MLB Daily Betting Model, 4/23: Count on Sonny Gray to Stay Hot vs. Braves?
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Sonny Gray
- 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 23 slate of baseball games with his model below, including the Red Sox-Tigers matchup.
- Plug in your odds to the spreadsheet at the bottom of this article to see where you might have an edge.
Anyone who played baseball or softball (or even kickball) when they were younger knows the feeling of standing in an unfamiliar position for the first time.
Typically, the following sequence occurs: (1) You think to yourself, “please don’t hit the ball at me; I don’t know what to do with my hands,” and (2) The ball is immediately coming towards you.
Last night, Angels outfielder Peter Bourjos made his first career appearance in the infield, and, naturally, the second ball in play made its way towards him. Bourjos proved that he is, in fact, a professional athlete:
The Angels lost in 14 innings when Yankees pitcher Jonathan Holder struck out Angels pitcher Trevor Cahill, who was pinch-hitting for another pitcher, Luke Bard, after Bourjos pinch-ran and scored the game-tying run for the designated hitter. Once Bourjos entered the game defensively, the Angels lost the DH spot.
Extra-inning baseball sure gets wild once teams start running out of players.
Recapping Yesterday’s Model
The model went 1-0 against full-game moneylines and 1-0 against moneylines for the first five innings (F5) on Tuesday.
My actual picks went 1-1, but I was down only 0.05 units for the day.
It was a neutral day in terms of generating Closing Line Value (CLV).
The Mets moneyline moved in a positive direction, before reverting to the opening number (-108) after Robinson Cano and Amed Rosario weren’t included in the Mets lineup. The total in the Oakland-Texas matchup never moved off 8.5 runs.
On Deck for Tuesday, April 23
All odds as of Tuesday morning (view live odds).
Based on opening lines, the model recommends two full-game moneylines for Tuesday.
The 4% trigger threshold officially marked the Detroit Tigers (Game 1) and the Miami Marlins as the full-game plays.
However, the moneyline for the Marlins came down from +188 at open to about +170 as of the time of writing, meaning that I no longer see an actionable edge on that game.
Detroit has a day-night doubleheader with the Red Sox in Boston today, and our edge comes in the first game of that series, with Matt Boyd taking on Chris Sale.
I have spent more time discussing Chris Sale this season than I ever would have imagined, but his velocity has been a very interesting case study.
In his last start against the Yankees, Sale looked much better than he had in his previous three outings. His average fastball velocity against the Yankees was 95.5 mph, 3.6 mph faster than it was a week earlier against the Blue Jays. The spin rate on the pitch was also much more in line with his 2018 figures.
However, Sale continued to throw the fastball just 39% of the time, in line with his 2019 season average and about 13% below career norms. He still can’t generate swings and misses with the fastball (two out of 104 thrown on the season), and it’s getting hit hard, too.
Per Jay Jaffe of FanGraphs, “Batters are 11-for-21 with a double, a triple and three homers on plate appearances ending with [Sale’s] not-so-warm heater, for a .524 batting average, 1.095 slugging percentage and 322 wRC+ against; by comparison, he yielded a .179 average, .321 slugging percentage and 60 wRC+ when throwing that pitch last year.”
Sale still owns an incredible slider, and after throwing that pitch 52% of the time against the Yankees, it’s pretty clear that he’s just trying to generate soft contact and quick outs using it.
Examples of the slider are below, but the more that batters can sit on this pitch (since they can react to a slower fastball, instead of simply guessing at a 99 mph fastball) the more likely they are to have success against it:
What’s more, the Tigers are throwing Matt Boyd, who has been a popular breakout candidate this season. He owns a 2.96 ERA and a 2.60 xFIP over four starts and 24.1 innings pitched, with a sizzling 36:7 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Boyd has a 16.1% swinging strike rate in 2019 — 6% over his career average (10%) — and his fastball-slider combination has been dominating:
At current odds of +185, oddsmakers give the Tigers a 35% chance of winning this game. Even assuming that Sale can maintain the velocity gains from his last start, I have the Tigers winning today’s matchup over 41% of the time.
Therefore, there is a value gap of over 6% between the win probability as suggested by my projections and the listed price.
I would play that edge 100% of the time; Boyd is more than talented enough to tame this Red Sox lineup, and Sale still has lingering performance questions.
It’s good value, and although Detroit is still unlikely to win, I bet the game twice.
I also played the Cincinnati Reds at a less significant edge against the Atlanta Braves.
Reds pitcher Sonny Gray has seen his performance on an uptick in 2019, with an xFIP (3.09) at its best mark since his rookie season. Gray struggled during his stint with the Yankees, as they tried to take away his four-seam fastball, but his pitch mix has trended back towards career norms with the Reds this season.
After throwing four-seamers just 26% of the time in 2018, it’s back to 35% in 2019 (33% career). One change that Gray has carried with him from the Yankees is an increase in his curveball usage.
Gray is throwing fewer two-seamers (17% in 2019, 26% career) in exchange for those curveballs (27% in 2019, 20% career) — likely a net-positive switch.
Gray’s slider and curve have saved him the most runs on a per-pitch basis over the course of his career; now going to those pitches over 40 % of the time, to complement his fastball, makes sense:
Bets (So Far) for April 23
- Cincinnati Reds (-104) Game Moneyline
- Detroit Tigers (+185, +190) Game Moneyline
Zerillo’s Full MLB Model, 4/23: 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.