MLB Expert Picks Today | Odds, Predictions for Thursday, July 20

MLB Expert Picks Today | Odds, Predictions for Thursday, July 20 article feature image

Getty Images. Pictured: Joey Votto, Blake Snell, Edouard Julien.

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).

You can also shop for the best lines on our odds page.

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Expert Picks for Thursday, July 20

Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Atlanta Braves

Zac Gallen vs. Spencer Strider
First Pitch: 12:20 p.m. ET

Gallen and Strider are essentially co-favorites atop the NL Cy Young leaderboard; Gallen has the lead in WAR (3.7 to 3.2) and the better ERA (3.14 to 3.66), but Strider has the superior underlying metrics (3.05 vs. 3.66 xERA or expected ERA, 31.5% vs. 21.1% K-BB% or strikeout minus walk rate) and has a commanding lead toward the strikeout leader crown.

The true talent level between the two pitchers is potentially even broader than the betting market suggests. Strider leads all qualified starters this season with a 126 Stuff+ rating and a 114+ Pitching+ figure. Gallen ranks third (107 Pitching+, 106 Stuff+), but the expected difference between their pitch modeling numbers is worth about an entire run on a projected ERA (2.97 vs. 3.86), where their differential in xERA is closer to two-thirds of a run.

Strider allowed five runs on eight hits in his most recent start against the White Sox. However, Strider's fastball velocity was also at its highest mark of the season — an encouraging sign for Strider's arm health as he looks to surpass his 131-inning rookie season workload.

I projected the Braves as -209 favorites for the first five innings (F5) of this enticing pitching matchup. Bet the Braves' first half (F5) moneyline up to -192.

Milwaukee Brewers vs. Philadelphia Phillies

Corbin Burnes vs. Taijuan Walker
First Pitch: 12:35 p.m. ET

Corbin Burnes turned in a 13-strikeout gem in his last outing while battling through a heat stroke on a hot afternoon in Cincinnati. He posted a 144 Stuff+ rating in that outing, an improvement over his season-long mark (119 Stuff+, 104 Pitching+) and a trend toward his Cy Young form (133 Stuff+ in 2021, 126 in 2021). Burnes' strikeout rate is down this season (5% vs. 2022 and more than 10% vs. 2021), but it has progressively moved back toward 30% and his 2022 level (2.94 ERA, 3.05 xERA) over the past six weeks.

Taijuan Walker (3.98 xERA, 93 Stuff+, 99 Pitching+) is a serviceable innings eater, but the difference in quality between these two pitchers on a game-to-game basis is substantial: about 1.1 runs on a projected season-long ERA.

I made the Brewers -111 favorites for the first half and put the full game at a coin flip; bet Milwaukee to +108 (F5) and +103 (full game).

San Francisco Giants vs. Cincinnati Reds

Alex Cobb vs. Andrew Abbott
First Pitch: 12:35 p.m. ET

Rookie southpaw Andrew Abbott (2.45 ERA, 3.58 xERA) will face Alex Cobb (2.82 ERA, 4.13 xERA) in a battle of regression candidates.

Abbott has provided a big lift for the Reds' rotation, but a .214 BABIP and a 95% strand rate are both wildly unsustainable. He has a league-average walk rate and a slightly above average strikeout rate, but a shockingly low 20% groundball rate, leading to 16 home runs allowed over 15 starts across two levels this season. Pitching models aren't high on his arsenal (87 Stuff+), but Abbott has netted a positive pitch value across all four pitch types in his limited major-league sample.

Additionally, Abbott gets a decent draw against a Giants offense that fares much better against righties (103 wRC+, 13th) than lefties (93 wRC+, 24th).

Cobb underachieved last season (3.73 ERA, 3.15 xERA) due to the Giants' shoddy defense (.336 BABIP, .300 career), and even though they continue to fail him this season (.339 BABIP), he's maintained a sub-three ERA thanks to a career-best 81.4% strand rate (72.8% career). I don't expect Cobb's ERA to fall to his expected mark of 4.13; he generates a high percentage of groundballs (54.4% career) and has limited home runs to a significant degree in the past three seasons (21 HR allowed across 63 starts and 338 2/3 innings).

Still, Cobb struggles to control the running game (career 80.4% stolen base success rate), and the Reds — who lead the league in steals — can manufacture runs in bunches without putting the ball over the fence. They have a substantial advantage in offensive splits over the first half of this contest.

I set this total at 10.38; bet Over 9.5 to -123 or Over 10 to -104.

Additionally, I see value in the Reds — as I have all series. Back Cincinnati in both halves, to -116 (F5) and -105 (full game).

San Diego Padres vs. Toronto Blue Jays

Blake Snell vs. Chris Bassitt
First Pitch: 1:07 p.m. ET

I mentioned Gallen and Strider above, but Blake Snell (2.71 ERA, 3.82 xERA, 2.3 WAR) currently ranks third on the NL Cy Young odds board amid a dominant 10-start stretch.

Since May 25, Snell has allowed four runs in 58 innings (0.62 ERA, 2.39 xFIP) while striking out 40% of all batters (29.1% K-BB%). He appears to have rediscovered the form which led to his dominant second half in 2022 (2.19 ERA, 2.73 xFIP, 27.3% K-BB%), before scuffling to begin this season (5.04 ERA, 4.73 xFIP in his first 10 starts).

Oddly, however, the dominance isn't showing up in Snell's pitch modeling indicators. He posted a 121 Stuff+ rating over the second half of last season (108 Pitching+) — equivalent to a 2.75 ERA. Over his current 10-start stretch, Snell has posted a 111 Stuff+ rating (103 Pitching+), and his fastball remains down about half a tick relative to last season.

Despite all of their potent right-handed bats, the Blue Jays are oddly better against righties (110 wRC+, 7th) than lefties (98 wRC+, 17th), and Chris Bassitt (4.51 xERA) has proven less effective outside of pitcher-friendly parks in Oakland and Queens, which might have helped to mask a potential longball issue.

I projected Snell and the Padres as -134 F5 favorites; bet the Padres' first half moneyline up to -123.

Minnesota Twins vs. Seattle Mariners

Pablo Lopez vs. George Kirby
First Pitch: 3:40 p.m. ET

Despite underwhelming results (4.24 ERA, 3.09 xERA), I'll maintain that Pablo Lopez looks better than ever this season. Lopez's new sweeper (112 Stuff+) has been his best pitch, increasing his overall Stuff+ rating from 95 to 101 year over year, leading to a career-best 30.2% strikeout rate, the fifth-highest mark among 67 qualified pitchers.

George Kirby has lesser underlying indicators (3.98 xERA, 18.2% K-BB%) but superior pitch modeling metrics (104 Stuff+, 109 Pitching+) compared to Lopez, and the lowest walk rate (2.4%) among that same group of qualified pitchers.

Offensively, I don't mind backing the Twins against right-handed pitchers (106 wRC+, 8th), especially with one of my new favorite players, Edouard Julien, emerging as a critical contributor.

Edouard Julien is scorching for the @Twins 🔥🔥

Over his past 7 games: 15-for-23 with 3 homers and 3 doubles.

— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) July 20, 2023

Back the Twins in both halves; to +103 (F5) and +108 (full game).

Zerillo's Bets for Thursday, July 20

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  • Atlanta Braves F5 (-190, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -192)
  • Baltimore Orioles / Tampa Bay Rays, Under 8.5 (-104, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -113)
  • Chicago White Sox (+140. 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +138)
  • Cincinnati Reds F5 (+100, 0.5u) at WynnBet (Bet to -116)
  • Cincinnati Reds (+105, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to -105)
  • Cincinnati Reds / San Francisco Giants, Over 9.5 (-115, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to -123 or 10, -104)
  • Houston Astros / Oakland Athletics, Under 8.5 (+105, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to -103)
  • Kansas City Royals / Detroit Tigers, Over 8.5 (-120, 0.5u) at Caesars (bet to -125 or 9, -105)
  • Kansas City Royals (+120, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +118)
  • Milwaukee Brewers F5 (+100, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to -102)
  • Milwaukee Brewers (+110, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +108)
  • Minnesota Twins F5 (+106, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to +103)
  • Minnesota Twins (+120, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +108)
  • Minnesota Twins / Seattle Mariners, Over 7 (-105, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to -105)
  • San Diego Padres F5 (-116, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -123)

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