.1 innings of work with a 26/12 K/BB ratio. That said, he’s struck out 25 batters in his last 24 innings, so the K% has been on the rise. He only struck out one of 27 batters in his first start against the Cardinals. Again, it’s really important to look at game logs so you can add more context to the numbers. Outside of that first start, he’s been the Charlie Morton we’ve come to expect at his advanced age.
He’s run a double-digit SwStr% in each of his last four starts after just a 6.0% mark in his 2023 opener. He has a 36% Hard Hit% against and has allowed eight barrels for a 9.0% Barrel% in his five outings.
I do like the Braves in Game 2, but I don’t like betting Game 2 before I know what happened in Game 1. Which relievers were used? Did anybody get hurt? Like, what happens if Ronald Acuna Jr. gets hit by a pitch and misses the second game? This line swings from -120 to probably +100 or something. We’ll see what happens early and maybe that yields an opportunity in Game 2.
Southpaws Drew Smyly and MacKenzie Gore square off here in D.C. on a damp night in the nation’s capital. Rain is expected to stop around first pitch with winds blowing out to RF at 10-15 mph. Wind doesn’t help as much as warmth and we won’t have that tonight with temps in the mid-50s, but it will be humid.
In terms of pitchers who are off to great starts, Smyly may be the most surprising. He gave up seven runs on nine hits in 4.2 innings to start the season, but he’s only allowed four runs in four starts since with 24 strikeouts over 23.1 innings of work. Smyly has shut down the Dodgers twice and kept the Mariners and Padres at bay since that debacle against the Reds, where, of course, I was on the Cubs.
Smyly is running a .247 BABIP and has only walked six batters, so he’s really done a nice job of keeping traffic off the bases. While his BABIP is a little bit low, his Hard Hit% against is just 26.7% and he’s only allowed three barrels thus far. It is much easier to run a lower BABIP when you are limiting hard contact and he’s done that really well this season. His average exit velocity against of 84.1 mph ranks in the 96th percentile and his Hard Hit% ranks in the 92nd percentile.
The Nationals are a top-10 offense by wOBA against lefties at .335. To this point, Smyly has faced the Dodgers twice, who are bottom-five against lefties, the Padres, who are 17th in wOBA, the Mariners, who are 30th, and the Reds, who are 21st. It is crazy to say that the Nationals lineup is a step up in class, but that is the case.
That said, I don’t think the price is good enough on the Nationals to fade Smyly. Gore has actually been really good this season. He’s only allowed nine runs on 19 hits in 27 innings of work with 35 strikeouts against 16 walks. The Cubs are a top-five offense against lefties, but Gore has already stymied one of those in the Braves, pitched well at Coors Field, and battled against two other top-10 groups in the Angels and Orioles.
This game seems to be lined pretty fairly and the total is probably dead on.
Luke Weaver and Blake Snell are listed for this one at Petco Park with a guy in Snell that is really teetering on the brink. He’s walked 17 batters over his last 18.2 innings. He’s allowed an average exit velo of 90.5 mph and has a .333 BABIP. He’s given up five homers over his last four starts and only has 17 strikeouts in that span after racking up nine strikeouts in his first start of the season.
Snell has allowed a 43.1% Hard Hit% and a 12.3% Barrel%. He has faced the Braves twice and the aforementioned top-five Cubs offense against lefties. The Reds are nowhere near that, so this is a big start for Snell because he needs to inspire a little confidence against a Cincinnati squad not on the level of the other teams he has faced. Honestly, with his numbers, Snell is lucky to only have a 5.48 ERA, as evidenced by the 6.30 FIP and 7.02 xERA.
Snell’s slider spin rate is the lowest we’ve seen since 2017. His curveball is on par with 2021, which is the lowest season of his career and had a 4.20 ERA with a 4.82 xERA that season. He’s throwing the highest rate of fastballs of his career and opposing batters are hitting .404 with a .769 SLG on the pitch. It’s not really a good look anywhere for Snell right now. His first-pitch strike rate of 49.5% won’t get it done, but getting ahead in the count more may allow him to throw more breaking balls and get hitters off of the fastball.
Weaver has struck out eight batters in each of his two starts. He’s also allowed 10 runs on 12 hits, including five home runs. Talk about feast or famine. The 19 batted balls he has allowed have an average exit velocity of 94.7 mph and he has a Hard Hit% of 63.3% with seven barrels allowed. The strikeouts are largely a mirage, as he is not getting chases outside the zone and has had to rely on whiffs on pitches in the zone. He has been throwing more curveballs and changeups than in the past, but I’m not really buying the K% uptick in his starts against the Rangers and Pirates.
It is crazy to me that Snell has the numbers he has and has still allowed three or fewer runs in four of his five starts, but he also doesn’t work deep into games. It’s also crazy to me that the Padres offense hasn’t really taken off. They’re just floating in the middle of the league for the full season and the last 14 days. I looked hard at the Over 8.5 here, but I just couldn’t get there.
Wish this was Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, or Graham Ashcraft, even it would have changed the line. Hard to try and fade Snell with a guy like Weaver.
Taijuan Walker was removed from his last start due to “forearm tightness”, but feels better and an MRI came back clean, so he’ll get the nod against the Dodgers on Monday night. Walker wasn’t pitching well when he left the game anyway and allowed five runs on five hits in four innings of work. He gave up a couple homers and struck out six. He’s got a 4.97 ERA with a 5.28 FIP with 14 runs allowed on just 21 hits in 25.1 innings of work. The low hit total has been canceled out by a high walk rate, as Walker has issued 14 free passes over his five starts.
In his defense, he’s only walked six batters in his last 16.1 innings after walking eight in his first nine innings. Those starts came against the Reds, White Sox, and Mariners, who are eighth, 28th, and 20th in BB%. The Dodgers are No. 1 in the league at 11.9% and 1.3% above the Mets, who are second. Walker has been able to work around the walks thanks to a 33.8% Hard Hit% against.
Tony Gonsolin returned for the Dodgers on April 26 and only went 3.1 innings with three walks, one strikeout, and two hits allowed. Of the 10 batted ball events for the Pirates, the hardest-hit ball was 91.5 mph and the average exit velocity was 82.3 mph. Gonsolin only made one rehab start and went three innings and faced 12 batters, so it was no surprise to see him only face 14 batters, especially after getting into trouble in both the third and fourth innings. He threw 65 pitches in that last start.
I’d expect 75-80 today for Gonsolin, so factor that into your handicapping, especially with any of his player props. He had a 2.14 ERA with a 3.28 FIP last season and ran a .207 BABIP with an 83.8% LOB%, so there were some clear regression signs in the profile, but he also had a 34.4% Hard Hit%, so he just does a really good job of limiting hard contact.
It’s tough to lay the price with the Dodgers today, even though I think they win. The Cardinals didn’t really make the bullpen work a lot, but each of the three primary relievers pitched at least twice in the series and Brusdar Graterol actually worked all three games. Gonsolin may struggle to get through five innings and put a little strain on that unit and some of the middle relievers that typically pitch in lower leverage may have to step up a bit.
Let’s see how Walker looks here as well, since it’s clear he’s dealing with some kind of discomfort, whether imaging showed it or not.
Cal Quantrill and Domingo German are the slated starters for this one as the Yankees and Guardians both limp into this series. Cleveland has lost four straight series and New York enters May in last place in the AL East. Both teams got blown out yesterday and have major offensive issues.
Aaron Judge continues to battle a hip issue with Giancarlo Stanton on the IL. The Guardians have bigger issues than injuries because they just generally can’t hit and everybody is healthy. Cleveland is 28th in wOBA, better than only the Tigers and Royals. That’s not the company that you want to keep. Their 17 homers are only more than the Nationals (15) and their walk rate has been going down recently. Pitchers are smartening up and just outright challenging the hitters.
Over the last seven days, Cleveland’s BB% is just 6.0% and it is just 6.5% over the last 14 days. The one thing that they were doing well offensively has gone by the wayside. As a nightly observer, I can attest to how painful it really is.
Maybe today is the day they get going! Since Domingo German was told to wash his hands in the midst of one of the best starts of his career against the Twins, he has struggled. In two starts since striking out 11 Twins over 6.1 innings, German has 14 strikeouts in 12 innings, but he has also allowed 10 runs on 10 hits. Five of the 10 hits have been home runs, including some revenge from the Twins last time out. While German has been racking up strikeouts, it is worth pointing out that 22 of his last 42 batted balls have been hit at least 95 mph.
Logan Allen and Tanner Bibee are potential stars in the making for the Guardians rotation, but getting Cal Quantrill right would go a long way. Quantrill has allowed 16 runs on 33 hits in 25 innings of work. The concerning thing is that he’s faced the Mariners twice, who have yet to get it going offensively, the Nationals, Tigers, and the Rockies at home. That is not a good slate of opponents and Quantrill has a 5.40 ERA with a 4.70 FIP.
He’s been a little unlucky with a 36.2% Hard Hit% and a .330 BABIP against, but this is the risk you run being a pitch-to-contact guy. He’s only struck out 15 of 117 batters. The Guardians defense has also fallen off quite significantly this season, despite largely having the same roster as last year. But, Quantrill has been hurt by that, as well as a 67.9% LOB%.
Rain could be an issue later in this game. These are two good and deep bullpens, though, so they should be able to navigate. I just don’t see any edges in this game.
Is Jose Berrios truly fixed? After giving up 14 runs (12 earned) in his first 9.2 innings, Berrios has allowed three runs on 11 hits in his last 19 innings of work against the Rays, Astros, and White Sox. Berrios has even allowed just seven hard-hit balls over those last two starts, which has been a major problem for him the last few seasons. It looks like the Blue Jays have made some mechanical changes with him, altering both his horizontal and vertical release points.
His vertical release point is up a little higher and he’s getting a little more tilt on his pitches, but the progressive horizontal release point change with each passing start is one of the adjustments that seems to stand out. He’s also created more speed separation between his changeup and sinker, which matters with similar movement. The changeup is his primary pitch to attack lefties with, so that’s what he’ll need to do against Boston’s platoon advantages. The Red Sox are fifth in wOBA against RHP on the season.
Whether or not this is the new Berrios remains to be seen, but it sure seems like we know what Corey Kluber is at this point. Kluber has a 6.75 ERA with a 5.22 xERA and a 6.76 FIP in his 24 innings of work. He’s had two pretty good starts and three bad ones, allowing seven homers and a 40.8% Hard Hit% in starts against the Orioles (x2), Pirates, Rays, and Twins. I mentioned his home/road splits last season with the Rays and they’ve certainly been part of the equation so far. In 13.1 innings at Fenway Park, he has a .415 wOBA against and has allowed five of his seven homers.
Kluber’s highest average exit velocity in the Statcast era was 87.9 mph up until this season and it sits at 89.8 mph. His Hard Hit% is above 39% for the first time. His K% is under 20% for the first time. The stuff is just in dramatic decline for him. His Swing & Miss% on the curveball is lowest than ever and same with his cutter. He’s actually done well with the results on those two pitches despite the decreased margin for error, but his velocity continues to decrease and hitters are fighting off more pitches to get to mistakes.
Berrios has done a better job recently of neutralizing lefties, but they still have done way better than righties with a .271/.286/.438 slash and a .311 wOBA. Righties have a .240 wOBA. The White Sox and Astros are pretty right-handed-heavy. Last season, lefties hung a .298/.351/.514 slash and a .373 wOBA on Berrios. In his start against the Astros, Berrios only threw 14 pitches to left-handed batters. In his last start against the White Sox, he threw 39 pitches to lefties and 64 pitches to righties. He’ll get more lefties tonight.
This is such a brutal card and I can’t really find many edges that I like. I do think Berrios could have a bit of a correction in his numbers today getting guys like Devers and Yoshida. Unfortunately, this total is 9.5 with heavy juice and even touches 10 in some places, which means that the 1st 5 total is 5.5. I can’t play that.
I actually really like Ross Stripling on the whole, but this season is off to a really ugly start for him. He’s allowed 13 runs (12 earned) on 20 hits in 15.2 innings of work. He’s struck out 14 and walked five, but the six homers he has allowed are what really stand out. Stripling has allowed an average exit velocity of 90.9 mph and a 44.2% Hard Hit%. For a guy who has a career 35.7% Hard Hit%, this year’s lack of command is a major concern.
The only game in which Stripling hasn’t allowed a run is when he pitches on the road in Miami and he allowed a lot of hard contact in that one. Both lefties and righties have hit Stripling well thus far. Maybe getting a second straight start will allow him to get back on track, but I don’t think a matchup with the Astros lineup, which included Yordan Alvarez the last two days, is what he wants to see.
Luis Garcia seems to have settled in. He’s worked 13 shutout innings with 16 starts against three walks in his last two starts against the Blue Jays and Rays. Those are two pretty good lineups and he carved them up nicely. He allowed just four hard-hit balls over those two starts for a 14.8% Hard Hit% and an average EV of 83.1 mph. He went really cutter-heavy in those two starts and it worked out well for him. He’s scaled back on the fastball usage and has simplified his arsenal a little bit, which makes sense given where his fastball command was.
The Giants bullpen struggled the last two days with blown saves and this group has been shaky throughout the season. The Astros bullpen is solid once again and pretty well-rested after working yesterday, but not really doing a lot of heavy lifting the previous two days.
Because the Astros are at home and likely to only bat eight times, we’re getting this run line at plus money. I don’t really like today’s card and don’t see a whole lot to take, but this one makes sense, as Garcia has really locked down and one tough lefty, Mike Yastrzemski, is out after suffering a hamstring injury. He had a 131 wRC+ up to this point, so that’s a loss against Garcia.
Pick: Astros Run Line (-1.5) (+120)
Astros -1.5 (+120)