MLB schedule today has 13 games
Wednesday’s slate is almost exclusively full of day games, as 12 of the 13 games will start at 4:10 p.m. or earlier. As a result, that meant a lot of prep work the night before in order to get the article out as early as possible on game day. Living in Las Vegas definitely has its benefits, but slates full of day games in MLB would not fit that description.
Anyway, I started overnight and finished early to get thoughts out there on as many games as possible, which will also be the case on Thursday with seven games at 4:10 p.m. ET or earlier. (Tracking sheet)
Be sure to catch the latest edition of the VSiN Daily Baseball Bets podcast.
Here are some thoughts on the April 5 card (odds from DraftKings):
The Stro Show lived up to his nickname on Opening Day, as Marcus Stroman fired six shutout innings with eight strikeouts against three walks. Despite a bevy of ground balls, Stroman only allowed three hits to the 23 batters that he faced. Only four of 12 balls were hit hard and nine of them were ground balls. The only fly ball he allowed was a pop up. He couldn’t really have been any sharper against the Brewers.
The Reds are swinging some pretty decent bats in the early going, but a guy like Stroman stays off the barrel and keeps the ball down, so Great American Ball Park doesn’t really come into the equation quite as much in his case. Obviously I’m skeptical of any extreme ground ball guy early in the season, but Stroman didn’t have any issues in that first start and really buried his sinker deep in the zone.
Cincinnati will send Hunter Greene to the bump here after a rocky first outing. He allowed three runs on five hits and walked three over 3.1 innings of work. He did strike out eight of the 18 batters that he faced, but had issues after turning the lineup over. He struck out five of the first nine batters he faced, but gave up a double, a homer and two walks the second time through before exiting the game.
The homer was an issue for Greene last season, as he gave up 24 long balls in 125.2 innings of work. Rain threatens this game and so does the wind, as it could be a really challenging day to be an outfielder. The wind will be blowing in from right field at a good clip, which may ultimately help Greene. I considered the Cubs, but it’s going to be a weird weather day and who knows if this game even gets played.
Bryce Elder will make the start for Atlanta on Wednesday, as the Braves have really had to alter their early-season rotation with the injury to Max Fried. They kept Jared Shuster on the roster to start against the Cardinals and then shipped him off so that Dylan Dodd could get a turn. Now it will be Elder, who had a 3.17 ERA and a 3.78 FIP in 54 innings of work last season at the MLB level. He also had a 4.46 ERA and a 4.45 FIP in 105 innings at Triple-A.
Elder allowed four runs on five hits in his Triple-A debut this season before being notified that he’d be joining the big league club. At least he throws right-handed, which gives him a better chance against the Cardinals, but he’s still a fringy Major League pitcher at this stage of his development.
Miles Mikolas had a rough season debut for the Cardinals with five runs allowed on 10 hits in 3.1 innings against the Blue Jays. He struck out six and didn’t walk anybody, but gave up quite a bit of hard contact with a 50% Hard Hit% and two barrels. Mikolas is a strike-thrower with low walk rates, but he has to stay off the barrel to be successful because he doesn’t rack up a lot of punchies. He only had 153 in 202.1 innings last season. His spring was altered by being a member of the WBC roster for Team USA, so the struggles against the Blue Jays weren’t terribly shocking for a guy whose margins are pretty thin based on command.
The margins are pretty thin here against the Braves as well, but I’m not sure what kind of start Elder is going to give Atlanta. I’m also shocked at the amount of offense at Busch Stadium so far this season, but I guess the three teams to have played there are pretty good at hitting.
The winds are also blowing out at around 15 mph today on a warm, humid day, so it should be another good day for hitting.
There were some aces that had rough Opening Day starts and Corbin Burnes was one of them. The pitching conditions weren’t ideal in Chicago, but they seemed to affect Burnes way more than Stroman, as the 2021 Cy Young winner allowed four runs on four hits with three walks and three strikeouts over 23 batters faced. Burnes didn’t allow a ton of hard contact, but he wasn’t sharp and his velocity was definitely down a bit.
His cutter was still sharp and he had some spin rate increases, in spite of the cold weather. He allowed 10 batted balls on the cutter and just one single. It was his slider that he didn’t really have a feel for and he rarely threw his curveball. I’d like to think that a start in the controlled environment of Miller Park would allow him to use all of his pitches and get back on track a bit, but you never know.
Burnes draws a good Mets lineup that puts a lot of balls in play. He only had nine whiffs in 41 swings with the increased spin rates, so he just didn’t have much control in that and that’ll be something to watch here. My guess is that it was just tough to get a grip on the ball on Opening Day, but it may be something more.
David Peterson worked around a lot of traffic to throw five innings of one-run ball for the Mets in his 2023 debut. He scattered eight hits with five strikeouts and a walk. The only run he allowed was a solo homer and he didn’t allow a lot of hard-hit contact, but balls found holes. Fortunately for him, the Marlins were just 1-for-6 with RISP and just 3-for-11 with men on base.
Peterson had a strong 2022 with a 3.83 ERA and a 3.64 FIP. He’s a guy that slants towards the ground ball side, which does allow him to keep the ball in the park at a decent rate, but could obviously hurt him with the shift ban. That being said, avoiding the home run is a good way to stave off bad starts against the Brewers, who ranked in the top five in homers last season and were fourth in home runs hit at home.
I don’t know if I see a big edge on this game, but it is probably one the cheaper lines we’ll see on Burnes against a non-elite starting pitcher.
Clear your schedule for this one. Jacob deGrom makes his second start for the Rangers, but Baltimore prospect Grayson Rodriguez will make his MLB debut. Maybe there was some residual disappointment from Rodriguez, who gave up two earned runs (three total) in four innings with two strikeouts and four walks in his Triple-A Opening Day start, but the 23-year-old should be fully focused for his first crack in the bigs.
In 69.2 innings at Triple-A last season, Rodriguez posted a 2.20 ERA with a 2.04 FIP and 97 strikeouts against 21 walks. Rodriguez was named the 17th overall prospect for FanGraphs coming into the season and owns a 2.49 ERA over 296 minor league innings with 421 strikeouts against 102 walks. For what it’s worth, he went into Spring Training with an inside track on making the rotation, but he allowed 12 earned runs (15 total) over 15.1 innings in Grapefruit League play.
There will be inconsistencies at the start, but the raw stuff is pretty special with upper 90s cheddar and maybe the best changeup in the minors. Last year’s injury-plagued season saw a downturn in his velocity, but the hope is that better health will bring a return to prospect prominence. For betting purposes, he’s likely going to be held to around 75 pitches, so keep that in mind.
deGrom struck out seven of the 17 batters he faced in his first start, but he allowed five runs on six hits. He only allowed three hard-hit balls, but two were barrels, including the homer. For some reason, deGrom was really fastball-dependent in that first start, even though he threw a first-pitch strike to 13 of the 17 guys he faced. He threw 64% fastballs, which was well above last season’s output, as he threw fewer sliders than usual and virtually no changeups. Maybe he just didn’t have a feel for those pitches.
He gave up the 103.4 mph home run to Bohm, but the other hits he allowed (all extra-base hits) were 99.2 mph (.770 xBA), 61.4 mph (.560 BA), 69 mph (.140 BA), 91.7 mph (.380 xBA), 80.5 mph (.760 xBA), so he didn’t really allow a lot of hard contact, but he got pretty unlucky as to where balls landed, especially the ones that became triples.
No play here, but triple digits will be happening a lot on the radar gun and this one should be fun. I don’t think Rodriguez and a taxed Orioles pen are worth it to go against deGrom.
Anybody remember when the Tigers swept the Astros in Houston back in 2021? The final game of that series took the Tigers back up to .500 at 6-6. They were 3-18 over the next 21 games. I don’t know if that will happen this season or not, but Detroit can get to 3-3 with a win here and another big underdog cash. The Astros bullpen struggled again and Matt Manning was good enough to keep pace with Framber Valdez to give his team a chance to at least take down the series victory on Tuesday.
It will be up to southpaw Eduardo Rodriguez to set the tone on Wednesday. He gave up three runs on three hits with five strikeouts and a couple walks against the Rays in his first start. He was limited to 17 starts last season after missing about three months. He worked 91 innings with a 4.05 ERA and a 4.43 FIP. He was a really solid pitcher for the most part in Boston, but his Tigers tenure certainly started off a little slowly last year.
The odd thing for Rodriguez is that he was really good against righties, holding them to a .297 wOBA in 311 plate appearances. Lefties are the ones who did a lot of damage with a .393 wOBA in 80 PA. He didn’t have the same strikeout stuff in 2022 after posting a 27.4% K% in 2021, as he fell to 18.4%. His SwStr% dropped to 7.5% after four straight seasons of 11.1% or higher. If he bounces back this season, he should be a solid starter, as his track record speaks for itself.
Cristian Javier gets the call for Houston here after allowing three runs on eight hits in five innings to open the year against the White Sox. That should have been a pretty good matchup for him and he did have six strikeouts, but he had a good bit of bad luck on balls in play. Javier had 19 swings and misses out of 53 swings, so the stuff was just fine. Javier tired late and allowed three straight doubles, including batted balls of 108.9 and 98.5 mph.
Selfishly, I’ll hope that E-Rod gets knocked around a little bit here because I don’t have a bet on the game, but his velocity was back to its 2021 numbers and he threw his changeup a lot more, which is his bread-and-butter pitch. The spin rates looked good and he seemed to be more comfortable heading into this season. I think he’ll be back to being a solid pitcher. If he spins a good one here, he may lose a little value going forward, but I see some really encouraging signs.
Hunter Gaddis and Kyle Muller are the slated starters for getaway day action at the Coliseum. Cleveland will have Thursday off and host the home opener against the Mariners on Friday. The A’s will hit the road for Tampa and then play four games in Baltimore.
Gaddis had a rough one against the Mariners, as he allowed four runs on five hits with four strikeouts and a walk over 3.2 innings. He only allowed four hard-hit balls in 12 batted ball events, but generated very little swing and miss and didn’t really fool anybody. The Guardians have limited options right now with Triston McKenzie hurt and some service time considerations with Tanner Bibee and Logan Allen, but Gaddis really isn’t a MLB-caliber pitcher at this time. At least not as a starter. The stuff might play a little in relief.
Gaddis gave up 15 runs on 15 hits in 7.1 innings last season, but he faced the Astros and White Sox, so the three teams he has faced are clearly a lot better than the A’s, but I’m skeptical of him against pretty much anybody.
Muller’s debut with the A’s was a good one, as he allowed one run on four hits over five innings. The Guardians were a bottom-five offense against lefties last season and time will tell if they’re better this season. They got after Robbie Ray, but it turns out he was hurt. They struggled with JP Sears last night. Muller also had a rather inauspicious MLB stint in 2022, but he was solid in Triple-A with a 3.41 ERA and a 3.52 FIP over 134.2 innings of work.
I think the A’s are worth a look here. If Gaddis struggles, I think he’s going to be out there to wear one. The Guardians have played a ton of close games early in the season here and have had to use their bullpen a lot. Xzavion Curry is the de facto long man and he threw 56 pitches on Monday night to bail out Zach Plesac. Cleveland’s bullpen situation is dicey. Trevor Stephan, James Karinchak, and Enyel de los Santos have pitched four times in six days, with Karinchak having thrown back-to-back days. Emmanuel Clase’s velocity is down and he’s pitched three of the last four, as has Eli Morgan.
Oakland’s bullpen usage is a lot more spread out. I also think Muller has a little bit higher upside than Gaddis. I wish Cleveland would’ve won last night, as the loss may keep them more focused on a getaway day, but the A’s are worth the short underdog gamble in my opinion.
Pick: A’s +110
We’ve got a Shohei Ohtani alert in Seattle, as the world’s best baseball player takes the mound for his second start of 2023. Ohtani went six innings with 10 strikeouts in a dazzling effort against the A’s on Opening Day, only for the bullpen to blow it in a 2-1 loss. Ohtani did walk three, but only allowed two hits and sat with an average fastball of 98.4 mph. He only allowed two batted balls of 95+ mph and even managed to dominate while throwing a first-pitch strike to less than 50% of opposing batters.
Ohtani’s task is a lot more difficult against a much better Mariners bunch, but he’s one of the more dominant pitchers in baseball now that his UCL troubles are behind him. He worked 166 innings last season with a 2.33 ERA and a 2.40 FIP over 28 starts. He allowed three or fewer runs in 24 of those 28 starts. Even in two of his worst starts, he had 11 K in 6.1 innings against the Braves while allowing six runs and 10 strikeouts in six innings against the Blue Jays with five runs allowed. In that start against the Braves, he allowed all six runs when the wheels fell off in the seventh.
The M’s will send Chris Flexen to the hill after he saved the bullpen in last week’s 9-4 loss to Cleveland. Flexen worked four innings with one run allowed on four hits, but he walked three and gave up quite a bit of loud contact. I’ve never really been a big Flexen guy because he pitches to a lot of contact, which could be even more hurtful given the rule changes for MLB. Last season, he even had an elevated walk rate and wound up being very lucky with a 3.73 ERA and a 4.49 FIP. His 4.62 xERA and 5.04 xFIP were also indicators that he outperformed his true talent level.
Flexen had a velocity decrease last season and was another half-tick lower per Statcast from that during his relief appearance. He allowed a 97.2 mph exit velocity on the seven fastballs that were put in play and his spin rates were down across the board. There really isn’t much to like about his profile. He also had reverse platoon splits last season, as righties hit .275/.324/.479 with a .345 wOBA, whereas lefties only batted .221/.306/.329 with a .281 wOBA. That should bode well for some of the Angels' better hitters and I trust Ohtani against anybody.
We saw a pretty sizable move overnight and this morning to drive Ohtani and the Angels up in price. I still think a 1st 5 run line is too much to pass up since the Angels should be a good lineup against guys like Flexen. For a 1st 5 run line, the line is -0.5, so the Angels must be winning by at least a run after the 1st 5, as opposed to the straight run line price, where a tie game means a push.
The full-game run line is at plus money, but the Angels bullpen looks iffy to me on paper and I’d rather just keep it in Ohtani’s hands the whole time and trust him with my fate.
Pick: Angels 1st 5 Run Line (-0.5) (-130)
The only night game we have on Wednesday is this one between the Blue Jays and Royals. I couldn’t have been more wrong on the Over 10 last night, as the teams combined to go 2-for-13 with RISP and the Royals only managed a solo homer and three singles against Yusei Kikuchi and the Jays bullpen. This game will feature Alek Manoah and Zack Greinke.
Interestingly, we have a total of 9 here with two better pitchers, so we’ll see how it plays out. The projection systems and some pundits were lower on Manoah coming into the season than I was. His first start against the Cardinals did not go well. He allowed five runs on nine hits in 3.1 innings of work. He only allowed 49 earned runs total last year in 196.2 innings of work, but his 2.24 ERA was met with skepticism because of a 3.31 xERA, 3.35 FIP and a 3.97 xFIP. His .244 BABIP and 82.6% LOB% were definitely on the fortunate side, hence the big gaps between his ERA and other metrics.
He only allowed 29 total barrels last season, but allowed three in his first start. However, he does go from the heavyweight class to the flyweight class here with the difference in offensive personnel between the Missouri teams. St. Louis may very well have the best offense in baseball when all is said and done. Kansas City will not. So, this is a big start for Manoah to bounce back.
The stuff wasn’t as bad as the line score would indicate, given that he had a 14% SwStr% and a 69.6% Z-Contact%. Those two numbers mean he was getting swings and misses in the zone, but the Cardinals didn’t miss his mistakes. Perhaps the Royals will.
Greinke had a nice first outing with two runs allowed on six hits over 5.1 innings of work with four strikeouts against a walk. He scattered five hard-hit balls out of 18 balls in play and did what he does best with a giant mix of pitches. He threw an inordinately high number of curveballs and sliders in that start, so maybe that’s his way of trying to counteract the shift or something. Maybe it was his plan of attack against the Twins. Who knows, but he’s one of the quirkier and more cerebral guys out there.
He actually got a lot of chases outside the zone in this start and showcased more swing-and-miss stuff than we’ve seen in a while. Maybe this is the new Greinke. I won’t be on him here in any capacity, but I find this strategy interesting and it may improve his standing in my mind.
One ace delivered on Opening Day and the other one did not. The one who did is Gerrit Cole, who struck out 11 of 22 batters over six masterful shutout innings against the Giants. Cole’s velocity looked just fine and he simply overpowered the Giants with fastballs. We actually saw a few more changeups than usual from him, but it didn’t really matter what he threw. He got results.
Cole got 17 whiffs in that start, with nine on the fastball, two on the slider and six on the changeup. He also sustained his fastball velocity well, which is always a question early in the season. I know people hated on him last year for giving up some home runs, but his K% was once again elite and nothing stood out about his Barrel% or his Hard Hit%. I think he just got a little bit unlucky with the long ball.
Nola allowed five runs on four hits in 3.2 innings against the Rangers in his first start of 2023. He was staked to a 5-0 lead against Jacob deGrom, but gave it back and failed to get through four innings. That was almost a continuation of his final Spring Training start, which was a poor effort against the Yankees.
Nola only had five whiffs in 34 swings and gave up high-velocity contact on each of his three main pitches. He just didn’t locate well. The velocity and spin rates looked fine, so I don’t see any injury indicators as of yet, but it was not a particularly encouraging outing. He hit a wall on the fourth as he got near 70 pitches and that was it. That’ll happen to guys the third time through the order early in the season and even aces aren’t immune.
This is a steep price to lay, but I’m going to lay it with the Yankees. You won’t find Cole priced like this often and Nola will give up the long ball, which plays well for this New York lineup and in this ballpark. Cole will give up the long ball, but the Phillies are missing two dangerous guys in that regard in Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins.
Also, with the loss, the Yankees were able to give some of their primary relievers a day off on Tuesday, so their bullpen is in solid shape to follow Cole.
Pick: Yankees -155
This is certainly an interesting game. Pablo Lopez will square off with his former team as he returns to Miami to face the Marlins. Lopez was solid in his Twins debut with eight strikeouts over 5.1 innings of work. He did walk three and gave up a couple hits, but didn’t surrender any runs. He debuted a new “sweeper” pitch that had pretty immediate results and also had a noticeable velo increase.
The home/road splits I referenced prior to his last start don’t really apply here since he’s going back to a ballpark that he knows very well and where he has had a lot of success. The Marlins offense has been about what I expected. They’re striking out a ton and not walking much, which should bode well for Lopez.
Jesus Luzardo battled his way through 5.2 innings against the Mets in his season debut with five strikeouts and four walks. He didn’t give up any runs and only allowed two hits, but he definitely had some control issues. But, he was effectively wild because he only allowed two hard-hit balls and nobody really squared him up in that game. He had a velocity uptick and 15 whiffs in 38 swings, so it was a really impressive outing aside from the walks.
He got swings and misses at good rates on his three primary pitches and spotted his hard stuff well in the zone. As long as Luzardo can stay healthy, he’s going to be a really useful pitcher for the Marlins. Health has always been the question, though, so fingers crossed that this will be the year.
It’s hard to see a big edge either way with these two guys other than to say that the Twins certainly seem to have the better lineup, which should give them a better chance against Luzardo, but the case was the same with the Mets and he pitched well there.
Corey Kluber did not pitch well on Opening Day against the Orioles. He allowed five runs on six hits with four strikeouts and four walks over 3.1 innings of work. He also gave up two home runs. I didn’t do anything with the info that I shared, but I did mention prior to his first start that he had some unsightly home/road splits last season and I was concerned about him going to Fenway Park with those.
Kluber’s wOBA against was 50 points higher on the road than at home in Tropicana Park last season. His SLG was 92 points his and his ERA of 5.05 was a lot higher than his 3.71 ERA at home. He was awful from a command standpoint with men on base, as he allowed a .315/.346/.480 slash with a .354 wOBA and even worse with runners in scoring position with a .356/.385/.568 slash and a .401 wOBA.
The problem is that I’m not super high on Mitch Keller either. Keller allowed four runs on six hits with four walks and eight strikeouts in 4.2 innings of work against the Reds on Opening day. He saw a drop in his K% last season and has always been a guy with a high walk rate. Last season’s success was directly correlated to a big spike in GB%, which was great with the shift in effect, but that isn’t a thing anymore. He still posted a .320 BABIP against with his 49% GB% last season.
The weather forecast is awful here with temps in the low 40s and drizzle, so the total fell from 9.5 to 8.5. I’m also not enamored with betting over high totals in getaway day games, since you never fully know how engaged the teams are. I would assume that they’d be all about playing on April 5, but it’s always tough to gauge. I do know that I don’t like Keller enough to take the Pirates as an underdog here, even though I think that will be a popular play in this one.
What an odd start for Logan Webb against the Yankees. He struck out 10 of the 19 right-handed batters he faced, but also gave up two homers and a single that accounted for the four runs he allowed on Opening Day. Webb’s huge K% spike was also fascinating because he didn’t get a single swing and miss on the 40 sinkers that he threw, but he had 11 in 22 swings against his changeup and four in 10 swings against the slider.
Webb didn’t even deploy the slider as much as we saw last season, but I’d expect we see more of them against the White Sox here. His slider usage last season was 32.7%, but he only threw a slider 19.6% of the time against New York. He had great results on the pitch last season, so I don’t think that was a memo from up top about decreasing that pitch’s usage. With the help of that pitch, he held righties to a .245 wOBA in 388 plate appearances. Lefties did a little more damage, but this should be a pretty good matchup for him given the composition of the Chicago lineup.
Just about any matchup is good for Dylan Cease these days. He struck out 10 Astros over 6.1 stellar innings with just one run allowed on two hits. Cease also mixed the curveball in a lot more during that first start and had increased spin rates across the board. He had pretty good results with his fastball last year, but if he’s going to trade some fastball usage for more curveball usage, he’s got a really good chance at winning the Cy Young. His elite spin rates and big strikeout upside should play extremely well here against the Giants, who have struck out over 31% of the time thus far.
The winds are blowing right to left at a good 25 mph clip today, so balls hit up in the air might get a little push, but these are two guys that rate well in home run avoidance. Despite Webb’s fine start against the Yankees, Cease’s baseline performance is so much higher and so much more trustworthy, especially against a Giants lineup with tons of swing and miss potential. Most shops are -130 on Cease and the White Sox for the 1st 5, but DraftKings is dealing -140, so shop around. I still think that’s a decent price. He’s going to rack up a lot of strikeouts and matches up extremely well.
My early-season thoughts are that elite dudes are going to have a much better chance to shine with the new rules, so while I’m laying some prices today, I think I’m getting elite pitchers at good prices because they’re only going to go up as the season goes along. This is another one where, like Ohtani, I want it in Cease's control, so I'll take the 1st 5 instead of full game. This one doesn't have a price difference, though.
Pick: White Sox 1st 5 (-140)
Angels 1st 5 Run Line (-0.5) (-130)
White Sox 1st 5 (-140)