MLB Odds, Best Bets: Friday’s Top Picks, Including Guardians vs. Mariners
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Image. Pictured: Shane Bieber (Guardians)
It’s another loaded Friday night in Major League Baseball, with a handful of tightly contested matchups as contenders gear up for the stretch run.
Our analysts are on a trio of games tonight: Cubs vs. Brewers, Braves vs. Cardinals, and two different ways to approach Guardians vs. Mariners.
Here are our four best bets from tonight’s MLB slate.
MLB Odds & Picks
Cubs vs. Brewers
DJ James: Freddy Peralta has definitely straightened out an inconsistent start to his 2022 campaign. He owns a 4.08 ERA but a 3.23 xERA with favorable peripherals. However, he will be facing Justin Steele, who has been impressive in his own right witha 3.25 ERA and 3.43 xERA. This is a much closer pitching matchup than you might expect.
Yes, the Brewers are the better of these two teams. They have the better bullpen (3.55 xFIP), while the Cubs rank 28th in xFIP (4.58) in August, after giving up the key pieces at the trade deadline. That said, the Cubs are league average against right-handed pitching in August, while the Brewers rank 23rd in wRC+ at 76 against left-handers.
The Cubs will need to find a way to get to the ninth inning. Rowan Wick, Brandon Hughes and Mike Leiter, Jr. are the best relief options with sub-4.00 xFIPs. Steele has gone at least six innings in each of his last few starts, so he can go deep as needed.
This is the reason to back the Cubs. Steele will negate the issues with the Cubs’ bullpen recently by pitching into the sixth inning and handing the game to the core of the ‘pen that remains.
Braves vs. Cardinals
Brad Cunningham: I am not sure Spencer Strider is getting the proper praise for what he is doing as a rookie. In a little over 100 innings, he has a 2.50 xERA, a 13.50 K/9 rate and is allowing a .248 xwOBA.
All of those lead Major League Baseball for pitchers who have thrown at least 100 innings.
What is even crazier is he is doing all of this while throwing his fastball over 67% of the time, but man is it a good one. Strider is averaging 98.2 mph on his fastball, which has translated to opponents only having a .209 xBA against it.
He also faced the Cardinals back on July 7th, going six innings, giving up only hits and striking out 12 batters.
José Quintana is a little bit of a negative regression candidate with his ERA sitting at 3.45, but his xERA being up at 4.12. Quintana has a four-pitch arsenal of fastball, changeup, curveball and sinker. The Braves have hit the left-handed version of those four pitches pretty well: +26.6 run value, .256 xBA, .341 xwOBA.
I have Strider and the Braves projected at -176 for the first five innings, so I like the value on them at -142 (FanDuel) and would play it up to -151.
Guardians vs. Mariners
Jules Posner: Shane Bieber has been on a roll over his last five starts, posting a 1.62 ERA with a 2.01 ERA over that stretch. He’s also been stronger on the road this season and he gets to face a slumping Mariners offense that has been below league average at home against RHP over the past two weeks.
Logan Gilbert has not been on a roll over his last four starts. He’s posted a 7.97 ERA with a 5.88 FIP over that stretch and he’ll be taking on one of the better road offenses against RHP this season.
While the Guards’ offense hasn’t been as hot on the road against RHP lately (only a 99 wRC+), they should be due for positive regression considering they’ve been a top five unit this season.
The moneyline is a virtual coin flip tonight, but the Guards at -0.5 runs for the first five innings sits at +120, which is a sneaky good plus money play.
Guardians vs. Mariners
Charlie DiSturco: Nothing better than sweating out the last game of Friday’s slate, and that’s where I’m headed as Shane Bieber takes on Logan Gilbert in a battle between playoff hopefuls.
Let’s start with Bieber. Despite a velocity dip from a season ago, Bieber remains one of the top arms in the American League. Yes, his strikeout rate is below 25 for the first time since his rookie season, but his barrel rate is at a career best and expected indicators sit in the low to mid 3s, right around his 3.10 ERA.
Early on he was a fade candidate for me, but Bieber has figured it out. Though still a bit high, his hard-hit rate is the lowest since 2018 and his walk rate is an elite 5.5 percent. Bieber has been great on the road this season and carries a 1.71 ERA over 26 1/3 innings in August.
The same cannot be said for Logan Gilbert who has been trending in the opposite direction. After a hot start to the season, the right-hander has been hit to the tune of a 7.97 ERA over 20 1/3 innings in August.
It’s also notable that his ERA jumps nearly a run when pitching at T-Mobile Park.
Gilbert ranks in the bottom 5 percent of all pitchers in hard-hit rate and opponents have a .257 xBA and .421 xSLG, both in the 25th percentile. And unlike Bieber, Gilbert’s xERA sits all the way up at 4.26, over a half-run higher than his ERA of 3.52.
He’s long been due for negative regression and it’s finally hit him this past month. All this to say I love the Guardians on the ML tonight. Cleveland is a pest at the plate because they don’t strike out and they should be able to chip away at Gilbert while Bieber quietly continues his surge in August.
And let’s not forget, Cleveland has the best bullpen over the last month by a wide margin. They have a 2.69 xFIP while Seattle sits down at No. 15 (3.75).
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