MLB schedule today has 6 games
We were supposed to have 10 games on Thursday, but Mother Nature had other ideas, as four of the day’s games were postponed before Wednesday even wrapped up. With bad-weather days built in for Friday in Baltimore, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Queens, officials wasted no time in moving Thursday’s games to Friday. Bummer for those that took the day off of work, but at least the forecasts look more promising by waiting a day.
That leaves us with six games and only two of them are late. I’ll get to those in a second, but first, some notes on Wednesday. (Tracking sheet)
We had a bunch of aces on the bump and only saw 22 homers hit across 12 games. Collectively, batters hit just .224 and had a 23.3% K% with a 9.5% BB%. Base stealers were only 23-of-32 as well, which I believe goes down as the worst day of the season.
I talked on the podcast and in the article about the big offensive days on Monday and Tuesday with back-end starters on the mound. I think it’s also worth pointing out that it seems like teams are maybe less aggressive with fewer baserunners against ace pitchers. As things get jumbled up in the rotation with off days and postponements, it’ll be interesting to see how run scoring plays out, but right now, it looks like we’re dealing with a different game when the aces come out to play against each other and when the fringy starters are head-to-head.
I’m sure that’s true of most seasons, but it does feel magnified with the impacts of the shift ban and pitch clock on lesser-quality arms. Like I said on Wednesday’s pod, we may have to lay some hefty numbers on aces against average or below average arms as the season goes along.
I’ll have the latest edition of VSiN Daily Baseball Bets up shortly.
Here are some thoughts on the April 6 card (odds from DraftKings):
Our first Coors Field game in a post-shift world features Josiah Gray and Kyle Freeland, as the Rockies head home in a big favorite role against the hapless Nats. Colorado actually got bet up on Thursday evening as bettors started to tap into the overnight lines. I can’t really argue with that, however, I have real serious concerns about Freeland in this park and in virtually any start.
He threw six shutout innings against the Padres in his 2023 debut, but only had one strikeout out of 21 batters. His velocity was below 90 mph and only had two whiffs on 33 swings. He threw a ton of sliders, but the pitch did have a noticeable spin rate decrease from last season. He did a decent job of limiting hard contact with only six hard-hit balls, but got pretty fortunate on the loud contact he did allow. The Padres went 0-for-6 on the hard-hit balls they had, managing a double on a 94.8 mph ball that had a xBA of just .010.
Freeland allowed 19 balls in play and 10 were fly balls, which is a huge change for him. The increased slider usage may have been part of that, but usually sliders generate more ground balls because of the sweeping, downward action that forces guys to hit the top of the ball. It was a really weird start, to be honest, and one that didn’t really inspire a lot of confidence coming out of the WBC or with the rule changes.
Gray’s start was quite bad on Opening Day, but a lot of pitchers will have bad starts against the Braves. He allowed five runs on seven hits, including three home runs. There were some really interesting arsenal changes for Gray. After throwing 39.2% four-seam fastballs with awful results last season (.305 BA, .742 SLG, 24 HR), he only threw 16.1% fastballs against the Braves. Instead, he opted to attack with curveballs, sliders and cutters, which was really surprising. He only threw one pitch classified as a cutter last season.
Gray’s spin rates were down relative to last season and his ugly command profile probably won’t do him any favors at Coors Field, where spin is decreased because of the lack of resistance against the ball. It’s one of many scientific reasons why offense spikes in Denver. Pitches just don’t move as much. For a guy like Gray, who allowed 38 HR last season in 148.2 innings and just allowed three in his first start while tinkering with a brand new arsenal, I’m not excited for him here.
The Nationals have already faced four left-handed starters and lead the league with 111 PA in that split. They’re batting .326/.405/.389 with a .356 wOBA and a 121 wRC+. It’s a super small sample size, but Joey Meneses had a 201 wRC+ against lefties last season in 76 PA, Lane Thomas has a career 130 wRC+ in 313 PA vs. LHP, Victor Robles can’t hit righties, but has a 102 wRC+ vs. LHP in 507 PA, and switch hitter Jeimer Candelario has been better against southpaws.
It’s a high total, but the perception of the Nationals seems to be bringing it down a bit. Let’s see how a ball that allegedly has less drag does at Coors Field in the first altitude game of the season.
Pick: Over 11 (-105)
Blake Snell and Spencer Strider square off and this is a big price for the Braves against a pretty good Padres team. But, when you really look at it, it makes sense. Snell is left-handed and the Braves were second in baseball in wOBA against LHP last season. Not much has changed with their lineup that would suggest a decrease in performance.
Snell gave up three runs on six hits in 4.1 innings in his first start. He did strike out nine of the 21 batters he faced and only walked one, but the BABIP gods were not on his side. He only allowed two hard-hit balls in 11 batted ball events, but ran a .545 BABIP against the Rockies. In the “fun with small sample sizes” department, Snell has a 6.23 ERA with a 2.02 xERA and a -0.23 FIP. He had 20 whiffs on 46 swings, with 10 on 33 fastballs, 6 on 7 curveballs and 4 on 5 changeups. The stuff quality was pretty good, so I’ll be watching to see how he fares against the Braves.
Strider was dominant against the Nationals with nine punchies in six innings out of 23 batters. He did walk three and scattered three hits, but the stuff looked good from a velo and spin standpoint and he picked up right where he left off after posting a 2.67 ERA with a 1.83 FIP in 131.2 innings of work.
The Padres are off to a bit of a slow start at the dish with a .234/.303/.447 slash. The long ball has saved them and their .240 BABIP should be on the rise, especially with such a low strikeout rate. We’ll see if hitting the road helps the offense a bit, especially with a trip to Atlanta, where the ball carries better than Petco Park. It’s just unfortunate that they run into Strider right away.
No play from me here. The Padres bullpen has had a couple of blown saves the last two days, but everybody had Wednesday off on the travel day. Atlanta’s pen is a little worse for wear with no off day, as Jesse Chavez wound up closing out yesterday’s game against the Cardinals because AJ Minter had worked back-to-back days.
Dustin May and Merrill Kelly are the slated starters for this one, as Kelly gets his second crack at the Dodgers. As I mentioned, he was bombarded by the Dodgers last season with 22 runs allowed on 32 hits in 24 innings of work. It may have even been a bit mental, as Kelly, who had good control most of the year, allowed 15 walks in his five starts. He struck out 26 of the 113 batters he faced, but gave up six homers and a lot of loud contact.
He danced with the devil in his 2023 debut against the Dodgers. He walked four and gave up three hits, but managed to strand all the baserunners in his 3.2 innings of work. He struck out four, but gave up six hard-hit balls in nine batted ball events and two barrels. It is a miracle he didn’t allow a run. I don’t know if he’ll be as lucky tonight if a similar stat line shows up.
May didn’t get any offensive support in his start against Arizona, as he allowed just four baserunners over seven innings and no runs, but the Dodgers wound up on the wrong end of a 2-1 decision. May struck out four and killed a bunch of worms with a 55% GB%. He did allow nine hard-hit balls in 20 batted ball events, but he worked from ahead, had good velocity, and kept the ball on the ground. He also had a high Chase Rate by his standards in that game, so Arizona expanded the zone a bit.
With all the red flags from Kelly’s first outing, I can’t take the Snakes at an underdog price in their home opener, but I am still keeping an eye on them, as they play a brand of baseball conducive to the rule changes and to creating chaos on the bases.
It will be a cool day in the Motor City, but no rain is in the forecast, so the Tigers will be able to take the field for their home opener. It will be a little breezy with winds blowing from right to left, but this is going to be a park where the ball does not carry much in the cooler months. It should be a good day to be a pitcher.
The Tigers are only batting .204/.251/.301 as a team thus far, but they have faced the Astros and the Rays and you won’t find many teams with better stuff than those two squads. Here they draw Chris Sale, whose 2023 debut did not go as planned. He allowed seven runs on seven hits, including three home runs, against the Orioles. He also struck out six of the 19 batters he faced, so it was basically an all-or-nothing outing for him. He gave up a ton of booming contact with a 70% Hard Hit% and three barrels.
Sale’s velo was down a little bit, but the spin rates looked pretty on par with his career numbers. He just didn’t locate well at all. He allowed three fastballs in play that were hit at an average of 106 mph. The one slider hit in play was a 107 mph home run. He does get a better matchup here against the Tigers, but even bad lineups punish pitches over the plate. This is an important start for him. He gave up three homers in the last one, but the Tigers have hit four homers in their six games.
My guy Spencer Turnbull had a rough opening act as well. He allowed seven runs on eight hits over 2.1 innings of work with three strikeouts and three walks. The Rays jumped all over him with a 63.6% Hard Hit%. He also only had a 27% Zone%, so he was all over the place in his return. Maybe there were some nerves involved coming back from Tommy John surgery, but it was an ugly outing.
I don’t know if either of these guys bounces back here, so this one is a definite no-play for me.
If my aces theory is correct, it makes a ton of sense that Kevin Gausman has been steamed up this morning. Gausman and the Jays are over a $2 favorite across the board against Jordan Lyles and the Royals. Gausman got no help from his defense in his start against the Cardinals, as he allowed three unearned runs on eight hits. He struck out seven and only walked one, but ran a .421 BABIP. Of course, he also allowed a 57.9% Hard Hit%, so it wasn’t all on the defense, but going from the Cardinals to the Royals is a big change of pace.
Gausman had a 3.35 ERA with a 2.38 FIP last season, as the BABIP gods looked rather unfavorably upon him with a .363 BABIP against. That was with a 38.5% Hard Hit%, so it wasn’t like he was giving up rockets all over the place. Given that the Blue Jays should be a pretty good defensive team, it was a bit of a surprise.
What is not a surprise is the market rushing to fade Lyles. We’ve seen that trick the last five or six years now. The only reason it stopped last season is because he was so good pitching at Oriole Park. He no longer has that safety net. He had a 3.47 ERA with a .320 wOBA against in 83 innings at home last season. He had a 5.25 ERA and a .359 wOBA against on the road, where his SLG against jumped 101 points and he allowed 20 of his 26 home runs.
Toronto has a potent and powerful lineup, so Lyles will have those numbers put to the test here. He only allowed two runs over 5.1 innings against the Twins in his Royals debut, with an unearned run and two strikeouts and two walks. But, he gave up a bunch of hard contact and just got fortunate to limit the damage. His Hard Hit% was 47.4% and he allowed two barrels.
Lyles also had a monster velo decrease, as Pitch Info Solutions had a 1.7 mph drop in his fastball velocity and Statcast had him down for a 1.5 mph drop. His spin rates were down, albeit not significantly, so I’m not sure what to make of that. One other thing of note is that his pitch map shows a ton of fastballs up at the top of the zone. Lyles worked in the upper third of the zone as much as he could last season, but he was even higher than that this season. After pretty neutral batted ball splits last year, he had 11 fly balls and five line drives against just three ground balls in his first start.
That could work out well or it could work out horribly. Right now, with the cooler weather, it might not be a bad strategy, as he can get away with some mistakes. He did against the Twins, as Minnesota was 1-for-9 on batted balls of 95+ mph. Maybe that horseshoe lodged in an unnamed orifice is still there for today’s start.
One interleague game is on the docket today, as the Giants and White Sox wrap up their set on the South Side. Alex Wood will make his first start of the season and he’ll be opposed by Lance Lynn, who really battled through 5.2 innings against the Astros. Lynn allowed two runs on just three hits, but walked four, struck out six, and hit a guy. It was an interesting stat line to say the least.
Wood hasn’t pitched since March 26 when he struck out 10 Athletics in his final Spring Training tune-up. The big story of the spring for him was a revamped delivery with a higher arm slot in hopes of getting more tilt on his slider. There are some people out there, including an influential market mover, who like Wood and the Giants today. I can see why. He had a 5.10 ERA with a 4.00 xERA and a 3.76 FIP in his 130.2 innings. He was badly hurt by the Giants’ porous defense and had a 63.9% LOB%, which was a big factor in the high ERA.
On the other hand, Wood allowed a .283/.340/.460 slash and a .347 wOBA to right-handed batters last season in 428 plate appearances. They hit 16 of the 17 homers he allowed and, more specifically, he allowed a .281/.347/.510 slash and a .369 wOBA to righties on the road. Away from the safety net of Oracle Park, where the marine air suppresses power and carry, Wood had a 4.49 FIP. Compare that with a 3.00 FIP at home.
While the Giants bad defense was a factor in the high ERA, he still wasn’t nearly as good from the stretch as he was the windup. With the bases empty, he ran a 26% K% with a 4.6% BB%. With men on base, his K% fell to 20.3% and his BB% climbed to 6.5%. His BABIP against with the bases empty was .313 and it was .318 with men on base. That wasn’t about the defense. That was about Wood not being able to generate the same swing and miss profile with guys on the basepaths.
Lynn faces a Giants lineup that has struck out 31.7% of the time this season and has only really been saved offensively by going off against Michael Kopech with seven homers in the first game of this series Otherwise, this lineup has been beyond awful. This is still a bad defensive team and Wood is a 49% ground ball guy for his career. The Giants shifted 40% of the time behind Wood against right-handed batters, a luxury no longer afforded to them, and he still ran a .315 BABIP against.
I’m on Chicago here at -120. They should play from in front and stay in front, much like they did in yesterday’s contest. The bullpen made it a little dicey, but most of those guys were pitching after two off days and it’s good to get reps in early in the season. I expect the pen to shut the door if need be tonight and the full game moneyline is 15 cents cheaper than the 1st 5.
Pick: White Sox -120
WAS/COL Over 11 (-105)
White Sox -120