MLB Best Bets Today April 23

Tuesday brings a full slate on the diamond, as all 30 teams are in action and every game is a night game. There is only one interleague game today with the Astros and Cubs, so that means there are seven NL games and seven AL games. We could see one game banged, with all-day rain expected in Cleveland. There is also the possibility for delays in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, which would definitely impact a starting pitcher and your handicap, so keep an eye out for that.

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Here are the MLB best bets today for April 23:

Toronto Blue Jays (-122, 8.5) at Kansas City Royals

7:40 p.m. ET

Kevin Gausman and Michael Wacha match up here in a battle of veteran right-handers. Wacha has pitched really well to open the season, while Gausman has had his ups and downs, but there is a side that I like in this game.

It is the favored Blue Jays, who are playing quite well right now. The Royals are an awesome early-season story, but they’re also 6-1 against the White Sox and 7-9 against everybody else. They can’t help who is on the schedule, but I think some of their numbers are inflated a bit. After all, they allowed nine runs in seven games to Chicago. And while I think this pitching staff is absolutely improved and they’re going to be a feisty team throughout the season, I think they’re a little bit mispriced in the market.

It seemed like his last start against the Yankees was a turning point for Gausman, who battled some shoulder discomfort early in the year. He did walk three, but only allowed one run on four hits and touched 98 mph, so his velocity seemed to be back to a certain degree and he had some more downward tilt to his pitches with a higher GB% than what we had seen in his previous two starts. 

Even though he hasn’t been at his best, Gausman still has a 13% SwStr%. Three of his four starts have been against the Yankees (2x) and Rays, so he’s been facing teams that see him rather frequently. The Royals do not, so I do think that could be a bit of a positive for him here. What I really liked about his last start is that he limited hard contact and was able to get more whiffs on heaters. The splitter is still his bread and butter pitch and increased fastball quality only elevates that pitch.

Admittedly, I do like Wacha and don’t have a ton of bad things to say about him. This is more of an overall fade of the Royals given a step up in class and the fact that I think their bullpen will be shaky as the season goes along. One criticism of Wacha is that he’s faced the White Sox twice. In starts against the Orioles and Mets, he’s allowed eight runs on 13 hits in 11 innings of work.

Another criticism would be that he hasn’t generated much swing and miss in his last two starts with SwStr% marks of 8.3% and 8.7%. He also saw a sizable velo drop last time out against the White Sox with an average fastball velo of 91.7 mph. I think that was more about the weather and it was also the second game of a doubleheader, but it still merits watching.

Frankly, I’m just taking the hotter team against an opponent whose early-season numbers definitely appear to include a certain degree of smoke and mirrors.

Pick: Blue Jays -122

Houston Astros (-120, 10.5) at Chicago Cubs

7:40 p.m. ET

On a night with the wind blowing out, we get J.P. France and Jordan Wicks. Wicks draws a really tough assignment here against an Astros lineup that has pummeled lefties to open the season and pretty much every year since the mid-2010s. But, that’s not who I’m focused on here.

I’m looking at France, who had a huge velo drop last time out against Atlanta. His four-seam fastball velo dropped from 93.1 mph in his third start to 90.9 mph in his fourth start. The uber-aggressive Braves still swung and missed a fair amount, but France had a SwStr% of 3.1% in his second start against the Rangers. Texas is definitely more familiar with him than the Cubs are, but France has had a Zone% under 40% in three of his four starts and he’s been pitching behind in the count a lot.

There are 103 pitchers that have thrown at least 20 innings this season. France ranks 90th in Stuff+ at 84, a pitching metric derived by the great Eno Sarris. He’s stayed Under 4.5 strikeouts in three of his four starts this season. He’s also been throwing a lot of balls, as he has a 42.2% Ball% on the season, which seems like a big deal taking on a team with a 10% BB% on the season.

France ranks in the bottom 25 in CStr%, which is Called Strike%, and bottom 40 in SwStr% out of the 103 pitchers with at least 20 innings thrown. He’s also the fifth-worst pitcher in F-Strike%, so he’s not getting ahead a ton and the Cubs rank fourth in OPS after a first-pitch ball.

Add in the wind blowing out for a fly ball guy like France and I think this could be a tough outing for him. Under 4.5 strikeouts at -110 is the option I picked, but given the matchup and conditions, I think there are a lot of ways you can take this breakdown.

Pick: J.P. France Under 4.5 Strikeouts (-110)

Seattle Mariners (-112, 9) at Texas Rangers

8:05 p.m. ET

I have to do it. For this battle between the Mariners and Rangers, Dane Dunning enters the game with a 3.91 ERA, but a 6.81 xERA and a 6.18 FIP. Over 23 innings, Dunning has allowed five homers and 10 earned runs (11 total) on 15 hits. He’s running a .189 BABIP since home runs don’t count towards BABIP. To his credit, he has struck out 22, but he’s also walked 13 and allowed a 51.7% Hard Hit%. 

I’m also not really buying the K% increase. His SwStr% of 11.2% is above the league average for starters at 10.6%, but he has a 51% F-Strike% and a 34.6% Zone% with a 28.7% O-Swing%. He’s not throwing enough pitches in the zone and he’s really not getting enough chases to sustain this kind of performance. 

Dunning ranks 87th out of 103 pitchers in Stuff+ at 85. He’s a below average pitcher who has had some fortunate outcomes to this point.

Logan Gilbert, meanwhile, ranks fourth in Stuff+ at 123, trailing only Jared Jones, Hunter Greene, and Dylan Cease. Gilbert has a 2.33 ERA with a 3.67 xERA and a 3.40 FIP to open the season. The higher xERA is a byproduct of a 41.8% Hard Hit% and a 10.4% Barrel% because he throws a ton of strikes and winds up around the plate a lot. Dunning’s ugly contact management numbers are more about poor stuff quality and pitching behind in the count.

Gilbert’s running a 12.9% SwStr% and the development of a plus splitter has been a big part of the reason why. He’s added another pitch to keep guys off-balance. He’s also got a F-Strike% of 12.9%, so he’s been working ahead a lot.

Gilbert’s just a lot better than Dunning in my estimation and the Mariners offense has been picking it up a bit after a really slow start to the season. The Mariners 1st 5 line is two cents better (-110) than the full-game number (-112), so I’ll go that route. Seattle’s bullpen numbers are better on the whole, but the primary relievers for both squads have been pretty comparable.

Pick: Mariners 1st 5 (-110)