MLB Expert Picks For Friday: Breaking Down 14-Game Slate, Including Pirates vs. Orioles, Blue Jays vs. Twins (August 5)
Norm Hall/Getty Images. Pictured: Tony Gonsolin.
- Cubs-Marlins got us started this afternoon, but there are 13 more MLB games tonight.
- How should you bet those games? Our analyst has you covered.
- Continue reading for a full breakdown of how B.J. Cunningham is betting Friday night's MLB slate.
We have a 14-game slate this Friday night in the dog days of August, but there are some intriguing matchups like the new-look Padres vs. Dodgers, Braves vs. Mets, Blue Jays vs. Twins, and Yankees vs. Cardinals.
Follow all of B.J. Cunningham’s bets in the Action Network app! Click here.
Marlins vs. Cubs, 2:20 p.m. ET
Edward Cabrera vs. Justin Steele
This is actually a really good pitching matchup to open up Friday’s slate. Edward Cabrera is a highly touted prospect from the Marlins that has absolutely wicked stuff.
Edward Cabrera, 95mph and 94mph Changeups. 😯
This sport is so stupid sometimes, and I love it. 😂 pic.twitter.com/Nq4CfFVFId
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 7, 2022
Controlling that wicked stuff has been the biggest problem for him this season because his BB/9 rate is over five. While his changeup is nasty, the Cubs do have a positive run value against them this season and are 12th in baseball in terms of wOBA against right handed pitching.
Justin Steele takes the mound for Chicago and he has been far and away their best starter this season, posting a 3.72 xERA and 3.88 xFIP. He allows one of the lowest hard-hit rates at 33% and one of the lowest barrel rates at 2.5%, so that has allowed opposing hitters to only have a .302 xwOBA against him.
He’s a lefty who primarily relies on a fastball/slider combination with his slider being extremely deadly, allowing only a .169 xBA and producing a 32% whiff rate.
The Marlins are quite literally the worst team in MLB against left-handed pitching in terms of both wOBA and wRC+.
I have the Cubs projected at -117 and the total at 8.4, so this one is a pass for me.
Pirates vs. Orioles, 7:05 p.m. ET
Mitch Keller vs. Dean Kremer
Dean Kremer should not be this big of favorite, really ever.
Kremer is currently sitting with a 5.41 xERA, 4.69 xFIP and is in the bottom 10% of starting pitchers in xwOBA allowed, xBA allowed, and xSLG allowed. In his 10 starts this season, only twice was his xFIP below four.
Image via FanGraphs
Mitch Keller has made improvement from the past two seasons, bringing his xFIP down to 4.01. The main reason for that is he’s improved his fastball velocity by almost 2 mph from 93.8 to 95.7. With that improved velocity it’s brought the xwOBA allowed on it down from .363 in 2021 to .299 this season.
The Orioles are one of the worst fastball hitting teams in baseball with a -20.3 run value on the season and they just traded away their best fastball hitter, Trey Mancini, who led the team with a +8.8 run value against them.
I only have the Orioles projected as -102 favorites for the full game and have the Pirates as -117 favorites for the first five innings. So I love the value on doubling up on the Pirates +136 (FanDuel) for the full game and +128 (BetRivers) for the first five innings.
Pick: Pirates First Five Innings +128 & Full Game +136
Nationals vs. Phillies, 7:05 p.m. ET
Josiah Gray vs. Kyle Gibson
Kyle Gibson has been pretty average this year, posting a 4.28 xERA. Opponents have a .244 xBA against him, and his sinker and fastball have been roughed up with both allowing an xwOBA over .350. Gibson has given up nine earned runs in his last three starts, so as bad as the Nationals lineup is now, they should be able to get to him.
Josiah Gray has been the Nationals’ best starting pitcher this season, although that is not saying much. His xERA is sitting at 4.05 (better than Gibson) and his advanced metrics are actually quite impressive.
Image via Baseball Savant
His slider and curveball are both allowing an xwOBA under .265 and he has over a 36% whiff rate on them. The Phillies without Bryce Harper have a -16.1 run value against those two pitches.
I only have the Phillies projected as -125 favorites so I think there is tremendous value on the Nationals at +175 (BetRivers) and would play it down to +145.
Pick: Nationals +175
Astros vs. Guardians, 7:10 p.m. ET
Framber Valdez vs. Hunter Gaddis
Hunter Gaddis will be making his major league debut, which I don’t think is a positive for the Guardians. He had a 3.61 xFIP in Double-A and then a 5.04 xFIP in a few starts in Triple-A this season. According to FanGraphs, he’s the Guardians’ No. 37 prospect.
This is one of those games where I can’t even make a projection because Gaddis doesn’t even have any projections on FanGraphs. So with the unknown nature of this game, I have to pass.
Rays vs. Tigers, 7:10 p.m. ET
Corey Kluber vs. Bryan Garcia
Corey Kluber has been pretty average in Tampa this season, posting a 4.02 xERA. He has one of the lowest walk rates in baseball (3.7%), but opposing hitters have a .260 xBA against him. The good news is he’s facing one of the worst lineups in baseball. The Tigers are dead last in terms of both wOBA and wRC+ versus right-handed pitching.
Bryan Garcia will be an opener for the Tigers and then after him it’ll be a bullpen game, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing considering the Tigers are pretty average, sitting 16th in xFIP.
The Rays are a tad overpriced in my opinion, but with the uncertainty of how the Tigers are going to utilize their bullpen and how bad their offense is versus right-handed pitching, this is a pass for me.
Braves vs. Mets, 7:10 p.m. ET
Ian Anderson vs. Taijuan Walker
Should the Braves really be underdogs tonight? I am not so sure.
Ian Anderson has been OK for the Braves, posting a 4.28, which isn’t that much higher than Taijuan Walker, who is sitting at 3.99. Anderson doesn’t have a great matchup against the Mets since he heavily relies on a fastball and changeup, which the Mets have a +40.8 run value against this season. However, I am not so sure Walker has a great matchup either.
Walker is heavily reliant on a fastball/splitter combination and the Braves have a +49.6 run value against those two pitches (they’re the best fastball hitting team in baseball).
The bullpen matchup is also pretty even. The Braves and Mets are essentially even on xFIP (3.65 for ATL vs. 3.58 for NYM) and the Braves have a better BB/9 & HR/9 rate than the Mets.
Pick: Braves +130
White Sox vs. Rangers, 8:05 p.m. ET
Dylan Cease vs. Glenn Otto
This line is too short for the discrepancy in the starting pitching matchup.
Dylan Cease has been one of the best starting pitchers in MLB this season. His 2.68 xERA is the third-best mark among qualified starting pitchers with only Shane McClanahan and Shohei Ohtani being better. As you can see, he’s been pretty dominant.
Image via Baseball Savant
His slider may be one of the best pitches in baseball right now. It’s allowing a .133 xBA and is producing a 47.2% whiff rate.
Dylan Cease, Wicked 88mph Slider. 🤢 pic.twitter.com/bqbWzsIPsz
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 24, 2022
The Rangers have a combined -29.6 run value against fastballs and sliders (which are Cease’s two main pitches). So, this is a terrible matchup for them tonight.
Glenn Otto has been really really bad this season. Through 15 starts he has a 5.63 xERA, 5.02 xFIP, and a staggeringly high 4.75 BB/9 rate. He’s allowing a hard hit rate over 40% and one of the highest xwOBA’s at .363. Even though the White Sox haven’t been great versus right-handed pitching, they should be able to get to Otto.
I have the White Sox projected at -193 for the full game and -302 for the first five innings. So, there is value in laying the big number for Chicago at -185 for the first five innings (DraftKings).
Pick: White Sox First Five Innings -185
Blue Jays vs. Twins, 8:10 p.m. ET
Jose Berrios vs. Tyler Mahle
Jose Berrios returns home to face his former team on Friday night while Tyler Mahle makes his Twins debut.
Berrios has actually been quite awful in Toronto this season, as his xERA is up to 5.17, which is the fourth-worst mark among qualified starting pitchers. His main problem is not only the fact that his HR/9 rate is up at 1.74, but that he’s allowing a 44.7% hard hit rate.
Berrios’ curveball has actually been pretty effective, allowing a .259 xwOBA, but his fastball and sinker have been an utter disaster. Both pitches are allowing an xwOBA over .370 and opposing hitters have over a .300 xBA against both pitches as well. The Twins have a +25.5 run value against those two pitches so this isn’t a great matchup against his former team.
Tyler Mahle was pretty good for the Reds over the first half of the season. He was their best starting pitcher alongside Luis Castillo and is due for some positive regression. His actual ERA is sitting at 4.40, but his xERA is 3.20.
Tyler Mahle, 3 Consecutive Ks. pic.twitter.com/z0KFJbK4Kl
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 13, 2022
Mahle is only allowing a .206 xBA and .281 xwOBA against him this season, so why is he an underdog to Berrios?
I have the Twins projected as -120 favorites for the full game and -144 for the first five innings. So, I think there is tremendous value on Mahle in his debut at +112 (FanDuel) for the full game and for the first five innings at +105 (BetMGM).
Pick: Twins First Five Innings (+105) & Full Game (+110)
Josh Winckowski vs. Zack Greinke
This one has runs written all over it.
Josh Winckowski has been pretty bad for the Red Sox in their rotation with a xERA ar 4.52 and an xFIP at 4.59. He advanced metrics compared to the rest of MLB starting pitchers.
Image via Baseball Savant
Zack Greinke is really showing his age, posting a 5.52 xERA with opposing hitters having a .296 xBA against him. The Red Sox did get reinforcements at the deadline and Rafael Devers is back from injury. So, they shouldn’t have any issues tagging Greinke.
Both of these bullpens are also in the bottom 10 in terms of xFIP.
I have 10.1 runs projected for this game, so I like the value on Over 9 runs at -110 (DraftKings) or better.
Pick: Over 9 runs (-110)
Reds vs. Brewers, 8:10 p.m. ET
Robert Dugger vs. Eric Lauer
Robert Duggar has been bouncing around in the minors for a long time and has only made a few brief appearances in the majors. In 82 2/3 innings in the big leagues he has a 6.97 ERA and 5.63 xFIP with a 1.74 HR/9 rate and .299 batting average against him. That’s bad.
The Reds have traded away Tommy Pham and Brandon Drury, which will have an effect on their offense. They’re pretty average against left-handed pitching (.314 wOBA & 100 wRC+) on the season, but their first- and third-best hitters in terms of wOBA that has at least 100 plate appearances against lefties was Pham and Drury. So, even though Eric Lauer has been very average this season, it’s a bad matchup for the Reds.
However, I am not laying the high price on the Brewers, as I have them projected at -188 with a total of 10.1. So this one is a pass for me.
Yankees vs. Cardinals, 8:15 p.m. ET
Nestor Cortes vs. Dakota Hudson
The total is a tad too high for me here in St. Louis.
Nestor Cortes has been incredible in the Yankees rotation, putting up a 2.89 xERA with opposing hitters only having a .264 xwOBA against him. Yes, the Cardinals are a top-five team against left-handed pitching, but Cortes is heavily reliant on a fastball/cutter combination and if you remove Paul Goldschmidt from the equation, St. Louis only has a +0.1 run value against the left-handed version of those two pitches.
Dakota Hudson definitely has some blow-up potential here. He has one of the highest xERAs at 5.48 and xBA against him at .286. He has a four-pitch arsenal of sinker, slider, fastball and curveball, which the Yankees have a +49.2 run value against this season.
Not to mention the Yankees have a far superior bullpen than the Cardinals in almost every single category, including xFIP (3.65 for NYY vs. 4.01 for STL).
I have the Yankees projected at -164 for the full game and -211 for the first five innings, so I think there is tremendous value on them at -155 for the First Five Innings (DraftKings)
Pick: Yankees First Five Innings -155
Rockies vs. Diamondbacks, 9:40 p.m. ET
German Marquez vs. Madison Bumgarner
The total is a tad too low for me with these two starting pitchers on the mound.
Marquez and Bumgarner both have an xERA over 4.70, opposing hitters have over .265 xBA against them, and both are allowing a hard hit rate over 43%.
Colorado has a .333 wOBA against left-handed pitching and a +13.7 run value against fastballs and cutters, which are Bumgarner’s top two pitches. The Diamondbacks have faced Marquez twice this season tagging him for nine hits and five earned runs in 13 innings.
These two bullpens are also two of the worst in baseball, as they both rank in the bottom five in terms of xFIP. So, this game has the potential to get out of hand.
I have 9.47 runs projected for this game, so I like the value on Over 8.5 runs at +100 (DraftKings) and would play it to -115.
Pick: Over 8.5 runs (+100)
Padres vs. Dodgers, 10:10 p.m. ET
Sean Manaea vs. Tony Gonsolin
The premier matchup of the night with a pretty good pitching matchup,
Sean Manaea, though, should be a pretty substantial underdog against Tony Gonsolin. Manaea has a 3.99 xERA, while Gonsolin is sitting at 3.05. You can make the arguments that the Padres drastically improved offensively adding Soto and Bell. But the rest of their lineup was 14th in terms of wOBA against right-handed pitching.
Additionally, the Dodgers are fourth in MLB in terms of wRC+ against left-handed pitching. Not to mention Manaea utilizes his sinker over 62% of the time, which is a pitch the Dodgers have a +19.2 run value against.
I have the Dodgers projected at -132, so this one is a pass for me.
Angels vs. Mariners, 10:10 p.m. ET
Patrick Sandoval vs. Robbie Ray
This is a pretty good starting pitching matchup, but the total is quite low.
Patrick Sandoval is a negative regression candidate, as his actual ERA is 3.61, but his xERA is at 4.49. His BB/9 is quite high at 4.12, which has really been his downfall this season because the rest of his metrics are around the MLB average.
The Mariners are eighth in MLB in terms of wRC+ against left-handed pitching. So they should be able to have some success against Sandoval.
Robbie Ray has been good, but nowhere near his Cy Young season in 2021. His xFIP is at 3.57, his BB/9 rate is at 3.08, and also has a HR/9 rate at 1.54. Opposing hitters have an 8.2% barrel rate and 90 mph exit velocity against him. So when he’s getting hit, he’s getting hit hard.
I have 7.6 runs projected for this game, so I think there is a little bit of value on Over 7 runs at -102 (FanDuel).
Pick: Over 7 runs (-102)
Follow all of B.J. Cunningham’s bets in the Action Network app! Click here.