JP's Baseball Bets July 23
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JP's Baseball Bets July 23

JP
07-23-2020

Welcome to the first edition of JP’s MLB/KBO Picks! With Opening Day upon us, we’ll be getting picks from both South Korea and the United States, a combination that I anticipate being extremely profitable. You can find all of Bet Karma’s staff bets through our MLB Premium Package. Let’s get it going!

 

G1: New York Yankees (-135) @ Washington Nationals (+115) O/U 7.5

Bales has written an excellent summary of this game that encompasses most of what I would have to say, and I’m on the exact same angles, so I’m going to build off what he has to say for the purpose of brevity, and focus the majority of my personal writeup on the Dodgers – Giants game. I recommend you read his writeup for more information, but I’ll quote some personally relevant points here that I would cite as well:

  • Both teams are significantly worse against right-handed pitching:
    • Nationals vs Righties: “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” – Bales
      • Side note: the losses of Anthony Rendon (free agency) and Ryan Zimmerman (COVID concerns) will significantly hurt their offensive output as well
    • Yankees vs Righties: Saw decline in batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS against righties (unsurprising, since their projected starting lineup consists of: R R R L R R L R; see a trend?)
  • Both starters are at or near the top of their class in MLB:
    • Scherzer vs Righties: “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” – Bales
    • Cole: otherworldly stats include ranking 1st in xFIP (2.48), FIP (2.64), K/9 (13.8), K% (39.9), and ERA+ (185), among other metrics; Fangraphs ranked his fastball as the most valuable pitch in baseball in terms of run prevention
  • Both bullpens possess the arms necessary to limit damage late in games:
    • Yankees: arms include Aroldis Chapman (LHP, OUT OPENING DAY), Zack Britton (LHP), Adam Ottovino (RHP), Tommy Kahnle (RHP)
      • Even with Chapman inactive due to COVID, this is simply a stacked array of pitching, with a hilariously high average velocity around 95 MPH. Britton, Ottovino, and Kahnle lead the charge, all ranking within the top-8% of MLB in statistics such as xSLG and wOBA in 2019. These arms are built for late-game domination. 
    • Nationals: arms include Sean Doolittle (LHP), Daniel Hudson (RHP), and Will Harris (RHP)
      • Though not as deep as the Yankees pen (no one is), there are no obvious holes in this group. Doolittle is a serviceable closer, and if he regains his pre-2019 form, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with. The addition of Will Harris from the Astros should prove tremendously helpful, and Daniel Hudson will again serve a late-inning role.

Even without any of the COVID factors, this game screams under. Now, combine everything cited above with limited real-game exposure for hitters who now have to face two proven Opening Day veterans in the 99th percentile in the league in most stats, and you’re looking at a low-scoring game.

Game Plays:

1: UN 8 (-130, bought the half-point from 7.5) 1U

2: Nationals TT UN 3.5 (-135) 1U

3: Yankees -1.5 (+110) 1U

PARLAY:

Nationals/Yankees Alternative Total UN 9.5 + Dodgers ML (-115) 3U

 

G2: San Francisco Giants (+260) @ Los Angeles Dodgers (-320) O/U 8

Giants:

SP: Johnny Cueto

            2019 Stats: 5.06 ERA / 1.250 WHIP / 4.89 xFIP / 16 IP

            2020 Steamer Projections: 4.45 ERA / 4.87 xFIP / 64 IP

Cueto, who was MIA for most of 2019 due to Tommy John Surgery recovery followed by back issues that derailed the tail end of his season, will be making his 2020 debut against the team he ended 2019 against. That start, Cueto was shelled for 5 ER over just 2 IP, being pulled after 47 pitches (over the course of which he allowed 3 HR, a 2B, and a 3B). While this start will likely go better than that, I can’t find much room for excitement about Cueto’s potential, as he’s staring down a Dodgers order that will compete with the Yankees for the spot of top roster in baseball. The acquisition of Mookie Betts from the Red Sox simply solidified an already absurd positional group notably consisting of reigning Cody Bellinger (reigning NL MVP), Max Muncy, Justin Turner, Corey Seager, and Joc Pederson, which will be augmented by a DH (possibly AJ Pollock for Opening Day). One thing you’ll quickly notice about the Dodgers is how stacked they are with left-handed hitters, and they were predictably far better against righties than lefties in 2019. The addition of Betts will help balance that in the long run, but for tonight’s matchup vs Cueto, I’m all-in on the lefties. Here’s a quick rundown of their splits (calculated against left-handed and right-handed starters):

2019 LAD vs left-handed starters: .243 AVG / .319 OBP / .439 SLG

2019 LAD vs right-handed starters: .264 AVG / .346 OBP / .488 SLG

It’s pretty clear where the advantage lies, and equally importantly, the Dodgers will have an opportunity to roll out their A-Team against Cueto, since they typically will sit Pederson rather than have him work left-on-left. It was easy to get excited about this Dodgers lineup before the Betts acquisition, but with the 2018 AL MVP involved, anything short of a World Series Championship may be considered a disappointment. Bringing the attention back to Cueto, we’re looking at a guy who hasn’t had an xFIP below 4.45 since 2017, and has clearly seen significant regression over the last three seasons, coupled with some injury history. His K% has fallen below 20, he’s started to face command issues, and is generally just dealing with the adverse effects of age. Neither ZiPS nor Steamer see much positive regression heading Cueto’s way, and the fact that he’s San Francisco’s Opening Day starter is concerning for the Giants as a whole. Behind Cueto, the Giants have completely flipped the script on their bullpen, losing star closer Will Smith to free agency and setup man Mark Melancon to the Braves, setting them up for complete uncertainty in the late innings. Not ideal.

Dodgers:

SP: Clayton Kershaw

            2019 Stats: 3.03 ERA / 1.043 WHIP / 3.50 xFIP / 178.1 IP

            2020 Steamer Projections: 3.69 ERA / 3.94 xFIP / 75 IP

Another season, another strong year for future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw. Concerns about his regression are relevant, as his ERA and xFIP slipped to career lows, but when your career low is 3.03 ERA, it’s pretty obvious that you’re looking at someone who’s one of the greatest pitchers of all time. Kershaw looked every bit his vintage ace self down the stretch, as he pitched to a 2.85 ERA over the final three months of the season after posting a 3.23 ERA over the first two months. He’ll have as soft a landing spot as you can ask for in his 2020 debut, facing a Giants squad that has arguably the worst starting roster in baseball (a case will be made for the Orioles as well). They were already horrendous before last week, but in the last seven days, they’ve now lost Buster Posey (COVID concerns), Evan Longoria, and Brandon Belt (injuries), leaving them with, well, basically nobody. Mike Yastrzemski will lead off the order and hope to channel the magic of his famous bloodline, but he has a nightmarish left-on-left matchup with Kershaw, and I just don’t see where the Giants expect to score runs elsewhere. 37 year-old Hunter Pence? Cleanup hitter and career 1.6 WAR outfielder Alex Dickerson, who for added pain is another lefty? I mean, come on. This is a lifeless, anemic team, and with their best three hitters unavailable, their next best two hitters lefty, their sixth-best hitter someone who’s probably the worst cleanup hitter in baseball, and one of the worst rotations/bullpen in baseball, you can tell where I’m going with this. It’s not a team I think does very much in 2020, and certainly not against Clayton Kershaw. Following the lefty out of the pen will be some combination of Kenley Jansen, Pedro Baez, and Blake Treinen. Both Jansen and Treinen were frustratingly inconsistent in 2019, which moves the Dodgers into the outer edge of the top 10, but if they regain even a fraction of their potential, you’re looking at perhaps the best bullpen in baseball.

Game Plays:

1: Dodgers -1.5 (-150) 3U

2: Giants TT UN 3 (-140) 2U

3: Dodgers 1st Inning ML (+200) .5U

PARLAY (referenced earlier):

Nationals/Yankees Alternative Total UN 9.5 + Dodgers ML (-115) 3U

 

KBO PLAYS:

1: LG TT OV 4.5 (-125) 3U

2: Kia 1H -0.5 (-130) 1U

3: Samsung TT UN 3.5 (-135) 2U

 

 


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