MLB Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Monday, May 8th

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MLB schedule today has 11 games

A new week begins with 11 games on a Monday and not a single day game. Sorry to those who wanted to have some distractions from the work day, but you’ll have to wait until 6:10 p.m. ET for the first game of the day. We’ve got five games in the National League and six games in the American League following a weekend that was all over the place.

 

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It sure seemed like we had a ton of offense around the league, but the Friday-Sunday numbers were .250/.322/.400 with 424 runs scored across 45 games. The K% was down once again and we lost even more pitchers to the injured list. Base stealers were only 67-for-87 (77%), so it seems like maybe pitchers and catchers have adjusted a little bit to the rule changes. The league-wide SB% is down to 78.8% after sitting north of 80% for most of April.

For the season, we’re looking at .248/.321/.407, so last weekend had some more hits, but less power. For the first week of May, we’re at .252/.323/.414. There will continue to be variance in small sample sizes based on the matchups and the pitchers that are in action, but this would follow an annual trend of better offense as the weather warms up. (Tracking sheet)

Tune in for a new edition of VSiN Daily Baseball Bets, including the sabermetric stat of the day.

Here are some thoughts on the May 8 card (odds from DraftKings):

Colorado Rockies at Pittsburgh Pirates (-170, 8.5)

The Pirates have to be very happy to not see an AL East team on the schedule today. The AL East is just bludgeoning the rest of the league in head-to-head meetings and that rang very true last week, as the Pirates lost six straight to the Rays and Jays to run their losing streak out to seven games.

The task at hand looks a good bit easier today with a visit from the Rockies, but Colorado is actually playing way better lately. They won a road series against the Guardians last month and then swept the Brewers before winning a road series over the Mets. I’m still not much of a believer in the Rockies, but this is a prime example of how teams that start bad aren’t really as bad as they are. Look at what the White Sox did this past week. The Royals and A’s both looked better last week.

Similarly, the teams out to blazing starts always regress back to the pack a bit. Even the Rays will at some point. The Pirates certainly have, but all signs point to them ending their losing streak at seven here. They rank sixth in wOBA at .345 against lefties and get a very hittable one today in Kyle Freeland. Freeland has a 3.76 ERA, but a 5.00 FIP, as he’s got a .245 BABIP with a lot of balls in play and a really bad defensive team. He’s on regular rest here despite leaving his last start early with a neck issue. He threw five shutout innings against a Brewers bunch that is horrible against lefties.

The Pirates will send out Mitch Keller, who allowed four unearned runs and one earned run last start against the Rays. He has a 3.32 ERA with a 3.30 FIP and has been one of many reasons why the Pirates had gotten off to such a great start. He’s struck out 48 in 40.2 innings, so if the K% spike sticks around, this may very well be the Keller we see the rest of the year. Personally, I don’t see it, since he has a 10.6% SwStr% and that is below league average.

I can’t really trust the Rockies on the road enough to think about an over here and Keller probably pitches well against a weak lineup. But, I will be looking for spots to go against him because I don’t think what we’re seeing is totally real. Is he better? Sure. Is he going to run a 25.5% Hard Hit% with a K% that is 6% above his career average and 7.8% better than last season? Probably not.

St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs (-130, 7)

This line looked a lot more attractive last night when the Cardinals were mostly +125 in the marketplace, but I understand and agree with the line move on the visitors. This goes back to the conversation I had on the podcast last Thursday about looking at the overnight lines and trying to find these signs for yourself to get some line equity.

Marcus Stroman has a 2.18 ERA with a 3.69 FIP. He has a 60.2% GB% with a .248 BABIP against. As I mentioned prior to his last start, the best BABIP with a 59% or higher GB% dating back to 2015 is .257, so he’s not going to keep having so much success with balls in play. Furthermore, he’s running an 86.1% LOB%, which also won’t stick around. His career mark is 72.9%, which is right at the league average. He also has a 3.97 xERA, despite a career-best 23.3% K%.

You don’t get a career-high in K% with a 9.7% SwStr% if you’re a guy like Stroman. That’s below the league average and also right in line with his career mark. He’s allowed two or fewer runs in six of his seven starts, so I don’t want to belittle what he’s done to this point and he looks nice and healthy, though his velo is down a bit. It’s just that I don’t really see this pace continuing and that’s what analyzing the stats is all about.

Mikolas has been better in his last four starts, though he isn’t where he wants to be just yet. He allowed 16 runs over 14.1 innings to start the season, as he was clearly not ready after being part of the Team USA WBC squad. Since then, he’s allowed eight earned runs on 24 hits in his 23 innings of work. He’s got a 19/6 K/BB ratio and has a 3.13 ERA with a 4.44 FIP. He’s a guy that will regularly run an ERA lower than his FIP because he’s not a big strikeout guy. Stroman does the same, but his peripherals are so out of whack that a correction is coming.

Obviously the weather doesn’t look great for offense, which is why we have a total of 7, but that’s too low here. I know the winds are blowing in at Wrigley and that will dictate how the ball flies, but Stroman is a regression candidate and Mikolas isn’t exactly locating all that well. The Cubs bullpen has fallen apart this week, taking four losses over the last six days. Mark Leiter Jr. is now closing and the top three relievers have all pitched two of the last three days.

The Cardinals bullpen has been used a lot recently as well. I realize the weather matters more at Wrigley than just about any other stadium, but Stroman’s an extreme ground ball guy anyway, so this is more about looking for that BABIP regression out of him.

Pick: Over 7 (-115)

Los Angeles Dodgers at Milwaukee Brewers (-115, 8.5)

There aren’t a whole lot of situational spots in baseball, but this is one for the Dodgers. After finishing up late on Sunday Night Baseball against the rival Padres with a 5-2 win in extra innings, the team boarded a flight for the long trip to Milwaukee. Per FlightAware, the Dodgers’ Boeing 757 landed in Milwaukee at 3:13 a.m. local time, so there could be some sluggish swings against Freddy Peralta this evening.

Teams usually send their starting pitchers early in this situation, so perhaps Tony Gonsolin got a good night’s sleep and wasn’t on that flight. He’s made two starts since returning from a sprained ankle and allowed three runs on seven hits in eight innings of work with five walks and four strikeouts. He didn’t allow a single hard-hit ball against the Pirates in his first start and then allowed five in 16 batted balls against the Phillies. It’ll take him some time to get in rhythm, especially since he only made one rehab start.

Peralta struck out 10 over six innings against the Rockies last week in Colorado, but didn’t get much help from his offense. That has been the ongoing story for the Brewers on the whole, as the offense, which got off to a really hot start, has tailed off of late. Despite a 10.2% BB%, the Brewers are only 11th in wRC+ against righties.

So, we’ll see if Peralta gets some run support here. He’s made six starts and has a 3.63 ERA with a 3.61 FIP in 34.2 innings of work. He had two hiccups in back-to-back starts against the Padres and Red Sox with nine of those 14 runs. Otherwise, he’s shut down most everybody else he has faced. He’s got a 36.6% Hard Hit% against and 41 strikeouts out of 147 batters faced for a solid 27.9% K%.

I thought about a lot of different things here. A fade of the Dodgers off the travel, but I’ve heard players say that the second game is worse because adrenaline kind of takes over for the first game. The under with a couple of jetlagged teams going against guys that don’t allow a lot of hard contact. Ultimately, I didn’t like anything enough to play it here. I also simply don’t trust Milwaukee at this stage.

Miami Marlins at Arizona Diamondbacks (-205, 8.5)

Zac Gallen faces his former team for the second time this season as the Diamondbacks host the Marlins. Braxton Garrett will look to bounce back from a rough outing against the Braves against a far less daunting lineup. The Marlins were part of Gallen’s scoreless rampage when he fired 6.2 shutout innings at Marlins Park back on April 16 with seven strikeouts.

Gallen struggled last time out with three runs allowed on seven hits, but he struck out six over five innings and didn’t walk a batter for the fourth straight start. He also didn’t allow a home run for the fifth straight start and sixth start out of seven this season. He has a 2.53 ERA with a 1.71 FIP and 57 strikeouts in 42.2 innings of work. He’s been a dominant ace aside from a rocky start to the season against the Dodgers and Padres with nine of the 12 earned runs he has allowed.

Even in those starts, he didn’t really give up a lot of hard contact. It was just one of those days where the batted balls didn’t fall his way. The Marlins have been a pretty decent lineup against lefties, but Gallen is a righty and they are a bottom-five lineup in that split.

Garrett gave up 11 runs on 14 hits to the Braves in his last start and now has a 5.81 ERA with a 4.83 FIP over 26.1 innings of work. It will take a very long time for those kind of start to get swallowed up by some sample size, so we’ll see how that goes for him. He gave up four homers and a ton of hard contact, but credit to him for gutting through 4.1 innings to spare the bullpen a little bit.

Prior to that, Garrett had allowed six earned runs in 22 innings of work. The Diamondbacks are 17th in wOBA against lefties, so I would assume Garrett does at least a little bit better in this outing. That being said, Garrett’s Hard Hit% is up to 48.4% after that barrage and he had allowed a HH% of 46.7% or higher in each of his previous three appearances, including a lot of rare hard contact from the Guardians on April 22.

I was thinking about the under, but Garrett’s recent command profile really scares me.

Washington Nationals at San Francisco Giants (-225, 8.5)

Jake Irvin will make his second MLB start as the Nationals battle the Giants out on the west coast. Irvin bobbed and weaved through 4.1 innings against the Cubs and allowed just one run on two hits with four walks against three strikeouts. He did a good job of limiting hard contact, but got very little swing and miss and almost no chases outside the zone. It seems like there was some a little deception in his 6-foot-6 frame or maybe that he just had long extension to the plate and the fastball snuck up on guys.

We’ll see if the Giants have more success, but we really don’t have much to go on. Irvin didn’t allow an outrageous rate of home runs or anything in the minors, which is important to think about with a left-handed-heavy Giants bunch that hits for power.

Anthony DeSclafani has a 2.13 ERA with a 3.38 FIP over 38 innings of work. He’s got a 30/3 K/BB ratio and has only given up nine earned runs across his six starts, including eight shutout innings last time out against the Astros. Disco does have a 45.9% Hard Hit% and has given up 11 barrels to this point, but has a .224 BABIP against with a pretty bad Giants defensive team in support. I’m not buying his stock long-term, but the Nationals are 26th in wOBA against righties. It’s too bad DeSclafani isn’t a lefty, but this total would probably be 9 if he was.

This is not a pleasant card to this point, so let’s see what the AL has in store.

Detroit Tigers at Cleveland Guardians (-195, 7.5)

The Guardians still can’t hit, but they took the weekend series from the Twins to get some positive vibes going into a week where they are likely to face five left-handed pitchers. Cleveland can’t hit pitchers from either side, but they are 28th in wOBA against lefties, better than only the Mariners and Brewers. Of the bottom seven teams in wOBA against lefties, Cleveland has the lowest K% at 20.8%. The next lowest is 24%. That gives you an idea how little power the Guardians have generated in this split. Only Milwaukee has a lower SLG.

Despite putting a lot of balls in play, Cleveland still ranks among the lineups that strike out a lot and that is not the place where you want to be. They face a pretty hittable lefty here in Joey Wentz, who has a 6.67 ERA with a 5.61 FIP in his 28.1 innings of work. Wentz has allowed six homers, with three in his last start against the Mets. He’s allowed 21 runs on 30 hits and only has 22 strikeouts out of 122 batters faced.

Righties own a .291/.351/.547 slash with a .385 wOBA against him in 94 plate appearances, so those that scour the player prop markets for value may find some here. I will say that Wentz has had some tough matchups. He’s faced Baltimore twice, as well as Tampa Bay and Boston. The Mets offense has been fairly quiet for its talent level this season, but they’re always capable of something like what they did last time out. Cleveland isn’t on that level at all. Wentz has a 6.67 ERA and this total is 7.5, which speaks to how poor the projection is for Cleveland’s offense on a nightly basis.

It also speaks to what Tanner Bibee has done in his first two MLB starts. Bibee has allowed three runs on 10 hits in 11 innings with 13 strikeouts against zero walks. He only has a 31% Hard Hit% and has allowed just one barrel. He’s had a noticeable velo decline in the fifth and sixth innings of his starts, but he’s been largely unhittable up to that point. The first two times through the order, he’s had all 13 strikeouts in 36 batters faced with four singles and a double allowed. He’s given up two doubles and a homer out of seven plate appearances the third time through.

So maybe that’s a live betting angle in this game. Otherwise, I don’t have a play, but I would recommend looking into some of those player props with Cleveland’s righties and switch hitters.

Tampa Bay Rays (-180, 8.5) at Baltimore Orioles

Shane McClanahan and Kyle Gibson are the listed starters here as the top two teams in the AL East square off. Before digging into the handicap of the starters here, I need to mention that Felix Bautista pitched yesterday and Yennier Cano threw two innings. The Orioles have a really solid bullpen, but those two guys do a lot of the heavy lifting in high leverage, so it is a little tough to back Baltimore for the full game when they’re limited or unavailable. I don’t think either guy is unavailable today, but Bautista hasn’t been terribly sharp of late and Cano threw 29 pitches yesterday.

McClanahan is left-handed and the O’s just smashed a really good lefty on Friday in Max Fried, so we’ll see what happens with McClanahan here. The one thing that separates Mac from Max is that the Rays left-hander has a 31.7% K%, so there will be fewer balls in play against him. He has not allowed more than two runs in any start this season and has 51 strikeouts in 40 innings of work with his 2.03 ERA and 3.30 FIP.

He’s allowed four homers over his last three starts and had a couple starts with four walks earlier this season, so FIP isn’t a huge fan relative to his ERA and 2.72 xERA. This is one of the flaws with FIP and one of the problems I have with it. I’m not looking at McClanahan for much regression at all. He’s done this while facing some pretty good lineups. The O’s are absolutely one against lefties, but I figure he’ll be fine tonight and moving forward.

Kyle Gibson needs a bounce back start, but I’m not sure it’ll come against the Rays. He’s allowed nine runs on 18 hits in his last 11 innings for a really big correction in his numbers. He had a 3.60 ERA with a 4.49 FIP in his first five starts, but now has a 4.61 ERA with a 4.50 FIP. When I talk about “regression candidates”, that’s the type of thing I’m looking for. And, as I’ve said before, it usually happens really quick for ground ball guys, whereas it may be a more gradual process for others.

Getting rocked by the Tigers and Royals probably doesn’t bode overly well for Gibson in this start of moving forward. This will be just the third home start for Gibson, who shut down the A’s and Tigers in his two previous Oriole Park outings. It is definitely a good pitcher’s park at this point, but I’m not excited for a dude who faced 28 Royals and struck out zero of them last start.

This line probably was a bit cheap at open, but the markets have pushed it up and it’s in a pretty good spot now. I still think the Rays might have a little equity, but, also, they’re going to regress a bit as they face better teams and Baltimore qualifies as a better team.

Oakland A’s at New York Yankees (-195, 8)

The A’s have gotten some love in the betting markets in advance of this game against the Yankees. Former Yankees farmhand JP Sears gets the call in this one and it will be Nestor Cortes for the home team. Cortes had his last turn in the rotation skipped because of strep throat, so he hasn’t pitched since April 30.

He hasn’t been all that good this season either. He’s got a 4.91 ERA with a 4.69 FIP in his 33 innings of work. He’s surrendered six homers and hasn’t had the same batted ball luck as last season. His BABIP this season is 50 points higher at .282, though his Hard Hit% is also up 2.9% and his Barrel% is up 3.5%, so it might be those two things as well. He just allowed seven runs on five hits to the Rangers and had a season-high four walks.

Cortes always worked pretty fast, but I wonder if the pitch clock and the things he used to do to throw off timing are giving him some fits. He’s also not getting nearly as many swings outside the zone. He just hasn’t been sharp. The A’s are 18th in wOBA against lefties and have a 106 wRC+, so this is their better split. They’re also ninth in road wOBA this season at .326. They’ve been pretty good against lefties on the road as well (12th in wOBA), so that’s one of the reasons why this total is up where it is. We’ll also have a breeze blowing out at Yankee Stadium on a warmer night than most.

JP Sears has allowed seven homers in 32 innings of work with a 34/8 K/BB ratio. He’s got a 5.06 ERA and a 5.10 FIP because of his struggles with runners in scoring position and the long ball. Sears is a guy I’ve talked about because I like him at home and don’t like him on the road. He’s a fly ball guy who throws a lot of strikes and home runs come as a result of that kind of profile. I’m also not totally convinced about the K% bump this season.

That being said, the Yankees offense has gone in the tank. Over the last 14 days, this group is 27th with a .287 wOBA. Not having Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton has been pretty problematic. Judge is set to be activated on Tuesday. Stanton is still out for a while. I think the over is a decent bet here, but I also feel like I’m reaching a little because this card is so bad. I’m going to stay off.

Chicago White Sox (-130, 8.5) at Kansas City Royals

This is a suspiciously small line for Dylan Cease against the Royals and Zack Greinke. The White Sox are playing better right now and the Royals have a pretty big strikeout problem. The other big problem for the Royals here is that they don’t walk much and Cease has issued 19 walks in 35.1 innings with a huge bump in BB% this season. He’s still missing a good number of bats with 43 strikeouts in 35.1 innings, but he’s had some bad sequencing luck and allowed too much hard contact.

Cease’s profile is tough to navigate right now. He has a 4.58 ERA with a 4.34 FIP, as a 64.8% LOB% is definitely hurting him on the ERA front. On the other hand, he’s allowed a 52% Hard Hit%, so he’s doing a lot of this to himself. He hasn’t had a single start under 45% by Hard Hit%. The Royals hit a lot of balls hard. Cease has also allowed six barrels over his last two starts against the Rays and Twins. The Royals are third in Hard Hit%, just 0.4% behind the Rays and two spots ahead of the Twins.

The hard part here is that the Royals are 28th in wOBA against righties and have the seventh-highest K% and the lowest BB%. They’re going to be wholly dependent on what happens with the hard contact against Cease because they will strike out and likely won’t walk.

I’m pretty upset with what Greinke did last time out. He threw five shutout innings against the Orioles. He had allowed 19 runs over his previous four starts. He had those five shutout innings in 44 pitches, which is simply ridiculous. The O’s were extremely aggressive against him and it didn’t work. I think what’s crazier is that Greinke just left after 44 pitches. That lowered his season ERA to 5.25 and his FIP to 4.99.

The White Sox are only 24th in wOBA against righties on the season, but they’ve gotten the bats going a bit here recently, including a barrage against Graham Ashcraft yesterday. Part of me wants to trust Cease and expect a bounce back outing with a big step down in class. Part of me also wants to trust what I’ve been saying about the Royals for a while now with their impressive contact quality metrics and the bad luck they’ve experienced so far.

The Greinke conundrum is obnoxious because I know exactly what he is and the batted balls either find holes or don’t. Again, it’s an ugly card and I’m tying myself in knots looking for picks when there are a lot of games today that just don’t seem to present a lot of clear edges. There are a lot of pros and cons in every game for Monday it seems.

Houston Astros (-125, 9) at Los Angeles Angels

Hunter Brown and Patrick Sandoval make up my favorite pitching matchup of the evening and we’ve seen some strong moves towards the Astros overnight and this morning. As good as the Angels are against lefties, they’re just a little better than league average against righties and Brown is off to a very fine start this season.

He’s got a 2.60 ERA with a 2.83 FIP in 34.2 innings of work with a 36/15 K/BB ratio. He walked five last time out against the Giants, but limited the damage enough to only allow two runs on four hits. He did allow a ton of hard contact in that start as well, so he just wasn’t comfortable for one reason or another. With some deep innings, he did have his lowest fastball velo of the season and has had spin rate drops in his last two starts. His last two starts account for two of the three highest Hard Hit% marks he’s had.

When I see these types of red flags from an organization that has already lost some guys due to injury, I start to get worried. With Jose Urquidy out and Luis Garcia slated for Tommy John, not to mention Justin Verlander’s recent TJS and the litany of injuries for homegrown products like Lance McCullers Jr. and Forrest Whitley, I can’t help but wonder if this is more of an epidemic than we realize.

Sandoval has allowed more than two earned runs just once this season. He gave up five runs on four hits when he had six walks in four innings against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium back on April 20. Otherwise, Sandoval has been rather effective with a 2.93 ERA and a 4.20 FIP. I think today’s line move is a commentary on that ERA/FIP discrepancy and less about the matchup. Sandoval does have a 24/15 K/BB ratio, which is bad over 30.2 innings, but he’s allowed a 25.5% Hard Hit%, so he’s done a really good job of staying out of the middle of the plate. His 11.9% SwStr% implies a K% increase coming soon.

Sadly, this is another game where there are a lot of pros and cons. Sandoval’s slider spin rate has been down his last two starts and his fastball velocity was the lowest of the season last time out. It’s tough to buy in with that profile when I could be wrong about Brown and I need Sandoval to be really, really good to keep pace. Most frustrating card of the season.

Texas Rangers at Seattle Mariners (-170, 7.5)

The Mariners drew first blood in the season series against the Astros, but maybe that won’t be the Texas team they need to worry about. The first-place Rangers are in town and this series starts with Jon Gray on the bump against Logan Gilbert. Gray has a 4.40 ERA with a 6.22 FIP, as he really hasn’t been sharp this season. He’s allowed 11 runs on 18 hits over his last 16.2 innings of work and has only struck out two batters in each of those three starts. A lack of swing and miss is not something we’ve seen from Gray in his career, so it is concerning.

On the plus side, Gray has only allowed a 33.3% Hard Hit% on the season, so he’s done a good job of staying away from hittable pitches, but he hasn’t gotten much swing and miss with a 9.3% SwStr%. He has a 14.5% K%, which is 7% lower than any other K% in a full season. This is actually the lowest Hard Hit% he’s had since 2017. I don’t think Gray’s numbers tell the full story and I don’t really believe in the high FIP.

Gilbert comes into this start with a 4.01 ERA and a 3.15 FIP, so there are definitely some positive regression signs in his profile. He has a 40/7 K/BB ratio in 33.2 innings of work, but a 69.1% LOB% has hurt him. He’s also allowed his highest average exit velocities of the season in his last three starts with quite a few batted balls just below the 95 mph threshold to count towards Hard Hit%. He’s allowed average EVs of 93.1, 92.1, and 91.6 mph in his last three starts against the Brewers, Phillies, and A’s.

I really like GIlbert and I’ve been talking about finding spots to back the Mariners, but I think this line is too high. Gray has the high FIP because of a low K%, but he’s located pretty well otherwise. Gilbert seems to have had some command hiccups in his last few starts. Seattle is coming off of a big, emotional series against the Astros and, while it could serve as a springboard, I don’t think they’re deserving of this big of a favorite role.

Texas has a top-five offense by wOBA against right-handed pitching this season, while the Mariners are 18th. The Rangers are creating a lot more power production and I’d consider them to be a very live dog here. Shop around, as you can find better on this price.

Pick: Rangers +145

TL;DR Recap

STL/CHC Over 7 (-115)
Rangers +145