MLB Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Thursday, August 24th

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MLB schedule today has 9 games

It is a very, very somber day around Major League Baseball with the late-night announcement about Shohei Ohtani’s torn UCL. A lot of baseball fans woke up to the devastating news and it is the talk of the league, even though there are nine games on the betting board, plus the completion of a suspended game that never should have started based on the radar.

 

The Angels are one of 12 teams that do not play today. In the face of awful news, it is our job as bettors to process how we need to and also think about the ramifications in the context of the betting markets, as cold as that may seem sometimes. DraftKings has taken down the AL MVP market, which Ohtani was the clear, runaway favorite in, and we’ll see what that gets reposted at later. We don’t know if he’ll try to play DH at any point the rest of the way or not, but more info should come throughout the day.

The Stone Garrett injury was another brutal one from last night. Sports can be so, so cruel.

Nine games are on the board for today, including a bunch of day games, so I’ll try to get through today’s article and podcast as quickly as possible.

Latest MLB betting splits | MLB odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

Follow me on Twitter, @SkatingTripods, to get the article right as it goes live. (Tracking sheet)

VSiN Daily Baseball Bets will be out shortly.

Here are some thoughts on the August 24 card (odds from DraftKings):

Chicago Cubs (-162, 9) at Pittsburgh Pirates

Justin Steele gets the start for the Cubs tonight, but the Pirates have not officially named who will throw the top of the first. It is Andre Jackson’s turn in the rotation, but the Pirates may opt to stretch him out a little bit or maybe use him in a tandem with Osvaldo Bido, who threw 69 pitches on Sunday. Or Bido could outright start the game.

Let’s assume Jackson, since the Pirates might as well see what they have in him the rest of the way. He’s allowed five runs on nine hits over eight innings in his last two starts with 11 strikeouts against five walks. The contact management numbers aren’t stellar with three barrels allowed and 11 hard-hit balls in 21 batted ball events, but he’s generated some solid swing and miss numbers.

Steele is having a tremendous year outside of one stint on the IL. He has a 2.80 ERA with a 3.50 xERA and a 3.12 FIP in 132 innings of work. He’s got a terrific K/BB ratio and has only allowed 10 homers over his 23 starts. Steele gave up six runs (one earned) in his first start of the second half, but has only allowed 14 earned runs over his last six starts since. 

The Pirates rank 27th in wOBA against lefties in the second half, despite a 9.5% BB% that ranks eighth. They are only batting .225 and only have a .336 SLG in that split, so they’ve really had issues trying to square up southpaws.

With no starter officially listed for the Pirates, I can’t really advocate a play here, but the Cubs should take care of their affairs. It also wound up being a late night for Pittsburgh with a 92-minute rain delay in the middle innings, while the Cubs were chilling at the team hotel.

Cincinnati Reds at Arizona Diamondbacks (-170, 9)

I should have trusted myself with Cincinnati in Game 1 yesterday behind Andrew Abbott, but I had no idea that Shohei Ohtani would leave in the second inning and then we would get the heartbreaking news about his torn UCL. I actually praised the Angels for giving him two weeks between starts when it was clear that he was wearing down, but it turns out there was more to it than that.

This is about the Reds, though, and how they’ve righted the ship a little bit lately. They swept the three-game set from the Halos and have won six of their last nine. Brandon Williamson takes the mound in Arizona against Merrill Kelly as the Reds look to keep up their winning ways. Another team that has gotten back on track is the Diamondbacks, who had a rare Wednesday off day after sweeping the Rangers in a quick two-game interleague set.

Arizona has won nine of 11 after losing nine straight to start the month of August. Kelly has a 3.13 ERA with a 4.36 xERA and a 4.13 FIP for the season over 129.1 innings, but sports a 2.88 ERA with a 4.96 FIP in six starts since returning from a blood clot in his calf. Kelly has not allowed more than three runs in a start, but has allowed seven homers to drive his FIP through the roof. He has a 96.7% LOB% with 36 strikeouts in 34.1 innings pitched. I’m not super thrilled about the homers or the 44.3% Hard Hit%, but I do think he is a legitimately good big leaguer.

Williamson has a 4.47 ERA with a 4.99 xERA and a 4.76 FIP in his 86.2 innings of work overall, but he’s sporting a 3.60 ERA in 40 second-half innings. He does have a 4.29 FIP, so there are some regression signs in his profile as well. He just gave up four runs on nine hits to Toronto, but the Blue Jays have hit lefties extremely well in the second half. He’s allowed two or fewer runs in five of his seven second-half starts.

At first glance, the Reds might be a little bit too big of a dog in this one, but they are coming off of a doubleheader and face a tough customer in Kelly. Arizona has also gotten back on track. This is a huge series from a Wild Card standpoint, so I’d expect both teams to really be engaged here, but I’m not sure I have a compelling enough reason to take the Reds at the dog number.

Arizona is only 21st in wOBA against lefties in the second half, but does have a 9.4% BB% with a 17.2% K% and is running a .258 BABIP, so there’s a lot of positive regression in that profile.

Boston Red Sox at Houston Astros (-135, 9)

The series between the Red Sox and Astros wraps up with some day baseball between Brayan Bello and JP France. France and the ‘Stros are home favorites to take three of four in the series after yesterday’s game went over with the help of extra innings, at least on the Over 9 that was prevalent in the market. The Over 8.5 was a winner when the game went to 4-4.

France comes into this one showcasing a lot of negative regression signs. He has a 2.75 ERA with a 4.39 xERA and a 4.15 FIP in his 108 innings. He has an 81.8% LOB% with a 17.9% K%, so I don’t find that to be all that sustainable, but he has allowed just a 36.9% Hard Hit% and a 7.5% Barrel% out of 333 batted ball events. He has not allowed more than three runs in a start since May 29 and has only done that three times in 17 tries. 

France actually has a 1.94 ERA with a 3.15 FIP in 41.2 innings since the All-Star Break, so maybe he’s just another one in a long line of pitching wins for the Astros player development staff. He has only allowed two homers in the second half and both came in his last start against Seattle.

Bello comes in with a 3.70 ERA, 4.09 xERA, and a 4.35 FIP in his 119.1 innings of work. The second-year righty hasn’t had a ton to build on in the second half, but he threw six innings of one-run ball against the Yankees last time out for his best start since the Break. As I’ve mentioned, Bello had a kid right after the Break and seemed to really struggle being away from his family, especially in starts a long way from home against Oakland and Seattle.

I’m not sure his profile is something I want to back here, as he seems to be off in a variety of ways still. He isn’t missing a whole lot of bats and he’s allowed a 53.3% Hard Hit% in his last five starts, albeit only four barrels because of a lot of ground ball contact.

He is a guy, though, that has fared a lot better against righties, holding them to a .282 wOBA in 253 PA. Lefties have a .356 wOBA in 249 PA, so he may match up well against the Astros lineup. Just not well enough for me to think about the dog. I’d actually lean the favorite here, but I’m not leaning enough to play it.

Toronto Blue Jays at Baltimore Orioles (-110, 9)

Kevin Gausman and Dean Kremer engaged in a true pitcher’s duel for six innings before Trevor Richards came in for the eighth and gave Baltimore plenty of insurance, as the O’s came away with a 7-0 victory. The insurance runs allowed Brandon Hyde to avoid using Felix Bautista, so that is a factor heading into the coin flip game here between Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson.

A “Did You Know” fact from today is that Gibson has a lower FIP than Berrios. Even though Gibby has a 4.97 ERA that is 1.58 runs higher than the 3.39 ERA for Berrios, Gibson’s FIP is 3.87 and Berrios has a 3.95 mark. Berrios has allowed two more homers and hit five more batters, even though his K% is quite a bit higher than Gibson’s. I’ve actually been using FIP less and less as the days go by and this is one example as to why.

Berrios has been objectively better than Gibson. Gibson has allowed a 43.8% Hard Hit%, while Berrios has allowed a 36.3% mark. While Berrios has allowed a higher Barrel% because his GB% is lower, he’s only allowed two more homers than Gibson. Berrios also has a 23.1% K% compared to a 19.8% mark for Gibson. 

The second half has been particularly interesting for Gibson. He’s allowed 13 runs on 21 hits in his last 10.1 innings against the Mariners and Athletics and now has a 5.98 ERA with a 3.74 FIP in 40.2 innings. He’s been hit exceptionally hard in those two starts with Hard Hit% marks of 63.6% and 55.6%. He’s allowed five barrels in those two starts as well. His pitch velocity has been down in those two starts as well. I don’t see anything with his spin rates or release point that would suggest injury, but those aren’t always gospel.

Berrios had a rough start against the Cubs two outings ago, but got a couple extra days prior to his start against the Reds and fired 5.2 shutout innings with eight strikeouts and four walks. His Hard Hit% is creeping up a little at 41.3%, but he’s getting a good rate of whiffs and seems to have a higher ceiling and a higher floor than Gibson.

The Orioles are 9-3 against Toronto this season and +33 in run differential. They have dominated the season series and just seem to be the more prepared team. I lean with Toronto, but Baltimore has held them to 37 runs in the 12 games. I’ll be staying away here.

Texas Rangers at Minnesota Twins (-125, 8.5)

Pablo Lopez and Andrew Heaney are the listed starters here as a couple of division leaders fire up a four-game set. Lopez comes in with a 3.51 ERA, 3.09 xERA, and a 3.17 FIP in 153.2 innings of work. He brings a scoreless streak of 19 innings into this one, as he’s struck out 22 against three walks in his last three starts with no runs allowed on 14 hits against the Tigers, Phillies, and Pirates.

Surely this is a step up in class, but Lopez has allowed five total runs since July 20 after giving up seven runs to Oakland in his first start after the All-Star Break. Lopez has only allowed five barrels in that six-start stretch with a 1.22 ERA and a 2.62 FIP over 37 innings of work. This type of run was coming, as Lopez had an ERA north of 4 with really solid run estimators for a while and now his ERA is looking more like the xERA and FIP that he sported for a large portion of the year. 

Lopez has a 29.9% K% with a 6.2% BB%. He’s allowed a little bit of hard contact at times, but has a 36.4% Hard Hit% and a 6.9% Barrel% for the season. He allowed some hard-hit balls coming out of that Oakland start in both outings against the Mariners, but has a 30.6% HH% in his last three starts with one barrel allowed. He also has a 16.4% SwStr% in that span and a 14.4% SwStr% in the second half, with no start lower than 11.7%. League average for starters is 10.8%.

It has been a decidedly different story for Heaney, who is just trying to hang on to a rotation spot at this point. He’s up to a 4.27 ERA with a 4.63 xERA and a 4.72 FIP in 118 innings of work. He’s been out of whack recently, as he was sick in Oakland between starts and only went 1.1 innings on August 12 against the Giants. He followed that up with three runs on seven hits in 3.2 innings against the Brewers.

Heaney’s velo has been down in each of his last two starts as well. He’s averaged 92.5 mph with the fastball for the season, but sat 91.4 against the Giants and 91.7 against the Brewers. So, there’s something going on there, whether it’s mental or physical. 

The Twins have a 109 wRC+ against lefties in the second half, as they’ve done a good job of hitting for power with a .449 SLG that ranks 10th. The Rangers are eighth in wOBA against righties in the second half at .336 with a 114 wRC+, but not all righties are created like Lopez.

Both of these bullpens have had issues lately, but I do think Lopez and the Twins have the lead and are in a better position to win the game.

Pick: Twins -125

Oakland Athletics at Chicago White Sox (-142, 10)

The A’s and White Sox fire up a four-game set in Chicago with a matchup between Ken Waldichuk and Jesse Scholtens. It will be absurdly hot in Chicago today and we’ve got a total of 10 here with first-pitch temps at 93 degrees and all kinds of humidity and thickness in the air. Storms are possible here and in several places today with a ton of instability in the atmosphere.

Waldichuk has a 5.91 ERA with a 4.95 xERA and a 5.34 FIP in his 105 innings of work, but he’s been a bit better as the season has gone along. Like Luis Medina, Waldichuk has seen a major cutback in the number of homers he has allowed. He has a 4.55 ERA with a 3.81 FIP in his last 55.1 innings dating back to late May. If we shorten that more, he has a 4.36 ERA with a 3.63 FIP in the second half over 33 innings.

He’s struck out 39 in his 33 innings against 15 walks, but he’s only allowed three homers, two of which came in his last start against Baltimore. He’s not the punching bag that he was earlier in the season and has actually generated a good bit of swing and miss. He’s made six starts and one relief appearance in the second half and has a 13.1% SwStr% overall.

The White Sox are 22nd in wOBA against lefties in the second half with a .294 mark and an 84 wRC+. They strike out a lot and don’t walk much, so that should help Waldichuk here.

Scholtens is having a really nice season for the White Sox and has been a godsend at the back of the rotation. He has a 3.79 ERA with a 3.92 xERA and a 4.50 FIP in 59.1 innings of work. He’s struggled a tad here lately, though, as he’s allowed 11 runs on 17 hits over his last 15.1 innings. The worst of those starts came in Colorado, though, and he walked five when he had only walked 17 in his previous 56.1 innings of work.

I’m finding the A’s to be a very frustrating team. Their starters have actually made some clear improvements as the season has gone along. The offense is way better with Zach Gelof in it. They’re still only 11-24 in the second half and 6-14 in August. I keep finding myself wanting to bet on them and give them a try. 

But, Scholtens, outside of that bad start in Colorado, had not allowed more than three runs in any other appearance. I guess all I’m saying here is don’t just assume Waldichuk sucks going forward.

Washington Nationals at New York Yankees (-205, 9)

Michael King will open for Jhony Brito and Patrick Corbin will get the start for Washington in the series finale between these two teams. Corbin has a 4.71 ERA with a 6.23 xERA and a 5.17 FIP in his 143.1 innings this season. He’s actually thrown the ball fairly well lately with five runs (four earned) over his last three starts on just nine hits. He did walk seven two starts ago against the Phillies and had three straight starts with two strikeouts before striking out six against the Red Sox in his last start.

The Yankees haven’t seen many lefties in the second half, but they’ve hit the ones they have with a .352 wOBA and a 127 wRC+. They actually have a .427 wOBA and a 179 wRC+ in August in 136 PA, which is the third-fewest of any team, but they’ve done well in that small sample.

King has a 3.26 ERA with a 3.30 xERA and a 3.52 FIP. This will be his second start as an opener, as he’s mostly been used as a leverage reliever. Brito has a 5.43 ERA with a 5.43 xERA and a 5.60 FIP over 64.2 innings at the MLB level and his Triple-A numbers really aren’t any better than that.

No lead time. No interest.

Colorado Rockies at Tampa Bay Rays (-278, 8.5)

It is a bullpen day for the Rays, who will start Shawn Armstrong as the opener and then go with Erasmo Ramirez for multiples. I’m not sure that’s worth -260ish, but the Rockies are a really bad ballclub and will send Peter Lambert to the hill.

I will say, Lambert has been way more useful than I expected him to be. He has a 3.66 ERA with a 4.67 FIP in 32 innings over six starts here in the second half. He’s had three really good starts, one solid start, and two duds. We’ll see what he does here against the Rays on getaway day. I wouldn’t call myself confident enough in Colorado for +1.5, but I do think they have the chance to keep it close.

Los Angeles Dodgers (-142, 9) at Cleveland Guardians

This has become a mess in Cleveland, as the teams will wrap up a suspended game that never should have started and then play the regularly scheduled game around 3:10 p.m. ET. The Dodgers appear to be going with Ryan Pepiot as the starter in that one and Cleveland will counter with Gavin Williams.

Pepiot has a 3.47 ERA with a 4.31 xERA and a 5.42 FIP in 2022 in 36.1 innings at the MLB level. He’s only made one appearance this season with five innings of one-run ball. He had made six starts at Triple-A and posted a 3.97 ERA with a 4.69 FIP. Rain threatens this game as well, so who knows how it will play out.

Williams has been terrific for Cleveland over his 59.2 innings. He has a 3.02 ERA with a 4.18 xERA and a 3.82 FIP in 59.2 innings of work. He’s had a few games with some walks, which is why xERA isn’t a huge fan, plus 22 of his 63 strikeouts came in two of his 11 starts. But, he’s allowed just a 38.1% Hard Hit% and a 5.8% Barrel%.

Unfortunately, both bullpens will take a beating in Game 1 unless it morphs into a blowout, so there really isn’t much I can do with this one. I guess a 1st 5 play could be a thing, but I don’t like either side or the total for that, as it is very hot and humid in Cleveland with a breeze blowing out a bit.

TL;DR Recap

Twins -125