Thursday is a light day in Major League Baseball with just eight games under consideration. All of the chatter and attention will be paid to the NFL schedule release and the NBA/NHL Playoffs anyway, so it isn’t a bad day for nearly half of the league’s teams to take a day of rest. Three of the eight games are also matinee tilts, so it will truly be a light evening on the diamond.
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Dodgers/Pirates: The Dodgers have now lost series to the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Pirates because baseball makes no sense. They sent out rookie Ryan Pepiot, who walked five in just three innings in his debut. I postulated that the Dodgers might not take every game seriously and that appeared to be the case in this series, though some of their better bullpen arms failed them in this one. I would think getaway day games against bad teams may not be bad spots to try and take underdog shots against them.
Brewers/Reds: MLB will be sending investigators to see if the humidor in Cincinnati has malfunctioned. Okay, so that’s not true (I don’t think), but this series saw 49 runs in three games. The Reds actually won the series, scoring 28 runs against Brewers pitching, including a game started by Brandon Woodruff. Great American Ball Park is an excellent venue for offense on an annual basis, but I really didn’t see this coming, especially with several top position players still out for the Reds.
If nothing else, this series serves as an example of why I look for huge outliers to regress to the mean. I didn’t bet them, but I kept saying that the Reds couldn’t remain as bad as they were and that turned out to be true.
Marlins/Diamondbacks: Use context clues as a guide in the betting market. Merrill Kelly had been cruising. The Marlins don’t usually take money on the road. Miami flipped into a favorite and won 11-3. Those eye-opening line moves won’t always be right, but this one was and a lot of them have been so far. Use the market as your guide.
Rockies/Giants: We didn’t get much help from the Rockies on our 1st 5 over, but the Giants got there on their own as Chad Kuhl’s regression hit. He did strike out eight, so the stuff was seemingly okay, but he allowed five runs on seven hits in 4.2 innings. Kuhl had a 1.82 ERA with a 2.91 xERA and a 3.40 FIP going into that start. He now has a 2.88 ERA with a 3.06 xERA and a 3.56 FIP. Sometimes regression is gradual. Sometimes it hits pretty quick.
Cubs/Padres: Fading Nick Martinez worked out as well, as he allowed five runs on four hits in four innings of work. He, too, struck out eight, but he had a 3.38 ERA with a 5.38 xERA and a 5.46 FIP. His successes with RISP were driving his low ERA. The Cubs were 3-for-4 with a walk with RISP. It’s nice when a handicap works out and Martinez still shows those lucky splits, so we should get more opportunities.
Mets/Nationals: Tylor Megill had allowed nine runs in his first six starts and allowed eight runs in 1.1 innings yesterday to the Nationals. Those blow-ups happen. His ERA is now 4.41 with a 3.35 FIP, so he looks like a positive regression candidate with his 66.9% LOB%. Keep the ERA killers in mind. One bad start skews the numbers sometimes. Also, keep the Nationals overs in mind. I wish I had been playing more of them. It’ll be rare for them to only allow three runs, but that offense looks solid.
Blue Jays/Yankees: Jose Berrios’s profile still scares me a lot. His ERA sits at 5.82, so his results have been in line with his hard contact rate allowed, as he allowed eight more hard-hit balls yesterday over 5.1 innings. The more notable development is that the Blue Jays were 0-for-7 with RISP again. I cannot fathom how this team is so bad with RISP. Positive regression simply has to come at some point, but it’s getting hard to wait on it, as the Jays are now down to 17-15 as it has caught up with them.
Rays/Angels: I’m not saying that the Rays are an auto-bet when Shane McClanahan pitches, but he had 24 whiffs on 46 swings yesterday while racking up 11 strikeouts in seven scoreless innings. The average combined score in his seven starts has been 6.3 runs. He has 58 K in just 39.1 innings. He’s morphing into an elite starter and looks like an under machine.
A’s/Tigers: This will be a quick one. Zach Logue, in his second career MLB start, threw seven shutout innings against the Tigers. This Tigers offense is embarrassingly bad. Unders or fades until proven otherwise. What a huge miss on my part from a season win total standpoint. Simply awful. This offense is so much worse than I could have ever imagined.
Phillies/Mariners: Context clues in the betting market again. The Phillies were taking money with no-name Bailey Falter against Logan Gilbert and the Mariners. Philadelphia won 4-2. Even if you don’t bet these, at least they can serve to keep you off of a game. If you see a line move that looks really fishy, you definitely need to re-evaluate that game.
Orioles/Cardinals: Seven more dominant innings from Miles Mikolas with one run allowed on four hits to lower his ERA to 1.49. I’m thinking Mikolas will have a huge blow-up soon rather than gradual regression. He’ll have a start, probably on the road, where he allows six or more runs over a couple of innings. Mikolas’s low whiff rate has been counteracted by ranking in the 83rd percentile in exit velocity and 94th in Hard Hit%. He’s had supreme command this season, so I think we see one bad start rather than a string of them. I’ll try to time it if I can.
Weather: Pretty quiet day around the big leagues. Wind blowing in for Nats/Mets and Astros/Twins, but not anything too severe. It will also be a lot warmer in Minnesota with temps in the 80s. I do wonder if the cold-weather teams will have some line equity on the over because their offensive numbers looked so bad with the chillier temps. Something to monitor, I guess.
Yankees at White Sox (-145, 8): Not much in the line movement department today. There aren’t a lot of household names on the hill and there are a lot of bad teams in action. Dylan Cease is getting “The Ace Bump”, which happens with elite pitchers. Their lines jump 10-15 cents as influential bettors inflate the price before the public piggybacks a move. It is interesting (and telling) to see this one against the Yankees, but Cease is a more notable name than Luis Gil.
What I’ll Be Watching
Taijuan Walker: Walker returned from the IL on April 30 and allowed a couple hits and a couple walks over five innings. In his next start, he allowed seven runs on nine hits over four innings. The interesting quirk there is that all three of his starts this season have come against the Phillies. Now he faces the Nationals. Since returning, Walker has only struck out three of 41 batters with limited swing and miss. Washington has a pretty good offense this season, so this is an interesting test for Walker in the early start.
Josh Winder: On a warm day in the Twin Cities, Winder gets a test from the Astros. Unlike rotation mate Joe Ryan, Winder has at least faced some offenses with some punch and some talent, but Ryan had a solid D- in his start against Houston the other night, so we’ll see how Winder fares. He’s been great to this point with a 20/2 K/BB ratio, a 1.61 ERA, a 3.03 FIP and only 12 hits allowed. This will be his third start of the season, but he worked extended relief appearances in two of his other outings.
Thursday 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.
EDIT: I misread the handedness of Jon Heasley this morning The pick will be graded as posted, however he is NOT left-handed. Please consider this game accordingly. I have edited the wrong information from the write-up.
Rangers (-135) over Royals: Choices are pretty limited today with a bunch of questionable pitchers on the bump and a shortage of games, but this one stood out to me pretty quickly. Jon Heasley gets the call for the Royals in a spot start after being called up from Triple-A. Normally, you’d like to promote a guy throwing the ball well, but Heasley is not. He has allowed 11 runs on 12 hits in his last 14.2 innings, including four home runs.
Heasley made three starts last season and allowed eight runs on 15 hits over 14.2 innings of work against the Mariners, Tigers and Twins.
On the flip side, the Royals draw a lefty in Taylor Hearn. The difference is that they have the fourth-lowest wOBA in baseball against lefties at .275, ranking right around the Diamondbacks and Reds in that department. Hearn has had some issues, but he’s also faced the Rockies, Angels, Mariners, Astros and Braves, so he’s seen some pretty talented lineups and a group of teams that all have a wRC %plussign% of league average or better against lefties.
Hearn is a positive regression candidate as well. He has a 6.53 ERA with a 4.43 FIP and a 3.57 xFIP. He has a .417 BABIP against, which is an indication of the hard contact he has allowed, but he’s also faced a bunch of lineups that do swing it well in this split. The Royals do not. Therefore, I’ll take a shot with the Rangers today.
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.