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MLB Best Bets for Saturday (7/3)

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We are blessed with yet another full 15-game MLB slate Saturday as we head into the Fourth of July weekend. Nothing goes better with backyard burgers and dogs like some MLB-winners, so let’s jump right in to analyze Saturday’s best value.

Boston Red Sox @ Oakland Athletics

Boston and Oakland will bump heads again for Game 2 of their current three-game series after Boston won a low-scoring affair in Friday’s game by a score of 3-2. Garrett Richards will be toeing the rubber for Boston to face off against Oakland southpaw Cole Irvin.

Boston heads into game two with top-five marks on the road in both wOBA (.320; fifth) and wRC+ (102; fourth), while also being far and away the most profitable road team in terms of ML profit and ROI, giving $100 bettors a $1,289 profit and a 29% ROI. With a BABIP hovering right around .300 and a 14th-ranked 14% HR/FB ratio, it does not appear luck is affecting Boston positively or negatively, suggesting the numbers and stats they’ve been able to put up are legitimate. While they don’t walk all that much, their SLG and ISO rank second in the majors with an OPS trailing just slightly behind in fourth. On the road, Boston holds the league’s fourth-highest hard hit rate and has turned it on over the last 30 days with top-10 marks in average exit velocity (fourth), barrel rate (eighth), and hard hit rate (fourth). With the best record in the majors on the road, both overall and from a profitable betting standpoint, I don’t imagine Boston’s lineup staying quiet in this one. 

As one could expect with a team playing in arguably the least hitter-friendly park in the majors, Oakland’s home splits are nothing to brag about. While they are a top-five offensive team on the road, at home they manage just a .306 wOBA and 101 wRC+. The wOBA is deflated even more so due to the aforementioned hitting environment, but their wRC+ mark suggests they’re merely an average offense at home. They have bottom-10 numbers across the board at home in terms of OBP, SLG, OPS and ISO while also putting up the eighth-lowest hard hit rate in the league. Their .257 BABIP shouldn’t be overlooked as it does point to a decent amount of bad fortune, but their HR/FB ratio is right in line with where it should be, so it’s tough to point to bad luck as the cause of all of their home offensive woes. While Boston has been hovering right around top-five marks over the last 30 days, Oakland falls closer to 12th in average exit velocity, barrel rate and hard hit rate, still in the top half of the league, but falling short of where of what Boston has been able to do. Oakland is definitely one of the better offenses in the majors, but I’ll have to give the edge to Boston here.

Moving to the starters, Garrett Richards has a 4.96 ERA and a 4.85 FIP on the year, hardly numbers that would instill fear in any opposing lineup, but he has been bit by the bad luck bug with both an inflated .346 BABIP and a HR/FB ratio almost touching 15%. He’s in the midst of a brutal stretch over his last four starts, pitching to a 9.18 ERA and an 8.56 FIP. While those numbers are atrociously bad, he’s had an even higher .382 BABIP and a 31.6% HR/FB ratio in that span. If there is ever a pitcher that the regression monster is going to bring back to life, Richards is a prime candidate. He needs to limit his walks more, as he’s added almost a full two walks to last year’s BB/9 mark, but he has increased his groundball rate by almost 10% while still leaving men on base at a higher clip than his career mark. His fastball spin and curveball spin rank as elite marks in the majors (top 6% for fastball; best for curveball), so if he’s one of the few pitchers who can still spin it without the sticky stuff, then maybe positive regression will come to reward him soon.

Cole Irvin seems to be on the other side of the spectrum in terms of luck. He’s pitched well to the tune of a 3.64 ERA and 3.66 FIP, but his HR/FB ratio is a miniscule 7%, resulting in a 4.64 xFIP that’s nearly an entire run higher than his FIP. Despite his good ERA and FIP marks, Irvin ranks in the bottom 30% of MLB pitchers in average exit velocity, xwOBA, xERA, xBA, xSLG, K% and whiff rate. Pitching at home in the best pitchers’ park in the majors hasn’t exactly boded well for Irvin, as his home splits are worse than his road splits, allowing an xFIP of nearly 5.00 at the Oakland Coliseum. Irvin hasn’t shown the ability to limit homers over his last two years in the league and if his great HR/FB ratio-luck has dried up then Boston might be just the offense to take advantage of it.

The pick

Two good offenses and two subpar starting pitchers. In matchups that always seem to be closer than what the prices typically suggest, I’ll take the plus-money team all day. I’m giving the offensive advantage to Boston in this one and if Richards finally gets the positive regression he deserves, this could be a tough W for Oakland to escape with. After the starters are pulled, Boston’s bullpen has the advantage as well with a significantly better FIP thank Oakland’s bullpen. Give me the Sox all day here. Boston +120.

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