MLB schedule today has 7 games
We’ve got less than half of a traditional MLB card on Thursday, as 16 teams enjoy a day off before heading into a new weekend series. Of the seven games today, four have favorites well over $2, so the pickings could be a bit slim for those that like to go the side and total route. That’s what I do here in this article, but my colleague Zach Cohen looks at player props every weekday, so check out his work after you scroll through mine.
Yesterday sure was an interesting day. Despite the best weather we’ve seen this season, there were only 31 homers hit over the 15 games. Many games had winds blowing out and above average temperatures, but there were only 133 runs (8.8 R/G). We did have several quality starters, but we also had some not-so-great arms, so it was a little surprising to see offense lag a bit.
I retweeted a tremendous table from Jason Collette, which looked at some year-over-year numbers from 2022 to 2023 and 2021 to 2023 for March/April. The biggest takeaways I noticed:
- BABIP is up 11.8% from last season on Pulled/Center ground balls and up 14% from 2021
- HR/Contact is up nearly 25% from 2022, but down 3.5% from 2021
- HR/FB% is down 5.3% from 2021, but up 26% from 2022 - we absolutely had a dead ball to start last season
- K% is down 1.1% from last season and 6.8% from 2021 (the year that the foreign substance crackdown started in May/June)
- SB% (stolen base percentage) is up 8.3% from 2022, 5.1% from 2021 and SB attempt rate is up 20.8% from 2022 and 37.2% from 2021
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Here are some thoughts on the April 13 card (odds from DraftKings):
The Phillies are hoping that Bailey doesn’t Falter as they open up a weekend set with Nick Lodolo and the Reds. Falter has two starts to his name and one of them came against the Reds at Citizens Bank Park last weekend when he allowed one run on four hits in a head-to-head battle with Lodolo. The Phillies eventually walked it off in 3-2 fashion after a stellar performance from Lodolo.
Over 10.1 innings, Falter has allowed three runs on 11 hits. He’s only struck out five batters, but he hasn’t walked anybody. He’s given up a couple of long balls and is running a 97.6% LOB%, so he’ll be a guy to look at for regression either here or down the line. He allowed two runs on seven hits against the Rangers in his first start and has yielded a 40% Hard Hit% thus far. He has basically been a two-pitch pitcher so far with nearly 80% usage on his fastball and curveball, which I would think has to help a team seeing him for the second straight time.
Lodolo struck out 12 in those seven masterful innings last Saturday. He didn’t allow a run and scattered three hits with a couple of walks. He gave up two runs on seven hits with nine strikeouts and two walks in his first start against the Pirates. Lodolo has also done a much better job of limiting hard contact with a 30.8% Hard Hit%, including just three hard-hit balls in 13 batted ball events against the Phillies, though two were barrels.
We’ve seen some Lodolo love early this morning and, as I mentioned, you have to evaluate the Reds differently at home than you would on the road because of the hitter-friendly nature of Great American Ball Park. Of course, that helps the visitors, too, but Lodolo is very highly regarded and Falter has a career 4.52 FIP as a starter over 89 innings with a noticeable home run issue.
As usual, we’d be forced to pay a premium on Lodolo for a 1st 5 bet, as that line is 10-15 cents higher than the full-game line, but that’s the price for backing an ace-level starter on a team with a bad bullpen. I’m staying away from this one.
By the way, as a quick side note, Joey Votto is 4-for-32 with 20 strikeouts in his rehab stint at Triple-A, in case you were wondering if he’d be back to potentially help the Reds offense soon.
The Cardinals are one of today’s aforementioned big favorites as they send Jordan Montgomery to the bump against the Pirates. Pittsburgh will counter with Vince Velasquez, which explains why the line is as high as it is. Velasquez has allowed eight runs on 11 hits in 7.1 innings with more walks than strikeouts. He did just face a White Sox team that he was a member of last season, but he’s a guy with a career 4.98 ERA in 733.2 innings, so we know what he is at this point.
Montgomery is a guy that I really like and he’s off to a fine start this season. He’s allowed three runs on nine hits in 12 innings with a 12/3 K/BB ratio. He has an average exit velocity against of just 84.7 mph, despite allowing four barrels in his first start against the Blue Jays. He was much better with his command and had the swing-and-miss stuff going against the Brewers in his second outing.
This is a pretty rich number and St. Louis will probably be popular in moneyline parlays, but I’m curious to see how Busch Stadium plays during this homestand. During the first homestand, the Cardinals, Blue Jays, and Braves combined to his .311 with a .462 SLG and 61 runs were scored in the six games. Of course, 19 of those came on Opening Day, but this is traditionally a really good pitcher’s park. Those are three great offenses, but the Pirates have been a lot better on offense than expected, including a big spike in FB% to hit more balls in the air and more homers.
Like I’ve said before, even if you don’t have a bet on a game, you can still extract some info from it that could help down the line.
With Adrian Houser, Aaron Ashby, and Brandon Woodruff all on the IL, the Brewers are strapped for starting pitchers. Janson Junk pitched yesterday and it looks like Milwaukee will either go with a bullpen day or send out Eric Lauer. The Brewers have Ethan Small, Tyson Miller, and Abner Uribe on the 40-man roster among minor league pitchers, but none of them are stretched out to start.
If it is Lauer, his velocity has been down this season. If it isn’t, I’ll chat more about him tomorrow when he’s scheduled to start.
I’m just staying away from this mess altogether, but a quick breakdown of Nick Martinez. The Padres starter has allowed eight runs on 10 hits in 11.2 innings with a 9/7 K/BB ratio. He’s only allowed a 25% Hard Hit% in starts against the Rockies and Braves, but allowed five barrels, so he’s been boom or bust in terms of exit velocity allowed. I’m not really keen on him as a starter and I wish we had some more clarity on what the Brewers planned to do.
The walk rate issues are nothing new for Martinez as a starter. He profiles better as a reliever and the performance of Ryan Weathers may ultimately send him back there when Joe Musgrove returns.
Cole Irvin squares off against his former team as the A’s take the field in a big underdog role with Adam Oller on the mound. Oller has worked twice in relief and allowed six runs on eight hits in 9.2 innings. He’s struck out six and walked five. He’s also allowed a 43.8% Hard Hit% with three barrels allowed and a 91.4 mph average exit velocity. Those aren’t exactly numbers that inspire confidence, especially from a guy who had a 6.30 ERA and a 6.50 FIP in 74.1 innings last season.
At 28, this is a pretty big year for Oller. He was something of an early Spring Training darling with a slurve/sweeper added to his arsenal and some more strikeouts, but his performance tailed off as the games went along and better hitters got more reps. After posting some decent strikeout rates in the minors, Oller has a 13.7% K% at the MLB level to go with an 11.6% BB%. Those are not promising numbers either.
I thought that Dean Kremer might find a little more success not facing AL East lineups, but he gave up a three-run homer in the first and that doomed yesterday’s lone play. Let’s see if Irvin does find success leaving the AL East. He’s allowed nine runs on 12 hits in just 8.2 innings in starts against the Red Sox and Yankees. He’s struck out nine, walked six, and allowed a 35.7% Hard Hit%.
This line may be a little on the high side for the O’s and Irvin, especially since Baltimore has one of the worst outfield defenses in baseball this season, but Oller has a pretty low projection, along with the other hardships with betting on Oakland.
As for the total, it’s going to be in the mid-to-upper 80s in Baltimore with a 7-10 mph wind blowing out to RF. The hitting conditions are certainly favorable against two pitch-to-contact dudes.
The Rays will look to extend their winning streak to 13 games to open the season by sending Jeffrey Springs to the hill. The Red Sox will counter with Corey Kluber, who had some pretty good numbers at the Trop as a member of the Rays last season. Kluber has allowed six runs on nine hits in 8.1 innings to start this season. He’s already given up three home runs and only has six strikeouts against five walks.
Kluber has allowed a 59.3% Hard Hit% and has yet another velocity drop to contend with. Kluber has gone from 92 mph in 2018-19 to 91.5 in 2020, to 89.9 in 2021, 88.9 in 2022, and now 87.1 in 2023 per Statcast. There is a pretty high correlation between pitching poorly and decreased velocity and we can see how much hard contact he’s allowing this season.
As mentioned, he did pitch well at the Trop with a .291 wOBA against and a 3.71 ERA in 87.1 innings last season. That was way better than what he did on the road with a .341 wOBA against and a 5.05 ERA in 76.2 innings elsewhere. He did have a 3.95 FIP on the road, but struggled to limit hard contact and had a high BABIP with a low LOB%.
Through two starts, Springs looks like he might be the best pitcher in baseball. He’s faced the Tigers and A’s, so I’ve got a foot on the brake pedal, but I’m not pressing down very hard. He’s struck out 19 and walked four in 13 innings of work. He’s only allowed three hits and went six no-hit innings against the Tigers to open the season. He’s struck out 42.2% of opposing batters and the stuff looks incredible.
I won’t be betting against the Rays today.
This is a pretty intriguing game tonight between the Twins and Yankees. We’ve got a pretty good pitching matchup between Joe Ryan and Jhony Brito and it’s also a weird spot for the Twins. They rallied together to beat the White Sox on Wednesday afternoon in what was a really difficult game. Kyle Farmer got hit square in the face by a pitch. Byron Buxton went flying on a collision with the second baseman. The Twins won, but for a team already missing Joey Gallo, Max Kepler, Alex Kiriloff, and Jorge Polanco on the IL, another player going down is a big blow.
Carlos Correa also hasn’t played since Saturday with a barking back. We’ll see if he’s able to come back. We’ll see if Buxton is able to play. There are a lot of unknowns in this game for the Twins.
One thing that isn't unknown is that Ryan is off to a great start. I was really high on Ryan coming into the season and he has 16 strikeouts in 12 innings with five runs allowed on just six hits. He’s had a Hard Hit% of at least 50% in both starts, so he has given up some loud contact, but he’s had better life on his fastball and gotten more chases with his slider. He’s also throwing a splitter this season that has had a big Whiff% in the early going.
Ryan gave up a grand slam to Yordan Alvarez in the third inning of his start against the Astros, but the two hits and the walk that set it up were the only damage he really yielded. He struck out six of the next nine hitters to finish his outing. He will face a better lineup than what the Yankees ran out on Wednesday afternoon when they sat Gleyber Torres, DJ LeMahieu and Jose Trevino.
Brito has looked the part in two starts for the Yankees this season with one run allowed on just five hits in 10 innings of work. Brito has eight strikeouts against three walks in starts against the Giants and Orioles. He’s only allowed seven hard-hit balls in 26 batted ball events and really done a nice job of locating his pitches. He was ranked as New York’s No. 15 prospect coming into the season with a wiry 6-foot-2, 160-pound frame. He throws in the mid-to-upper 90s, but his changeup is definitely his top pitch.
I like both starters here and like the 1st 5 Under 4.5. The Twins should get Correa back today, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Buxton gets a day off after hitting the ground hard on Wednesday. Ryan is throwing the ball well with more swing-and-miss upside and Brito draws a Twins lineup that is 24th in wOBA against RHP and 27th in wOBA overall. As always, shop around because a lot of books are -110, but like I've talked about, I'm citing DraftKings lines and their numbers to track.
Pick: 1st 5 Under 4.5 (-115)
Chris Bassitt still seemed to be a little out of sorts during his start against the Angels last time out. After giving up nine runs on 10 hits and four home runs in his Blue Jays debut against the Cardinals, he walked five over six innings in Anaheim. He only allowed two earned runs on two hits, but five walks were a lot for a guy who typically showcases pretty good control. He did only allow three hard-hit balls after allowing 12 in his first start.
Bassitt’s velocity is down significantly, as he’s gone from 93.2 mph in 2022 to 92 mph in 2023 and it’s not like he’s had really bad or cold weather to contend with in his two starts. His sinker velocity is actually down 1.6 mph. His spin rates are down a little bit, but he mixes in so many different pitches to try and keep hitters off-balance that it’s fair to assume he simply may not have a feel for everything.
He gets a respite here against a Tigers lineup that ranks 30th in wOBA by a large margin. The Tigers have had a brutal schedule early in the season, so their lagging offensive numbers are hardly a surprise, but they’ve been terrible and their SLG is 33 points lower than any other team (Royals). If Bassitt struggles here, sound the alarm bells.
It has not gone well for Spencer Turnbull in his return from Tommy John surgery. Turnbull has allowed 12 runs on 13 hits in eight innings with five walks against just four strikeouts. He has a 44.8% Hard Hit% against, but has only allowed one home run. Per Statcast, Turnbull is down over 2 mph on his sinker and 1.3 mph on his four-seam fastball. He isn’t generating any swings and misses on the hard stuff and doesn’t seem to have great feel for the breaking stuff.
Tough to make a play here. Shy of a five-run eighth inning for the Jays on Tuesday, Rogers Centre hasn’t yielded a ton of offense in this series and the juice is a little high on the full-game 9 at -120 and the 1st 5 at 5 isn’t too appealing. The Jays welcome the Rays on Friday. I’m not sure lookahead factors really exist in baseball, but it’s at least something for Toronto to think about.
MIN/NYY 1st 5 Under 4.5 (-115)