Guardians vs Rangers Prediction Today | MLB Odds, Picks for Saturday, July 15
Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images. Pictured: Gavin Williams (Guardians)
Guardians vs. Rangers Odds
Texas trailed 4-0 in the game and exploded for 12 runs in five innings to handle the Guardians, 12-4.
The Rangers will now look to clinch a series victory at home with Andrew Heaney pitching against Cleveland rookie Gavin Williams.
The Rangers are still the best offense in baseball by wRC+ and the depth and solidity of their lineup will present a real challenge for Williams. He has a 4.01 ERA through four starts, and he's struggled to generate strikeouts.
The Guardians will once again need to rely on their defense behind Williams, which remains in the upper echelon in outs above average.
Given the struggles and concerning underlying projections of Heaney though, the Rangers are still overvalued on Saturday.
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The Stuff+ pitching model on FanGraphs is a big fan of Williams at this point in his young career. The strikeouts haven't been there, but both his fastball (102 Stuff+) and changeup (130 Stuff+) grade out as encouraging pitches for him to use.
This is a bit of a difference from the scouting grades on his pitches though, which has him for a 45 grade changeup and two better breaking balls (slider and curve).
Given his strikeout numbers in the minor leagues, you'd also expect him to strikeout more hitters out than he has at this point in his small MLB sample. Williams only has a 6.93 K/9, but The BAT and all other systems think he'll strike out more than a batter per inning for the rest of the season.
Those projections are built off of his minor league strikeout rates, where Williams struck out 11.93 K/9 in a decent sample and 12.56 per nine in Double-A in 2023.
His 10.8% swinging strike rate and above-average chase rate both suggest that the stuff is also playing up against major league hitters. Hitters are whiffing in the zone and chasing out of it, both encouraging signs for the young righty.
Williams has a 4.35 xERA and once he strikes out more batters, the xFIP and FIP numbers will settle in around that.
Compared to the opposing starter, the Guardians have the edge on the mound.
It was always extremely unlikely that Heaney would maintain his 3.10 ERA from 2022, and even his 3.39 xERA last year was likely a mirage with plenty of regression looming. He still has the home run problem, but his K-BB% peripherals have fallen off a cliff this year.
His career best 29.4% K-BB percentage was amongst the best starters in baseball last year, but he's fallen to 15.3% in 2023.
It's a classic example of why we regress pitcher performances toward larger samples, especially with veterans like Heaney. They might have one season where everything goes really well, but the late career leap is often not sustained year-over-year.
Heaney is a mid-rotation starter by Stuff+, as he has three pitches that all grade out right around league average. He then pairs that with average command and the result is a mediocre starter with ERA projections around 4.50 for the remainder of the season.
The Rangers haven't done much yet to bolster the top of the bullpen either, yet another area where Cleveland has the small edge. The Guardians are still a top seven bullpen by most metrics, while Texas is in the bottom third of the league in bullpen xFIP.
It doesn't look like the 2022 version of Heaney is ever coming back, and the 2023 version has a 4.94 xERA.
Guardians vs. Rangers Betting Pick
The Guardians have both a starting pitcher and bullpen advantage in Saturday's game. The advantages are modest in the first five innings — with Williams marginally better than Heaney — but there's also a lot more upside for Williams given his underlying whiff rates and minor league data.
Texas does have a fair number of dangerous lefties that Williams' changeup can keep off balance in the heart of the order.
The gap in pitching quality grows slightly in the second half of the game, too. The Guardians' bullpen was crushed on Friday, but the handful of higher leverage arms didn't pitch for Cleveland as a result.
As much as Texas has the offensive edge, it's too big of a favorite. Heaney's home run problem is mitigated a bit because the Guardians have hit the fewest homers in all of baseball, but Williams still has enough upside to back as a solid underdog here.
I'd bet the Guardians moneyline at anything +125 or better.
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