MLB Betting Preview | Pitchers to Fade, Including Shane Bieber, Marcus Stroman & Shane McClanahan

MLB Betting Preview | Pitchers to Fade, Including Shane Bieber, Marcus Stroman & Shane McClanahan article feature image

Via Frank Jansky/Getty Images. Pictured: Cleveland Guardians starting pitcher Shane Bieber (57) delivers pitch to the plate during the first inning of the Major League Baseball game between the Houston Astros and Cleveland Guardians on June 11, 2023, at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH.

The daily grind of MLB betting can be grueling, but one way to gain an edge is by 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.

Here are four pitchers I'm looking to fade at some capacity for this upcoming week:

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Marcus Stroman, Chicago Cubs

Projected Start: Thursday vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (Johan Oviedo)

Take a look at Marcus Stroman’s baseline numbers and you see a career turnaround from the right-hander. He’s got a 2.42 ERA and has thrown five straight quality starts, including a complete-game shutout. 

However, his peripherals are concerning, and I’m expecting that to turn in the coming month. For starters, Stroman’s xERA is up at 3.74 — over a run higher than actual — and his LOB% is just shy of 80%, an unsustainable mark. 

A lot of that has to do with Stroman’s Ground Ball Rate, which has jumped back up to his 2017-18 numbers with Toronto, but he remains a below-average pitcher across the league in Strikeout Rate, xBA, BB% and Hard-hit%. 

While Stroman has shored up on some of those areas from last year, he’s pitching way above expectation. He has just a .235 BABIP, which is a drastic difference from his career average (.297). 

He matches up with Johan Oviedo, a pitcher I’m high on in Pittsburgh. His main pitch, a slider, has been dominant — with a .195 xBA, .285 xSLG and 30.4 Whiff%. If Oviedo hones his fastball — .306 xBA, .535 xSLG — his three-pitch mix with the curveball has a lot of promise. 

There are times where command can become an issue for Oviedo, but he’s limited barrels and posted a league-average Hard-hit%. 

Pittsburgh’s pen is above average while the Cubs' has fallen toward mediocrity — another plus in what should be a game where the Pirates find themselves as home underdogs or close to a PK against Stroman. 

The Cubs also struggle against right-handed pitching and are 21st in wRC+, while the Pirates are about league average at 16th. 

All signs point in the Pirates' favor as they look to remain atop the NL Central standings. 

Shane McClanahan, Tampa Bay Rays 

Projected Start: Friday vs. San Diego Padres (Ryan Weathers)

Shane McClanahan has been a mainstay atop the American League Cy Young odds board throughout the first two months of the season, but I do expect negative regression from the southpaw, who has a 2.18 ERA across 14 starts.

McClanahan has an unsustainable 90.7 LOB%. This number is up 10% from last year and nearly 15% from preseason projections across the board from THE BAT, ZIPS and Steamer, among others. 

His xERA (3.66) is nearly 1.5 runs higher than actual. Despite a decrease in ground balls and strikeouts, he’s mitigated damage throughout. In addition to his expected statistics being much higher than some of his actual numbers, McClanahan's Barrel Rate is an issue. 

It sits at 11%, a career worst, and he’s given up a home run in each of his last three starts. His command has also oftentimes been spotty, and yet, McClanahan's hard hits haven't come back to bite. 

That negative regression looming is a perfect spot for San Diego at home on Friday. The Padres will find themselves in plus-money territory behind Ryan Weathers, with an offense as a whole that I’m looking to back as the season progresses.

They've battled unlucky situations themselves with runners in scoring position, but this is a lineup finally getting situated with Fernando Tatis Jr. fully back and integrated into the lineup and with Gary Sanchez providing some much-needed power and help at the plate. 

Weathers is a league-average pitcher. His Hard-hit Rate is an impressive 31.4%, and he limits barrels. But strikeouts come few and far between, and he’s abandoned his slider for a sweeper. 

Weathers’ changeup has taken a huge step back when it comes to Stuff+, but his sweeper and fastball remain about league-average. He’ll likely have a short leash on Friday, similar to his last time out when he threw three innings of one-run ball. 

You’ll often find value fading the Rays, especially when McClanahan is on the mound. Friday is the perfect time to strike by backing San Diego’s offense to do some damage against the southpaw. 

Brandon Bielak, Houston Astros 

Projected Start: Saturday vs. Cincinnati Reds (Hunter Greene)

Tip-toeing around danger has become Brandon Bielak’s specialty since he hopped into the Houston rotation. The right-hander has boasted an unsustainable 86.9 LOB% through eight appearances this season and has become one of MLB’s luckiest pitchers. 

Bielak is no stranger to being hit hard, and his command is shaky. He ranks in the bottom 5% of all pitchers in Hard-hit%, xSLG and Barrel Rate. Opponents have a .293 xBA against Bielak, who relies on pitching to contact. He rarely generates chases or whiffs and has a Strikeout Rate that has dipped below 20%. 

Despite all the concerns, Bielak’s ERA sits at 4.01, as his high Ground Ball Rate — 46.3% — has often led to double plays. He’s given up a home run in all but one appearance and has allowed 69 base runners — 53 hits, 15 walks and one hit by pitch — in 42 2/3 innings. 

The end result? An xERA (6.38) that sits nearly 2.5 runs higher than actual. That difference is the second-largest gap among starting pitchers, exceeded only by Yonny Chirinos. 

Bielak draws a tough matchup on Saturday against a Cincinnati Reds offense that is trending up. Their lineup has plenty of speed, which could be a concern for Bielak, who relies on ground balls to help him out of jams. The Reds have grounded into the sixth-fewest double plays entering Monday.

Elly De La Cruz provides another strong bat and top-tier speed on the bases in the middle of a young Reds offense that has surprised over the last month. Hunter Greene also gets the ball for Cincinnati, and he is a pitcher who can be trusted. 

Greene is a positive regression candidate with an xERA down at 3.51. His Strikeout Rate has taken a step forward, and he’s improved his numbers across the board. A big piece of that has been his fastball generating weaker contact. 

The Reds are going to be underdogs on Saturday — potentially significant ones — and whether it’s a team total over or backing Cincinnati on the moneyline, fading Bielak’s inevitable negative regression is a smart play.

Shane Bieber, Cleveland Guardians

Projected Start: Saturday vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (Tommy Henry)

Shane Bieber was near-unhittable against the Astros on Sunday, which makes this a perfect zig-zig fade his next time out on Saturday against the Diamondbacks. 

The Astros threw out their B-team lineup in that matchup, which helped Bieber significantly. With Yordan Alvarez (oblique) sidelined, the Astros gave days off to Jose Altuve, Jeremy Pena and Martin Maldonado. The end result? Bieber’s seven innings of three-hit ball and nine strikeouts. 

But Bieber’s metrics are concerning, and it’s worth pointing out. His fastball velocity is down significantly since his 2020 Cy Young campaign, and he now sits in the low 90s. He has been hit much harder this season, too. 

His xBA? .283, up from .245 a season ago. 

And his xSLG? .446, up from .386 a season ago

Yet he’s managed to mitigate damage and post a 3.29 ERA through the first few months of the year. And he’s done it with low strikeout numbers and an increase in walks. For the first time in his career, his K% is below 24.3%. Where is it exactly? Even after the nine-strikeout outing — 17.6%!

Bieber’s xERA is up at 4.67, over a run higher than his actual ERA. He now ranks among the bottom 15% of all pitchers in Average Exit Velocity, Hard-hit Rate and xBA. While his command remains above average, it’s the only area where he’s consistent. 

Arizona’s offense isn’t to be taken lightly. The Diamondbacks are seventh in wRC+ and Isolated Power against right-handed pitching. Rookie sensation Corbin Carroll has been dominant and leads MLB in WAR. 

Tommy Henry is projected to take the mound on Saturday. Consequently, Arizona should be in plus-money territory, but a play on the over — or the DBacks team total over — might be the better route. 

Simply put, a fade of Bieber to negatively regress should be in the works. 

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