MLB Expert Predictions & Picks for Friday’s Slate

MLB Expert Predictions & Picks for Friday’s Slate article feature image

Getty Images. Pictured: Rafael Devers, Liover Peguero.

Welcome to Opening Pitch, my column that you'll find daily throughout the 2023 MLB season.

My goal for Opening Pitch is to highlight my top daily projection edges for MLB moneylines and totals, share my favorite bets and provide some betting notes and analysis, mainly as I react to opening and overnight lines while using my baseball betting model.

I will look to release a new version of Opening Pitch daily between midnight and 3 a.m. ET; after I enter my overnight bets in the Action Network App and update the MLB projections. Hopefully, you will use it as your morning betting guide to get ahead of the baseball markets.

You can find my projections for every MLB game in the Action App (on both the PRO Projections tab and the game pages) and our Projections Hub (which you can bookmark).

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Expert Picks for Friday, July 28th

Philadelphia Phillies vs. Pittsburgh Pirates

Zack Wheeler vs. Mitch Keller
First Pitch: 7:05 p.m. ET

With less than a week to go until the trading deadline, the Pirates — who started 20-9 through the end of April but have played at a 55-win pace since (25-48) — have started dealing off pieces, trading Carlos Santana to the Brewers in return for an 18-year-old prospect.

And they are seemingly shopping both of their All-Star pitchers — closer David Bednar and Friday starter Mitch Keller, who both have multiple years of team control remaining.

Keller has struggled in July (7.04 ERA, 5.19 xFIP, 9.3% K-BB% or strikeout minus walk rate), but his Stuff+ over the past month (104) hasn't dipped significantly compared to his season-long numbers (107), and his velocity has held steady. However, Keller's command has slipped dramatically (Location+ down from 105 to 98).

While I have downgraded Keller slightly compared to where I had him just a few starts ago, his season-long metrics (18.6% K-BB%, 3.72 xERA or expected ERA, 104 Pitching+) remain at career-best marks. The pitch modeling metrics suggest that he'll return to form with improved command, something which has never been a significant issue throughout his career.

Zack Wheeler (22.4% K-BB%, 3.29 xERA, 112 Pitching+) ranks second in pitching modeling metrics among the 59 qualified starters (Keller is 16th). If I lower the threshold to 40 innings, the pair rank third and 28th, respectively, among 161 qualified starters.

Philadelphia also has advantages offensively (18th vs. 25th in wRC+ vs. righties) and in the bullpen (7th vs. 21st in reliever xFIP). The Pirates' one advantage is defense; Pittsburgh ranks 13th with +13 Defensive Runs Saved ("DRS"), while the Phillies are 24th, at -15. However, Philadelphia can take some of that ground back on the base paths (7th vs. 17th in baserunning value).

Ultimately, I project the Pirates as 45% underdogs (+122 implied odds) at home in this matchup; bet their moneyline at +133 (43% implied) or better.

Boston Red Sox vs. San Francisco Giants

Kutter Crawford vs. Logan Webb
First Pitch: 10:15 p.m. ET

Kutter Crawford has become a regular model selection this season. The righty has excellent pitch modeling numbers (106 Stuff+, 102 Location+, 105 Pitching+), on par with his opponent, Logan Webb (102 Stuff+, 103 Location+, 101 Pitching+), and the pair have comparable xERA figures (3.54 for Webb, 3.75 for Crawford).

Among that same group of 161 starters (min. 40 innings pitched) I mentioned earlier, Crawford ranks 38th and Webb 66th in Pitching+.

Pitching models like Webb's sinker (110 Stuff+) and changeup (105), but his changeup is the only pitch in his arsenal that has netted a positive pitch value this season. Both Webb's sinker and slider netted a positive return from 2020-2022 but have been slightly below-average offerings (in terms of results) this season.

The same models like Crawford's four-seamer (116 Stuff+), cutter (106) and slider (105). All three have netted a positive pitch value this season, while his curveball and changeup (combined 22% usage rate) have been below average.

Kutter Crawford, Nasty Cutter. ✂️

Nominative determinism

— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 21, 2023

Both offenses are above-average against right-handed pitching (Boston 10th, San Francisco 13th in wrC+ vs. righties). However, both clubs rank in the bottom eight in DRS.

The Giants have a clear bullpen advantage (3rd vs. 18th in reliever xFIP) — which could prove the difference. Still, given the projected similarities between the two starters, I projected the Red Sox at +108 for the first five innings (F5) and +114 for the full game. Bet Boston in both halves, to +117 (F5) and +124 (full game).

Zerillo's Bets for Friday, July 28th

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  • Boston Red Sox F5 (+135, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to +117)
  • Boston Red Sox (+135, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +124)
  • Chicago Cubs / St. Louis Cardinals, Under 9.5 (-115, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to -112 or 9, -104)
  • Detroit Tigers F5 (+130, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +130)
  • Detroit Tigers (+140, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +133)
  • Detroit Tigers / Miami Marlins, Over 7 (-120, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -122 or 7.5, -104)
  • Los Angeles Angels (+190, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to +185)
  • Milwaukee Brewers / Atlanta Braves, Under 10 (-115, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to -115)
  • Minnesota Twins / Kansas City Royals, Over 8 (-120, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to 9, -101)
  • New York Yankees / Baltimore Orioles, Over 7.5 (-115, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to -120 or 8, -102)
  • Oakland Athletics F5 (+100, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to -110)
  • Oakland Athletics (+115, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +104)
  • Parlay (+121, 0.5u) at FanDuel: Los Angeles Dodgers F5 (-245) & San Diego Padres F5 (-174) (parlay to -255 and -190)
  • Pittsburgh Pirates (+145, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +133)
  • Pittsbrugh Pirates F5 (+145, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +145)
  • Seattle Mariners / Arizona Diamondbacks, Under 9.5 (-120, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to -122 or 9, -101)
  • Texas Rangers / San Diego Padres, Under 8.5 (-106, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to -115)
  • Washington Nationals / New York Mets, Over 8 (-110, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to -118)

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