There are a lot of small favorites on the MLB card today following a day when favorites went 11-1 with one game that closed a virtual pick ‘em. We’ll see if the dogs can have their day as we start the fourth week of the 2022 MLB season. The baseball season is very much a marathon and we’re just a few short miles into the race.
If you’re off to a slow start, don’t get discouraged. There’s a ton of baseball left and you can turn it around. If you’re off to a hot start, keep putting in the hard work and the effort and hopefully the rewards will keep coming. Baseball is a fickle, variance-filled sport. Don’t get too high or too low. It’s important to keep a healthy mindset with more than 2,400 games over about 180 days.
Padres/Reds: For the 14th time in 16 losses, the Reds not only lost on the moneyline, but on the run line as well. I’ve bet it exactly zero times. Those that have been betting it can probably buy a minority stake in Twitter. Cincinnati has been outscored by 49 runs over 19 games and is the only NL team with fewer than 60 runs scored. The team now embarks on a six-game road trip through Denver and Milwaukee before hosting the Pirates. This team is terrible, but they’ve also played San Diego twice, St. Louis, the Dodgers, Braves and Guardians. Only one of those teams had a season win total line that represented a losing record and that was only a two-game series against Cleveland.
Brewers/Pirates: Devin Williams struck out the side in the ninth to lock down the save, but it wasn’t easy for the Brewers bullpen again, as this time Brad Boxberger had a hiccup. Josh Hader and Williams are two of 13 pitchers with 10 or more appearances so far and that was Boxberger’s ninth. The Brewers are relying heavily on their best relievers with a lot of close games and that kind of workload is important to follow. Hader was unavailable after working four of the previous five days and my guess is that Craig Counsell will be reluctant to use him and Williams today. It could be a really short list of available pitchers against the Cubs.
Rockies/Phillies: I wasn’t invested enough in fading the Rockies during this series against the Phillies. Colorado was swept in the four-game series and lost every game by at least four runs. Regression was coming, especially on the road, and it hit in a big way. Now the Rox host the lowly Reds, so they can get back on track, but the song remains the same with their home/road splits as a team.
Marlins/Nationals: The Nats have dropped eight in a row and have been outscored by 43 runs in their 21 games. Nelson Cruz is showing no signs of a breakout and Juan Soto is facing fewer fastballs than ever. Teams are barely even pitching to him with a 39.7% Zone% per Pitch Info Solutions and a 40.7% first-pitch strike rate per FanGraphs. This is why he should not be the MVP favorite and why the Nationals seemingly have very little chance of winning most days.
Cubs/Braves: Kyle Wright threw seven strong innings with eight more strikeouts as his splendid start to the season continued. Interestingly enough, I’ve talked a lot about the line moves on the Cubs against lefties, but they’re third in wOBA against righties this season and 13th against lefties. I’ll be curious to see if the markets start approaching them differently as a result. Obviously the sample sizes remain pretty small, but still.
Diamondbacks/Cardinals: Dakota Hudson allowed nine hard-hit balls yesterday, but only one hit to the Arizona offense. I’ve mentioned this before, but Arizona’s contact quality and results are not aligning and their offense does show quite a few signs of positive regression. It’s still a hard bet to make, but they had outs on four batted balls of 104.1 mph or higher against Hudson, including two barrels that died in the outfield.
Mariners/Rays: Scott Servais gets it. The Mariners lost 2-1, as they gave up a tiebreaking run in the seventh, but Anthony Misieiwcz was called upon in the eighth inning to keep the game at 2-1 and give the offense a chance in the ninth. Handicapping managers is really tough to do, but I try to make it a point to file away some of the smart things that they do. There’s a lot of equity in keeping a one-run game right where it is. I’ll have to remember that about Servais in the future. It may change my perception of the team and their chances in games projected to be close.
Tigers/Twins: Are the Twins good? Carlos Correa isn’t hitting yet and there are others that are lagging behind, but Minnesota’s pitching looks improved from last season. Among starting pitchers, the Twins are fifth in fWAR, second in ERA and ninth in FIP. There are regression signs with an 81.9% LOB% and a .247 BABIP, so I’m holding my expectations a little lower right now, but they’re a smart organization having a lot of success thus far.
The bullpen has a 3.94 ERA and a 4.47 FIP while still running an 80% LOB%. So, my answer is that I don’t really know yet, but Detroit and Kansas City are on the schedule for 14 straight games in late May, so they’ll have the chance to be sitting pretty going into June.
Astros/Rangers: The top four hitters in Texas’s lineup from yesterday finished the game with OPS marks of .420, .435, .651 and .567. Those guys are Kole Calhoun, Marcus Semien, Corey Seager and Mitch Garver. I’m not entirely sure why the Rangers can’t hit right now, but those are four guys with track records of being productive bats. I’m not sure how well the pitching will hold up, but this offense has to get better soon.
The Rangers have a .260 BABIP as a team, which ranks 24th, despite being 14th in Hard Hit% and ninth in average exit velocity. They’re only batting .223 as a team. Something has to give.
Royals/White Sox: Another day, another loss for the White Sox. Keep an eye on their odds to win the AL Central. I’m hoping to find something as low as -125 with this giant swoon. I don’t know if it will happen or not, but they’re 3.5 games out and have lost nine of the last 10. They’ve scored three or fewer runs in 10 of the last 13 games. There’s more to this than just the injuries, but nobody in the AL Central is all that good. When they get healthy and figure it out, they should win the division title.
Red Sox/Blue Jays: I guess this slipped way under the radar for me, but after getting shut out yesterday, the Red Sox are batting .229/.275/.344 as a team with a .276 wOBA and a 78 wRC %plussign%. This isn’t all about the humidor, as Fenway Park was one of 10 ballparks that had one last season. The Red Sox have a 5.9% BB%, so that’s part of it. Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers and J.D. Martinez are all hitting just fine, but nobody else is, including Trevor Story. The Red Sox are ninth in Hard Hit%, so this shouldn’t continue, but I can’t believe I didn’t notice how bad things were until now.
Guardians/Angels: The situation is that bad for the Guardians. They managed just a solo homer against Reid Detmers and four Angels relievers on Thursday. Cal Quantrill allowed three runs over six innings, but only one was earned and he only allowed two hard-hit balls. In that respect, Cleveland wasn’t an ill-advised wager, but holy hell this offense is abominable. Amed Rosario turning back into a pumpkin has really not helped and Franmil Reyes turning into a wind farm has been devastating. He's struck out 43.1% of his plate appearances.
Weather: Rain will threaten Yankees/Royals, but if the game is played, winds will be blowing out to LF at a good clip. Those will be the only hefty helping winds of the evening, with gusts blowing in for Reds/Rockies and Angels/White Sox. Crosswinds could make pop ups fun for Phillies/Mets and Diamondbacks/Cardinals.
Padres (-180, 7.5) at Pirates: We’ve seen 10-15 cents of movement on San Diego here with Yu Darvish against Zach Thompson. Darvish seems to have put whatever his issues were last season in the past with three solid starts in four tries this season. That outlier against the Giants is why his ERA is 4.43. My guy Thompson has a 10.80 ERA over his 10 innings, so this move is pretty obvious. Notice, though, that Thompson has been awful and we still only have a total of 7.5 here. In fact, only six of the 15 games today have a total higher than 7.5. Adjustments have been made by the books to the high rate of unders.
Phillies at Mets (-125, 7): We’ve seen movement on the Mets here with Tylor Megill and Aaron Nola. The markets have definitely isolated Megill as a pitcher to back early on, as we’ve seen line moves in most of his starts. The Mets should have a bullpen advantage as well in a game projected to be low scoring.
Diamondbacks at Cardinals (-190, 7.5): We’ve seen overnight Cardinals movement here, which makes all the sense in the world. Adam Wainwright has had tremendous numbers at Busch Stadium and the Cardinals draw a lefty in Madison Bumgarner. I’m not sure this line is done moving, to be honest.
Reds at Rockies (-115, 10): The move from 11 to 10 on the total has very little to do with Hunter Greene and Antonio Senzatela and more to do with the wind. I will say, it is interesting to see the Rockies as such a short home favorite. The markets seem impressed with Greene thus far, despite a 5.27 ERA and a 5.11 FIP in three starts.
Red Sox (-125, 8.5) at Orioles: Market sentiment is very much against Rich Hill right now. He’s got a 4.85 ERA and a 5.60 FIP in three starts. This probably continues as well. Hill isn’t missing bats and looks to maybe be running out of gas finally at the end of this long career. New Mexico State product Kyle Bradish makes his MLB debut for the Orioles here.
Guardians at Athletics (-150, 6.5): Frankie Montas has taken a lot of support today against the Guardians and Aaron Civale. Civale looks pretty awful at the outset of the season, but we still have a total of 6.5 here with a couple of paltry offenses. I really wanted to be able to back Montas here, but the Cleveland offense has looked so inept that the price skyrocketed overnight. Kudos to anybody that jumped on this one early.
What I’ll Be Watching
Kyle Hendricks: Hendricks carved up the Brewers in his first start of 2022, but followed that up with an obscenely bad start against the Pirates in his second outing. He just worked seven shutout against Pittsburgh last time out, but only had two strikeouts. He has only allowed two barrels, but has allowed more hard contact than usual to this point in the season. He threw almost 40% changeups against the Brewers in his first start, but has not been higher than 25% in any of his other three starts. I assume the plan will be to attack with changeups again here, but we’ll see how it goes.
Jose Urquidy: Urquidy will make his second straight start against the Blue Jays tonight. He allowed 19 batted balls in that April 23 start and 12 of them were hit at least 95 mph. He only allowed two runs on six hits. He’s an extreme fly ball guy that only has seven strikeouts out of 62 batters to this point. He certainly profiles as a guy that has been helped by the dead ball, but the Blue Jays had a lot of good swings in that last game. We’ve got a total of 8.5 here for a reason, though Yusei Kikuchi’s 6.23 FIP over three starts is also a contributing factor.
Friday Best Bets
Shop around for the best lines! I’m using a market consensus number that should be widely available to most, but every cent matters, so do the best you can to get the best line possible.
Cubs (%plussign% 125) over Brewers: Admittedly, it is scary to back Kyle Hendricks, but the Brewers are in a really difficult situation today. Milwaukee is back at home for a few days now after a whirlwind of a week with three games in three cities in three days and then a couple of close nail biters in Pittsburgh to round out the sweep. Milwaukee is off to a great start at 13-7, but one of the problems with winning a lot of games is that the primary relievers in the bullpen get a huge workout.
Adrian Houser pitches to contact, but also has walk issues as he draws a top-five lineup against righties. He's usually a ground ball guy, but he's getting more fly balls now and has an unsustainably high pop up rate. We’ll have to see how Houser fares, but a very realistic scenario is that Milwaukee needs to get four or more innings from the bullpen. Josh Hader has pitched four of the last six days, so I don’t think Craig Counsell wants to use him. Devin Williams has thrown 29 pitches over the last two days and Brad Boxberger has also been used consecutive days. Hoby Milner and Brent Suter have worked two of the last three. This Milwaukee bullpen is really up against it tonight.
Chicago’s offense profiles higher than Milwaukee’s in this game and the Cubs could wind up with a really big bullpen advantage given how limited the Brewers appear to be. That’s good enough for me to take the shot at plus money here.
Braves (-125) over Rangers: I disagree with the line move that we’ve seen for this game today. Yes, I do believe that the Rangers will hit better going forward and hope that it will wait at least a day to start taking place, but I really like Ian Anderson. The Braves right-hander is off to a bit of a slow start with a 5.40 ERA and a 5.24 FIP, but five of his nine walks came against the Reds in his first start. Since then, he’s allowed three earned runs over 10.2 innings on just eight hits with 11 strikeouts. The Braves should have a sizable bullpen advantage here as well.
Garrett Richards will open for the Rangers and Spencer Howard will follow. Howard owns a 7.41 ERA with a 5.56 FIP in his 79 career MLB innings. He’s given up 18 home runs in that span and has already allowed five homers in five innings this season. Ten of his 14 balls in play have been hit at 95 %plussign% mph.
The Braves are still a top-10 offense in Hard Hit% and just added a batter with elite contact in Ronald Acuna Jr., who ranks in basically the top 1% of exit velocity and Hard Hit%. He’s a huge boost to the offense and this is a Braves team that looks like a good bet on Friday.
We’ll be rolling out some more baseball tools soon, including a tracker of my picks that will update in real-time, but for now, I’m tracking my picks in this spreadsheet HERE.