MLB Expert Predictions for Friday: Which Underdogs Are Worth a Look?

MLB Expert Predictions for Friday: Which Underdogs Are Worth a Look? article feature image
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Troy Taormina, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Wade Miley

  • Our experts give out their favorite plays for Friday's MLB slate, including Astros at Orioles (7:05 p.m. ET).

Sean Zerillo: Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers

Robbie Ray (10-7, 4.03 ERA) vs. Walker Buehler (10-2, 3.22 ERA)

  • Away Moneyline: +166
  • Home Moneyline: -185
  • Over/Under: 7.5
  • First pitch: 10:10 p.m. ET

I projected the fair odds for Arizona in this game at +152, so I still see some line value on the visiting side despite their moneyline dropping from a peak price of around +180.

To win, they’re going to have to overcome Walker Buehler in a home start at Dodger Stadium, where he has been dominant in 2019: 2.54 ERA, 86:4 strikeout to walk ratio in 67.1 IP.

The Diamondbacks will send out their ace in Robbie Ray, and both starters have been rolling over their past five turns through the rotation. Buehler has 48 strikeouts against six walks (34.1 IP) with a 2.82 xFIP, while Ray has 41 strikeouts against four walks (29.1 IP) with a 2.35 xFIP.

Arizona also fits a multitude of historically profitable betting systems for Friday. As of writing, they are a non-public road underdog, taking less than 20% of both the moneyline and spread tickets:

In 2019, that system is 30-43, good for +11 units with a 15% ROI.

The beauty of betting big moneyline underdogs in baseball is that you only need them to win more frequently than their implied odds suggest, no matter how low that probability is.

This is not spread or total betting at -110, where you would need to consistently win at a 53% rate in order to profit.

Arizona’s odds of +166 equate to an implied probability of 37.6%, while I think that their chances are 39.7% – a gap of over two percent.

If you can get comfortable winning fewer than four out of ten bets, while playing inflated numbers that suggest a 35% win probability, you’re going to be extremely profitable in the long run no matter your won/loss record or win rate.

The PICK: Arizona Diamondbacks (+166) Game Moneyline

Mark Gallant: Houston Astros at Baltimore Orioles

Wade Miley (10-4, 3.05 ERA) vs. Dylan Bundy (5-11, 5.15 ERA)

  • Astros Moneyline: -250
  • Orioles Moneyline: +220
  • Over/Under: 10.5
  • First pitch: 7:05 p.m. ET

What’s that rich, melodious whistling sound I hear? Ah, if it isn’t the lovely song of the Baltimore Orioles.

Just 11% of bettors are on Baltimore tonight against the Astros and I am one of them. Last week, one of my expert favorites picks involved fading Wade Miley due to his unsustainable stats. It did not work that day. Stuckey also mentioned Miley as one of the pitchers he will be looking to fade down the stretch. The 32-year-old’s ERA may sparkle, but his underlying numbers call for regression.

Once again Miley is a huge favorite, and once again, I’ll be hopping right back on the ‘Fade-Miley Bandwagon.’

Even if it were another pitcher going for Houston, the Orioles would have some nice things going for them… at least from a betting perspective. Teams getting 20% of bets or less have historically been slightly profitable per Bet Labs (1.1% ROI), but significantly profitable (7% ROI) when facing a team with at least a .600 winning percentage like the Astros.

The PICK: Orioles +220

Evan Abrams: Cleveland Indians at Minnesota Twins

Shane Bieber (11-4, 3.31 ERA) vs. Devin Smeltzer (1-1, 2.28 ERA)

  • Indians Moneyline: -140
  • Twins Moneyline: +130
  • Over/Under: 9.5
  • First pitch: 8:10 p.m. ET

Minnesota has lost three games in a row, which is tied for the longest losing streak of its season, and failed to hit a home run on Thursday for the first game since July 27. Since July 1, the Twins have failed to go deep in five games and in the fame following their homer-less contest, they’ve averaged 2.8 dingers per game.

Shane Bieber has struggled against the Twins in his career, pitching to a 5.79 ERA and allowing a .315 batting average against. He’ll go up against Devin Smeltzer, who comes into this start in good form after shutting down the Royals, Yankees and Rangers. The only real blip on Smeltzer’s résumé this season came against the Tribe. In that start he allowed five runs and four homers in 6.1 innings.

The Twins lead the Indians by one game in the AL Central and I think there’s value backing the home underdog as I expect their bats to wake up against Bieber.

The PICK: Twins +130 and Twins +0.5 1st 5 Innings (-110)

Danny Donahue: Atlanta Braves at Miami Marlins

Julio Teheran (6-7, 3.46 ERA) vs. Caleb Smith (7-5, 3.35 ERA)

  • Braves Moneyline: -144
  • Marlins Moneyline: +134
  • Over/Under: 8
  • First pitch: TBD p.m. ET

As a .377 club, the Marlins aren’t garnering much support tonight against the first-place Braves (just 18% of bets are on the Fish at the time of writing). Especially hurting their backing is probably the fact that they’re coming off a 9-2 win last night, which the public will use as a reason to believe they’re due for a loss tonight.

But in fact, the opposite as been true historically, at least as far as bettors should be concerned. When a sub-.400 team (through at least a quarter of the season) is getting less than 20% of bets after coming off a win, that team has gone 182-232 since 2005, but has won 57.3 units for a 13.8% ROI.

That return even improves as the margin of the previous victory is increased. For example, coming off a win of 4+ runs produces a much more balanced 64-65 record — good for a 28.1% ROI.

The PICK: Marlins +134