MLB Picks Today | Odds, Expert Projections for Friday, June 23
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 also shop for the best lines on our odds page.
Expert Picks for Thursday, June 22
Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Washington Nationals
Tommy Henry vs. Jake Irvin
First Pitch: 1:05 p.m. ET
Nationals Park should have decent pitching weather on Thursday afternoon; 69 degrees at first pitch, with seven mph winds blowing in from center field.
While I'm not exceptionally high on either starting pitcher – Tommy Henry (4.50 xERA) or Jake Irvin (5.39 xERA) – and both teams are in their superior offensive split – I still set this total at 9.17.
Bet Under 10 to -122 or play an Under 9.5 to -103. And consider adding an F5 Under 5.5 (at -120 or better), compared to my projected line (4.97).
And keep a close eye on the Nationals' moneyline, too; it's worth a poke above +137.
Atlanta Braves vs. Philadelphia Phillies
Bryce Elder vs. Aaron Nola
First Pitch: 1:05 p.m. ET
Aaron Nola has been much more effective the first time through the order (32% K%, 4.5% BB%) than the second or third time facing the same lineup in the same game (combined 19.9% K%, 7.4% BB%).
Both last season and across his career, Nola only experienced a 5% dip in strikeout rate when comparing those same splits, and his walk rate has primarily stayed stagnant no matter how many times he turns over the opposing lineup.
Due to that mid-game dip, Nola's K-BB% has fallen to 18.1% — its lowest mark since 2019 (17.5%). And his xERA (3.65) is also at its highest point since the 2019 campaign (4.23). Nola entered ace territory last season (2.74 xERA), but he's regressed somewhere among the number twos and threes this season.
I think the market has him adequately valued. However, I'm afraid I have to disagree with the assessment concerning the Braves' starting pitchers.
Before Wednesday's postponement, Nola was roughly a -130 favorite (56.5% implied) against A.J. Smith Shawver. The market put him as low as +110 (47.6% implied) – a nine percent decrease – against Bryce Elder (3.92 xERA). Still, I don't see a substantial difference on paper between Elder and Smith-Shawver; and I think the line has over-adjusted after the pitching change.
Bet the Phillies to -108 (projected -117) and bet Under 9 to -115 (projected 8.34) with cool temperatures (66 degrees at first pitch) and 12 mph gusts blowing in from right-center field.
Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Miami Marlins
Mitch Keller vs. Braxton Garrett
First Pitch: 6:40 p.m. ET
Mitch Keller has hit a rough patch in his past four outings (6.14 ERA, 14.5% K-BB%, 4.05 xFIP), especially compared to his first ten starts of the season (2.44 ERA, 25.1% K-BB%, 2.97 xFIP) but in the aggregate, I still view Keller (3.45 xERA) as a superior pitcher to Braxton Garrett (4.53 xERA); who has excelled over his past five starts (21 2/3 IP, 15 H, 3 BB, 30 K, 1.66 xFIP).
Garrett – a former No. 7 overall pick – has flashed some dominant stretches at the MLB level (3.58 ERA, 4.05 xFIP in 2022). Still, pitching models (87 Stuff+) don't see much upside in his arsenal (no above-average pitch by Stuff+). Garrett needs sharp command (104 Location+) to thrive.
— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) June 17, 2023
The Pirates likely have the better offensive splits in this matchup, ranking 12th against southpaw pitching (107 wRC+) compared to 22nd against righties (90 wRC+). At the same time, the Marlins rank 7th against lefties and 21st against righties.
I made the Pirates slight F5 (first five innings) favorites (projected -106). Bet Keller in the first half (F5), down to +102.
Kansas City Royals vs. Tampa Bay Rays
Jose Cuas vs. Shane McClanahan
First Pitch: 6:40 p.m. ET
Even with AL Cy Young favorite Shane McClanahan (3.63 xERA) on the bump, going against one of the league's worst offenses, I couldn't set Thursday's total at the Trop below 7.8; bet Over 7.5 to -102.
The Royals offense has performed slightly better against lefties (90 wRC+, 26th) than righties (79 wRC+, 30th). Still, for the sake of our total, we'll hope for a complete implosion for Jose Cuas (5.28 xERA) and the Royals' bullpen.
Cuas will open at the head of a committee, which will likely involve Carlos Hernandez, Jackson Kowar, and other fringe MLB-level arms. And with a four-game set queued up with the Rays this weekend, the Royals have no reason to use their best arms beyond close/late situations.
Early scoring here could devolve into a one-sided blowout with lesser pitchers taking mop-up duty.
Seattle Mariners vs. New York Yankees
Bryan Woo vs. Domingo German
First Pitch: 7:05 p.m. ET
In a limited MLB sample, Bryan Woo seems like a potential pitch-data darling, posting above-average command (104 Location+) of multiple above-average offerings (135 Stuff+ Curveball, 113 Stuff+ Sinker, 108 Stuff+ Slider).
Through three starts, Woo has a staggering 34% K-BB%, and both his xERA (2.60) and Model ERA (3.2) think he has been extremely unlucky to post an actual ERA north of seven (7.30).
Wooing the crowd 💘
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) June 17, 2023
Domingo German (4.56 xERA) is having one of the worst seasons of his career. Still, the Mariners' offense seems like an ideal matchup for the Curveball-heavy righty; Seattle ranks 30th against curveballs on a per-pitch basis this season.
As I mentioned before Wednesday's matchup, the Mariners essentially have a bullpen and lineup advantage over the current iteration of the Yankees, with Aaron Judge on the IL.
Bet the Mariners to -103 (F5) and +109 (full game). There's also good weather to back an Under, but the total moved out of range before I was able to lock in a wager (I wanted Under 8 to -112).
Zerillo's Bets for Thursday, June 22
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- Arizona Diamondbacks / Washington Nationals, Under 10 (-115, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to -122 or 9.5, -103)
- Kansas City Royals / Tampa Bay Rays, Over 7.5 (+100, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to -102)
- Philadelphia Phillies (+106, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -108)
- Philadelphia Phillies / Atlanta Braves, Under 9 (-115, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to -115)
- Pittsburgh Pirates F5 (+104, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to +102)
- Seattle Mariners F5 (+100, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -103)
- Seattle Mariners (+110, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +109)