MLB Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Thursday, May 4th

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MLB schedule today has 10 games

It’s been a rough couple of days with the article as we take a look at a 10-game card on Thursday that features a whole lot of day games and really early start times. Six of the 10 games start at 11:10 a.m. PT or earlier, as I was once again not consulted about the schedule for today’s action. MLB should really work on that. (Tracking sheet)

 

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Here are some thoughts on the May 4 card (odds from DraftKings):

Chicago Cubs (-180, 8.5) at Washington Nationals

This is an ugly game to start out the day. It’s Patrick Corbin Day and the Cubs are a top-five offense against southpaws, so I’m sure the early birds were jumping all over player props and the team total over for the visitors. Corbin hasn’t been as much of a dumpster fire as usual over his last three starts with eight earned runs allowed in 17.1 innings of work, but he has a 5.74 ERA and a 5.37 FIP for the season in 31.1 innings.

Corbin has really simplified his arsenal this season, as over 84% of his pitches are either sliders or sinkers compared to almost 75% last season. He’s had good results on the slider this season, despite another spin rate decrease, but he’s allowed a .420 BA and a .652 SLG on 64 sinker batted ball events.

Even though fading Corbin is usually a good thing, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about Jameson Taillon. Taillon allowed seven earned runs on 15 hits in his first 14 innings, but then hit the IL with a groin issue. His 4.50 ERA and 1.93 FIP suggest better fortunes on the horizon, but he didn’t make any rehab starts and hasn’t pitched since April 15 heading into this start. We’ll see how sharp he is against a Nationals offense that ranks 28th in wOBA against righties.

Milwaukee Brewers (-150, 12) at Colorado Rockies

Wade Miley and Connor Seabold square off here in getaway day action at Coors Field. This is one of the later games on the card, as the Brewers look to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Rockies. It turns out that scoring 1.5 runs per game at Coors makes it difficult to win. Maybe this is karma for Milwaukee for changing the name of Miller Park.

In any event, getting shut down by Ryan Feltner and Kyle Freeland is a pretty bad look. I did expect the Brewers to come back to earth and they have, losing three in a row and six of their last nine. Miley is also a guy who should be coming back to earth. He has a 1.86 ERA with a 3.46 FIP and a 4.78 xFIP through 29 innings of work. He’s only struck out 19 of 115 batters, but is running a .258 BABIP and an 88.2% LOB%. The high LOB% is the one that really stands out to me because strikeouts produce margin for error with men on base.

In Miley’s defense, he’s only walked four of those 115 batters. The Brewers infield is one of the best at converting ground balls into outs, but Miley is allowing more fly balls and line drives than usual, yet still has the sterling BABIP. Maybe a start in Colorado is where the reckoning comes for Miley, who won’t sustain this level of performance.

That said, I’m not eager in backing Seabold or the Rockies in what is effectively a bullpen game. Seabold worked a season-high 3.1 innings last time out against the Diamondbacks with two runs allowed on five hits. He’s allowed six of his eight earned runs in two of his seven appearances. The peripherals largely look fine for him and he has a 5.27 ERA with a 3.72 FIP. I would presume we see Nick Mears follow Seabold, a recent call-up with a 4.88 ERA and a 5.67 FIP in 31.1 innings of work.

Rain could make its way to Coors Field today, so this game could be delayed or washed out, which also makes it an easy pass.

Atlanta Braves at Miami Marlins (-110, 8.5)

Dylan Dodd has been recalled for the Braves to square off against Jesus Luzardo in one of today’s two late games. Dodd was terrific against the Cardinals in his MLB debut with one run allowed on six hits over five innings, but allowed seven runs on 10 hits in his second start against the Padres. What his stat line from the start against the Cardinals fails to mention is that he allowed an average exit velocity of 94.7 mph and nine hard-hit balls. He allowed SIX barrels in his start against the Padres.

So Dodd comes into this start having allowed a 54.3% Hard Hit% and a 20% Barrel% in two outings. Say what you will about the Marlins – and there is a lot to say – but they rank seventh in wOBA against lefties this season at .343. Dodd’s last minor league start saw him allow six runs on six hits over three innings and he had seven walks in 11.2 innings in the other two starts, but did only allow two runs.

After beating up on southpaw Braxton Garrett yesterday, the Braves draw another lefty in Luzardo today. Luzardo has allowed 13 runs on 34 hits in 33.2 innings of work with 38 strikeouts against 11 walks. His 14.1% SwStr% would seem to have him much better equipped to face the Braves, as guys that induce swings and misses have the best chance at neutralizing them.

Atlanta is second in wOBA at .386 against lefties, but they have struck out at a 23.6% clip, which ranks 18th. They have a .351 BABIP in this split, so when they’ve made contact, they’ve done a ton of damage with it. That will be the task for Luzardo today – get swings and misses. Aside from the high whiff rate, he’s also allowed just a 35.2% Hard Hit%.

I was holding out hope that the Braves might sit a couple guys today, but they are not doing that. The Marlins are missing Garrett Cooper, one of their best hitters against lefties. I couldn’t get to a bet today.

Minnesota Twins (-140, 7.5) at Chicago White Sox

How bad is the AL Central? The division-leading Twins are at risk of getting swept by the White Sox, as the Guardians have lost four straight series and the Tigers and Royals are fighting to get things figured out. Speaking of getting things figured out, after allowing five earned runs in his first four starts, Pablo Lopez has allowed 11 runs on 16 hits in his last two starts against the Nationals and Royals. He’s right-handed, so the Nationals start was inexcusable and the Royals start was his worst of the season from an exit velocity standpoint and by Hard Hit%.

He allowed 10 hard-hit balls and four barrels in that outing out of 19 batted ball events. His velocity has been down considerably in his last two starts. He averaged at least 95 mph with the heat in each of his first four starts, but has averaged 93.8 and 94 mph in his last two starts.

I will grant that it has been cold in Minneapolis basically all season, but a big velo decrease coupled with the results and command that he has shown are huge, swaying-in-a-stiff-breeze red flags to me. He had about a 260 rpm decrease on his curveball from his April 16 start to his April 22 start, but it went back up a little bit in his most recent outing. It could be a mechanical thing or it could be the dead arm thing that Taijuan Walker went through earlier this season.

I don’t know for sure, but I’ll be watching it very closely. I also know that the Twins have had issues keeping their starting pitchers healthy and this is kind of a trend. I’m not sure if it’s due to their velocity program or something else, but this is kind of a recurring theme. Lopez sitting 93-94 is what he did from 2019-22, so it’s nothing new and he’s used to pitching at that speed, but I’ll be watching very closely to see if something continues to be up with his data.

Lucas Giolito has a 4.15 ERA with a 3.76 FIP in his 34.2 innings of work. He had a really ugly start against Pittsburgh on April 7 with seven runs allowed on 12 hits in four innings. Otherwise, he’s allowed nine earned runs across his other five starts, including a solid outing last time out against the Rays. Giolito has really cut down on the walks this season, which is a big positive, and has only allowed a 35.9% Hard Hit% out of 103 batted balls. He’s had a couple of rocky command outings, but overall, he’s been better than what we saw last season.

It will be one of the nicer days we’ve seen in the Windy City this spring, so we’ll see how the park plays. Also keep in mind that the White Sox got back Tim Anderson on Tuesday, which makes this team better. Anderson is NOT in the lineup today and that pushed this line up about 10-15 cents market-wide.

One other note is that the Twins bullpen has really struggled the last few days and finding reliable relief work has been an ongoing problem for Rocco Baldelli over the last few seasons. The Twins opted not to make any additions in the offseason and that may be a long-term weak link. They have two blown saves and three losses in the last four days of games.

Baltimore Orioles (-190, 9) at Kansas City Royals

I cannot believe the Orioles got shut out by Zack Greinke yesterday. Baseball is stupid and makes zero sense. I can’t imagine they’ll get shut out by former friend Jordan Lyles today, but who knows. It’s a dumb game.

Lyles has allowed at least four runs in five of his six starts this season and has a 6.11 ERA with a 6.16 FIP. He’s given up nine homers already and 24 of his 26 runs over his last five outings. It has not been pretty at all, as he’s mostly serving as an innings eater for the Royals until they can figure out what to do with some of their minor league arms. The crazy thing is that Lyles has allowed a 39.1% Hard Hit%, which is basically league average, but the loud contact he has allowed has been particularly hurtful and 15 of his 45 hard-hit balls have been barrels.

He’s getting virtually no swing and miss with a 7.1% SwStr% and not many chases outside the zone. He won’t run a 6 ERA all season long I don’t think, but this is not a huge surprise given his home/road splits outside of Baltimore last season. Lyles is also dealing with a noticeable velocity decrease this season, which marks his second straight year with one of those.

The O’s will send out Grayson Rodriguez, who has 34 strikeouts in 24.1 innings of work. He’s allowed 11 runs on 23 hits, but is working on 14 straight scoreless innings after facing the Tigers in back-to-back starts. He allowed four runs in the first inning against the White Sox and then threw four scoreless to give his team a chance to come back, which they did in an 8-4 win back on April 16.

One really good thing about losing in lopsided fashion is that the bullpen gets a day off. Felix Bautista, Yennier Cano, and the others all got a day off, as Kyle Gibson only needed 74 pitches to go 6.2 innings, but gave up six runs on 10 hits and that was the regression I was planning to bet on.

I’m honestly not sure what the hell happened yesterday. Greinke got through five scoreless innings in 44 pitches. The game took 1:59 to play. It was odd to see so much aggression both ways.

This seems like a really good matchup for the Orioles today. Rodriguez has had some walk issues, but the Royals have the lowest BB% against RHP at 6.2%. They also have the fifth-highest K%. G-Rod is also a 45% ground ball guy, which is important because it will be sunny and in the 70s with a breeze blowing out to LF. Lyles, meanwhile, has a 25.7% GB% on the season and the highest average launch angle of his career. The Orioles have the sixth-highest FB% in baseball.

I know it’s an early game with minimal lead time and I apologize for that, but I’m expecting the O’s to bounce back and head off to Atlanta on a high note. This is the only thing I liked enough to make a play today.

Pick: Orioles Run Line (-1.5) (-115)

Seattle Mariners (-255, 8.5) at Oakland Athletics

The biggest favorite on the board today by a large margin is the Mariners, as they send George Kirby to the hill against Drew Rucinski and the A’s. Kirby hasn’t fully gotten the strikeout stuff going yet, but it hasn’t negatively impacted him in any way. He has a 2.93 ERA with a 2.61 FIP in his 30.2 innings of work. He’s only allowed two walks and one homer through five starts. He allowed four runs in his first start against the Angels and has allowed six runs in four starts since.

Kirby has only allowed a 33.7% Hard Hit% and a 4.3% Barrel% this season, two excellent improvements from last year when he had a 38% HH% and an 8.6% Barrel%. Kirby was one of baseball’s best pitchers in the second half and finished with a 3.39 ERA and a 2.99 FIP. He seems to have picked up right where he left off and has another fine matchup today against the A’s to keep bolstering those numbers.

Rucinski gets his second kick at the can at the MLB level after giving up five runs on 11 hits in 5.2 innings of work against the Reds in Oakland last time out. He didn’t allow a ton of really hard contact, but also only struck out one of the 28 batters that he faced. His Hard Hit% was 42.3% on 26 batted ball events, but his average exit velo was 85.6 mph, so a lot of balls were just above that 95 mph threshold. 

It was Rucinski’s first MLB start since 2015, so it had to be an emotional day for him after spending four years as a foreign player in the KBO. Everything is pretty cost-prohibitive about this game, so we’ll move on, but Kirby’s dominance shouldn’t be understated.

Toronto Blue Jays (-175, 8.5) at Boston Red Sox

The Sox are looking for a rare four-game sweep of the Blue Jays here after yesterday’s 8-3 win. All three games in this series have hit double digits in the runs scored department, but that streak may end today with the presence of Kevin Gausman. It could also end Boston’s winning streak against Toronto, which sits at five in a row.

Gausman has been dynamite this season with a 2.33 ERA and a 2.37 FIP over 38.2 innings of work. He’s struck out 54 and only walked six in his 154 batters faced, allowing four homers and just 33 hits. Gausman allowed eight runs in his April 17 start against the Astros, accounting for seven of his 10 earned runs. He also gave up three unearned runs in his first start of the season against the Cardinals.

Gausman is working around hard contact. He has a 45.7% Hard Hit% this season and a .322 BABIP against. Last season, he had a Hard Hit% of just 38.5%, yet ran one of the league’s highest BABIPs against at .363. He still finished with a 3.35 ERA and a 2.38 FIP. Gausman had been a good pitcher for a while, but the turnaround he saw in San Francisco in 2020-21 was incredible. He’s accounted for 10.5 fWAR in the last two seasons and is well on his way to adding to that pace this season.

Adding to how impressive his resume is this season is the fact that he’s faced the Cardinals, Royals, Tigers, Astros, Yankees, and Mariners, so a wide range of teams and some teams that do hit the ball pretty hard. This is a decent test against the Red Sox, but his splitter is such a dominant pitch that it neutralizes hitters from both sides of the plate.

Brayan Bello draws the assignment against Gausman today after holding the lowly Guardians to one run on five hits. It was easily his best start of the season after giving up eight runs on 13 hits in his first 7.1 innings of work. Bello has allowed a lot of hard contact with a 48.7% Hard Hit%, but he’s only allowed two barrels thus far. He had a 37.5% Hard Hit% last season when his walk rate was more of a concern than his contact management skills. 

I don’t really see a big edge here. The Jays bullpen isn’t super trustworthy for a run line position and a small park built for offense could be where some of Gausman’s hard contact numbers come into play. It will be cool again at Fenway, much like it was last night, so we’ll see if that stunts offense at all.

New York Mets (-175, 7.5) at Detroit Tigers

What a day from hell yesterday was for the Mets. Not only were they swept in a doubleheader by the Tigers, but Max Scherzer struggled yet again and was battered by a pretty bad lineup. Justin Verlander makes his Mets debut today and that fan base badly needs a good start from the longtime Tigers ace.

Verlander made one rehab start for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies in Double-A last week and struck out six over 4.2 scoreless innings. With Scherzer’s early exit yesterday after 3.1 innings, the Mets got some really nice relief work from Jose Butto to avoid completely blowing up the bullpen in Game 2. Joey Lucchesi also left early in Game 1, as his services may be needed sooner rather than later with all of the Mets injuries.

So the bullpen swallowed 60 pitches in Game 1 and 65 pitches in Game 2, but most of the top relievers weren’t really used besides Adam Ottavino. That’s important because I would presume Verlander is around 80-85 pitches today. He threw 69 in his rehab start.

Eduardo Rodriguez has been really good for the Tigers this season. There are some obvious regression signs in the profile. He has a 2.21 ERA with a 3.71 FIP. He has 30 strikeouts in 36.2 innings of work, but is running an 87.1% LOB%. He’s allowed just two earned runs over his last four starts against the Blue Jays, Guardians, and Orioles twice. But, with that said, he’s allowed just a 28% Hard Hit% and only four barrels this season. His average exit velocity is just 85.7 mph and he wasn’t exactly hit hard in his first two starts when he allowed the bulk of his runs.

Let’s see if he can keep it rolling today against the Mets.

Pittsburgh Pirates at Tampa Bay Rays (-195, 8)

The Pirates have gotten a major dose of reality this week against the Rays. Tampa Bay has won the first two games of this series by a combined score of 12-2 and looks for the sweep today with Zach Eflin on the hill against Vince Velasquez.

This is Eflin’s third start back from injury and he has allowed three runs on nine hits (two homers) with a 9/2 K/BB ratio. He looks just fine and keeps inducing a lot of ground balls, which works very well with a strikeout per inning. He faced the White Sox in both starts and they’re a lineup that isn’t good against righties. In fact, Eflin’s four starts have been the Tigers, A’s, and White Sox, so I will be looking for a road spot to possibly go against him soon.

One of the most shocking and stunning developments of the young season is how the Pirates have turned Velasquez into a viable starting pitcher. He has a 3.06 ERA with a 3.79 FIP in his 32.1 innings of work with 32 strikeouts against 12 walks. After allowing eight runs in his first 7.1 innings, he’s allowed three runs in his last four starts, including games against the Cardinals and Rockies on the road. 

I have no idea how long this continues. This is a guy that allowed a 13% Barrel% last season and a 12.2% Barrel% in 2021, while posting Hard Hit% marks of 43.5% and 43.3%, respectively. This season, his Hard Hit% is 33.7%. That seems really unsustainable to me. Maybe today is the day against a Rays offense that leads the league in a lot of categories against righties.

No play and no lead time on this one, but I’ll be curious to see how the Pirates bounce back after this week’s reality check.

Los Angeles Angels at St. Louis Cardinals (-165, 8.5)

If you’re wondering how the Cardinals got to be such a big favorite, Mike Trout is getting a day off for the Angels and that really pushed this line up rather significantly. It will be Griffin Canning for the Angels and Jack Flaherty for the Cardinals as St. Louis looks to avoid a sweep. The Cardinals are down to 10-21 and things are looking really bleak for this team.

Flaherty comes into this game with a 3.94 ERA and a 5.17 FIP, so there are some regression signs in the profile. However, the basic stats don’t tell the whole story. Flaherty walked 13 of the first 45 batters he faced this season, but has only walked eight over his last four starts to go with 26 strikeouts in 22 innings of work. His control has been a lot better. He’s gotten a bit unlucky on the LOB% front in those starts, as he’s given up 14 runs on 21 hits. On the whole, Flaherty has a 38.8% Hard Hit%, so his .276 BABIP seems reasonable.

FIP hates the walk rate and the fact that he’s allowed four homers, but the walks were a major issue early and haven’t been as much of one since. Also, all four home runs are solo shots and those are just an occupational hazard. He’s pitched better of late and I think we may be able to find some hidden value on him going forward as a result.

Canning has a 4.11 ERA and a 4.27 FIP in his 15.1 innings of work. I mentioned after his start against Washington that I’d be watching him closely because of his new pitch mix. To his credit, he’s mostly kept that up with a lot more sliders and changeups than fastballs. He’s struck out 15 and walked five, with all five walks coming in his last two starts. The problem for Canning is that he has allowed a lot of hard contact in his last two starts, so the command profile isn’t quite there, even though the increased SwStr% is.

I would suggest throwing even fewer fastballs. His average exit velocity on the fastball is 94.5 mph, while it sits at 84.8 mph on the slider and 87.5 mph on the changeup. His slider usage is up 9.6% and his fastball usage is down 13.4%, but I’d consider even more extreme changes if I was him. Hopefully that happens as we go forward, but I’m still looking at him as a viable guy to bet on in home starts.

TL;DR Recap

Orioles -1.5 (-115)