MLB Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Tuesday, April 18th

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MLB schedule today has 17 games

Two doubleheaders are on the docket today because of postponements on Monday, so that gives us a season high 17 games on the betting board. I got a late start this morning because we are having a VSiN Media Day with headshots being taken and promos being taped, so I won’t be able to hit on the early starts, but we’ve got 14 night games, so there will be plenty to think about. (Tracking sheet)

 

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With that in mind, let’s dive right into the Tuesday card so I can get this and the latest edition of VSiN Daily Baseball Bets out as quickly as possible.

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

 

San Francisco Giants at Miami Marlins (-115, 8.5)

The first game on the betting board by rotation number is once again between the Giants and Marlins. It will be Alex Wood for the Giants and right-hander Edward Cabrera for the Marlins. Specifying the handedness of the pitcher is critically important in Giants games because they’ve done really well against righties this season and really poorly against lefties. 

They actually did okay against Jesus Luzardo yesterday and bumped up from a 49 wRC+ to a 56 wRC+, but that is tied for 28th. Only the Tigers have been worse against southpaws this season. Against righties, however, the Giants have a 130 wRC+, which ranks second to the Rays. If you listened to yesterday’s podcast, you know exactly what wRC+ is and why it’s important.

Through three starts, Cabrera has been, really, really fortunate to limit the damage. He’s allowed 14 walks in 11.2 innings, but has only given up six runs on nine hits. He has allowed two runs in each start, but has had six, seven, and one in the BB column. He has done a good job to limit hard contact and hasn’t allowed a homer yet, so that’s how he has kept the runs down. The Giants are walking a lot against righties, but have also been pretty power-dependent. This may not be the park or the pitcher for that.

Wood has allowed one earned run over 7.2 innings to start the season with an 8/5 K/BB ratio. He’s worked around a bit of hard contact in his two starts and has an average exit velocity against of 93 mph. This looks like a pretty tough handicap because Wood is playing with fire and so is Cabrera. The Giants are also missing Joc Pederson, who is a huge part of the attack against righties.

Arizona Diamondbacks at St. Louis Cardinals (-165, 8)

Yesterday was a good day with a 2-0 record, but everything I liked came through and I went too conservative with the card. That included liking the Diamondbacks, with a note that the Cardinals didn’t deserve to be that big of a favorite. Well, they’re priced in a similar range today, but this time with Jordan Montgomery on the mound. He’s been much better than Jack Flaherty and likely deserves a price like this.

He has allowed five runs on 15 hits in 18.1 innings of work with 17 strikeouts against five walks. He hasn’t allowed a home run yet, as most of the hard contact he has allowed has been on the ground. Montgomery gave up 11 hard-hit balls last start against the Pirates and nine with four barrels in his first start against the Jays. There are some signs that maybe he’s gotten fortunate to get away with some of the hard-hit contact he’s surrendered, but I don’t know if the Diamondbacks will take advantage.

Arizona’s offense is super aggressive, but doesn’t really make a lot of premium contact. They do put a lot of balls in play and swipe a lot of bases, which is a little tougher to do against a left-hander like Montgomery. The Snakes also have just an 85 wRC+ against lefties on the season.

Drey Jameson will make his second start for the D-Backs in this one. He had three relief appearances before taking over in the rotation for the injured Zach Davies. He threw four shutout innings with four strikeouts against the Brewers in that first start. He’s only allowed two runs on eight hits with a 12/5 K/BB ratio over 12.1 innings. He has allowed a 48.4% Hard Hit%, though, so we’ll see if that catches up with him.

It’s another day with a number that looks a little big on St. Louis, but I do love Montgomery and I’m still not totally convinced about the Diamondbacks bullpen, especially in middle relief, given that Jameson will probably only go four innings or so.

Pittsburgh Pirates at Colorado Rockies (-110, 13)

A couple of gas cans are on the mound at Coors Field with Vince Velasquez and Jose Urena. Velasquez is actually coming off of a nice outing against the Cardinals with six innings of shutout ball. He has actually stayed out of the nitro zone with a 36.4% Hard Hit% over three starts as well, though the results in the other two weren’t terribly good.

He’s definitely been better than Urena. The Rockies right-hander has allowed 13 runs on 17 hits in 10 innings with more walks than strikeouts and five homers allowed. He’s got a 9.90 ERA with a 10.82 FIP, and a 47.5% Hard Hit% against. He is probably the worst pitcher in baseball this season, but I’m not terribly fond of Velasquez at Coors Field either.

This one is an easy pass for me with a ton of balls in play, two guys with bad command, and a total of 13 that may be very reachable, but is still a really high number.

Atlanta Braves (-140, 7.5) at San Diego Padres

I was really curious to see what this number would come out at because I wanted to play the Braves if it was reasonable. First off, the Braves draw a lefty in Blake Snell and they’ve been a terrific offense in that split. Snell is also struggling with 11 runs allowed on 18 hits over 13 innings. He’s struck out 16, but he’s also walked 10. He’s also allowed three homers in his last two starts to go along with 16 hard-hit balls for a 55.2% Hard Hit% and four barrels, with three against the Braves.

He’s not locating well right now and is facing a lineup that hits lefties extremely well. His velocity is also down a little bit and he’s throwing more fastballs than normal. These are all negative signs for Snell, who also had a huge decrease in curveball spin rate in his last start.

Spencer Strider hasn’t been as sharp as usual, but he’s still racked up 27 strikeouts in just 16 innings of work. He’s allowed three runs in five innings in each of his last two starts, but I wouldn’t say that he’s been hit hard in those outings. His velocity looks fine and he has much more margin for error than Snell right now with all the increased strikeouts and everything else in his profile.

The Padres are also scuffling a bit right now. Manny Machado got really defensive with the media after last night’s loss and this is a superstar team probably pressing a bit at this stage. The Braves are playing pretty free and easy and I think they have a big starting pitcher advantage tonight. I also wouldn’t be shocked if we see Snell hit the IL at some point soon, especially if his spin rates are down again today.

Pick: Braves -140

New York Mets at Los Angeles Dodgers (-165, 8.5)

It will be Tylor Megill and Clayton Kershaw in this one with the Dodgers lined as a pretty heavy favorite for the second night in a row. Megill has thrown the ball well as a member of the Mets rotation this season with four runs allowed on 12 hits in 16 innings of work with a 13/7 K/BB ratio. He is running a .233 BABIP and a 92.6% LOB%, though, so there are going to be some struggles for him on the horizon. 

To be fair, he does have a 33.3% Hard Hit%, so carrying a lower BABIP is plausible, but he’s faced the Marlins twice and then the Padres. This is a step up in class and a spot where the heightened walk total may present some challenges.

Kershaw has allowed seven earned runs on 16 hits in his 18 innings with a solid 17/4 K/BB ratio. Kershaw’s problem this season has been settling in, as he’s allowed a .333/.370/.583 slash the first time through the order. Otherwise, his only damage has really been two solo homers the third time through. If he gets through the first couple innings unscathed tonight, he should be able to control the game well, so that may be a live betting angle to look at for him.

This game seems to be lined pretty fairly, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if Megill has a bit of a rough start here. This might be a good live play on the Dodgers if the Mets take an early lead off of Kershaw.

Cleveland Guardians (-130, 8.5) at Detroit Tigers Game 2

I don’t have anything to really say about this game, but I wanted to briefly mention my doubleheader strategy. I typically don’t play them in advance, but it is definitely important to see what happened in Game 1 to apply it to Game 2. Was the bullpen used extensively? Which relievers were used in Game 1? Did somebody leave Game 1 hurt?

Sometimes the winner of Game 1 relaxes a bit in Game 2. Late in the year, you may see a bad team just roll over, but usually you don’t want to lose both games during a long day at the yard. But I won’t play Game 2 before I see Game 1.

As far as my approach to Game 1, sometimes we see one team put out a better lineup or have a better starter going. Keep in mind that a bad Game 1 starter may be asked to go long or wear a beating for the sake of the bullpen, so that could also be a betting angle.

Los Angeles Angels at New York Yankees (-155, 9)

Jose Suarez and Clarke Schmidt square off in the series opener between the Angels and the Yankees. The Angels had a long day at the yard yesterday in a 5-4 win that was delayed at the start and as the game went along, but it’s always easier when you win on days like that.

Schmidt is a guy that I just can’t figure out. The spin rates and the movement numbers look pretty good, but he just can’t find the right command for one reason or another. He was rocked in his first two starts by hard contact from the Giants and Orioles, but then got nickel-and-dimed by Cleveland in his third start. He’s allowed 10 runs on 16 hits with an 11/5 K/BB ratio in 10.2 innings. Yankees fans are not thrilled with the returns and it’s a tough place to pitch when you don’t have a lot of supporters. Some guys just aren’t really built for it and you do wonder how much the mental side may be affecting Schmidt for his first start back in the Bronx.

That’s something that we can’t quantify and it can absolutely be difficult for me to try and play psychologist. I prefer to keep it to the stats, but these players are also human beings and they deal with the same things we do. They just have to go out and perform their jobs in front of 40,000 people. For somebody who had so much success in a relief role last season with a 3.12 ERA and a 3.60 FIP, you have to wonder how the transition back to starting has impacted him.

Because I really, truly do love the spin rates, the solid velocity for a starter, and last year’s numbers. It may just be small sample size variance, but I have a lot of questions as to whether or not Schmidt can pull it together.

Suarez came into the season with a bit of buzz, but the returns haven’t been good. He’s pitching on seven days rest here after allowing four runs on 10 hits to the Angels last time out. He’s only struck out six of 45 batters and has allowed 18 hits in 8.1 innings. Yankee Stadium is not a place you want to be when struggling with command.

I don’t have a bet in this one. Over 9 intrigued me a little with the winds blowing out to CF and the small dimensions of the ballpark, but it’s going to be a cool night with temps in the low 50s.

Minnesota Twins (-115, 8.5) at Boston Red Sox

After a much-needed day off, the Twins are back at it with Sonny Gray on the bump against Chris Sale. Minnesota’s cobbled together lineup did pretty well over the weekend and the bullpen is extremely well-rested for this series against Boston. Jhoan Duran and Jorge Lopez haven’t been used since Friday. Griffin Jax and Emilio Pagan have only been used once since Wednesday. Things are stabilizing a bit with the Twins right now, especially with Carlos Correa back in the swing of it and with Byron Buxton no worse for the wear after his ugly collision.

Even though Joey Gallo, Jorge Polanco, and Kyle Farmer are still on the IL, I think it’s a good time to buy on the Twins. It also seems like buying on Gray is a wise move. He’s allowed one run on 10 hits in 17 innings of work. He’s struck out 19 and walked seven, though 13 of those strikeouts came in one game. It sure looks like he fixed my concern coming out of his April 1 start against the Royals when his spin rates were way down and he allowed a bunch of hard contact.

Gray’s decreased spin rates in that opener may have just been some sort of tracking issue, though I think it was mechanical. His spin rates in the last two starts have looked just fine. He’s mixing his pitches really effectively and opposing batters are doing virtually nothing against the curveball and slider, which have been his two primary pitches. The slider is generating a ton of swing and miss early on and he’s actually capable of throwing curveballs for called strikes.

I think we can stick a fork in Sale. I know that Randy Arozarena hit a pretty good pitch out in the start against Tampa Bay, but the spin rates and velocity are down and everything feels like a giant struggle. In two starts against actual MLB lineups (Rays, Orioles), he’s allowed Hard Hit% marks of 64.3% and 70%. The Tigers didn’t do anything against him, but they haven’t really done anything against anybody.

With the Twins having a starting pitcher edge and a really rested bullpen, they’re a pick for me today. The -115 at DraftKings is the high line in the market, so shop around and find -110 or -105 because those are available out there.

Pick: Twins -115

Texas Rangers (-125, 9) at Kansas City Royals

Nate Eovaldi and Brad Keller are listed for this one at Kauffman Stadium on a windy and mild day in KC. The winds are blowing out at a 15-20 mph clip to the LF corner, so we’ll see if that helps either side. 

Eovaldi just gave up six runs on 10 hits to the Royals last time out after a couple solid starts to begin his Rangers tenure. He’s got a solid 19/3 K/BB ratio and has only allowed one home run through 15.2 innings of work. He has allowed a 50% Hard Hit% in each of his three starts, but the Royals were the first offense to really take advantage. That being said, most of the hard-hit contact has been on the ground and that’s something you can live with more often than not.

I’m seeing a little love for Brad Keller out there, which kind of coincides with the love we saw for Kris Bubic last week. Keller has allowed four runs on 11 hits in 17 innings with a 16/8 K/BB ratio. His Stuff+ numbers are improving, much like what we saw with Bubic, who is now on the IL. It isn’t a huge surprise, as the Royals hired Brian Sweeney from the Guardians, a guy who served as the bullpen coach the last few years in one of the savviest pitching organizations in baseball.

I’ve never really been a Keller guy, but I respect the opinions of those who track this stuff. Keller has varied his arsenal a little bit this season with a few more wrinkles and I guess it all looks better under the hood. I don’t necessarily see it. That said, I don’t have a play I like on this game.

Toronto Blue Jays at Houston Astros (-115, 9)

Chris Bassitt and Jose Urquidy are the two starters listed here. Kevin Gausman was rocked in the first inning by the Astros yesterday as they cruised to victory. The Jays were able to avoid destroying their bullpen, so at least their primary guys are still okay for today’s game and the rest of the week with one more against Houston and then a weekend set against the Yankees.

That said, they’ll certainly be looking for a more efficient effort out of Bassitt. He allowed nine runs on 10 hits over 3.1 innings in his first start against the Cardinals, but hsa allowed four earned runs on seven hits in 12 innings of work against the Angels and Tigers in his last two outings. However, he’s walked eight over those two efforts. He gave up a fair amount of hard contact in that start against the Tigers, which was his first at the new-look Rogers Centre.

I’m not exactly keen on where Bassitt is right now heading into this start against the Astros. He did average 92.1 mph with the fastball in his last start, but he was at 91.1 and 91.3 mph in his first two starts and that’s well below where he was last season. Velocity matters. Every half-tick of velo improves a hitter’s chances a lot and the stats against back that up for most pitchers. I’m curious to see how he handles a tough lineup tonight.

I’m also curious to see how a regression candidate in Urquidy does as a fly ball guy against a potent and powerful lineup. Urquidy has only allowed four runs on 16 hits and five walks this season. He’s running a 93.4% LOB%, so he has a 2.35 ERA with a 4.30 FIP and a 4.78 xFIP. He’s a fly ball guy who has only allowed two homers. He’s induced a lot of weak contact, but also has a 38.3% Hard Hit%, so it’s been an extreme at either end for him with batted balls.

In his worst start of the season against the White Sox, Urquidy allowed a 50% GB% and a -3.2-degree average launch angle. In his other two starts, he allowed average launch angles of 26.8 degrees and 19.6 degrees. That’s his bread and butter as a fly ball guy. He induced four popups in his start against the Twins. That’s what he’s looking for – weak aerial contact.

I think the Astros are the side here, but the margin for error as a fly ball guy like Urquidy is smaller with a lineup like Toronto’s that can generate power up and down the board. I’m going to stay off Houston here with the inability to shake that concern from my mind.

Tampa Bay Rays (-130, 9.5) at Cincinnati Reds

Two really promising youngsters are facing off here with Taj Bradley for the Rays and Nick Lodolo for the Reds. We certainly know more about Lodolo, who has looked terrific to this point with 27 strikeouts in 17 innings of work and just four runs allowed on 18 hits. Lodolo’s strikeout prowess has allowed him to hang an 88.5% LOB% despite a .415 BABIP against, as he has gotten really unlucky on balls in play. 

Lodolo is running just a 28.6% Hard Hit%, so he’s really done an excellent job of keeping hitters off-balance and also racking up strikeouts. He’s faced the Pirates and the Phillies twice, so we’ll see what he does with a Rays lineup that put up huge numbers against bad pitchers early in the season, but has leveled off a bit now facing some better arms.

Bradley allowed three runs on five hits over five innings in his MLB debut with eight strikeouts against one walk. There were some command issues, as six of the 11 batted balls Bradley allowed were hit at least 95 mph. We also saw tremendous potential with the swings and misses that he was able to induce. I think the biggest thing for Bradley with regards to the hard contact was that he only threw a first-pitch strike to nine of the 20 batters that he faced. I would fully expect him to limit hard contact better when he’s pitching ahead more frequently.

I like the 1st 5 Under 4.5 at +100 in this one. Both Bradley and Lodolo should limit the number of balls in play and have a good chance at racking up strikeouts. The Rays haven’t seen many pitchers like Lodolo and Bradley has some good raw stuff. As I said, I think he’ll be even better if he can get ahead of hitters. Great American Ball Park is definitely an offensive venue, but it’ll be in the 60s here with low humidity and it shouldn’t play all that small.

Also, Lodolo is a ground ball guy and Bradley has been pretty neutral throughout his career. Most books have the 1st 5 Under 4.5 at even money. DraftKings does not because their standard vig on 1st 5 totals starts at -115 both ways. I feel like the full game Under 9.5 at -120 has more value there. Most books are 9 at +105 or +100 on the full game. I like both of those as well. I use DraftKings odds for tracking and for the article. They have 9.5, but I like 9 at plus or even money as well. Sorry for the confusion, but shop around as always.

Pick: Under 9.5 (-120)

In the interest of time, I’m going to skip the rest of the games to be able to get this out. The Phillies/White Sox doubleheader is pretty interesting, but I mentioned my approach to doubleheaders earlier and I think it’s hard to fire on Game 2 before Game 1.

No major thoughts on the other games.

TL;DR Recap

Braves -140
Twins -115
Rays/Reds Under 9.5 (-120) (Under 9 at +105 or +100 is also good)