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MLB Best Bets for Wednesday (5/5)

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We’re back for a Cinco de Mayo version of MLB’s best bets, as Wednesday brings us a jam-packed 16-game slate. We’re finally blessed with some afternoon games, with first pitch in the Chicago and Cincinnati game scheduled for 12:35 p.m. ET to fill up the mid-day lull.

Per usual, we’ll dig in to see where value can be found on this loaded slate.

Toronto Blue Jays @ Oakland Athletics

Toronto and Oakland will go at it again Wednesday for the third game of their four-game series. The Blue Jays will send their third straight lefty to the mound as Robbie Ray will face off against Oakland’s Chris Bassitt.

The Blue Jays have been plagued by a bottom-10 .269 BABIP against right-handers, but even with that bad luck they’ve been able to scratch out a middle-of-the-pack .303 wOBA (15th) and 95 wRC+ (13th). Over their past two weeks, they’ve seen some slight positive regression, posting a .280 BABIP which has resulted in the fifth-highest .330 wOBA and 114 wRC+, giving the public a little taste of how Toronto can expect to perform given average luck. During this stretch, they’ve also managed marks just outside of the top-10 in both average exit velocity and hard-hit rate, both good indicators of positive performance to come. 

Ray had a pretty brutal 2020 campaign, finishing with a 6.62 ERA and 6.50 FIP through 51.2 innings of work. So far this year, however, he’s managed to cut those numbers down to an impressive 2.78 ERA and a 4.35 xFIP, much closer to his 2021 projections. He’s only allowed a .256 wOBA while posting a 3.98 xFIP the first two times through the order, suggesting that if he can give Toronto five solid innings and turn it over to their bullpen that has the seventh-lowest FIP in the league, runs could be tough to come by for Oakland.

Oakland has been just about a league-average offense this year, putting up a .309 wOBA and 106 wRC+ so far on the season. They’ve seen their average exit velocity and hard-hit rate fall to borderline bottom-10 marks over the last two weeks while posting an essentially equivalent .312 wOBA and 108 wRC+, never a good sign with both stats pointing towards future performance. Oakland also happens to rank in the bottom half of the league (bottom 10 vs. four-seamers) against four-seamers, sliders and curveballs which happen to account for 94.5% of Ray’s arsenal. They are a good offense overall but could be faced with a potentially tough matchup.

Bassitt has been better than expected for Oakland so far this year, posting a 3.93 ERA and a 3.63 FIP through six starts. Projections have him performing closer to a 4.10 ERA and 4.25 FIP, so he is slightly overachieving, but not by much. Ironically for Bassitt, he has some interesting home/road splits where he’s putting up notably better marks on the road despite pitching in one of, if not the, best pitcher’s park in the majors. At home he allows a higher than league-average .328 wOBA while putting up a 4.32 xFIP. Bassitt also seems to be a pitcher than needs to settle in a little bit as he allows a .345 wOBA the first time through the opposing lineup and posts a sub-par 5.08 FIP the second time through, a deadly combination facing a team that likes to score early like Toronto, which is fifth in first-five-innings scoring this season.

The pick

My projections actually have Toronto winning this game outright by a score of 4.12-3.72, making them about -120 favorites (note: this is assuming George Springer is in the lineup; he’s sat the last two games). With the pitching stats tending to lean Toronto’s way and the team’s offense starting to get red hot, I’ll take a chance on them as road dogs in this one. Toronto +110.

Houston Astros @ New York Yankees

The Astros and Yankees will kick off game two of their three-game series after New York took the opener 7-3. Houston will send out youngster Luis García to square off against New York lefty Jordan Montgomery.

Houston has been one of the better offenses in the league so far this year, putting up the ninth-highest .314 wOBA and a top-five 109 wRC+ while putting up a steady .291 BABIP, but one of the league’s lowest HR/FB ratios. On the road, they have the lowest K% in the league, a top-5 BB/K ratio, and the highest hard hit%, while putting up a .312 wOBA (12th) and 104 wRC+ (ninth). If their HR/FB ratio luck starts to turn around, this could be a scary offense.

García has had some great results and good luck with Houston this season, recording a 2.70 ERA through 20 innings to go along with a 4.41 FIP. He’s added about 2.5 strikeouts to his K/9 figure from last season and has a hard hit% against at just 27%. His splits against right-handers and left-handers are what really piqued my interest though, as he’s allowed a mere .223 wOBA while putting up a 2.93 FIP against righties this season. This is of particular note facing a lineup filled with DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres just to name a few. If García can eliminate New York’s righties like he’s been able to so far, there’s not much else New York has to counter with.

To say that New York’s offense so far this season is disappointing would be an enormous understatement. Both their .295 wOBA and 92 wRC+ are bordering among the 10 worst in the majors against right-handed pitchers and their home numbers are shockingly worse at a .296 wOBA and 93 wRC+. Seven of their nine starters are projected to be right-handed batters, putting a huge majority of their lineup at an instant disadvantage facing a pitcher who has been able to neutralize righties all season so far.

Montgomery has pitched fairly close to his 2021 projections so far, putting up a 4.39 ERA and a 4.87 FIP. He’s decreased his K/9 by about 1.5 strikeouts, increased his BB/9 by 1 walk, and has actually had great BABIP luck (.229) despite having not-so-great stats. Both his hard-hit rate and barrel rate are higher than the league average and he allows a high .340 wOBA while posting a 5.81 FIP against right-handers, a tough combination navigating through a lineups with Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel

The pick

Not only do I get the satisfaction of betting against New York, the numbers make it even sweeter by manifesting it. Houston and New York’s offenses seems to be operating at completely different levels so far this season and the pitching splits are leaning Houston’s way. My projections have this essentially even with Houston winning 4.83-4.82. I’ll be hopping on Houston here with the plus price. Houston +120.

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