MLB Betting Preview | Pitchers to Buy, Fade This Week, Including Hunter Greene, George Kirby
Getty Images. Pictured: Hunter Greene, Logan Gilbert, Rich Hill.
The daily grind of betting Major League Baseball can be grueling, but one of the ways you can attempt to gain an edge is looking ahead at pitching matchups worth targeting.
As you know, a starting pitching matchup is the most integral part of assessing a game from a value standpoint. While most sportsbooks don’t post lines until approximately a day in advance once starting pitching matchups are confirmed, if you’re on top of the ball, you can jump on pitchers with value before the markets adjust post-opening and create positive ROI.
Thus, each week here at Action Network’ I’ll be analyzing the projected pitching matchups across the league and looking at spots I’ll be targeting. Keep in mind, in most cases these matchups are only projected, so keep that in mind as you’re perusing the odds board on a given day.
Here are five pitchers I’m either going to be looking to buy or sell this week based on their projected matchups.
Pitchers I’m Buying
Hunter Greene, Reds
Projected Start: Monday vs. Colorado Rockies (Connor Seabold)
I was extremely high on Hunter Greene entering the season. He was one of the best pitchers in baseball over the last month of the 2022 season — 29 IP, 2R, 45 Ks in his final five starts — and that same dominance has shown in spurts to begin 2023.
Greene’s stuff is as good as anyone’s. He can hit triple-digits with his heater and the slider (.173 xBA) remains one of the most effective pitches in baseball. He has a near 30% strikeout rate, too.
The issue has been an occasional loss of command or grooving a fastball that’s turned on and sent to the second deck. His hard-hit% remains in the 40s and his xSLG sits just shy of .400.
Greene has been a subject of some poor luck, too. His BABIP is an unsustainable .373 and should positively regress for the right-hander. The Bat and ZIPS had Greene’s projected BABIP closer to the .300 mark.
It seems like every start Greene looks unhittable for a few innings before one or two slip-ups. I expect him to shore up those little mistakes and churn out much better outings to end May. That starts on Monday against Colorado.
The Rockies will throw out Connor Seabold, who has been solid as a fill-in reliever and recent-starter. His glaring issue is a 15.9 K%, rarely generating chases out of the zone. He relies heavily on a fastball-slider combo, like Greene, but sits in the low 90s on average.
Expected metrics are all over the place for Seabold, who has an xERA of 4.13 — below his actual ERA — but an xFIP of 5.20. He does have an 80.2 LOB%, which should regress negatively. For reference, his preseason projections sat around the mid 60s.
Neither offense is particularly overpowering, and there’s not a huge edge regarding bullpens either. Coors Field is an interesting location for a fly ball pitcher (Greene) against a pitch-to-contact starter (Seabold), but I give the edge to Greene here.
I make the Reds a heavier favorite than the opening line of -115 — it jumped 10 cents immediately — and would back them to -135. You can also target the F5 here. The starting pitching edge here is substantial and given how high I am for Greene to correct himself over the next few starts, this is a cheap discount on the fire-throwing righty.
George Kirby, Mariners
Projected Starts: Monday vs. Boston Red Sox (Tanner Houck); Sunday vs. Atlanta Braves (Charlie Morton)
We get two starts from George Kirby this week. I was on him before the season as a darkhorse to win the Cy Young and the right-hander has been excellent to begin 2023. He enters Monday’s matchup against the Red Sox with six straight quality starts, including seven shutout against Texas.
His barrel rate has dipped below 4% and he’s walked just three batters this season (0.6 BB/9). Expected metrics sit right around his actual ERA (2.62) and his hard-hit rate has dropped 7.5 percent from his rookie season.
Kirby has thrown his sinker a lot more this season and he’s axed the cutter from his arsenal. The right-hander thrives on excellent command and while he isn’t overpowering, pinpoint accuracy has consistently induced soft contact.
I am most interested in backing Kirby against Charlie Morton and the Atlanta Braves on Sunday. He’ll end up in the plus money territory and is more than a live underdog. Morton has concerns himself, with a career-worst 4.79 xERA and .442 xSLG.
As for Monday against Boston, I do think the Mariners (-110) are a bit cheap, but am high on Tanner Houck. At plus money, Seattle was worth a look but the line has since jumped. A different route would be Red Sox TT under 4.5, as Kirby leads into a dominant backend Mariners bullpen.
Pitchers I’m Fading
Yonny Chirinos, Rays
Projected Start: Tuesday vs. New York Mets (Justin Verlander)
Public perception drives a lot here, and the New York Mets’ struggles have been one of the most-discussed topics of recent weeks. Their starting pitching has been abysmal — and that’s being nice — while the offense has gone through a lull of its own.
But this is still a playoff roster and there’s going to be plenty of opportunities to back the Mets as their schedule takes a turn for the worse over the next two months. I think Tuesday is a great time for that.
Tampa Bay makes the quick road trip from the Bronx to Queens in an interleague bout with the Mets. The Rays’ pitching depth has been tested early, too, with long-term injuries to both Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen. Tyler Glasnow is rehabbing back, but there’s no clear answer on his return.
That leaves manager Kevin Cash extremely shorthanded. Enter 29-year-old Yonny Chirinos, now in his fifth year with the Rays. Chirinos has a 2.22 ERA in six appearances this season, but I expect negative regression to strike hard for the right-hander.
For starters, Chirinos has a -1 K-BB%. Yes, your eyes haven’t deceived you. He legitimately has a higher walk rate than strikeout rate. His xERA (4.63) is over two runs higher than actual and his barrel rate (8.0%) and xBA (.266) remain a concern. His xFIP? Over three runs higher at 5.60.
Inducing soft contact is critical when you can’t generate chases or swings and misses. Chirinos does not do that. A lot of that has been a byproduct of good defense and luck. Chirinos’ BABIP is an unsustainable .187 — he’s projected anywhere from .272 to .297 depending on the outlet — and he’s yet to give up a home run.
All this to say that Chirinos’ strong start to the season is nothing more than a mirage.
Because of Tampa’s early-season success and the Mets’ lack thereof, we should get New York at a discount in this matchup. I’m hoping this line opens around that (-120) number, but would back them to (-140).
This is a perfect spot for the offense to get going in front of their home crowd on Tuesday night. Fade Chirinos.
Rich Hill, Pirates
Projected Start: Wednesday vs. Detroit Tigers (Eduardo Rodriguez)
The Pittsburgh Pirates have begun falling down to Earth and one of the pitchers I’ll continue to fade is 43-year-old Rich Hill. He makes his next start in Detroit and has been incredibly fortunate not to have been hit harder through eight starts.
Hill ranks in the bottom 10% in xBA (.305), xSLG (.552) and barrel% (13.7). He can’t overpower the opposition either, with his strikeout rate now sitting at a career low 19.9%.
It makes sense considering the southpaw is 43. Year over year he has begun to struggle more and more, but this season has managed a 4.36 ERA despite expected indicators sitting over two runs higher (6.55 xERA) and career-lows across the board.
In his career, Hill’s previous low of xBA was .257. xSLG? .446. Barrel%? 9.3!
The concerns are real for Dick Mountain who is generating swings and misses like he used to and has seen a decrease in velocity across the board. Aside from his sweeper (.166 xBA, 11.2%), none of his core four pitches have been effective.
As for the Tigers, their offense has actually been decent against left-handed pitching. Righties are a different story, but Detroit is 15th in ISO and 21st in wRC+ (97). Javier Baez has been swinging a hot bet and Eric Haase — who normally sees LHP well — is hitting over .300 in May.
This is yet another great opportunity to back Eduardo Rodriguez and Detroit. Rodriguez has been incredible this season and all metrics point toward the left-hander sustaining success. His xBA (.212), xSLG (.325) and xERA (2.59) are all career bests. His strikeout numbers are back to his career norms and he’s shored up on command, too.
Since April 18, Rodriguez has given up just one run in 35 2/3 innings. That includes shutouts over the Guardians (twice), Mets and Orioles.
The inevitable fall to mediocrity has struck the Pirates offense as they are dead last in wRC+ over the last two weeks. They’re striking out on nearly 30% of at-bats and are hitting .177 as a team.
If you aren’t keen on backing Rodriguez over Hill — he should be a relatively-large favorite — look toward Tigers props against Hill. But I love this spot for Detroit if they open in that (-130) range. Even a bit higher would be OK by me.
While Baez is 4-for-17 against the southpaw, he does have a double, triple and home run. The aforementioned Haase is another solid option. He slashed .281/.331/.447 with XBH on over a third of hits against left-handed pitching.
Bryce Elder, Braves
Projected Start: Friday vs. Seattle Mariners (Bryce Miller)
Bryce Elder is the luckiest starting pitcher in baseball by advanced metrics. He has a sub-2.00 ERA and has given up 4+ runs just once in eight starts. It’s been a much-needed help amid a Braves injury-filled rotation. But that’ll soon end.
Elder has the league’s biggest differential between actual ERA to expected (2.63 runs). He ranks in the bottom 11% of all pitchers in hard-hit% (48.5) and is below-average in every metric aside from walk rate, which he’s in the 59th percentile.
Despite the concerns, Elder has an 86.6 LOB%, about 13-14% higher than preseason projections. The right-hander is not an overpowering pitcher either. His fastball and sinker top out in the low 90s and both have been crushed. His only saving grace has been the slider (.116 BA), which he throws 37.4% of the time.
I’m not keen on the right-hander finding sustained success as he pushes on through the season. His xBA (.267) is way higher than actual (.222) and Elder’s benefitted from timely outs and good defense.
Elder is not Houdini. He’s been crushed on nearly half of all balls put in play yet his ERA sits under 2. That’s an unsustainable mark and every expected metrics back the point up. It’s only a matter of time before Elder fails to make it five innings.
His next start comes Friday against Bryce Miller, who has been phenomenal in his first three big league starts. The Mariners should be available at plus money, but if you don’t trust them to close the door, look toward Elder’s under on outs or TT over.
Other props I’d consider: Jarred Kelenic o1.5 TBs (142 wRC+ vs. RHP) and Cal Raleigh o1.5 TBs (.196 ISO, XBH 43.5% of hits vs. RHP).
How would you rate this article?
This site contains commercial content. We may be compensated for the links provided on this page. The content on this page is for informational purposes only. Action Network makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of the information given or the outcome of any game or event.