MLB schedule today has 12 games
Monday has arrived with a new set of games and all of them will conclude under the dark of night, as we have zero day games to kick off the work week. It is a busy 12-game card that only features three interleague series, as we do have several division games in the AL, but only one in the NL. With a wide variety of pitchers on the hill, there is a lot to discuss.
First, let’s discuss offense from this past week. I think I’ll just do weekly updates going forward instead of breaking it into smaller sample sizes that can be extremely misleading. At least a full week takes us an entire turn through the rotation, so I’ll do it on Mondays.
Season: .248/.320/.407, .318 wOBA, 22.7% K%, 8.7% BB%, .297 BABIP, 12.2% HR/FB%
May 15-21: .251/.320/.417, .321 wOBA, 22.9% K%, 8.6% BB%, .301 BABIP, 12.7% HR/FB%
The league-wide Hard Hit% was 40.6% last week compared to 39.3% for the season. More hard-hit balls led to a higher BABIP and a higher HR/FB%, so that drove up slugging a bit, with a mild increase in batting average. The patchwork rotations and bullpens are likely part of the cause. There were also some big offensive outbursts throughout the week with teams getting into double digits, including some huge offensive numbers in St. Louis reminiscent of that first series of the season against the Blue Jays.
With the weather warming and pitchers battling all sorts of ailments, the offensive baseline may be a little bit above the full-season numbers. I did have a buddy remind me of how the balls really took off around this time last year and it wouldn’t be shocking for MLB to infuse some newly-juiced balls into play as other sports wind down. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but there is a lot of apathy out there about baseball, especially in certain demographics, where an increase in offense to make the game more exciting does make sense every spring.
We’ll see how things go. For now, follow me on Twitter, @SkatingTripods, to get the article right as it goes live. (Tracking sheet)
Also, tune in for another edition of VSiN Daily Baseball Bets this afternoon.
Here are some thoughts on the May 22 card (odds from DraftKings):
The Phillies are the biggest NL favorite of the day as Zack Wheeler takes the bump against Tommy Henry and the Diamondbacks. Wheeler hasn’t found much luck this season, as his peripherals are pretty spectacular across the board, yet a .333 BABIP and a 64.3% LOB% are holding him back. He has a 4.06 ERA, but that comes with a 2.41 FIP and a 3.49 xFIP. He’s only allowed two homers out of 218 batters faced with a 28% K% and a 6% BB%.
To say Wheeler deserves a better fate is an understatement. He’s allowed just a 32.9% Hard Hit% and a 2.9% Barrel%, yet his .333 BABIP is the eighth-highest among 70 qualified pitchers. Lefties have done the damage, posting a .299/.354/.414 slash with a .334 wOBA in 99 plate appearances. They have a .391 BABIP against him, while he’s kept righties at bay. The Diamondbacks have six lefties in their regular lineup, but could add a seventh depending on what they do at catcher.
Every Henry start is a mystery. He has a 5.00 ERA with a 5.70 FIP in 27 innings of work, which isn’t all that mysterious, but he’s a command-oriented, pitch-to-contact guy who has a thin margin for error. He only has 13 strikeouts against 12 walks out of 115 batters faced. Henry has a .282 BABIP with a 36% Hard Hit% and a 9% Barrel%, which is another illustration of how Wheeler has gotten unlucky.
Henry just doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. His Hard Hit% is actually 43.6% in his last three starts against the Nationals, Giants, and Athletics. The Phillies are only 24th in wOBA vs. LHP, but I’m not interested in the under or a side here.
A couple of southpaws square off here between the Cardinals and Reds. Jordan Montgomery gets the call for the Redbirds and Brandon Williamson will make his home debut for the Redlegs. Williamson’s debut start came at Coors Field, where he allowed one run on two hits with six strikeouts and two walks in 5.2 innings. The lone run was a solo homer.
It was a rather surprising start from Williamson, who had a 6.62 ERA in eight minor league starts with a 27/20 K/BB ratio. In four minor league seasons, Williamson had 328 strikeouts and 135 walks in 270.1 innings of work. He missed a ton of bats, but also missed the strike zone a ton. He faced 1,189 batters, so just under 39% of his plate appearances ended with a strikeout or a walk. That is a really challenging MLB profile to look at, even though he’s got some really nice raw data from a Statcast standpoint. He was ranked as the Reds’ No. 9 prospect coming into the season by FanGraphs.
Williamson is also 6-foot-6, so that plays into a little bit of deception, which may be why hitters walked and struck out so much. They simply weren’t picking up the baseball all that well and either gave up on pitches for balls or swung and missed at them. He had 10 whiffs in 34 swings in that start against the Rockies, who are 25th in wOBA against LHP.
St. Louis is seventh, so this is a much stiffer test for Williamson against a much more polished lineup. The Cardinals may need a little more run support here for Montgomery, who has allowed nine runs on 15 hits in his last 10.1 innings of work. Most notably, Montgomery has allowed four homers in his last two starts and five in his last three after only giving up one long ball in his first six starts.
He’s allowed eight barrels in his three starts against the Tigers, Cubs, and Brewers, so he isn’t locating as well as we’ve usually seen. He still has 16 strikeouts against five walks in those three starts and his Hard Hit% is better than the league average, but he has given up a few too many meatballs lately to be comfortable laying the number.
It’s warming up at Great American Ball Park, which should lead to some more offense moving forward, but 10 is a tough number with Montgomery’s track record and Williamson’s first time through the league.
Gavin Stone is back up for the Dodgers, as he looks for better fortunes than what he had in his MLB debut back on May 3. Stone allowed five runs (four earned) on eight hits in four innings with just one strikeout and two walks out of 23 batters faced. That start was at home against the Phillies and now he draws the Braves on the road.
To Stone’s credit, he didn’t allow a lot of hard-hit contact in that start, but he didn’t miss enough bats or throw enough strikes to put hitters in tough positions. Since that start, he’s allowed three earned runs on seven hits with a 14/7 K/BB ratio in 11 innings at Triple-A. For the season, he has a 4.04 ERA over 35.2 innings of work, but he did allow six runs in 2.2 innings in his first start and has only allowed 10 earned runs in seven starts since.
The Braves decimate lefties, but they rank 15th in wOBA against righties and even have a 98 wRC+, meaning they are 2% below league average in that split, though it is fair to point out that the Rays are really skewing the grading curve with a 133 wRC+ that is 17 points higher than any other team (Rangers). Nevertheless, the Braves don’t hit for as much power or bat as effectively against righties.
Charlie Morton has turned the clock back this season and is coming off of a dominant performance against the Rangers with 10 strikeouts in 6.2 innings of work. He has a 2.85 ERA with a 3.59 FIP and a 4.03 xFIP over 47.1 innings of work. Morton has only allowed four home runs and has 49 strikeouts with a 23.8% K% and a 8.7% BB%. His .323 BABIP is even a little high for his 35.8% Hard Hit%, which is a big upgrade from his 42.1% mark last season.
There are some notable Cluster Luck signs in the profile for Morton, who has allowed a .368 wOBA with the bases empty, a .239 with men on base, and a .184 with men in scoring position. His BABIP by situation is .368, .277, .176. His 81.4% LOB% confirms this, but it is hard to argue with anything else in the profile. He does have a 4.40 xERA with the elevated walk rate. I do think that could be a factor against the Dodgers, who are fourth in wOBA and second in BB% against righties.
While the Dodgers had a very long series against the Cardinals, their bullpen came out relatively well from it all. (Top pitching prospect Bobby Miller will debut tomorrow.) The Braves bullpen looks different, as Raisel Iglesias and Nick Anderson have pitched three of the last five days and would go B2B days tonight. Collin McHugh has been used two of the last three. A lot of relievers pitched during Saturday’s bullpen day, but none of those guys.
Still, I think Morton has enough regression signs and there are enough concerns about the Braves and their pedestrian offense against righties to take a shot with the Dodgers in a dog role here. Stone has had big SwStr% marks in the minors, which gives him more of a chance against the Braves because they will swing and miss. The jitters of a debut are gone and I think he’ll hang in there while his offense and bullpen do the rest.
Pick: Dodgers +130
Edward Cabrera and Chase Anderson draw the short straws today and take the Coors Field mound in hopes of not having a major ERA blow-up. Cabrera is allegedly okay after leaving his last start early with a blister. He allowed two runs on five hits against the Nationals with six strikeouts against zero walks, but he only threw 79 pitches and exited stage right.
For the season, Cabrera has a 5.13 ERA with a 4.80 FIP in his 40.1 innings of work. He’s struck out 55 and walked 30 out of 183 batters, so 46.4% of opposing hitters have either struck out or walked. When he has allowed a ball in play, it has been hit on the ground with a 53.6% GB%. He’s allowed a 42.3% Hard Hit%, but you can live with that when the majority of the balls are on the ground. That also seems like a sound strategy in Denver.
It’s just such a weird profile to try and figure out. He has a 12.9% SwStr%, so the stuff is clearly good. He gets a good number of chases and has actually only walked 17 batters over his last seven starts, which is better than it sounds given his full-season track record. The Rockies are 25th in BB% against right-handed pitching and have the third-highest O-Swing% (Guardians, White Sox), so they like to expand the zone. They also have the fifth-lowest Z-Contact% if Cabrera does find the zone.
Baseball makes no sense most days. Look no further than Anderson’s last start. He threw five scoreless innings at Coors Field with one hit and one walk allowed. It was his first appearance for the Rockies after working a couple times in relief for the Rays. Anderson also completed five innings in just 59 pitches at Coors Field, which is quite an accomplishment. He also only allowed one hard-hit ball. That’s a guy who had a 6.38 ERA with a 5.07 FIP in 24 innings last season over seven starts and two relief appearances.
I kind of like the Marlins today, but I’m worried about a recurrence of the blister for Cabrera and it is also really hard to bet into that offense with Jazz Chisholm Jr. and Jesus Sanchez out. Cabrera’s last start was also the first time ever that he went four innings in a start without a walk. At Coors Field, walks are a kiss of death. I may regret this one, but I’m passing on it.
Hunter Gaddis as a favorite is something that will take a minute to get used to, as the White Sox had not officially named a starter by the morning with Mike Clevinger on the IL due to wrist soreness. Jesse Scholtens is the only non-injured starting pitcher on the 40-man roster. It looks as though the White Sox will use Jimmy Lambert as an opener and then Scholtens as the bulk reliever.
Lambert has a 6.23 ERA and a 6.58 FIP in 17.1 innings of work this season. He’s allowed 15 runs total (12 earned) on 20 hits with 22 strikeouts against 11 walks. Scholtens, who is 29 and just made his MLB debut earlier this season, has a 3.99 ERA in 38.1 innings at Triple-A Birmingham, but has a 5.24 FIP. He has allowed nine homers in just seven games, but he does have 42 strikeouts against 11 walks.
Gaddis has a 6.86 ERA with a 3.85 FIP in his 19.2 innings of work. He’s only allowed one home run, which is why FIP is kind of a fan, but he’s also allowed 15 runs on 22 hits in 19.2 innings of work. He gave up eight runs in three innings to the Yankees as a real ERA killer, but he was also bad against the Mariners in the second game of the season with four runs on five hits in 3.2 innings.
Gaddis is an extreme fly ball dude, hence the super high xFIP of 5.94. Since getting sent down, he has a 5.12 ERA in four starts with a 24/8 K/BB ratio, but he has allowed six home runs. Gavin Williams should probably have gotten this start for Cleveland, but this might be a one-off with Aaron Civale and Triston McKenzie on the rehab trail.
This game is just a mess. I’m not really sure there’s a great edge to be had, though the Guardians aren’t exactly playing like a team worthy of being favored in many situations. Cleveland’s bullpen is also horrendous right now, which could be a live betting angle. The over is mildly intriguing, but, again, Cleveland’s offense.
The Chris Bassitt Comeback Tour makes a stop at Tropicana Field tonight as the veteran right-hander is rolling. He gave up four runs on a Taylor Trammell grand slam in the first inning back on April 30. He has not allowed a run in the month of May across 23 innings and has a 27-inning scoreless streak as he takes on the best lineup in baseball against righties.
Bassitt has scattered nine hits over his last three starts with a 20/7 K/BB ratio. He has just a 28.4% Hard Hit% for the season and a spectacular 23.3% HH% if we take away his first start against the Cardinals when he got bombed for nine runs on 10 hits in 3.1 innings. He gave up four homers in that start and has allowed two homers in eight starts since.
Trevor Kelley will be the opener for the Rays here and then give way to Josh Fleming. Kelley has allowed five runs on six hits in six innings of work. He gave up a solo homer out of seven batters faced in his only start of the season back on May 12. His last appearance four days ago against the Mets is his only scoreless appearance of the season.
Fleming has a 3.68 ERA with a 4.63 FIP over 36.2 innings of work. He got the straight start last time out and fired five shutout innings against the Mets. He gave up one run on three hits in four innings to the Yankees in his appearance prior to that. His margin for error is uber-small with just 19 strikeouts out of 153 batters faced. He’s allowed a 42.4% Hard Hit%, but only three barrels because his GB% is 61.5%. He keeps the ball on the ground and forces the opposition to string hits together to score runs.
For all the righties and all the right-handed power that the Blue Jays possess, they are 16th in wOBA against LHP and have just a 106 wRC+. A coin flip line seems fair here. Bassitt has been wheelin’ and dealin’, but the Rays remain the best team in baseball for a reason. I will say, though, that the Rays pen is the worst in baseball over the last 14 days with a 6.27 FIP and 28th in ERA at 6.31, so that bullpen regression has absolutely taken place. Unfortunately, Toronto’s pen has an ERA and a FIP north of 5 over the last two weeks as well.
How about the season that Michael Lorenzen is putting together? The Tigers right-hander has a 3.44 ERA with a 3.79 FIP in his 34 innings of work to this point. He’s allowed just two runs on 14 hits over his last three starts, as his season got off to a late start due to injury and he allowed 11 runs over two of his first three starts.
Lorenzen has not allowed a barrel in his last two starts and is even coming off of his best start of the season from a SwStr% standpoint. Increased slider usage seems to have helped him this season, as the Tigers are working up in the zone with fastballs to change the eye level and he’s tunneling his pitches better. With his three main pitches (4-seam, CH, SL), Lorenzen has allowed batting averages of .156, .152, and .207 on the season with SLG of .156, .364, and .276.
The Royals had that little blip where they were swinging the bats well and the offensive numbers went up, but they are 29th in wOBA and 30th in wRC+ in the last 14 days with a big uptick in K% and virtually no walks.
Brady Singer continues to allow missiles all over the ballpark. He’s actually allowed just three earned runs on 12 hits in his last 12 innings with a 7/4 K/BB ratio, but he’s allowed 24 hard-hit balls in that span. His Hard Hit% is still 59.2% with no end in sight and he’s allowed 17 barrels for an 11.6% Barrel%.
Singer is now on a six-start streak with a SwStr% in single digits and that has happened in eight of his nine starts. We’ve also seen his velocity lag a little bit in his last two outings. He’s a mechanical mess right now as the Royals try to figure out what’s actually happening with him. Both his horizontal and vertical release points are all over the map.
He may have some more batted ball luck like he’s had in his last two starts and the Tigers are 28th in wOBA over the last two weeks offensively themselves, but Singer doesn’t deserve to be favored. His name value and the stats and metrics simply don’t align. He has allowed a .371/.438/.643 slash with a .455 wOBA the second time through the order, so that’s where the Tigers should be able to do some damage. In that respect, maybe live betting Detroit is the way to go in case they fall behind early.
Still, Singer doesn’t deserve to be a favorite. I also like Detroit’s bullpen a little bit more.
Pick: Tigers -105
Tanner Houck and Jaime Barria are listed for this one at The Big A in Anaheim, with the Angels a short favorite across most of the market. This will be Barria’s first start of the season after 10 relief appearances with a 1.96 ERA and a 3.51 FIP. He made one start last season over 79.1 innings of work with a 2.61 ERA and a 4.39 FIP. The 26-year-old has maxed out at four innings and that will be the target for the Angels in this one.
Barria has only allowed one earned run in his last nine appearances after giving up four runs on five hits to Seattle over 3.2 innings in his season debut. His last appearance five days ago was his first in 12 days and he’s only pitched 6.2 innings since April 29. He’s been sharp this season with a 24.2% Hard Hit% and just a 3.2% Barrel%, but he’s been used sporadically of late.I’m not really sure what to make of him here. Generally speaking, I’m not a huge fan with a 3.97 ERA and a 4.79 FIP in 403.1 innings of work, but his 44.3% GB% is a career-high and he’s really cut down on the home runs.
Houck is a pretty big positive regression candidate with a 5.48 ERA and a 4.09 FIP in his 42.2 innings of work. His 59.2% LOB% is one of the worst in baseball and that’s why his ERA is as high as it is. Otherwise, he has a 38/15 K/BB ratio with five homers allowed and a .293 BABIP with a 41.4% Hard Hit%. Nothing really stands out aside from his bad luck with men on base.
The Angels are still clinging to a top-10 mark in wOBA against righties, while Boston is a solid second, trailing only the Rays, but, as I’ve mentioned, Boston has played a disproportionate number of home games to skew the numbers a bit. On this current road trip, the Sox have scored eight runs in three games. They are 10th in wOBA on the road against righties, but at.318. Given that they are second overall at .341, that tells you how much damage they’ve done at home.
I expected to like the Red Sox more than I do here. Guess we’ll find out about Barria as a starter in case this is a move that sticks long-term. He definitely has better numbers as a reliever with a difference of .17 runs in ERA, 17 points in BA, 26 points in OBP, 37 points in SLG, and 26 points in wOBA compared to his starter numbers.
You don’t find a lot of home team run lines juiced in the -150 or -155 range, but that’s the case here with the A’s and Mariners. Kyle Muller gets the start for the A’s in what is a good pitcher’s park and against a Seattle lineup that is 28th in wOBA at .284, so this is about as good as he can ask for on the road.
That being said, is anything truly good for a guy with a 7.71 ERA and a 5.74 FIP over 42 innings of work? Muller has allowed a homer in seven straight starts and only has 30 strikeouts against 21 walks. In 18.1 innings on the road, he has allowed 21 runs on 27 hits with a 13/13 K/BB ratio. He has a .436 wOBA against in that split.
Luis Castillo returns home licking some wounds. He hasn’t been all that sharp lately with 14 runs (12 earned) on 19 hits over his last 17 innings of work. He gave up seven runs and a season-high three homers to the Red Sox in his May 16 start. Castillo had allowed three homers total up to that point and all three had come in his previous three starts.
In fairness, his last four starts have come against the Jays, Astros, Rangers, and Red Sox. While I appreciate what the A’s have done on the road, Oakland is not in the same echelon as those four teams. This should be a decent bounce back spot for Castillo.
The Rangers enjoyed some good vibes against the Rockies over the weekend with some big, blowout victories. Now they head on the road to take on the Pirates. It will be Dane Dunning for the visitors and Luis L. Ortiz for the hosts, as Dunning looks to continue what has been a fine campaign thus far.
The 28-year-old went back into the rotation three starts ago and has allowed three runs on 14 hits in 17 innings of work against the Angels, Mariners, and Braves. For the season, he has a 1.69 ERA with a 2.86 FIP in 37.1 innings of work with just 23 strikeouts against seven walks. Dunning has a lot of regression signs in his profile. His .234 BABIP comes with roughly a league average Hard Hit% and a 50.5% GB%, so the BABIP will go up. His 77.8% LOB% will also rise with such a low strikeout rate. I expected it to happen against the Braves last time out, but it did not. Yet, somehow, the over still got there.
The Pirates offense has gotten a bit better of late, not that it could get any worse. We’ll see if they give Ortiz any run support. The right-hander has a 4.88 ERA and a 4.38 FIP over 24 innings of work covering six starts in his MLB career. His two MLB starts have not gone all that well this season with nine runs allowed on 14 hits in eight innings of work with four strikeouts against five walks. He’s allowed a 48.6% Hard Hit% in outings against the Rockies at home and the Tigers on the road.
The Rangers are third in wOBA against righties, but, as I’ve mentioned, they do a ton of damage at home. They are just 18th in wOBA on the road against righties. I don’t like Ortiz enough to fade Dunning and give the Pirates a shot. I wish it was somebody else, even if it lowered the price. Now I’ll just root for Dunning to pitch well and keep building up the regression in hopes of fading him again soon.
John Brebbia is the opener for the Giants in this one after throwing eight pitches in yesterday’s win over the Marlins. Brebbia will open for either Sean Manaea or Tristan Beck, or some combination of both. Even though Brebbia only faced two batters yesterday, this is his third time in four days to pitch, so I can’t imagine he goes more than an inning.
Brebbia has a 4.26 ERA with a 2.13 FIP, so he’s thrown the ball well over this season with a 28/7 K/BB ratio in 19 innings of work. The options after Brebbia aren’t inspiring. Manaea has a 7.81 ERA with a 6.73 FIP in 27.2 innings of work. The one inspiring thing with Manaea is that the Twins are 23rd in wOBA against lefties with one of the highest K% in baseball. Manaea worked five days ago and allowed a solo home run over six batters faced against the Phillies after getting removed from the rotation.
Beck has a 5.71 ERA with a 5.54 FIP in his 17.1 innings of work. He has not started any games, but has worked 5.1 innings as a reliever twice. In those extended outings, he’s allowed six runs on 15 hits. He’s got a 14/4 K/BB ratio in 77 batters faced. He’s also got a 50% Hard Hit%, so he’s worked around some hard contact. Manaea has a 45.6% Hard Hit%, so pick your poison if you’re the Giants, but the lefty may be the better option given Minnesota’s platoon splits.
The Giants will get their first look at 6-foot-9 right-hander Bailey Ober. Ober has a 1.78 ERA with a 3.00 FIP in 30.1 innings of work. He’s struck out 28 and walked seven with a couple of homers allowed, but has not allowed more than three runs in any of his five starts. He’s an extreme fly ball guy, but he’s a tough dude to hit with his 100th percentile Extension and good command. He has a 3.48 ERA with a 3.78 FIP in 178.2 innings of work at the MLB level and has only allowed six homers in his last 86.1 MLB innings.
It is worth noting that the Giants are the second-best offense by wOBA against righties on the road with a .352 mark, trailing only the Rays. The secret may be out about Ober after a really good start against the Dodgers and I think this line is just a little rich. He may very well throw another gem, but -150 is a steep price to pay with a Twins offense that just doesn’t impress me. Keep an eye on San Francisco’s bullpen usage in this series and on this road trip.
Cristian Javier and Corbin Burnes round out today’s schedule with a battle of two really good arms. In nine starts, Javier has allowed more than three runs just once and has 59 strikeouts in 52.2 innings of work to go against just 12 walks. He’s got a 3.25 ERA with a 3.52 FIP and has actually cut down on the walks, which makes up for the decrease in strikeouts from 33.2% to 28.5%, which is still elite.
The Brewers are definitely better against righties than lefties, but they have a 100 wRC+, so they are considered a league average offense against RHP. They are 12th in wOBA at .321, but they haven’t hit for that much power, ranking 16th in SLG. Javier has allowed a 40.7% Hard Hit% and an 11.9% Barrel%, so he hasn’t been quite as sharp with his command, but his HH% is on the decline based on his last three starts.
Corbin Burnes hasn’t been as predictable as we’ve seen him in recent years. He has a 3.48 ERA with a 4.05 FIP in his 51.2 innings of work this season. The K% is down with 46 punchies in nine starts, but his SwStr% marks look just fine. He’s also allowed just 10 earned runs in his last seven starts after two really rocky outings to start the year. He has a 2.13 ERA with a 3.39 FIP in those last seven starts.
This is another one where I thought I’d go into the handicap and like the visitors, much like the Red Sox game, but there are enough things to believe in with Burnes, even if he isn’t the dominant pitcher he usually is. Another thing is that the Astros are 22nd in wOBA against RHP with a lowly .362 SLG that ranks 25th.
Just two plays for me on Monday.