MLB Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Saturday, April 8th

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MLB schedule today has 15 games

Everybody is in action on Saturday as the weather off days are gone and the teams settle in for a little more normalcy with the schedule. We’ve got six games in the NL, six games in the AL and three Interleague series are on the card and a whole bunch of middle to back of the rotation starters. We don’t have a lot of warm weather, but we do have a good number of hurlers off to rough starts, so maybe today is a good day for offense.

 

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With a lot of non-elite starters yesterday, teams collectively batted .255/.342/.420 with an 11.4% BB% and a 22.9% K%. There were 34 homers hit and 22 bases stolen out of 29 tries. There was also a 41% Hard Hit% league-wide, which is a rather impressive number. Looking up and down today’s list of starting pitchers suggests to me that we could see a similar type of offensive day. (Tracking sheet)

Sorry for the late posting on Saturday. Lots of games and many that I took extra time on where I was close to making picks.

VSiN Daily Baseball Bets returns on Monday, but there are some good nuggets from this past week to check out if you missed any of the episodes.

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

Cincinnati Reds at Philadelphia Phillies (-145, 8)

A couple of southpaws start the article with Nick Lodolo for the Reds and Bailey Falter for the Phillies. Lodolo gave up two runs on seven hits in his first 2023 start with nine strikeouts against a couple of walks. That was a good continuation of what we saw last season with a 3.66 ERA and a 3.90 FIP over 103.1 innings of work. He actually hit 19 batters with pitches last season after only hitting eight in the minors, which drove his FIP up a bit higher than it should have been.

His velocity was down a bit in his opening start, but he still threw a ton of first-pitch strikes and had a 19.1% SwStr%, as the Pirates chased a lot and missed a lot outside the zone. With rainouts and off days, Lodolo hasn’t pitched since April 1, but he did throw 109 pitches in his first start, so maybe the extra couple of days of rest will be a good thing. He had 22 swings and misses and said after the game that he felt his stuff was still good in the fifth inning as the pitch count climbed.

Falter worked 84 innings last season over 16 starts and four relief efforts with an ERA of 3.86 and a FIP of 4.65. He did get a bit fortunate with stranding runners, but gave up 16 home runs to drive up that FIP. He allowed one homer in his first 2023 start with two runs on seven hits over 5.1 innings. We saw a big decrease in sinkers from Falter and he threw a lot more curveballs in that first outing against the Rangers. Opposing batters hit .269 with a .570 SLG against the sinker last season, so throwing fewer of them likely makes sense. He only threw a curveball 16.9% of the time last season, but that shot up to 40.3% in that first start.

As usual, we see a premium paid on a good Reds starter for the 1st 5, where the line is mostly around +105, about 15 cents cheaper than most full-game moneylines. The Reds bullpen looks like one of the worst and the Phillies have a solid group on paper. The 1st 5 Under 4 intrigues me a bit, but the problem is that these guys can both give up home runs, which put a big dent into those unders. It’s a pass for me, but I could see some interest in the Reds full-game, which could bump the line down.

Miami Marlins at New York Mets (-170, 7.5)

I don’t know that the Mets will draw 12 walks again on Saturday, but they certainly have the opportunity to take advantage of some free passes against Trevor Rogers and the Miami bullpen. Rogers walked a couple in his 2023 debut against the Mets with four runs allowed on four hits over 4.1 innings of work. He also hit two batters. He’s a guy that has some great raw stuff, but command and control have never really worked in harmony. He had a 9.4% BB% last season and owns a 9.0% BB% for his career. 

He’s generally been able to offset the walks with some strikeouts, but the Mets put the ball in play pretty well as a team, so I’m not sure that weapon is in his back pocket today. He did only allow four hard-hit balls in that first start against the Mets, but had a throwing error of his own that led to a run and gave up a homer in the fifth. In that first start, we saw a continuation of a bad sign from last year. He allowed a .298/.366/.520 slash and a .381 wOBA to righties in 366 plate appearances. In his first outing, righties had three hits, including the homer, two walks and two hit by pitches in 19 plate appearances. Now he faces the same team again and at least six right-handed batters.

This will mark the second start of Kodai Senga’s MLB career. He allowed one run on three hits over 5.1 innings against the Marlins with eight strikeouts and three walks. Senga sat 96-97 with the fastball and displayed a really impressive “ghost fork” that either classifies as a split-finger fastball or a forkball depending on where you look. That ghost fork pitch induced nine swings and misses on 14 swings. His fastball wasn’t terribly effective, despite the velocity. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts and how the Marlins adjust to him.

By comparison, Rogers had nine whiffs on 43 total swings. Senga gave up a first inning run on a single, wild pitch and double, but stranded the bases loaded with nobody out and allowed just one other hit after he settled in.

I generally don’t like to play home team run lines because they may lead by a run and not bat in the ninth, but Senga’s upside is so much higher than what Rogers brings to the table. The Mets should also be a better lineup when facing a guy for a second time. Yesterday was a pretty good example with Edward Cabrera and Tylor Megill. Megill fired six shutout innings, while Cabrera walked seven in 2.2 innings.

The 1st 5 run line is only at -115 for the Mets, while the full-game run line is +130. That is a pretty big difference when I expect them to play from in front and hopefully add on against the bullpen if need be.

Pick: Mets Run Line (-1.5) (+125)

St. Louis Cardinals (-165, 9) at Milwaukee Brewers

One of the bigger movers today has been this game between the Cardinals and the Brewers. Jordan Montgomery gets the call for the Redbirds and Eric Lauer will kick things off for the Brew Crew. This has a lot to do with what happened last season, as Lauer had a 3.69 ERA with a 4.50 FIP. We’re seeing some early-season line moves on the ERA-FIP discrepancies because we have a lot more 2022 data to use than 2023.

Lauer gave up 27 homers in 158.2 innings of work and that drove his FIP up. He was able to sustain the big K% increase from 2020 to 2021 and finished with a 23.8% K% in 2022, which is a solid number for a guy that didn’t miss as many bats with the Padres as he has with the Brewers. Lauer’s ERA-FIP difference isn’t the only reason for this line move, though, as he draws a Cardinals lineup that led the league against left-handed pitchers last season and projects to be among the best this season as well.

Lauer allowed two runs on five hits in 5.1 innings with six strikeouts and two walks against the Cubs to kick off this season. His velocity was 3 mph down from last season, so that looks to be a concern, but that may just have been weather-related. His spin rates were down with less velo, but they didn’t really indicate some kind of injury or anything. I guess we’ll see what happens in today’s start. He wound up having a decent outing without it and only allowed four hard-hit balls.

I am a noted Montgomery stan, as I love the four-pitch mix and the command profile. He gave up three runs on six hits over five innings with three strikeouts against a tough Blue Jays lineup. He had a strong 3.48 ERA and a 3.61 FIP last season with the Yankees and then the Cardinals after the Harrison Bader trade at the deadline. It is a bit concerning, though, that his first 2023 start featured nine hard-hit balls and four barrels. He was pitching with a huge lead after Chris Bassitt got shelled, so maybe he just eased into the season. He only had six whiffs in 46 swings.

I gave a ton of thought to the Brewers as a dog here, but Lauer’s decreased velo is something I need to monitor. Also, even though the Brewers are better than the Cardinals against lefties to this point, I’m not sure that remains the case.

San Diego Padres at Atlanta Braves (-155, 9)

This game has the best chance of getting rained out, as I’m sure everybody has seen the forecast for The Masters. It’s going to rain throughout the day and I’m not sure they’ll make a big effort here. It’s supposed to be nice and sunny tomorrow, which means a good day for a doubleheader, even if it is Easter Sunday. The Braves did tweet around Noon ET that the game was still on, but so we’ll see.

If this game does get played, winds will be blowing in from LF for the matchup between Michael Wacha and Charlie Morton. Morton gave up three runs on nine hits over 5.1 innings and only struck out one of the 27 batters that he faced against the Cardinals. His velocity was fine, but the stuff was not particularly good.

Wacha also struggled in his first start with four runs allowed on six hits over six innings. He only struck out two batters against a road Rockies lineup. His velocity was down considerably from last season. Neither one of these guys had an impressive start to the season. I’d have maybe thought about the Padres if Wacha had looked better and had his velo, but this is not a game I put a lot of time into, especially with the forecast.

Los Angeles Dodgers (-155, 9.5) at Arizona Diamondbacks

Noah Syndergaard will run it back again versus the Diamondbacks in this one after allowing just one run on four hits in six innings of work. He struck out six and didn’t walk anybody. He only allowed two hard-hit balls on 16 batted ball events and an average exit velocity of 81 mph. It was a dominant start by all accounts. His velocity was down a good bit, but it didn’t have a negative impact on his performance.

He got a ton of chases outside the zone and a lot of swings and misses. For a Diamondbacks lineup that will make a lot of contact, each stat makes Thor’s start more and more impressive. The big separator was his new-look slider, which had way more break than his previous version. The Diamondbacks didn’t swing and miss at it a lot, but put six of them in play with an average EV of 78.1 mph.

The thing about this game that you’ll want to monitor is that Syndergaard is one of the worst pitchers on the planet at controlling the running game. The Diamondbacks only had four hits in the last game, so they couldn’t run around. If Thor isn’t as sharp, that’s going to give Arizona more scoring chances.

Zach Davies battled through five innings of one-run ball against the Dodgers, but wasn’t terribly sharp with eight hard-hit balls against and an average exit velocity of 92.4 mph. He had a lot of batted ball luck on his side. He also threw 44 strikes and 39 balls in 83 pitches.

At first glance, I thought about the Diamondbacks, but there aren’t enough reasons to take the dog here.

Washington Nationals at Colorado Rockies (-140, 11)

It took all of two batters for yesterday’s game to outscore the ill-fated over bet I made on Thursday. The first two hitters bashed back-to-back tanks against Jose Urena and the Nationals rolled to a 10-5 win. That line was telling us something and I should have listened. Urena was awful and MacKenzie Gore was good enough with some run support.

Veteran Trevor Williams gets the call today for the Nats against Austin Gomber. Williams allowed four runs on six hits over five innings against the Rays, who will never lose a game. He gave up two homers in that start and only had three strikeouts. He was actually rather useful for the Mets last season with a 3.21 ERA and a 3.88 FIP in 89.2 innings. He wasn’t bad in 2021 either with a 4.35 ERA and a 3.88 FIP. 

The one thing about Williams that I’ve always respected is that he’s been pretty good at limiting hard contact. His Hard Hit% against is 33.3% for his career and his Barrel% is just 6.4%. I think that’s pretty impressive all in all. It’s just that he’s never missed a lot of bats and had some bad defensive teams with the Pirates.

Gomber is another lefty for the Nationals, who I really do think project better against lefties than righties, despite what we saw on Thursday against Kyle Freeland. He posted a 5.56 ERA with a 4.54 FIP last season over 124.2 innings. He was decent in his 2023 debut with three runs allowed on four hits over six innings, but he did give up a couple of homers.

Gomber had oddly good luck in 2021 at home with a .254 wOBA against, but that evaded him in 2022. He allowed a .300/.336/.505 slash with a .361 wOBA in 305 plate appearances at Coors Field last season. Righties hit .316/.355/.573 against Gomber with a .394 wOBA in 221 PA at Coors. The Nationals should be able to send a lot of them at him in this game. Gomber was also said to be working on a two-seamer/sinker to use at home, but he didn’t throw it much against the Padres and I’m curious how much of a feel he’ll have for it if that’s his go-to pitch at home here.

I think the Nationals are worth a look here. Shop around because you can find better than +120 at books other than DraftKings, but that’s what I’m using for lines and pick grading, so that’s the number that goes here.

Pick: Nationals +120

Boston Red Sox (-140, 8) at Detroit Tigers

In the interest of time, I skipped the early start between the Astros and Twins to get to the other games on the card. We’ve got Tanner Houck and Joey Wentz in this one up at Comerica Park. Wentz battled against the Rays and gave up three runs on four hits in 5.1 innings of work. It was his eighth career MLB start and he was decent in his seven starts last season with a 3.03 ERA and a 3.54 FIP over 32.2 innings.

Wentz spreads his pitches around pretty effectively and did get the Rays to expand the zone in that first start, but got punished for the mistakes he made in the zone. He’s a guy that has generally had pretty good minor league numbers, but health has been an ongoing issue. We really haven’t seen him consistently get starts at a single level to truly evaluate his sample size. Hopefully he stays healthy this season and his age-25 year is a good one for the Tigers.

Houck is back in the rotation for the Red Sox after making 17 starts in 50 appearances over the two previous years. He allowed three runs on five hits in five innings in his 2023 debut with five strikeouts against one walk. Houck added a cutter to go with his slider and sinker this season. His slider was super effective last season, as opposing batters only hit .152 with a .253 SLG. The early returns on the cutter were good, as he threw 19 of them to left-handed batters with a 33.3% Whiff% and one mistake that was hit out of the ballpark.

If Houck’s cutter proves to be a real weapon, we may have to bet on him early in the season before the market catches up. I think this price is a little bit steep against the Tigers and I low-key like Wentz a bit as well. Good start to track both guys.

Seattle Mariners at Cleveland Guardians (-140, 8.5)

Cal Quantrill’s home numbers are going to get a lot of run anytime he pitches at Progressive Field. In 44 career games in Cleveland, he had held opposing batters to a .234/.285/.370 slash over 34 starts and 10 relief appearances. He has never once been the losing pitcher. He has a 14-0 record with a 2.88 ERA in 206 innings pitched. That’s over a full season’s worth of starts in Cleveland and he’s never been saddled with a loss.

Is there any rhyme or reason to it? I can’t really think of one, other than a major statistical anomaly. He’s a slightly above average pitcher all things considered. Progressive Field is a pretty neutral ballpark between hitters and pitchers. There’s obviously a certain level of confidence for Quantrill pitching at home and hearing about numbers like that. He’s also been one of the best second half pitchers in baseball each of the last two seasons.

This is a little bit of a tricky game for bettors. I mentioned the ERA-FIP fades we see with the line moves. Well, Qunatrill has a career 3.58 ERA with a 4.14 FIP and a 4.45 xFIP. In his last two seasons with Cleveland, he has a 2.89 ERA with a 4.07 FIP and a 4.43 xFIP plus a 3.38 ERA with a 4.12 FIP and a 4.39 xFIP. Both of those seasons and his pedestrian strikeout numbers would suggest negative regression.

However, we have the same for Marco Gonzalez over the last two seasons. He had a 3.96 ERA with a 5.02 xERA, 5.28 FIP and 5.16 xFIP in 2021 and then a 4.13 ERA with a 4.59 xERA, 5.05 FIP and 4.90 xFIP in 2022. The market is unlikely to believe in either one of these guys long-term.

They also faced off last week in Seattle and neither guy pitched well, as Quantrill allowed five runs on eight hits in 4.2 innings with three strikeouts, two walks and two wild pitches. Gonzales allowed four runs on six hits in five innings with one strikeout. It should be a good day for pitchers in Cleveland with temps in the low 40s and getting cooler throughout the evening. Yesterday’s game leaked over despite 22 combined strikeouts, but I think offense will be hard to come by throughout the month in Cleveland.

No play here in a game with a ton of balls in play. Really wish I had trusted my lean on the Mariners yesterday. I don’t feel strongly about either side here.

New York Yankees (-135, 8) at Baltimore Orioles

It will be Jhony Brito for the Yankees in his second start and Cole Irvin for the Orioles in his home debut for this AL East battle. Brito was very impressive in his outing against the Giants with five innings of shutout ball with six strikeouts and a couple of hits allowed. Brito showcased a lot more swing-and-miss upside than we saw out of him last season in Triple-A, but he’s been a guy with solid command numbers for the most part and high ground ball rates. That profile plays at the MLB level, even without the shift.

Brito threw a bunch of changeups against a left-handed-heavy Giants lineup and it worked well. All six strikeouts came on changeups and he only allowed three hard-hit balls. The Orioles are likely to send out at least five lefties and they have a few more on the bench that they could turn to if they wish.

Irvin’s first Baltimore start did not go well, as he allowed six runs on eight hits in four innings against the Red Sox. Now he gets to pitch at home, though, where the Orioles obviously liked his projections enough to trade for him from the A’s. Irvin is a pitch-to-contact, low-walk guy who was very effective for the A’s at home, but struggled mightily on the road. He has allowed .294/.340/.502 slash and a .359 wOBA on the road in his career, including that ugly start at Fenway Park.

He’ll have to be treated differently at home compared to the road. Oriole Park at Camden Yards plays more like an Oakland Coliseum now, particularly for lefties with the fence moved way back in left field, so right-handed batters won’t find as much success. This is a big test of that theory with Irvin against the Yankees, so we’ll see how he does.

Toronto Blue Jays at Los Angeles Angels (-120, 9)

Jose Berrios and Tyler Anderson are the listed starters for this one at Angel Stadium. Berrios picked up right where he left off in 2022 with an abhorrent start against the Royals. He allowed eight runs on nine hits in 5.2 innings of work. He did strike out seven of the 27 batters he faced, but his command profile continues to be quite poor. He had a 5.23 ERA and a 4.55 FIP last season.

Berrios allowed a 43.4% Hard Hit% last season with the highest exit velocity against of his career. His exit velo in his first start was 94.1 mph and his Hard Hit% was 61.1%. He wore one for the sake of the bullpen and for building up his arm as well because this wasn’t like he had problems turning the lineup over in the fifth or sixth. He gave up runs every time through the order.

Anderson’s stat line in his Angels debut was solid with six shutout innings and only four hard-hit balls put into play. His exit velocity against was 83.2 mph, but he did face the Athletics. What makes Anderson intriguing in this start is that his changeup is such a good weapon against righties that he has actually been more effective against them than he has with righties. Also, you really have to look at his career as what he did with the Rockies in Colorado and what he’s done everywhere else.

Anderson has been out of Colorado since the 2020 season. Against righties, he’s had wOBAs of .308, .326, .270 and .283 (first start of this season). That’s really important against a Blue Jays lineup with some right-handed pop. The changeup is effective in both keeping the ball on the ground and also generating swings and misses. He’s also a guy that even navigated Coors Field well enough to own a 30.2% Hard Hit% for his career, which dates back to 2016. I’m sure whatever he learned with the Dodgers will carry over to being with the Angels.

I like the Angels at the short favorite price today. I’ll gladly fade Berrios and think Anderson is pretty well-equipped to navigate a tough Blue Jays lineup with that excellent changeup that he has. I also like that the three primary relievers for the Jays – Jordan Romano, Erik Swanson and Yimi Garcia – have all pitched three of the last four days, so they’re going to be either unavailable or likely not as sharp given the workload.

Pick: Angels -120

Kansas City Royals at San Francisco Giants (-150, 8.5)

Brady Singer really had his breakout season last year, even though the Royals screwed with him early in the year. Singer was sent down for service time manipulation purposes and then came back with a vengeance, finishing the year with a 3.23 ERA and a 3.58 FIP over 153.1 innings of work. His 2023 debut was okay against the Blue Jays with one run allowed on two hits. He only struck out three and walked three, but he did give up a lot of hard contact and worked around it.

Singer is a two-pitch guy, throwing sinkers and sliders nearly all of the time. If one pitch isn’t working, it can be tough for him, which is why I respect the numbers, but finding spots to play on him can be a little tricky. He really dominated in the second half, holding opposing batters to a .276 wOBA, so I’ll be curious to see if he can harness that as he gets into the rhythms of the season.

This will be Sean Manaea’s first start of the season. He allowed three runs on two hits in relief on April 3 against the White Sox, which isn’t a great matchup for him. He had a 4.96 ERA with a 4.53 FIP in 158 innings for the Padres last season before signing with the Giants in hopes of getting back to his 2021 form. I’m not a huge Manaea guy because he’s carried some high home run rates. You would think San Francisco would be a decent place for him, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Singer allowed 18 homers in 153.1 innings of work last season and no homers in his first start, despite the hard contact. Most of the contact was kept on the ground and he’s a 50.3% GB% guy for his career. The Giants are really only scoring with the long ball right now. They’ve scored 39 runs through seven games with nine solo shots, two grand slams, one three-run homer and three two-run homers. They’ve struck out over 26% of the time against right-handed pitchers, but have also clubbed 15 home runs.

I got really close to taking the Royals here and I think I might regret passing. I’m curious to see if Manaea shows some improvement with a smart Giants organization and a better park for his home run problem.

Chicago White Sox (-120, 8.5) at Pittsburgh Pirates

Mike Clevinger and Vince Velasquez start this primetime matchup at PNC Park. Clevinger was strong in his 2023 debut, while Velasquez was not. Clevinger went five shutout innings and allowed three hits, walked three, hit two, threw a wild pitch, but also struck out eight. It was a little bit of a weird outing to say the least, but the biggest thing for me is that his velocity looked the part after being down in that department last season.

He allowed some hard contact, but that came against a Houston lineup that should make a lot of it throughout the season. Everything went pretty good for him from a spin rate standpoint and it seemed like he was healthy in that first start. He faced a lot of right-handed batters, so we didn’t really see much of the versatility to his arsenal, but I feel like we could definitely see that today against a more balanced Pirates lineup.

I think Velasquez is one of the worst starting pitchers in baseball. He gave up three runs on five hits in 4.2 innings in his debut start against the Reds, but that was just more of the same from him. He actually pitched for the White Sox last season, so they know him quite well to be prepared for this game. He had a 4.78 ERA with a 4.25 FIP in 75.1 innings. He just leaves way too many pitches in the heart of the plate and allows way too much hard contact. The past two seasons, his Hard Hit% marks have been 43.3% and 43.5%, along with Barrel% of 12.2% and 13%.

The White Sox aren’t as right-handed-heavy as they used to be and will be able to throw five lefties at Velasquez here. Lefties own a career .270/.349/.475 slash and a .351 wOBA against him. He gave up both homers to lefties in his first start. Chicago actually worked with him on that last season after he had a .397 wOBA in 2021 and a .390 wOBA in 2020.

I’ll lay the short number with the Sox here. Clevinger has a lot more upside than Velasquez to me and the White Sox should have a lead in a position to win with a pretty rested relief corps after a couple of off days for the primary guys.

Pick: White Sox -120

TL;DR Recap

Mets -1.5 (+125)
Nationals +120
Angels -120
White Sox -120