MLB Predictions Thursday | Odds, Expert Projections Today (August 17)
Getty Images. Pictured: Alex Call, Paul Goldschmidt, Riley Greene.
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.
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Expert Picks for Thursday, August 17
Seattle Mariners vs. Kansas City Royals
George Kirby vs. Angel Zerpa
First Pitch: 2:10 p.m. ET
During his last effort — with nine shutout innings in a 1-0 extra-innings loss to the Baltimore Orioles — I received messages about whether to bet Kirby for AL Cy Young at 100-1.
His odds have halved to 50-1 before Thursday's start against the Royals, who have led the American League in virtually every offensive category since July 28 (.848 OPS as a team).
Kirby ranks third in the American League in WAR (3.6), first in WHIP (1.00) and sixth in ERA (3.11) this season, but in the latest MLB.com straw poll, he ranked around 10th, and per Tom Tango's Cy Young Predictor, Kirby currently ranks seventh among prospective AL Cy Young candidates.
If Kirby stays on schedule, he'll face the Athletics, Mets and White Sox in his next three starts, so if you're interested in sprinkling his Cy Young odds, this is probably the last call.
In terms of Thursday's matchup, however, I set the Royals as +170 underdogs. Back Kansas City at +185 or better.
Boston Red Sox vs. Washington Nationals
Chris Sale vs. Patrick Corbin
First Pitch: 4:05 p.m. ET
We spent much of the early season betting against Patrick Corbin and turning him into a weekly meme. Still, the veteran southpaw has somewhat settled in, as he did last season, with pitch modeling metrics (95 Pitching+) indicating potential closer to his actual ERA (4.85) than a 6.42 xERA (and 6.41 xERA in 2022) might indicate.
And I'm technically backing Corbin for the first time all season on Thursday.
However, this is primarily another bet on Washington's offense against a left-handed starter after watching the market successfully move against James Paxton on Tuesday.
The Nationals have the superior offensive splits in this matchup, ranking 12th against lefties (108 wRC+) compared to 25th against righties (88 wRC+). The Red Sox rank 14th against left-handed pitching.
Chris Sale (3.57 xERA) is the superior starting pitcher — and Boston has the better bullpen, too. Sale returned to their rotation last week after missing two months with a stress reaction in his shoulder blade and performed well against a Detroit offense that also hits better against lefties than righties.
Lefties have struggled to put away the Nationals' offense (18.8% strikeout rate, 3rd in MLB). They can extend counts, rack up Sale's pitch count, and look to knock him out of the game — and get into Boston's shaky bullpen — as early as possible.
Bet the Nationals to +160, compared to my projected line of +147.
New York Mets vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Jose Quintana vs. Adam Wainwright
First Pitch: 7:15 p.m. ET
Like Corbin, Adam Wainwright (7.79 xERA, 3.9% K-BB%) has been a regular fade candidate for me this season, and I'm technically backing him for the first time on Thursday.
Unlike Corbin, Waino's results are somehow getting worse; he's permitted 36 hits and 28 runs in his past five starts (18 1/3 innings) while allowing more combined home runs (6) and walks (9) than recorded strikeouts (14). In his past two starts, Wainwright has allowed more runs (15) than outs recorded (12).
Again — like Corbin — I'm not betting on Wainwright so much as I am on the Cardinals' offense (111 wRC+, 10th vs. lefties) against Jose Quintana (4.14 xERA), whose K-BB% (8.1%) is down 5% year over, and 6% below his career average.
Oddly, pitching models don't see as big of a year-over-year drop-off for Wainwright (101 Stuff+, 100 Location+, 98 Pitching+ in 2023 vs. 106/104/101 last season) as it does for Quintana (79/99/91 in 2023 vs. 86/103/98 in 2022 in St. Louis).
If Wainwright can get this game to the bullpens either tied or down a run, the Cardinals should be favored from that point with the better relievers (7th vs. 27th in xFIP) and a deeper offensive and superior defensive lineup.
I projected Quintana as a slight F5 favorite, but make the Cardinals slight full-game favorites. Bet St. Louis at +102 or better (projected -105).
Detroit Tigers vs. Cleveland Guardians
Tarik Skubal vs. Xzavion Curry
First Pitch: 7:15 p.m. ET
We're continuing the streak of betting on Tarik Skubal in each start of 2023 after he became a model regular last season.
Skubal's fastball velocity is up from 94.4 mph to 96 mph this season. He is showing improved pitch modeling levels (97 Stuff+, 108 Location+, 107 Pitching vs. 91, 101, 99 last season) and superior results (K-BB% up from 17.8% to 23.1%; xERA down from 3.34 to 2.70) after a flexor tendon tear ended his 2022 season prematurely and further delayed his 2023 campaign.
The Guardians are abysmal against left-handed pitching (78 wRC+, 29th) — a problem that has worsened since last season (84 wRC+, 27th). Projected bottom-of-the-order bats like Gabriel Arias (career -1 wRC+ vs. lefties), Brayan Rocchio (44) and Cam Gallagher (38) haven't hit lefties well at all during their varying but brief MLB samples.
And Skubal can freely challenge an offense with the lowest slugging percentage (.357) and fewest home runs (24) in either team-handedness split.
I see a significant differential between Skubal and Xzavion Curry, who has carried a 3.39 ERA against a 5.15 xERA and 5.30 xFIP, thanks to a low BABIP and a high strand rate. Pitching models like Curry a touch more (93 Stuff+, 101 Location+, 100 Pitching), putting him closer to a 4.8 ERA projection with an above-average slider.
Still, I view Skubal as a potential ace and project him as a -141 F5 favorite in one of his softer potential matchups. Bet the Tigers' F5 moneyline to -130.
Arizona Diamondbacks vs. San Diego Padres
Zac Gallen vs. Rich Hill
First Pitch: 9:40 p.m. ET
I'm still waiting for Zac Gallen to slip up and help cash our longshot Cy Young tickets on Blake Snell. While Gallen continues to churn out quality starts, the underlying indicators suggest that he's due for regression and potentially isn't a true ace (3.84 xERA, 106 Stuff+, 105 Location+, 108 Pitching+).
Gallen has consistently outperformed those indicators (career 3.13 ERA, 3.62 xFIP) and maintained both a low BABIP (.271 career) and high strand rate (77.5% career), something which great pitchers like Justin Verlander tend to do over their careers — dial things up a notch in big spots to get out of trouble.
Rich Hill (5.53 xERA, 87 Stuff+, 105 Location+, 104 Pitching+) will hope to stifle a Diamondbacks offense that has struggled in the second half (19th vs. both righties and lefties) before he turns things over to the Padres' bullpen, which should have the late-game advantage.
I projected Gallen as a slight F5 favorite, but make San Diego around -105 for the full game at home; bet the Padres to +102.
Milwaukee Brewers vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Corbin Burnes vs. Lance Lynn
First Pitch: 10:10 p.m. ET
Since arriving in southern California at the trade deadline, Lance Lynn has made noticeable pitch-mix modifications, increasing his fastball usage by as much as 20% and pulling back on all of his secondary offerings.
The tweak has led to a 97 Stuff+, 104 Location+, and 106 Pitching+ rating, compared to 94/104/101 earlier this season in Chicago.
Aside from his ridiculous home run rate (2.09 HR/9 vs. 0.99 career) and HR/FB rate (20.5% vs. 11% career), everything still appears intact under the hood for Lynn.
Burnes has seen the quality of his stuff and command — and his strikeout rate — fluctuate throughout the season.
Over his first 10 starts of this season, Burnes posted a 3.97 ERA, 4.44 xFIP, and a 12.7% K-BB%. He was nearly half the pitcher he was last season (3.05 xERA, 2.85 xFIP, 24.1% K-BB%), let alone 2021 (2.00 xERA, 2.30 xFIP, 30.4% K-BB%).
Over his 10 subsequent starts, Burnes rediscovered his best form, posting a 3.06 ERA, 3.51 xERA, and 20.8% K-BB%, but the numbers have dipped again in his past four outings (4.18 ERA, 4.19 xFIP, 10.1% K-BB%).
The quality of stuff (130 Stuff+ in that four-start span) remains intact. However, the command (10 walks in 17 2/3 innings) has slipped again.
Based on where I set my projection, I'm waiting for -135 or better to back the Dodgers.
Zerillo's Bets for Thursday, August 17
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- Detroit Tigers F5 (-118, Flat Risk 1u) at FanDuel (bet to -130)
- Kansas City Royals (+200, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to +185)
- Los Angeles Dodgers F5 (-135, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to -140)
- San Diego Padres (+106, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +102)
- St. Louis Cardinals (+108, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +102)
- Washington Nationals (+173, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +160)