MLB Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Friday, April 7th

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MLB schedule today has 14 games

We were supposed to have just 10 games on Friday, but four postponements from Thursday meant a much larger schedule to round out the work week. Friday is another day with a bunch of day games, but we do have a few more evening games than we’ve seen the last couple of days. Eventually the schedule will get back to normal and settle down, but today is not that day.

 

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There were only six games on Thursday, so there aren’t a lot of notable stats to talk about, but the Giants scored 16 runs against the White Sox and have scored 11.7 runs per game in their three wins and one run per game in their three losses. Josiah Gray, who normally throws batting practice, fired a gem in Colorado against the Rockies. It was the 11th 1-0 game at Coors Field all-time, the first since 2018 and the second since 2010. To quote Ron Burgundy in Anchorman, “I’m not even mad. That’s amazing.” But, honestly, I am a little mad. (Tracking sheet)

We also saw some notable velocity drops for Kevin Gausman and Chris Sale in their respective starts. Gausman’s final stat line was great and Sale had a bunch of strikeouts, but the velo decreases are concerning. I’ll keep an eye on them going forward.

Also, just a quick reminder that the games are listed by rotation number, not first pitch, so that means NL first, AL second and Interleague last, but rescheduled games come at the bottom by rotation number, so yesterday’s rainouts are at the bottom today.

Keep an ear out for the newest edition of VSiN Daily Baseball Bets.

Here are some thoughts on the April 7 card (odds from DraftKings):

San Diego Padres at Atlanta Braves (-125, 9.5)

Jared Shuster’s MLB debut didn’t go the way he had hoped. The 24-year-old gave up four runs on six hits with five walks and just one strikeout over 4.2 innings against the lowly Nationals. It was a rough first inning for the kid, who went 1B, 1B, BB, 1B, BB, BB, lineout, sac fly to give up four runs and put his team behind the eight-ball. The walks didn’t help, but the batted balls were 105.8, 100, 81.4, 91.9, 97.5, and 71.4. When all was said and done, he allowed just two more hard-hit balls and got the Braves into the fifth with a bit of a chance.

Shuster had a 4.25 ERA with a 5.62 FIP in 48.2 innings in Triple-A last season. Double-A wasn’t enough of a challenge, but Triple-A proved to be one, as he allowed 10 homers after only giving up eight in 90.2 innings at Double-A. His arsenal is a little bit limited with a three-pitch mix and a fastball that sits 89-91, so he really has to have pinpoint control and command to be effective. He didn’t have that in his debut, but he gets another crack here.

Nick Martinez allowed four runs on six hits himself, but did so over seven innings in his 2023 debut. Martinez is a guy that I’m not terribly keen on as a starter. As a starter last season, Martinez allowed a .269/.357/.468 slash and a .359 wOBA over 52.1 innings covering 230 plate appearances. He was far more effective in a relief role, but the Padres decided to use him as a starter at the outset of this season.

His BB% as a starter last season was 11.7%, but it was just 6.4% as a reliever. His K% was 1.6% higher in relief. He allowed a .209/.271/.328 slash with a .268 wOBA in that role as well. I’m not entirely sure what the Padres see in him as a starter, other than a desire to use a six-man rotation early in the year.

All of that said, I don’t see a big betting edge here. This is a pretty high total given the big names for both offenses and I could see a scenario in which neither starter excels and this becomes a bullpen game.

St. Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers (-155, 8.5)

Jack Flaherty had one of the oddest stat lines you’ll ever see in his 2023 debut against the Blue Jays. He didn’t give up a run or a hit in five innings, but issued seven walks. He struck out four of the 22 batters he faced. It wasn’t a very encouraging start for Flaherty, who sat 91 mph with the fastball, over two ticks below 2022 and 2.2 ticks below any other season of his career. The only silver lining is that he only allowed two hard-hit balls.

Flaherty’s misses weren’t even competitive pitches, as the Blue Jays had a 10% O-Swing%, so they pretty much never chased against him. He had a stretch of pitches where he barely hit 90 on the radar gun before inching up a little bit later in his start. Maybe it was just mechanical, but it was odd. Everything about it was just odd, especially when you consider that he was pumping 95 in the spring.

Flaherty only worked 36 innings last year with a 4.25 ERA and a 4.97 FIP, so expectations weren’t that high for him anyway, but I honestly have no idea what to think right now.

Aces had a mixed bag of results over the first two days of the season, but Brandon Woodruff did not. He fired six innings of one-run ball with eight strikeouts against the Cubs. The stuff looked explosive and crisp and his first start as a 30-year-old went well. Woodruff threw a lot of changeups in that start at the expense of his slider and his curveball. The slider is typically his go-to secondary pitch against righties and the changeup is against lefties, so that’s what we saw, as the Cubs sent a bunch of lefties at him.

He’ll have a bit of a different approach with the Cardinals, but I’d still expect a pretty decent outing. I’m not really expecting one from Flaherty. We did see this pop up 15 cents in support of Woodruff and the Brewers overnight, which took away any value it had.

Washington Nationals at Colorado Rockies (-120, 11.5)

I’m still amazed at how I bet an over in a Coors Field game that finished 1-0. Do this long enough and you’ll probably see it all. Anyway, turn the page and move on. How bad is Jose Urena? Look at the line on this game. The Nationals are 1-6 and have scored 17 runs in seven games. They’re -22 in run differential already. They’re anywhere from +100 to +110 in this game because of the presence of Urena.

Sure, MacKenzie Gore threw a good game against the Braves in his 2023 debut, but he still has a 4.30 ERA and a 4.05 FIP at the MLB level over 75.1 innings of work. Gore allowed one run on three hits with six strikeouts and four walks in Washington’s only win. He only allowed two hard-hit balls, which is incredible against Atlanta. Maybe he merits a little more respect, but still. This has so much to do with Urena and the rule changes that are likely to hurt him more than almost any other pitcher.

He allowed four runs on five hits in 2.1 innings last time out against the Padres. He didn’t strike out any of the 16 batters he faced, but walked four of them. Urena had one of the lowest K% marks last season at 14.6% and made it worse with a 10% BB%. I honestly cannot believe the Rockies don’t have some young pitcher in the system that can outperform this guy. It’s not even worth wasting the innings on his arm. And the rule changes make him even worse because he can’t overpower anybody and issues a bunch of walks to go along with all the balls in play. He’s also a guy with a 48.2% GB%, so the shift ban is even more hurtful.

As terrible as Urena is, the Nationals are really bad themselves. And they definitely project better against lefties than righties in my opinion, yesterday notwithstanding, of course. Dumpster fire of a game.

Los Angeles Dodgers (-230, 9) at Arizona Diamondbacks

Madison Bumgarner’s first start was so bad that he got sent for an MRI on his pitching arm. He allowed five runs on four hits with four walks and two strikeouts against the Dodgers. He gave up all five runs in the first inning and battled his way through it to give three scoreless frames, but there weren’t a lot of redeeming qualities either. Eno Sarris said that Bumgarner appeared to be tipping pitches. 

He wasn’t tipping the scales with his velo, that’s for sure. His fastball velocity was down 2.1 mph and he had drops on the cutter, curveball and changeup as well. He also had spin rate decreases and complained of arm fatigue after his start. For a guy that had a 4.88 ERA with a 4.85 FIP in 2022, a 4.67 ERA with a 4.63 FIP in 2021, and a horrific COVID year, I think we can reasonably assume that the stuff just isn’t MLB quality anymore.

Kershaw was terrific in his first start of 2023 with one run allowed on four hits over six innings. He struck out nine and didn’t walk a batter. Against a Diamondbacks lineup that will put a lot of balls in play this season, nine strikeouts in 21 batters is special, along with a high first-pitch strike rate and a lot of chases. He had 13 whiffs in 35 swings, with all of them coming on sliders and curveballs.

This is definitely a steep price to pay. It might be worth it given how bad Bumgarner is, but neither side nor total interest me much here. This line also got bet up pretty heavily on the Dodgers.

Seattle Mariners at Cleveland Guardians (-130, 7.5)

The Guardians and Mariners will run it back after playing four at T-Mobile Park last week. It is a cool, crisp day with a breeze blowing in for Aaron Civale and Logan Gilbert. Civale allowed just two hits over seven shutout innings with three strikeouts and a walk in his first start of 2023. I mentioned that his 4.92 ERA from last season is definitely misleading, as he had a 3.87 FIP and pitched rather well for decent stretches, but also had three trips to the IL.

Civale only allowed five hard-hit balls out of the 19 put in play by the Mariners and rolled through his seven innings in just 80 pitches. We saw a much higher rate of cutters from Civale than what we saw last season at the expense of his sinker and a solid 25% curveball rate. He actually had some spin rate increases across the board with his pitches in that start, possibly a sign of better health, at least at the outset of the season.

Seattle is off to a slow start because the bats haven’t woken up just yet. They’re batting .222/.286/.376 as a team with a 24.3% K% and a 6.3% BB%. The pitching has been good and Gilbert was terrific in his first start with a solo homer among his four hits and seven strikeouts in six innings. The homer was one of four hard-hit balls allowed by Gilbert, who used his secondary pitches more frequently with increased slider and curveball usage. That led to a 16.5% SwStr% and a lot more chases outside the zone from a lineup that does not chase or swing and miss very often.

This game will likely be a tight, low-scoring affair that doesn’t yield a ton of betting value one way or the other, but I am watching to see if the new Gilbert arsenal is for real. That would really excite me for his prospects going forward. I think there might be a little value on Seattle here, so I’m going to ponder this game a little more. I just need to do the MLB pod and record my Ohio-specific show, so time’s a factor on Friday mornings.

I’m not seeing totals well right now, but I’m surprised this total moved up to 7.5. The ball absolutely does not carry in Cleveland in April and we’ll have temps in the low 40s with the wind blowing in a bit from left center. Odd move there.

Oakland Athletics at Tampa Bay Rays (-275, 7.5)

The Rays have had the softest schedule in baseball to this point with series against the Tigers and Nationals, but they’re undefeated and have gotten some absurd pitching in those games. They have not allowed more than two runs in a game and have not won by fewer than four runs. All you can do is play the teams on your schedule and this has been complete dominance from Tampa Bay. 

They get another bottom-feeder here in the A’s, who make the cross-country trek on the heels of a loss in extras to the Guardians. Ken Waldichuk gets the start for Oakland in his second start of the season. He allowed six runs on nine hits over 5.2 innings with three homers allowed against the Angels in what was his eighth MLB start. He only allowed six hard-hit balls, but three were barrels and those are never going to be a good thing.

Waldichuk had a 4.93 ERA and a 4.30 FIP in seven starts over 34.2 innings after being acquired from the Yankees in the Frankie Montas deal. His Triple-A numbers were solid, but he has had some issue with both walks and home runs in other minor league stops. I don’t see a need to gamble on any upset potential here.

Eflin had a nice opening start for the Rays with five innings of one-run ball on three hits with five strikeouts. I’m always on the lookout for changes made by the Rays when they add a new pitcher and there were several notable ones here. Eflin threw 55% fastballs and sinkers last season, which was lower than previous seasons, but still up there. In his first Rays start, he only threw 33.8% fastball/sinker with a huge increase in cutter usage. He also threw more changeups and curveballs. 

Eflin’s curveball spin rate was up from 2381 rpm to 2540 rpm in that outing. He also had a spin rate increase on his cutter and even sinker. Opposing batters only hit .155 with a .241 SLG on his curveball last season. If the Rays can really optimize that pitch and fix his cutter, they’re going to work their way into having another ace on the staff.

It’s a big number and the Rays will probably win and possibly win easily, but with a low-scoring expectation and a home team, I can’t take the run line. The Rays also jumped about 20-30 cents from the time I wrote this to publishing time.

Toronto Blue Jays at Los Angeles Angels (-125, 9.5)

Two pitchers I consider underrated square off at Angel Stadium here, as Chris Bassitt tries to bounce back from an ugly effort in St. Louis and Patrick Sandoval tries for a good start against a tough lineup. Bassitt was completely shelled in that outing, as he allowed nine runs on 10 hits, including four home runs. He didn’t miss many bats and failed to strike out any of the 19 batters he faced. 

Bassitt gave up 12 hard-hit balls and five barrels. For a guy that posted a 32.7% and a 32.8% Hard Hit% the last two seasons, the complete lack of command was a stunner. He allowed 34 barrels in 516 batted ball events last season and has already allowed five in 19 BBE this year. Bassitt’s velo was down 1.2 mph on the fastball and 1.5 mph on the sinker. Long innings will lead to velo decreases, but Bassitt simply never really had his velo in that start. It is worth noting he didn’t really have great velo in the spring either.

While his velocity was down, his spin rates weren’t down too much, so I’m not working under the theory that it is an injury, though it very well could be. He only had four whiffs in 32 swings and the Cardinals were extremely aggressive with him. He allowed four runs on five hits in the first inning in the span of just 16 pitches.

It’ll be interesting to see how he adjusts today against an Angels lineup that isn’t on the Cardinals’ level. It’ll also be interesting to see how the southpaw Sandoval deals with a Blue Jays lineup that projects very well against lefties. Sandoval allowed a solo homer and one other hit over five innings against the A’s. He only struck out two, but also only walked two of the 20 batters he faced. 

Sandoval’s velo was also down a little in his first start, but he missed some time to participate in the WBC and a lot of those pitchers had weird ramp-ups to the season. He didn’t have super polished stuff in that start with a low swing and miss rate and a lot of contact in the zone.

I’d fade Sandoval and the Angels here if I had more trust in Bassitt. Velocity decreases scare me a lot. They could mean an injury, but they also affect the movement of pitches and increase the time a hitter has to square them up.

Texas Rangers at Chicago Cubs (-120, 6.5)

It will not be a fun day to play baseball on the North Side with temps in the low 40s and a decent breeze blowing in from RF. It should be a fun day for Nathan Eovaldi and Marcus Stroman, though. The two guys with heavy sinkers won’t have to worry as much about mistakes with conditions like these.

Stroman was dominant in his first start of 2023 with six shutout innings and just three hits allowed out of 23 batters. He struck out eight Brewers and did issue three walks, as it was a chilly day to get a feel for everything. Stroman did have a velocity decrease, but I think the weather was more to blame for that. It’s also possible that it’s by design to give his sinker more time to sink with the shift ban. He racked up a bunch of swings and misses, particularly on pitches below the zone.

Eovaldi allowed three runs on six hits over five innings in his first start for the Rangers. He had a 3.87 ERA with a 4.30 FIP last season over 109.1 innings, as a home run problem that went away in 2021 reemerged in 2022. He had a career year in 2021 with Boston because of his ability to limit the long ball. He allowed 15 homers in 182.1 innings, but gave up 21 homers in 109.1 innings last season. At least today is a day where hitting one out will be challenging.

This is another game like the Mariners/Guardians matchup where there just isn’t a lot of wiggle room with how the game is likely to play out. It should be a low-scoring affair, likely coming down to the bullpens or maybe a couple key at bats. It’s hard to find an edge in a game like that.

Chicago White Sox (-135, 8.5) at Pittsburgh Pirates

One of the things you can almost set your watch to is money coming in on the White Sox against a left-hander. That is the case today with Chicago on the road in Pittsburgh to face Rich Hill. The Pale Hose will counter with Lucas Giolito, who was impressive in his start against a fine Houston bunch. Giolito allowed three runs on five hits in five innings, but only two were earned and he racked up six punchies against just one walk.

He limited hard contact, mixed his pitches effectively, and seemed to have more of a feel for his changeup than he had last year. I don’t know if it was just a byproduct of facing a lineup like Houston’s or not, but his CH and SL usages were both above last season’s numbers and I’m almost always a supporter of throwing fewer fastballs. Giolito allowed all five hits on the changeup and slider, but his exit velocities were much better on balls in play with those two pitches.

Giolito’s swing-and-miss rate on the fastball peaked in 2020 and declined in 2021 and 2022, plus he didn’t get many whiffs on the pitch in that start against Houston. My concern here is that he goes to face a Pittsburgh lineup that appears less daunting and his pitch usage returns back to where it was, which makes him more hittable and gives him less room for swing and miss.

The wily veteran Hill allowed three runs on three hits to open his Pirates tenure with seven strikeouts against two walks. He gave up two homers and three barrels to the Reds in that outing, which was an odd one because he had seven strikeouts, but only six swings and misses. He had a bunch of called strikes and seemed to confuse the Reds at times. He also had a velocity decline and a noticeable spin rate decrease. I don’t love those two things for a guy in his 40s.

I actually went into this handicap expecting to like the Pirates at a dog price on one of the few days they’ll have good fan support, but Hill’s under-the-hood metrics concern me as to how effective he’ll be.

Kansas City Royals at San Francisco Giants (-205, 8)

Sizable move on the overnights towards the Giants. Maybe the Royals have been isolated as a fade team or the Giants are a buy team. Maybe it’s simply a fade of Brad Keller, which I don’t mind at all because he wasn’t good before the shift ban and it certainly won’t help a guy with his statistical profile.

Maybe it’s a buy of Cobb, who had a 3.73 ERA last season with a 2.80 FIP and a 2.89 xFIP because the Giants were bad defensively and he ran a really low 68% LOB%. Maybe it’s just all of it, but anytime I see a line move of this magnitude (30+ cents), I file it away so I can see in the next game for those two pitchers what the main cause was. In this case, it’s probably just a perfect storm of everything, but still worth examining.

Houston Astros at Minnesota Twins (-135, 7.5)

It is pretty rare to get Houston in an underdog role against a non-elite team or starting pitcher. I don’t think Sonny Gray is lite, nor do I think the Twins are a great team. I think the Twins can certainly be a good team. It will be a cool day in Minneapolis, but it is definitely a better weather day than what was forecasted on Thursday when the Twins home opener was moved to Friday.

I’ll be interested to see how Gray looks in his second start. He didn’t allow any runs over five innings against the Royals, but walked four and only had one strikeout. He also gave up 10 hard-hit balls and an average exit velocity of 95 mph. That was the 2-0 win over Jordan Lyles where we cashed a run line ticket, but we probably didn’t deserve to with that stat line.

Gray’s velocity was fine, but there were some enormous spin rate decreases, including 480 rpm on his curveball, 249 rpm on his fastball, 250 rpm on his changeup, 506 rpm on his cutter, and 488 rpm on his slider. Spin rate is a main factor in the movement of a pitch and it sure looks as though Gray had a lot of middle-middle stuff to allow that much hard contact. His xBA in that start was .362 with a xSLG of .526. He has a .167 BA against and two of the three hits he allowed were singles.

I’m not sure that’s something he can just fix overnight and I don’t think it was a Statcast tracking error because nobody else from that game has anything nearly as major. While I’m not a huge Jose Urquidy guy, it would appear that Gray is a good fade candidate right now because there is something going on. Urquidy had a bit of a weird first outing with really heavy slider usage against the White Sox. He did face a lot of righties and that’s his go-to pitch there, so it may simply have been that. He allowed a good bit of weak contact in that start, aside from a couple of homers.

I’m not saying it’s an auto play to take the Astros as an underdog, but with a rested bullpen and those really concerning signs from Gray’s first start that didn’t show up in the stat line because the BABIP gods were on his side, I can’t pass on Houston today.

Shop around for the best odds. DraftKings uses what we call “20-cent lines” on baseball, so underdog prices are almost always going to be better elsewhere in the market, where 10 or 15-cent lines are used. A “20-cent line” means that the difference between the favorite (-130) and underdog (+110) is 20 cents. A “10-cent line” would mean the favorite might be -120 and the underdog might be +110. Or maybe +115 and -125. Something like that. When given the chance, always try to bet at books with 10-cent lines. I use DK for tracking and for listing odds in the article, so that’s that, but shop around for the best price.

Pick: Astros +115

New York Yankees (-130, 8.5) at Baltimore Orioles

Clarke Schmidt and Dean Kremer are the slated starters for this one at Oriole Park. Kremer, like so many Orioles hurlers, was a lot better at home than he was on the road last season. He allowed a .239/.293/.317 slash with a .273 wOBA at home in 63.1 innings compared to a .285/.341/.460 slash with a .348 wOBA in 62 innings on the road. Kremer allowed seven of his 11 homers on the road and 21 of his 27 doubles.

He gets this start at home against a Yankees team that has more power on the right side, so he’ll be able to put those home numbers to the test right away. He struggled a bit with command in his start against the Red Sox with five runs allowed on six hits in three innings of work. He gave up two homers, but, again, that start came at Fenway Park and this one comes at home. Not only do the ballpark dimensions help, but it has to help a pitcher mentally to know he’s had success in a given place.

Schmidt struggled a bit in his first start and allowed two home runs as well, as he gave up three runs on five hits in 3.1 innings of work. He was used primarily in relief at the MLB level last season and posted solid numbers, but he’s been thrust into a starting gig because of the Yankees’ injuries in the rotation. Schmidt debuted a new cutter in this start and gave up three hits on three balls in play with it, including a homer.

He also showcased really elite spin rates across the board, so I’m going to follow really closely here. He almost exclusively used the cutter against lefties, while choosing to attack righties with a sweeper and a sinker. There was some question as to whether or not Schmidt would start here or Jhony Brito would get the nod. It will be Schmidt and maybe he’s pitching for his spot in the rotation?

The raw stuff really looks special from a metrics standpoint and I think there’s more swing and miss in there than we’ve seen so far. I hope he gets a long leash, but who knows. As far as the game, no bet for me.

Cincinnati Reds at Philadelphia Phillies (-180, 7.5)

In the interest of lead time, I’ll skip the Marlins/Mets early start and head to Philly for the home opener of the reigning NL champs. It hasn’t been pretty for the Phillies thus far, as they bring a 1-5 record home to Citizens Bank Park. They’ve struck out over 29% of the time against righties so far, so we’ll see if Hunter Greene can take advantage of that. He struck out eight of the 18 batters that he faced against the Pirates, but allowed three runs on five hits and walked three.

Greene pretty much showcased it all. He had a 40.1% Hard Hit% last season and gave up a barrel and three hard-hit balls out of seven events. He actually didn’t have much swing and miss, but pounded the zone early and had a lot of called strikes and foul balls. He hit triple digits a few times. It was the full Greene experience.

We did not get the Zack Wheeler experience against Texas. He allowed five runs on seven hits in 4.1 innings, though he did have seven strikeouts and just one walk. The stuff was pretty good with a lot of swings and misses, but he didn’t get a lot of chases out of the zone and the Rangers had success on the balls they made contact with. Sometimes early-season starts and numbers can be overblown. I think that’s the case with Wheeler, since I don’t see much to be worried about.

I’m just not sure the Phillies hold up their end of the bargain offensively at this big price or to play around with any kind of run line selection.

TL;DR Recap

Astros +115