MLB Odds & Expert Picks: How to Bet Thursday’s Evening Slate, Featuring Twins vs. Yankees and White Sox vs. Athletics
Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images. Pictured: Dylan Cease #84 of the Chicago White Sox.
- Thursday's MLB slate is short, but there's still plenty of value to be found.
- Sean Zerillo, using his MLB projections, breaks down his process for three night games, including White Sox vs. Athletics.
- Continue reading for a full breakdown of his bets from tonight in Major League Baseball.
Thursday features a seven-game MLB slate, including a doubleheader between the Giants and Brewers. Aside from the second game of that twin-bill, three games begin at 6:45 p.m. ET or later, which I will touch on below: Marlins vs. Phillies, Twins vs. Yankees, and White Sox vs. Athletics.
You can also shop for the best lines on our odds page.
Using my projections, where can we find actionable value on Thursday?
Miami Marlins vs. Philadelphia Phillies, 6:45 p.m. ET
Sandy Alcantara vs. Kyle Gibson (full projections here)
Alcantara is currently around -350 (77.7% implied) to win the National League Cy Young award. However, he's been relatively average since late July, posting a 4.08 ERA (3.97 FIP) over seven starts and 46 1/3 innings pitched.
While he's been slightly fortunate this season (2.36 ERA, 2.97 xERA, 3.41 xFIP, 3.53 SIERA), Sandy has an odd profile for an ace-level pitcher. His strikeout rate (22.9%) and walk rate (6.3%) rank 59th and 46th, respectively, out of 127 qualified pitchers (min. 90 innings pitched).
Instead, he generates a groundball or a popup 66.2% of the time — the fourth-highest combined rate amongst that same group of pitchers behind only Framber Valdez, Andre Pallante, and Ranger Suarez, and ahead of both Logan Webb and Alex Cobb.
He offers a relatively even four-pitch mix (roughly a 25% distribution each to his four-seam, sinker, slider, and changeup), with each pitch rating as an above-average selection on a per-pitch basis. However, he prefers the sinker-slider against righties (68.8% combined usage) and the four-seamer and changeup vs. lefties (68.1% combined usage).
He's a different pitcher depending upon the handedness of the hitter. And despite showing normalized splits for his career, Alcantara has recorded reverse splits in 2022 (.246 wOBA vs. lefties; .276 vs. righties).
He'll force the Phillies into their lesser offensive split — they rank ninth against lefties (116 wRC+) compared to 13th against righties (101 wRC+).
Unfortunately, Miami cannot score. Since losing Jazz Chisholm in late June, Miami has the worst offense in baseball by a substantial margin (67 wRC+), 11 points below any other team. They rank dead last against righties (72 wRC+) and lefties (48 wRC+) over that stretch.
Phillies starter Kyle Gibson is essentially pitching to career norms (4.48 ERA, 4.21 xERA, 4.01 xFIP, 4.15 SIERA). However, like Alcantara, he enters Thursday off one of his worst starts of the season (1 2/3 IP, 5 H, 7 R, 4 BB, 2 K).
While both bullpens rate below average, surprisingly, Miami's relievers show superior season-long metrics. However, I rate Philadelphia's bullpen as the better unit for Thursday.
And I model a fairly significant defensive advantage for Miami, reflected by both Defensive Runs Saved (Miami 16th, Philadelphia 28th) and Outs Above Average (Marlins 16th, Phillies 29th).
I projected Miami as 53% (-113 implied) favorites for the first five innings (F5) and as slight 48.6% (+106 implied) underdogs for the full game on Thursday. You can play the Miami lines down to -105 and +115, respectively, with either bet representing a two percent edge compared to my number.
Moreover, I dabbled with some F5 spread (+0.5 runs) for the Marlins, representing value up to -150.
I don't see value on the total in either half.
Minnesota Twins vs. New York Yankees, 7:05 p.m. ET
Sonny Gray vs. Nestor Cortes Jr. (full projections here)
For whatever reason, the Twins seemingly turn into a Triple-A team whenever they face the Yankees. They've been knocked out of the playoffs six times by New York since 2003, including a 2-16 record and four series sweeps in postseason play.
And that's not even the worst of it:
#MNTwins are now 39-116 (.252) vs. the Yankees since 2002.
Twins' winning percentage is .513 vs. all other teams since 2002.
All three Twins managers in that time have sub-.300 winning percentages vs. the Yankees.
Ron Gardenhire — .269
Paul Molitor — .259
Rocco Baldelli — .182
— Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman) September 8, 2022
And this Yankees' offense is far from full strength, with Anthony Rizzo and Matt Carpenter currently on the IL, Giancarlo Stanton and DJ Lemahieu active but dealing with injuries (both sat for both doubleheader games on Wednesday), and Josh Donaldson on paternity leave.
Their bats have gone cold since the start of August (85 wRC+, 24th), and the injuries could elongate this rough stretch at the plate.
Compared to earlier this season, Thursday's lineup may look relatively bleak. Regardless of their sticks, however, the Yankees are a high-quality defensive club, ranking as one of the best teams in my model, in addition to holding the top spot in Defensive Runs Saved (97); with 23 more than any other team (Dodgers, 74). For the sake of comparison, they rank fifth in Outs Above Average.
Their bullpen went cold simultaneously with their offense (4.3 xFIP, 26th since Aug. 1). Still, I presently project the Yankees relievers as the better group.
Both bullpens could be fatigued for Thursday, however. A lengthy extra-inning affair in Wednesday's Game 1 saw both clubs use their best relievers (Clay Holmes and Jhoan Duran) for multiple innings. The Twins used nine relievers across the two games. Any pitcher who appears on Thursday will be pitching for at least the third time in five days. And for Austin Davis, Trevor MeGill, and Emilio Pagan, it would be three times in four days.
New York only used six relievers across the two games. Still, Clay Holmes, Jonathan Loaisiga, and Ron Marinaccio have pitched three times in the past five days; both Wandy Peralta and Greg Weissert would enter their third game in four days with a Thursday appearance.
As a result, both bullpens should be completely exhausted.
Both teams need length from their starters, but Nestor Cortes (2.79 xERA, 3.70 xFIP, 3.53 SIERA) has performed better of late; averaging more than six innings over his past seven starts (2.55 ERA, 2.95 FIP)
Conversely, Sonny Gray (3.70 xERA, 3.78 xFIP, 3.81 SIERA) sustained a hamstring injury in his last outing and has only completed six innings in three of his eight starts since the All-Star break (2.16 ERA, 3.31 FIP).
Otherwise, the two pitchers have had relatively comparable seasons; Cortes has benefitted more from his defense (.240 BABIP) and strand rate (83.3%); both of which should regress in the future.
I projected the Yankees as roughly 56.5% favorites (-130 implied) for both halves of Thursday's contest, and I don't see value on either side of the moneyline.
I would love to bet the Over 7. However, I projected the total at 6.96, thanks to wind and weather pushing the Yankee Stadium run environment about five percent below Thursday's average.
As a result, I may prefer to wait and target a superior live price on the total (wait for Over 6.5) since most of that projection is tied to the overworked bullpens.
If the total drops to 6.5 pregame, you can play it to -118.
Chicago White Sox vs. Oakland Athletics, 9:40 p.m. ET
Dylan Cease vs. J.P. Sears (full projections here)
Cease ranks second on the American League Cy Young odds board, behind the currently sidelined Justin Verlander. And he has a chance to steal some end-of-season hardware by finishing his season with a flourish.
Chicago's righty has compiled as strong of a 2022 campaign as any pitcher. Amongst a group of 127 qualified starters (min. 90 innings pitched), Cease ranks fourth in xERA (2.62) and seventh in strikeout rate (31.4%).
Cease still struggles with command at times. His walk rate (10.2%) aligns with his career average (10.5%), but the strikeout rate essentially doubled between the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
While his strikeout minus walk rate and called strike plus whiff rate have both held steady, year over year, Cease has improved both his ERA and xERA drastically (3.91, 3.65 in 2021; 2.13, 2.62 in 2022).
He slightly modified his pitch mix this season (more sliders, fewer fastballs, and changeups), leading to a six percent increase in groundball rate and a six percent reduction in hard-hit rate allowed:
Dylan Cease, 99mph Fastball and 89mph Slider, Individual Pitches + Overlay pic.twitter.com/RekAcrAy3U
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 29, 2022
Moreover, his HR/FB rate (8.8%) stands at a career-low (12.9%), contributing to his sparkling baseball card stats.
Cease has undoubtedly been a bit fortunate too. A .256 BABIP and an 81.8% strand rate (career .285 and 76.3%, respectively) highlight the discrepancy between his actual and expected metrics.
Still, Cease projects as a true ace. And he is coming off the best start of his career (9 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 7 K), where he carried a no-hitter for 26 outs, and will face one of the worst offenses in baseball against righties (84 wrC+, 27th) on Thursday.
Conversely, the White Sox are in their superior offensive split (96 wrC+ vs. RHP, 121 wrC+ vs. LHP) against southpaw J.P. Sears.
I'm fond of Sears — and have bet on him multiple times since the trade deadline — even though his high strikeout totals in the minors haven't translated to the big leagues yet. He generates many unproductive outs with a healthy popup rate (15.5%), which is only amplified in the spacious confines of the Oakland Coliseum.
In a limited sample, Sears has been quietly effective (3.9 xERA), and I assume he'll have no issue meeting or outperforming his FIP projections (range 4.02-4.3) moving forward.
Still, I rate Cease (2.89 Model Weighted ERA) more than a run better than Sears (3.97) and given a substantial difference in both the projected offensive quality and splits (projected 131 wRC+ for Chicago vs. lefties; 94 wRC+ vs. Oakland vs. righties) between these teams, I see value in the White Sox first-five innings (F5) moneyline.
You can play Chicago's F5 moneyline up to -181 (64.4% implied) at a two percent edge compared to my projection (66.4%, -197 implied).
I don't project any value on the total for this matchup.