Bales' Best MLB Bets (Opening Day)
Welcome to my first edition of Bales' Best MLB Bets. In this article, I will outline my favorite bet for MLB's Opening Day. You can find all of Bet Karma's staff bets through our MLB Premium Package. Without further ado, here's my favorite Opening Day bet.
The New York Yankees and Washington Nationals featured two of the best offenses in the MLB in 2019. They ranked first and sixth in runs scored, respectively, while ranking in the top-10 in most metrics. New York’s offense stayed nearly the same, but Washington lost Anthony Rendon to free agency and Ryan Zimmerman opted out of the season. The respect for their offenses has kept the Vegas total at 7.5 runs, but this is a play based around pitching rather than hitting.
Gerrit Cole and Max Scherzer ranked first (2.48) and second (2.88) in the MLB in xFIP, respectively. They each ranked in the top-25 of the MLB in walk percentage last season, as well, limiting the number of easy runs their opponents are able to score. Furthermore, they each ended in the top-5 of the league in strikeout rate, allowing them to pitch their way out of tough situations, limiting runners in scoring position.
Cole was better at home last season, but he drew those starts in a pitcher-friendly Minute Maid Park. He found plenty of success on the road in 2019, posting a 2.84 xFIP over 99.1 road innings. He’ll be throwing in pitcher-friendly Nationals Park to get the 2020 season started, giving him an edge over their offense. Cole held his opponents to a .185 average in 2019. He isn’t a pitcher that any offense is going to string hits again, forcing opponents to score runs with the long ball. Still, he held his opponents to a 1.23 HR/9 last season, which helped him become arguably the best pitcher in the MLB.
The Nationals offense was better at home in 2019, but as I mentioned above, I expect them to take a step back in 2020, specifically without Rendon in the lineup. They struggled against right-handed pitching, as well. In 2019, their batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS all dropped a total of .025, .024, and .043 points against right-handed pitchers as opposed to lefties.
Scherzer was a bit better on the road in 2019 but still boasted an outstanding 3.10 xFIP through 94 innings at Washington Park. He was elite against right-handed batters, holding them to a 2.22 xFIP with a 0.65 HR/9, a 38.6% strikeout rate, and a 2.7% walk rate in 2019. For more base-level numbers, he held right-handed batters to a .193 average with a .307 slugging percentage and a .223 wOBA.
The Yankees offense is littered with right-handed batters. Unsurprisingly, their average, slugging percentage, and OPS all dropped against right-handed pitching as opposed to lefties. Oddly enough, they were better on the road as an offense, although I don’t fully expect that to continue, as Yankee Stadium is one of the more hitter-friendly stadiums in the MLB.
I fully expect Cole and Scherzer to control this game, as they have consistently shown their game-ready on Opening Day throughout their careers. Normally I’d focus more of a first-five inning bet here, but the odds favor the full game significantly more. Washington and New York are also expected to feature two top-10 bullpens this season with New York potentially having the best pen in the MLB. The total is likely to be determined with home runs, and I lean heavily toward the under with two elite arms on the mound.
Bet 1.08 units on New York/Washington UNDER 7.5 runs (-108) to win 1 unit
2020 MLB Season Record - 0-0 (0 units)