MLB Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Monday, September 4th

By Adam Burke  ( Managing Editor) 

September 4, 2023 12:34 PM

MLB schedule today has 11 games

It is a busy time at VSiN, as our weekly NFL coverage kicked off on Sunday and will carry us throughout the week. It was also a busy weekend for me, as I did everybody’s favorite activity, moving. If I look away from my computer, I just see a bunch of boxes and a giant mess, so I’ll stop doing that for a while and handicap today’s MLB card.

It is a big one, as we have 11 games to consider. Last Thursday’s travel day only featured four games, so it makes sense that we’ve got a big slate today. We’ve got quite a few day games on the Labor Day holiday as well, but only a couple of really early slots in Chicago and Kansas City.

Per usual, I’ll be trying to hone in on the games that have more competitive lines and/or picks that I like. As September rolls along, betting options are likely to become fewer and fewer thanks to huge favorite, teams in various states of engagement, and all of the other factors to handicap with the final month of the regular season.

Before I get into today’s card, let’s check in on the state of offense:

Season: .249/.320/.415, .318 wOBA, .297 BABIP, 22.7% K%, 8.5% BB%, 12.7% HR/FB%

2nd Half: .250/.321/.424, .322 wOBA, .297 BABIP, 22.7% K%, 8.4% BB%, 13.6% HR/FB%

Last week: .254/.323/.426, .324 wOBA, .295 BABIP, 21.3% K%, 8.2% BB%, 13.5% HR/FB%

There was a pretty big, albeit mostly random, drop in K% last week. If I look at the last 14 days, the K% is 22.5%, so basically in line with the full-season numbers. I presume this is just a case of high-strikeout starters not really pitching or maybe just some head-to-head matchups of teams that don’t strike out a lot against teams that don’t miss a lot of bats. But, you can see what the lack of strikeouts did for batting average and slugging percentage. Guess we’ll see if it continues into today.

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Here are some thoughts on the September 4 card (odds from DraftKings):

San Francisco Giants at Chicago Cubs (-135, 9)

The top pitchers by fWAR on today’s card are the starters at Wrigley Field between Logan Webb and Justin Steele. You wouldn’t expect to see a total of 9 with these two guys, but gametime temps will be in the 90s with a breeze blowing out to LF. It would seem to affect Steele a little more than Webb, given that the Giants right-hander has a 60.6% GB% and Steele has a 48.2% GB%, but both guys have done well with the long ball this year. 

The Giants now have a negative run differential for the season thanks to their current three-game losing streak and the Cubs have continued to play well. I think they have a good chance to keep it going, as the Giants have been among the worst offenses in the second half, especially against lefties. But, this game is probably priced pretty fairly, given the season that Webb is having, even though he does have some noteworthy home/road splits.

Webb has a 2.51 ERA with a .265 wOBA against at home in 96.2 innings and a 4.63 ERA with a .318 wOBA against in 83.2 innings on the road. He is +40 in BA, +43 in OBP, and +87 in SLG on the road compared to at home and these are tough pitching conditions today.

Philadelphia Phillies at San Diego Padres (-115, 9)

Skipping over the heavily-favored Diamondbacks (Merrill Kelly) at Coors Field (Peter Lambert) and the Brewers/Pirates game with Corbin Burnes against TBD (opener, Luis Ortiz), we head to San Diego for the Phillies and Padres. It will be Taijuan Walker against Rich Hill with a 3:40 p.m. PT start time.

Walker has a 4.05 ERA with a 4.36 xERA and a 4.49 FIP in 26 starts over 142.1 innings of work. He has a 4.11 ERA with a 4.76 FIP in eight starts over 46 innings since the All-Star Break. The big velo bump he experienced in June has gone away and he’s actually sat under 92 mph three times in the second half. He’s allowed a 41% Hard Hit%, but that number goes up to 50% over his last three starts. Walker did have his start skipped in the middle of the month, so that dates back to August 12.

Hill was temporarily bumped from the San Diego rotation, but he’s back in it now. He allowed three runs on five hits last time out against the Cardinals over four innings. Hill has a 5.26 ERA with a 4.84 FIP in 137 innings, but a 6.46 ERA with a 5.90 FIP in eight second-half starts. He only has a 26/14 K/BB ratio over 39 innings. Since joining the Padres on August 6, he has allowed 17 runs on 23 hits in 18 innings of work and has given up six homers. This experiment, much like a lot of other things for the Padres this season, has not worked.

Both bullpens are on pretty equal footing in this one from a rest standpoint. The one edge I could see here is that the Phillies are fifth in wOBA at .365 with a 130 wRC+ against lefties in the second half. The Padres are actually better against lefties from a wRC+ standpoint, but only rank 15th against righties with a .317 wOBA and a 104 wRC+. Walker is right-handed. Hill is left-handed.

I like the Phillies against Hill and think they’ll play from in front. Walker’s times through the order splits actually have him getting better as the game goes on and Hill clearly gets worse.

Pick: Phillies -105

Houston Astros at Texas Rangers (-112, 9.5)

Skipping over AL Pitcher of the Month Cole Ragans and a heavily-favored Royals team laying -165 against the White Sox (Jesse Scholtens), let’s look at the huge series between the Astros and Rangers. The weight of the world lifted off of Adolis Garcia’s shoulders as his walk-off home run left a vapor trail as it flew into the stands yesterday for a 6-5 win against the Twins. Will that be emblematic of the team as a whole?

It has been a seriously weird stretch for the Rangers, who are one one-thousandth of a percentage point ahead of the Astros for second place with two games in hand. Both the Rangers and Astros have had their hiccups and ups and downs over the last few weeks while the Mariners rode a wave of momentum into first place. This series is big for both the AL West and also the Wild Card chase.

The Rangers send Andrew Heaney to the hill and the Astros counter with JP France. Perhaps Heaney had something to build on last time out as he allowed five hits and a walk over 5.1 shutout innings with seven strikeouts against the Mets. It had been a tough stretch for Heaney, as he had allowed seven runs on 17 hits in his last three starts over just 9.1 innings. He draws a Houston lineup that leads all of baseball in offense against lefties in the second half, so it is a tough assignment to say the least.

France gave up 10 runs on 11 hits in 2.1 innings to the Red Sox on August 24, but then faced them five days later at Fenway Park and allowed two runs on five hits over 5.2 innings. France owns a 3.49 ERA with a 4.64 xERA and a 4.39 FIP, so there are a lot of regression signs in the profile. It felt like the Boston start was the beginning of something on that front, but then he bounced back and pitched well against the same team in a better offensive ballpark.

So, I’m not really sure what to expect here. I think there are some red flags about both pitchers, but we do need to get 10 runs in this one for an over. I’m also not sure either pitcher is trustworthy enough to back here as this huge series gets underway.

Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays (-122, 8)

The Jays (Jose Berrios) are a huge favorite at Oakland (Luis Medina), as the A’s just swept the Angels, but Toronto is actually invested in the rest of the season, so we move on to a big series in Tampa between the Red Sox and Rays. The Orioles and Rays have really separated themselves from the rest of the AL East pack. Toronto is fighting tooth and nail for a playoff spot and sits 1.5 games out. Boston is 5.5 back, and while it’s not the end of the world, they only have 25 games left to play.

Every game is a must-win at this point, as Brayan Bello takes the mound against Aaron Civale. Bello struggled again last time out, as he only made it through 4.2 innings with three runs (two earned) on four hits with two strikeouts against the Astros. He has a 4.41 ERA with a 5.59 FIP in 51 innings over nine second-half starts. He only has 36 strikeouts in that span and has allowed 11 home runs.

Bello has allowed a good bit of hard contact this season anyway, but he’s allowed a 47.6% Hard Hit% in the second half. He hasn’t had a SwStr% above the league average since August 1. In his last three starts, he’s had some of the lowest chase rates of the season. The velocity is still there, but his stuff just doesn’t seem to be as explosive or located as well as it had been.

Civale comes in with a 2.64 ERA, 3.32 FIP and a 3.71 xERA over his 102.1 innings of work. The right-hander has a 3.55 ERA, but a 2.67 FIP in five starts with the Rays, as he has a 25/2 K/BB ratio and has only allowed two homers. He’s allowed 10 runs on 32 hits, so he’s had some bad batted ball luck with a .375 BABIP, but has mostly worked around it. He has only allowed a 32.9% Hard Hit%.

This price may be a tad light on the Rays, but their primary relievers have all worked back-to-back days, as Pete Fairbanks, Colin Poche, and Robert Stephenson were all used Saturday and Sunday. That said, none of them were used Thursday or Friday, so the group isn’t in bad shape. The Boston bullpen is certainly set up better.

It’s enough to keep me off Tampa Bay here, though I do think that they win. The price also dropped on this line as I was getting ready to publish, which I do think makes Tampa Bay more interesting, but I’m still shying away.

Minnesota Twins (-142, 8) at Cleveland Guardians

Pablo Lopez and Lucas Giolito are the listed starters for this one, as Giolito makes his Cleveland debut with enormous stakes in play. This kickstarts Cleveland’s last series against Minnesota and the Guardians are five back with 24 games to play. I feel like Cleveland needs to sweep this series to have any chance and Giolito will make his first start with a new team, so I’m not entirely sure how that goes.

For the season, Giolito has a 4.45 ERA with a 4.51 xERA and a 4.94 FIP in 153.2 innings of work. He was jettisoned from the Angels after posting a 6.89 ERA with a 6.81 FIP in 32.2 innings across six starts. It was less about his performance and more about money that got Giolito released, though I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thoroughly concerned about the performance. He allowed at least three runs in every start and gave up 10 homers in that span.

Cleveland is way better with pitchers than the Angels are, so that may be a silver lining here for Guardians fans and backers. Cleveland also has tons of data on Giolito from facing him a ton with the White Sox, so I’ll be interested to see what adjustments they make with him and if they are effective in this enormous game.

The Twins will counter with Lopez, who has a 3.72 ERA with a 3.16 xERA and a 3.45 FIP in 164.2 innings of work. The ERA has taken a bit of a hit lately, as he has allowed eight runs on 18 hits in his last 11 innings. Cleveland only had an average exit velo of 83.2 mph against him last time out, but the Rangers hit him pretty hard the start prior to that. Lopez has allowed four homers in his last two starts and only has nine strikeouts in his last 54 batters faced.

Prior to this two-start stretch, Lopez had allowed just five runs over his previous six starts total. Then I touted him as a long shot to win the Cy Young and he had the Texas start, so…

I’m not sure what happens in this game. Cleveland has a knack for magic against the Twins, but the Giolito thing is weird. On the other hand, I’m not rushing to take the Twins at this price. The DraftKings line is 10-12 cents higher than anywhere else in the market, which is rather interesting.

Baltimore Orioles (-192, 9) at Los Angeles Angels

The last bits of dirt were thrown on the Angels’ grave this past weekend, as they were swept by the Athletics and could not have looked less engaged. Oakland won the series by a combined count of 21-9 and the Angels have lost six of seven. Maybe returning home will help them - and the series against Cleveland could be an all-timer for teams that have given up if the Guardians don’t do well against the Twins - but it’s hard to say that they’ll be very invested moving forward.

Grayson Rodriguez will go for the Orioles here, as he comes in with a 2.83 ERA and a 3.03 FIP in his 47.2 innings since getting recalled on July 17. He has allowed a total of 15 runs in eight starts and has allowed only two homers. Rodriguez is pitching on some extra rest here, but he’s been used to that, as the Orioles try to get MLB innings out of him while also stretching out his workload. 

Rodriguez has only allowed a 35.4% Hard Hit% since his recall and only a 5.5% Barrel%. Compare that with a 52.2% Hard Hit% and a 12.7% Barrel% in his first 10 starts. He’s been as sharp as they come in the second half and draws an Angels lineup that is 29th in wOBA at .286 and has a 78 wRC+ since August 1. He could also see a nice K% boost here with an Angels bunch that has a 26.1% K% in that span.

The Orioles draw lefty Kenny Rosenberg, who has allowed five runs on nine hits in seven innings with a 7/7 K/BB ratio. He had a 4.95 ERA over 20 starts in Triple-A with 14 homers allowed and will slow into the rotation with Lucas Giolito now in Cleveland. In Rosenberg’s lone long appearance, he allowed four runs on seven hits in five innings to the Astros on August 11 and walked five.

This game does have the dreaded double minus, but the Orioles are playing very well again and I don’t think the Angels could care less. Rodriguez vs. Rosenberg is a huge mismatch and it is very hard to score against the Baltimore bullpen. This should be a comfortable win for the O’s.

Pick: Orioles -1.5 (-118)

Seattle Mariners (-155, 10.5) at Cincinnati Reds

The Reds are easing a really promising pitcher back into the mix, as Tejay Antone will open here to make his second MLB appearance of the season. Antone had a 2.14 ERA with strong peripherals in 33.2 innings in 2021 and also performed well over 35.1 innings in 2020, but injuries have derailed the promising right-hander and he’s now approaching 30.

The Reds have a couple recent call-ups in Casey Legumina and Michael Mariot, so I’d assume one of them will follow Antone here. Cincinnati has three pitchers on the COVID list right now. Brandon Williamson was supposed to start yesterday, but he’s one of them. I’m not sure if they’re sick or if this is some kind of roster manipulation, but it was jarring to see the COVID list still a thing for more than one player.

In any event, Bryan Woo starts for the Mariners and I mostly just wanted to hit the roster situation for the Reds. Since coming back from the IL, Woo has allowed one run on six hits over 10 innings against the White Sox and A’s.

TL;DR Recap

Phillies -105

Orioles -1.5 (-118)

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