MLB Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Thursday, May 18th

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MLB schedule today has 6 games

There are only six games on the betting board for Major League Baseball today, with three really early start times. Now that I’m back in Vegas after a week in Cleveland, the schedule goes back to normal, where my goal is to have the article out by no later than 2 p.m. ET and the podcast out by no later than 3 p.m. ET, but hopefully the process will be streamlined more now that we’re getting larger sample sizes and more data for the pitchers.

 

Top MLB Resources:

On days like this, I do my best to get all the data out as quickly as possible, so that’s the goal. Before I get into the write-ups, check out this awesome tweet from Jason Collette, who looked at the comparison between runs scored per game and baserunners.

Notable teams:

Blue Jays: 12th in runs; 1st in baserunners
Mets: 23rd in runs; 7th in baserunners
Nationals: 25th in runs; 9th in baserunners (lowest K% in baseball)
Athletics: 27th in runs; 15th in baserunners

Dodgers: 4th in runs; 11th in baserunners
Braves: 5th in runs; 13th in baserunners
Diamondbacks: 6th in runs; 14th in baserunners
Twins: 11th in runs; 19th in baserunners
Astros: 15th in runs; 26th in baserunners
Yankees: 13th in runs; 28th in baserunners

Some really interesting food for thought there and something that could lead to some good betting opportunities.

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Here are some thoughts on the May 18 card (odds from DraftKings):

Washington Nationals at Miami Marlins (-155, 8)

Eury Perez takes the mound for his second MLB start as the Nationals and Marlins play some getaway day baseball in Miami. Perez allowed two runs on four hits (two solo HR) in 4.2 innings of work against the Reds. He struck out seven and walked two. The quality of his stuff was very much on display with a 17% SwStr% and an 83.3% Z-Contact%. He got a lot of whiffs outside the zone, but generated some on pitches that would’ve been strikes anyway.

Perez primarily threw fastballs and sliders, as those two pitches accounted for nearly 82% of his usage. With hitters able to guess a little bit, they had a 54.5% Hard Hit% on 11 batted ball events, including the two barrels that left the yard. Perez had a strong 2.32 ERA with a 3.76 FIP in 31 innings at Double-A before getting the call. Let’s see if he settles in a little more and avoids the long ball today.

Trevor Williams goes for the Mets here after being limited to 2.1 innings on May 13 because of bad weather. He has a 4.23 ERA with a 4.71 FIP in his 38.1 innings this season. He allowed five runs on seven hits in 4.1 innings against the Diamondbacks prior to his abbreviated start, in which he allowed a run on a couple of hits before rain washed out the game. This should be a good park for a guy like Williams, who does have just a 37% Hard Hit% on the season.

With the very early start and Perez out there for just the second time, I don’t see anything of interest in this one, though it obviously makes sense to watch the rookie closely.

Los Angeles Dodgers (-150, 9) at St. Louis Cardinals

Julio Urias and Adam Wainwright square off as these teams fire up a four-game weekend set. The Dodgers are right back in the Midwest after taking two of three from the Brewers a week and a half ago. They had a successful homestand with a sweep of the Padres and a series win against the Twins to push their record out to 28-16. They’ve won nine of 11, so they’re rolling right along at this point.

The Cardinals have won eight of their last 10, as they’ve gotten back on track as well. They draw a lefty here in Urias, which has traditionally been the better side of the plate for them, so we’ll see if they can take advantage. Urias is a guy that I’ve been following closely this season for a variety of reasons. He has a 3.61 ERA with a 4.37 FIP, so there are some regression signs in the profile. He’s allowed 10 homers in 52.1 innings after allowing 23 in 175 innings last season. 

His Hard Hit% is a career-worst at 34.5%, which is still almost 5% better than league average, but his command profile hasn’t been what we’re accustomed to seeing from him. That said, his velocity has perked up from where it was earlier in the season. His spin rates are still down from previous seasons, but that doesn’t seem to be hurting him too badly. It seems my concerns were not validated.

Wainwright has allowed eight runs on 15 hits in his two starts with a 7/2 K/BB ratio. The 41-year-old has not had his usual ground ball prowess with just a 36.1% GB% through two starts. He allowed a couple homers last time out at Fenway Park and only struck out two guys in 22 plate appearances. Busch Stadium is traditionally a pitcher’s park and he has had pretty obvious home/road splits over the last several seasons. Maybe he’ll be more comfortable being back there for his third outing of the season after running into some bad luck against the Tigers in his first one.

Wainwright allowed four runs on eight hits over five innings in his 2023 debut, but allowed an average exit velocity of 83.9 mph and a 22.2% Hard Hit%, so the BABIP gods got him in that one. The Dodgers are the No. 3 offense in baseball against righties, so I’m not sure this is the spot to expect him to figure it all out.

Los Angeles Angels at Baltimore Orioles (-155, 8.5)

Is today the day that Tyler Wells experiences the regression that is coming his way? Wells draws an Angels lineup that has been going in the wrong direction, but ranks 11th against RHP in wOBA at .323. Wells profiles as a pitcher capable of posting a better ERA than xERA, FIP, xFIP, SIERA, and all of the other run estimators, but he has a .145 BABIP against at this point with an 88.2% LOB%. He has a 2.68 ERA with a 3.69 xERA and a 4.50 FIP. 

For a guy with a 40.8% Hard Hit%, there is no way a .145 BABIP hangs around for too long. He’s also allowed 13 barrels for a 10.4% Barrel%, including eight over his last three starts. Wells has allowed five runs on just seven hits in his last 18 innings. A really rocky outing is coming. I picked against him last time out against the Pirates and Pittsburgh lost 2-0. I hope it doesn’t happen today since there isn’t nearly enough lead time to suggest a pick here, but it is coming.

If both teams are engaged offensively, this could be a high-scoring affair at Camden Yards. Tyler Anderson has a 5.26 ERA with a 5.45 xERA and a 5.80 FIP in his 37.2 innings of work. The Orioles are fifth in wOBA against lefties at .351 and have a 124 wRC+ in that split. Anderson has been better of late with six earned runs allowed over his last three starts following a stretch of 16 runs in his previous three starts, so I guess we’ll see if he can keep the good vibes rolling.

Given that he has a 25/19 K/BB ratio and has walked 11 in those last three starts with minimal damage done, I sure feel like he’s also on the verge of another really ugly outing. It’s tough to bank on offense for getaway day games sometimes, despite the warmer conditions, but this could be one of them. Unfortunately, this is a 9:35 a.m. PT first pitch.

Cleveland Guardians at Chicago White Sox (-145, 7.5)

Logan Allen and Dylan Cease wrap up this series on the South Side as the Guardians try to avoid getting swept. Allen has allowed eight runs on 24 hits in 21 innings with 24 strikeouts against seven walks. He’s allowed a 43.8% Hard Hit% and a 12.5% Barrel%, so the youngster is still working to find his command when he isn’t getting swings and misses. Fortunately, he has a 12.7% SwStr%.

That said, his Z-Contact% in his last two starts has been 91.2% (MIN) and 89.3% (LAA), so opposing batters seem to be picking up on some of his tendencies now that better advance scouting reports are out. After racking up 16 strikeouts in his first 11 innings, he has eight strikeouts in his last 10 innings. It sure seems like hitters are starting to adjust and he has to be a command artist with low 90s velocity.

Making matters worse, the Guardians have a .265 wOBA in the month of May, with a league-low six home runs and a 65 wRC+ that ranks 29th. Only Pittsburgh has been worse in most offensive categories. Guardians catchers are batting .038/.074/.038 in May with a 46.3% K%. Jose Ramirez is still away on the bereavement list and Josh Naylor remains out. For some inexplicable reason, Tyler Freeman isn’t in the lineup again today so the light-hitting Gabriel Arias can play. Andres Gimenez, who has a .252 wOBA and a 55 wRC+ since April 12, is batting third. This offense is as sad and pathetic as it gets.

However, Cease has not been his normal self this season. He has a 4.86 ERA with a 4.12 FIP in his 46.1 innings of work. He just turned in six shutout innings against the Astros after giving up 18 runs over his previous three starts. Shutting down the Guardians is pretty easy to do at this point in time, but Cease has had control and command issues to this point.

Still, the White Sox are playing better and have the better offense and the more accomplished starter here. I’m just not sure it’s worth -145 to see if Allen’s recent hiccups are what we can expect or just normal blips on the radar.

This game might have some good live betting opportunities. If the Guardians scratch something out early, Allen has really had trouble turning lineups over. In 36 PA the first time through, he’s allowed just a .183 wOBA. In 36 PA the second time through, he’s allowed a .451 wOBA and then a .358 the third time through in 23 PA. Maybe you can catch Chicago at a plus-money price to fade that trend for Allen.

New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays (-140, 8.5)

Nestor Cortes and Jose Berrios are the slated starters for this AL East matchup at Rogers Centre. Berrios is a noteworthy positive regression candidate with a 4.70 ERA and a 3.59 FIP. His GB% is up to 51.1% this season, which has helped him cut down his glaring home run issue. He’s actually done really well to limit hard contact, especially over his last five starts with a 24.7% Hard Hit%. He’s allowed eight barrels in that span, so he still throws the occasional bad pitch, but this is a huge departure from what we’ve seen in the past.

Berrios had a 5.23 ERA with a 5.11 xERA and a 4.55 FIP last season for the Blue Jays. He allowed a 43.4% Hard Hit% and gave up 29 homers in 172 innings of work. He saw a huge K% drop and a spike in BB%. This season, there aren’t that many notable pitch usage changes, just mild increases in sinkers, changeups, and sliders, but he’s been locating better and has kept the ball on the ground successfully. It looks like the Jays also made some mild mechanical changes that have helped.

Cortes has not found the same success that he had last season. He’s got a 5.53 ERA with a 4.60 FIP and a 5.17 xFIP over 42.1 innings of work. After starting on a high not with eight runs allowed in his first four starts, he’s allowed 19 runs in his last four starts. Cortes just gave up six runs to the Rays over 4.1 innings just one start removed from giving up seven runs over 4.2 innings to the Rangers. He’s allowed a 42.3% Hard Hit% this season, which is almost an 8% increase from last season. 

His K% is down 3.3% and his BB% is up 1%, so he’s just not commanding or locating nearly as well as he did last season. Righties are batting .281/.340/.489 against him this season with a .357 wOBA and the Jays lineup has a lot of them, even if Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is unable to go after missing yesterday’s game with a bum knee.

But, I don’t think I can lay it with the Jays today. Cortes has allowed a .238 wOBA the first time through in 72 PA and a .286 wOBA in 72 PA the second time through. Aaron Boone really needs to have a quicker trigger finger, as Cortes has allowed six homers the third time through in 37 PA with a .641 wOBA against. If Berrios has a bad start, the Yankees should lead early and the Blue Jays would need to close the gap late, but I’d like to think Boone is more aggressive in an important game that swings the balance of the series.

Tampa Bay Rays at New York Mets (-110, 9)

Taj Bradley is back in the Rays rotation as he takes on the Mets in this matinee at Citi Field. Bradley has allowed six runs on 12 hits with 23 strikeouts against two walks in his 15.1 innings of work at the MLB level. 

He actually struggled when he was sent back down and has allowed 17 runs on 14 hits in just nine innings of work. He only has five strikeouts in his last three starts across 48 batters faced. Maybe he was upset to go back down, especially given the situation with some major pitching injuries for the Rays. Maybe it was something else. Perhaps we’ll find out today.

Tylor Megill gets the call for the Mets today, as he’ll look to avoid some regression signs in the profile. He’s got a 4.02 ERA with a 5.24 FIP in his 40.1 innings of work. His pedestrian 31/22 K/BB ratio is why FIP isn’t a big fan, but he’s been able to work around that because of a 34.1% Hard Hit% on the year. This start comes against the best offense in baseball against righties, so I’m not sure I’d be super interested in backing him, given that he has had some high-leverage escapes.

Megill’s BABIP with the bases empty is .356 with a 16.5% K% and a 14.3% BB%. With men on base, his K% goes up to 18.2%, his BB% goes down to 10.2%, and his BABIP drops to .220. It seems like there’s a severe mechanical flaw from the windup that the Mets need to figure out.

No play from me in this one and no plays overall. It’s been enough of a struggle in May and there’s no reason to press for a play with just six games and only three late ones.

TL;DR Recap

No plays today