MLB Betting Notes: Blue Jays and Braves Flying Under the Radar
Don’t forget about the diamond on Derby Day. For Saturday’s MLB betting preview, we will examine two games involving clubs that have flown under the radar: Toronto and Atlanta. The Braves surprisingly sit in first place in the NL East, while the Blue Jays have played solid baseball but get lost in the shuffle of the competitive AL East.
Let’s look at how each will bounce back after Friday night losses.
Toronto Blue Jays (-105) at Tampa Bay Rays (-105) | O/U: 8
Aaron Sanchez (2-2, 4.06 ERA) vs. Jacob Faria (2-1, 4.60 ERA)
6:10 p.m. ET
Ray and Jays: Tampa Bay’s offense is weird. After a couple years of living by the home run, the Rays had hit only 29 through Thursday, good for only 22nd in the majors. They also had the 24th-best ISO ranking (slugging percentage minus batting average, a barometer for power) at .142. Even with low power numbers, the Rays’ offense has performed pretty well overall. Going into the series opener, Tampa was tied for sixth (with Toronto and the Angels) with a 104 wRC+ (weighted runs created plus), and was seventh in wOBA (.323).
Toronto’s offense has also clicked in the early going, but in the complete opposite manner. Through Thursday, the Jays’ 48 home runs and .199 ISO led the majors. They had also scored the third-most runs with 173. — Mark Gallant
Starter Stumbles: While Toronto’s offense has held up their end of the bargain, their starting staff has not. Through Thursday, Blue Jays starters had a collective 5.61 ERA — the second-worst mark in the league.
Not great company to be in. Just take a glance at the hideous season splits for all six Toronto starters this year.
Outside of J.A. Happ, every starter has struggled — including Sanchez, who has had severe control issues. His 4.30 BB/9 rate is the 13th highest among all qualified pitchers. The good news? Sanchez will pitch tonight on the road, where he’s 17-7 with a 2.75 ERA in his career. He’s also enjoyed success against Tampa in 13 previous meetings (five starts): 1.24 ERA, .85 WHIP and a .168 BAA. He boasts a minuscule .73 ERA in 24.2 innings at Tropicana Field.
Starting pitching has really been Toronto’s only weak area, as the Blue Jays’ bullpen has the fourth-best ERA (3.00) through Thursday. That said, the Jays’ bullpen 3.74 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) — a more stable measure of performance — suggests they’ve benefited from some good fortune.
Tampa’s bullpen has a 4.78 ERA, which ranks 25th in the league. However, the Rays’ 4.14 FIP suggests they’ve pitched at an average level. — Stuckey
Chicks Dig ‘Em: Mark mentioned the long ball earlier. Well, neither pitcher in tonight’s contest has given up too many on the young season. Sanchez has allowed 0.78 HR/9 this year — which is right around his career average — while Faria has allowed only 0.92 HR/9. — Michael Leboff
Faria Field: Faria has a 2.89 ERA in nine career home starts, allowing just one earned run in six of them. The under is 7-2 in those nine outings, going under the total by an average of 2.9 runs per game. Additionally, the first five innings under is 6-3 in that span. — Evan Abrams
San Francisco Giants (+137) at Atlanta Braves (-152) | O/U: 9.5
Ty Blach (2-3, 4.10 ERA) vs. Brandon McCarthy (4-0, 3.09 ERA)
7:10 p.m. ET
Smokin’ Southpaws: The Braves have been the best hitting team against lefties, and it ain’t even close, folks. Just look at the MLB rankings based on wRC+ (a catch-all hitting stat in which 100 grades as average) through Thursday.
The difference between them and the Pirates is the same as the difference between the Pirates and the 17th-ranked Phillies. Their success against lefties can mainly be attributed to the bats at the top of their order, with Ozzie Albies coming in hot with a 339 wRC+, Freddie Freeman at 214 and, surprisingly, Nick Markakis at 210. Though he had just seven at-bats against lefties entering Thursday, rookie phenom Ronald Acuna was 3-for-7 with a double and a homer. Not a bad stack against southpaws at the top of the order. — Mark Gallant
Blach with an H, not a K: For the season, Ty Blach has struck out an average of only 4.82 batters per 9.0 innings. That’s the second-lowest rate among all qualified pitchers in 2018. It’s also actually a significant improvement from his 2017 K/9 rate of 4.01 — by far the worst among all pitchers (min. 100 innings.)
Blach could really struggle to get outs against a Braves team that not only crushes lefties, but also owns the league’s fifth-lowest K%. — Stuckey
Total Trend: Dating back to last season, the over is 10-2-1 in Brandon McCarthy’s last 13 starts, going over by an average of 2.4 runs per game. And over the last decade, the first five innings over is 26-15-4 in McCarthy home starts in June or earlier. — Evan Abrams