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MLB Best Bets for Wednesday (5/19)

MLB Bets

Another jam-packed, 15-game MLB slate coming to us Wednesday. We have action all over the country from Seattle to Dunedin with a 1:10 p.m. ET game between the White Sox and Twins to start off the afternoon. A full slate gives a solid opportunity to find some value, so let’s dive into Wednesday’s best bets.

Boston Red Sox @ Toronto Blue Jays

Boston and Toronto will kick off game two of their three-game series Wednesday at 7:37 p.m. in Dunedin. Garrett Richards will take the mound for Boston looking to rebound after Tuesday night’s blowout, while Toronto counters with Ross Stripling.

Boston’s offense has been white hot to start the year, posting a .335 wOBA and 112 wRC+, both good for top-three marks in the majors. Their BABIP is slightly inflated at .314, but not by an egregious amount, and when you take into consideration their top-10 barrel rate, top-10 hard-hit rate, and top-five average exit velocity, it’s clear to see that this lineup is firing on all cylinders. While it seems offenses tend to have better splits against left-handed pitching and certainly better splits at home, Boston appears to be as well rounded as they come. They post remarkably similar numbers against righties, third-highest .331 wOBA and fifth-highest 109 wRC+, as their overall marks, while posting the fourth-highest road-wOBA at .324 and another top-three wRC+ mark of 109. Also of note, Boston’s right-handed bats are some of the best at hitting right-handed pitching, putting up a top-five .334 wOBA and a top-five 111 wRC+. This could come into play against Toronto, as Stripling just so happens to struggle mightily against right-handed batters.

Richards certainly didn’t start off his Boston career as he would’ve hoped, but he’s quietly settled down since and is pitching to the tune of a 3.89 ERA and 3.92 FIP. With a .317 BABIP allowed, he’s been slightly unlucky so far, which could mean some positive regression is coming his way. He’s been able to increase his ground ball rate by over 7% and decrease his HR/9 by 33% while still keeping his K% just around his career marks. Richards is also an interesting case where his road splits are much better than at Fenway, posting a 3.57 FIP and allowing just a .289 wOBA on the road. His R/L splits also drastically favor him, especially facing a righty-heavy Toronto lineup, allowing righties to scratch out a wOBA just a hair over .300 to go along with a 3.58 FIP. The most surprising stat, however, is that Richards ranks in the top 13% of the league in opponent barrel rate; he may not look like your conventional above-average pitcher, but his results and stats speak for themselves.

In terms of wOBA and wRC+, Toronto has performed like an average MLB team, putting up a .319 wOBA and 102 wRC+ through the first 40 games of the season. While this may say more about the current state of major league offenses, both of those marks do happen to rank within the top-10 of the league. Their walk rate is among the bottom-five in all of baseball and may not get much extra help from Richards, who has harnessed his control as of late and has only allowed 5 BBs over his last 25 innings pitched. Their K% checks in as below-average, while also hitting more ground balls than the average MLB team, two stats that certainly won’t lead to many additional runs.

Stripling has started off the 2021 season with a 5.91 ERA and a 4.25 FIP, numbers even AAA starters would be embarrassed about. He ranks in the bottom 35% of the league in average exit velocity, hard-hit rate, xWOBA, xERA, xBA, xSLG, barrel rate, whiff rate and chase rate … wow. If those numbers weren’t bad enough for you, turn your attention to his home splits where he’s allowed a .346 wOBA to opposing hitters and secured a 4.43 xFIP. His road numbers not bad enough? Against righties, Stripling is allowing a sky-high .456 wOBA while recording a 6.20 FIP/5.05 xFIP. With splits like these, sitting down a lineup with Kiké Hernández, Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez and Christian Vázquez could be a tall task.

The pick

Toronto’s offense does scare me a little bit, but it’s hard to back a guy like Stripling facing a lineup with so many potent right-handed bats. Boston’s lineup isn’t missing a beat right now and just got Hernández back for an added boost. My projections actually have Boston as slight -110 favorites in this game, so I’ll gladly back them as a road dog. Boston +105.

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