MLB Daily Betting Model, 4/30: Felix Hernandez Is an Old Dog Learning New Tricks

MLB Daily Betting Model, 4/30: Felix Hernandez Is an Old Dog Learning New Tricks article feature image

Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Felix Hernandez

  • Sean Zerillo's MLB model helps to find edges in betting moneylines and over/unders for the full game and First 5 (F5) innings.
  • He analyzes the April 30 slate of baseball games with his model below, including the Astros-Twins (7:40 p.m. ET) and Dodgers-Giants (9:45 p.m. ET) matchups.
  • Plug in your odds to the spreadsheet at the bottom of this article to see where you might have an edge.

After a milquetoast Monday slate, we’re back with a full slate on Tuesday night. And I have so many potential plays that I was actively tossing possible picks aside this morning.

No time to waste, let’s get to yesterday’s recap and today’s action:

Recapping Yesterday’s Model

The model went 2-1 against full-game moneylines on Monday.

My actual picks went 2-2, and I was up 0.44 units for the day.

It was a negative day, but fortunately my first in quite some time, in terms of generating Closing Line Value (CLV).

I lost six cents on the Giants line (+135 to +141), four cents on the Padres line (+141 to +145), and broke even on the Minnesota line (+156); but gained five cents on the total (-105 to -110).

On Deck for Tuesday, April 30

All odds as of Tuesday morning (view live odds).

The model recommends six full-game moneylines and two moneylines for the first five innings (F5) on Tuesday.  

As of writing, the 4% trigger threshold officially marked the Miami Marlins, Minnesota Twins, Oakland Athletics, Pittsburgh Pirates, Seattle Mariners and San Francisco Giants as the full-game plays. It also likes the Pirates and San Diego Padres in the F5 portion of the game.

I played all of those picks except for the Marlins — who are on my “do not bet” list unless Caleb Smith is starting — and I also bet into a 3.5% edge on the Padres for the full game. Additionally, I took Tampa Bay on the runline (-1.5), and the Los Angeles Angels on the F5 runline.

The explanation for Tampa Bay is simple: The Rays have identical records (19-9) against both the moneyline and the runline, winning all but one of their games — they lost 2-1 this past Saturday in Boston as an underdog — by at least two runs. The Rays have the highest run differential (+47) in baseball.

Kansas City is 15-14 against the runline but owns the third-worst run differential in baseball (-24).

Blake Snell was a bit shaky in his last start back from a broken toe (against the Royals), exiting before the end of the fourth inning, and he’s in a good revenge spot here considering that the risk-averse Rays didn’t put him back on the IL after the rough outing.

Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Blake Snell

Snell had difficulty finishing off hitters in that start, but his defense was also miserable behind him during that day game, and Tampa Bay completely fell apart at the seams.

Instead of laying the big juice, I’d rather take Tampa Bay on the runline at almost even money — when the Rays win, they tend to beat you down.

I also went off my board a bit with the LA Angels F5 runline pick as Griffin Canning makes his debut for the Halos.

Canning, a second-rounder out of UCLA in 2017, has posted a 142:46 strikeout to walk ratio over 28 minor league starts (129.1 innings), dominating in three Triple-A starts this season for Salt Lake (16 IP, 0.56 ERA 2 BB, 17 K) prior to his call up. He’s a cerebral pitcher with plus control who locates his lower-90s fastball to different parts of the zone before coming at you with his breaking balls and change-up.

The Angels have moved their minor league players (especially their pitchers) aggressively, but they’ve done it with success, and I expect Canning to be effective immediately:

I want to briefly touch on the Pirates’ Jordan Lyles, who has carried over some 2018 improvements into this season. Lyles has been changing his pitch mix since 2017, and might have finally settled on a mix that he likes in 2019:

  • Four-seam Fastball (41.6% in 2019, 33.3% career)
  • Curveball (29% in 2019, 16% career)
  • Change-Up (12% in 2019, 8.8% career)
  • Sinker (11.7% in 2019, 24.7% career)
  • Slider (5.4% in 2019, 16.7% career)

Lyles has upped his strikeout rate to 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings since the beginning of the 2018 season despite averaging 6.5 K/9 for his career, and his K/BB ratio this season is double his career norm (4.20 vs. 2.15), in large part due to his improved curveball and its increase in usage:

The last pitcher I want to highlight is Felix Hernandez, who looked completely toast two seasons ago even before he went 8-14 with 5.55 ERA in 2018.

He’s been an interesting case in 2019; his first-pitch strike rate is at a career high (74% vs. 61.5% career), leading to just three walks allowed in 25 innings pitched. But both his strikeout rate (7.46 K/9) and swinging strike rate (8.1%) are in line with last season’s career-lows.

However, Felix’s groundball rate is also back up to his career norm (53.8% vs. 53.4%) after sitting at 46.9% for two straight seasons.

How? Felix has been putting away his four-seam fastball (7.4% in 2019 vs. 18.6% career) and slider (4% in 2019 vs. 10.3% career) in exchange for more sinkers (36.3% in 2019 after 27% usage from 2015-2017) and curveballs (34.5% in 2019 vs. 15.7% career).

The curveball usage has increased for three straight seasons, from 21.4% in 2017 to 27.6% in 2018, to now closer to 35%, and it has been the second-most valuable pitch in his career (on a per-pitch basis) behind his change-up.

With the fastball fading, that once devastating change-up (+124 runs in Felix’s career) has also lost its effectiveness (-4.7 runs over the past three seasons). Meanwhile, the curveball has only become sharper, saving 7.8 runs in 2018 and 3.3 already in 2019.

The curveball below (at the 0:53 mark) is a good example of a pitch that you would typically either swing over the top of or tap weakly to the left side of the infield.

This season could simply be Felix’s dead cat bounce, or it could be the sign of a veteran pitcher learning to re-invent himself in order to stay in the sun for a few more seasons.

For tonight, I’m happy to back Felix at home at plus-money and hope that his curveball reliance and elite ability to get Strike 1 can turn T-Mobile park back into the King’s court.

Bets (So Far) for April 30

  • LA Angels (-0.5, -105) F5 Runline
  • Tampa Bay Rays (-1.5, -110) Runline
  • Minnesota Twins (+150) Game Moneyline
  • Oakland Athletics (+150) Game Moneyline
  • Pittsburgh Pirates (+100) F5 Moneyline
  • Pittsburgh Pirates (+112) Game Moneyline
  • San Diego Padres (-115) F5 Moneyline
  • San Diego Padres (-105) Game Moneyline
  • San Francisco Giants (+147) Game Moneyline
  • Seattle Mariners (+130) Game Moneyline

Stay tuned on Twitter or follow me in The Action Network App for my entire betting card for Tuesday, April 30.

Zerillo’s Full MLB Model, 4/30: Moneylines & Over/Unders

Download the Excel doc with my projections to input odds from your sportsbook. These projections cover full game and First 5 moneylines and over/unders. A sample of one of the sheets is below.

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