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Monday, August 8, 2022

Favorite Angles for Thursday’s Slate, Including Padres vs. Dodgers

Sixteen teams in Major League Baseball take the field Thursday in a shortened eight-game card. The Twins and Guardians will begin the day’s action with a 1:10 p.m. ET battle, but the first of the remaining seven games of the slate begin in Philadelphia at 6:05 p.m. as the Phillies conclude their series with the Braves.

You can find my colleague Sean Zerillo’s projections for every MLB game in the Action Network App (on both the PRO Projections tab and the game pages) and our Projections Hub (which you should bookmark).


Follow all of Anthony Dabbundo’s bets in the Action Network app! Click here.


Here are some of my favorite angles and games I’m targeting across Thursday evening MLB card.

Braves at Phillies, 6:05 p.m. ET

Atlanta won the first two games of the series but is a solid underdog on the road on Thursday because of the solid starting pitching edge for Philadelphia.

Aaron Nola has been stellar this season in a bounceback campaign for the Phillies. Nola ranks second in the NL in innings, fourth in FIP and first in WHIP. His walk rate is both the lowest in his career and lowest in the NL and both are major reasons for his career low 2.68 xERA.

FanGraphs’ The Bat projections have him pitching to a 3.13 ERA for the rest of the season, which would make him more than half-run better than Ian Anderson based on the same projection. Anderson has improved his hard-hit rate and barrel rate considerably, and the result has been a sub 4.00 xERA for the first time.

Command remains an issue for the Braves’ righty, though, as he’s seen his walk rate and K-BB% rate worsen when compared to his 2021 numbers.

The biggest question for this game is the health status of Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. He rejoined the team on Thursday but his status remains uncertain on whether he’ll start or not. He’d be a huge boost to an Atlanta lineup that already projects better than the Phillies’ due to Bryce Harper and Jean Segura’s injuries.

The line opened at Phillies -135 and has since been bet up past the range that I would still bet on them as it’s now at -150. If we do see some buy back on either the Braves full game or first five innings, then I would bet the Phillies at -140 for the full game or -150 in the first five innings.

Since both lines are not currently available, I’m passing the series finale in Philadelphia. If Acuña is in the lineup, I’d consider a small play on the Braves at the current number.

Yankees at Astros, 6:10 p.m. ET

The Yankees and Astros split their four–game series in the Bronx last weekend and will now play one game against one another in Houston on Thursday as a make-up game. Both Jeremy Pena and Yordan Alvarez were injured for the Astros on Wednesday and that blunts the strength of the lineup they can put out on Thursday.

Luis Severino has seen a return to elite form in the middle of the Yankees’ rotation, with the 10th best K-BB% ratio in all of baseball. Luis Garcia hasn’t been bad either, as he’s ranked 22nd in the league.

Once you get to 60 innings in a season, K-BB% becomes one of the most powerful predictive pitching indicators. Both starters have cleared 70 innings now and have produced above-average Pitching+ metrics, according to Eno Sarris’ model from The Athletic. This measures the shapes, velocity and locations of pitches and is also quite predictive.

Both pitchers project around 3.50 ERAs for the remainder of the season, but I have reason to believe that both are being sold short by the models due to past history of inconsistency. Garcia and Severino are both bet-on pitchers right now and for that reason, I’m targeting the first five total.

New York and Houston have the top two bullpens based on ERA this season, but neither is actually in the top five based on K-BB%. The Yankees have stranded a ton of runners, Houston has been fortunate with batted ball data and thus I’m avoiding the potential for these offenses to heat up after the starters depart the game.

Because of the weaker Houston lineup and the solid projections on the starters, I’ll take the first five under 4 at -120 or better.

Recommended bet: First five under 4 (-120 or better)

Brewers at Pirates, 7:05 p.m. ET

The question for JT Brubaker has always come down to his control as a starter in Pittsburgh. He doesn’t have great stuff (85 Stuff+; 100 is average), but when he’s able to command the ball effectively he can actually produce a solid strikeout rate and keep traffic off the base paths.

His FIP (4.09), xFIP (4.23) and xERA (3.79) all put him right around a 4.00 projected ERA and that’s where most systems have him rated for the remainder of the season.

That makes him the better starting pitcher in this game with Adrian Houser taking the ball for the Brewers. Brubaker has a comparable Pitching+ rating but also Houser’s xERA and FIP project him closer to a 4.20 ERA.

Milwaukee may have the better bullpen generally, but the Brewers used Brad Boxberger, Devin Williams and Josh Hader each of the last two days. I’m sure some of them are available, but you have to factor in potential fatigue limiting their effectiveness. Pittsburgh did not use its three best relievers — Chris Stratton, David Bednar or Wil Crowe — in Wednesday afternoon’s win in Washington.

So while Milwaukee would typically have a solid bullpen edge to overcome a slightly worse starting pitcher, that’s less true on Thursday given recent usage. The Brewers are overvalued on the road in this matchup and Houser is very much at the mercy of an infield defense that is -11 in outs above average this season.

He’s been pitching to contact, but Milwaukee isn’t as good at turning them into outs. The Pirates‘ lineup has been getting younger with Oneil Cruz and Bligh Madris, but also is getting healthier with Josh VanMeter returning to the fold.

I’d bet the Pirates at any plus-money number on Thursday night.

Recommend bet: Pittsburgh ML (+100 or better)

Reds at Cubs, 8:10 p.m. ET

I wrote earlier this week about the state of bullpens across MLB in my bettor’s notebook. 

The Reds consistently rank in the bottom five across most bullpen metrics, from ERA to FIP to hard-hit rate to K-BB%. It’s been all bad in Cincinnati once the starter departs the game and there’s no reason to not expect that to continue.

The Cubs are also in the bottom five in bullpen ERA, but they’ve been bitten by variance more than anything despite solid underlying metrics. The Cubs are actually top five in K-BB% rate among relievers and the addition of David Robertson at the back end helps them considerably with depth. Chicago has a significant bullpen edge here, despite what the ERAs might tell you.

The Cubs’ bullpen is a great buy low, but I’m still betting Cincinnati in the first five innings because of the difference in starting pitcher quality. Kyle Hendricks is a name you probably know, but the pitcher doesn’t match the name anymore. Hendricks has allowed a career high barrel rate and hard-hit rate, he’s just not the same pitch to contact guy anymore.

And even though pitch to contact is a general term and one that’s always sort of described Hendricks, it’s become more extreme in 2021 and 2022. His strikeout rate sits around 17% and despite a good walk rate, he’s in just the 16th percentile for strikeout rate.

Graham Ashcraft is a pitcher you probably don’t know that well given that he’s a rookie, but the right-hander has demonstrated elite control and a 3.22 xERA. He won’t blow you away with his stuff, but his fastball/cutter/slider mix is effective twice through the order.

His 57.1% groundball rate through 42 innings at the big league level is impressive and if it continues, he’ll have staying power in MLB. He is unlikely to maintain an ERA this low, but he’s clearly the better pitcher in this matchup.

Recommended bet: Cincinnati first five innings -105 or better 

Padres at Dodgers, 10:10 p.m. ET

The Dodgers and Padres meet for the second of six series’ against one another as Padres ace Joe Musgrove takes on Dodgers rookie Mitch White.

White has  been about as average as you can be in his rookie season with the Dodgers. His K-BB% ratio puts him very slightly above the MLB starter average. His barrel rate is slightly below that and he’s struggled a bit with keeping the ball on the ground.

He gets a matchup with a pretty depleted Padres lineup that doesn’t have Manny Machado. San Diego is bottom 10 in hard-hit rate, barrel rate and xwOBA in 2022, and that is even worse with Machado out of the lineup.

The Padres aren’t great with putting the ball in play either, as they’re slightly above average in strikeout rate and walk rate. Most of the Padres’ hitting has come in clutch situations, which is hardly sustainable long term.

In this specific matchup, though, the Dodgers’ lineup is quite depleted too with Mookie Betts out and Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger struggling to produce. Musgrove is more than a full run better than his counterpart White. He doesn’t have great ratings on his fastball and thus doesn’t impress with his strikeout numbers. But Musgrove’s groundball rate is up to 49.1% (43% last season) and his barrel rate allowed is below five percent.

Both are above league average and enable him to produce plenty of weak contact. It always feels scary to bet against the Dodgers offense, but I will as they leave Coors Field and return home to face one of the best pitchers in the National League.

Recommended bet: Padres F5 -110 or better

Anthony Dabbundo’s Bets (June 30)

  • Padres F5 (-110 or better)
  • Cincinnati F5 (-105 or better)
  • Pittsburgh ML (+100 or better)
  • Houston/New York F5 under 4 (-120 or better)

Follow all of Anthony Dabbundo’s bets in the Action Network app! Click here.

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