MLB Daily Betting Model, 5/21: Does Zach Eflin Have the Right Stuff to Beat the Cubs?
Bill Streicher, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Zach Eflin
- Sean Zerillo's MLB model helps to find edges in betting moneylines and over/unders for the full game and First 5 (F5) innings.
- He analyzes the full slate of games on May 21 with his model below, and highlights Rays-Dodgers (7:10 p.m. ET) and Phillies-Cubs (7:05 p.m. ET) as potential edges.
- Plug in your odds to the spreadsheet at the bottom of this article to see where you might have an edge.
This is a baseball column, but we need to briefly talk about an otherworldly softball performance.
Miranda Elish from the University of Texas threw every pitch (429) over four wins on Saturday and Sunday to help Texas advance out of the Austin Super Regional after losing their opening game on Friday night.
Elish blew her riseball by batters and screamed in their faces:
— Texas Softball (@TexasSoftball) May 19, 2019
And she raked at the plate too:
— NCAA Softball (@NCAAsoftball) May 20, 2019
If Texas goes on to win the National Championship, this will go down as one of the great individual performances in the history of college sports.
Recapping Yesterday’s MLB Model
At writing yesterday, the model would have gone 2-2 against full-game moneylines, and 1-1 against moneylines for the first five innings (F5).
My tracked plays went 1-1, and I was up 0.07 units for the day.
Andrew Suarez tossed a quality start for the Giants, but Mike Soroka was on a perfect game watch for Atlanta through the sixth inning.
Monday was a negative day in terms of generating Closing Line Value (CLV).
I lost 17 cents on the Minnesota moneyline (+113 to +130) and 15 cents on the San Francisco moneyline (+123 to +138).
It’s rare that I lose CLV on more than one play in a day, so perhaps I timed the market incorrectly on two underdogs in a short slate.
On Deck for Tuesday, May 21
The model recommends five full-game moneylines and three moneylines for the first five innings (F5) on Tuesday.
As of writing, the 4% trigger threshold officially marked the Cincinnati Reds, Minnesota Twins, Philadelphia Phillies, Tampa Bay Rays, and Toronto Blue Jays as the full-game plays. It also likes the Blue Jays, Reds, and Twins as F5 plays.
I don’t dislike any of these plays today, but I will narrow down the list slightly.
For one, I’ll just play the Blue Jays, Reds, and Twins in the first half instead of both the F5 and game moneylines. In my projections, all three show a higher probability of winning the first half of the game than they would over the full game: Blue Jays (+1.76%); Reds (+3.14%); Twins (+2.31%).
I have the Reds and Twins as first half favorites, and the Blue Jays as slight (48.9%) F5 underdogs.
The Angels will be a sharp side once again tonight, but I’ll continue to ride my projection with Minnesota as Michael Pineda’s swinging strike rate has trended upwards as the season has gone along.
I also took the Reds on the F5 spread (+0.5 runs) at a short price. They have a positive split against left-handed pitchers, and despite an 0-4 record Sonny Gray is having his best season since his early days in Oakland.
Gray’s fielding independent metrics suggest an ERA of between 3.25 and 3.50, and his xwOBA (.288) suggests an ERA of about 3.71. Gray has stranded just 63% of runners (career average 71.6%), likely inflating the number of runs that he has allowed.
I like the Phillies today at plus-money in what looks to be another coin-flip matchup with the Cubs after a rollicking 5-4 affair on Monday.
Phillies starter Zach Eflin, a 25-year-old 6’6″ righty with a second round draft pedigree, has sustained a 16% strikeout minus walk rate since the beginning of last season by limiting free passes (1.45 BB/9 in 2019) and getting ahead of hitters (69.6% first pitch strike rate in 2019).
Eflin’s 10% swinging strike rate is tolerable, and his pitches show above average movement. His slider, which he throws over 30% of the time, is particularly effective off of his four-seam fastball and sinker:
Zach Eflin, 92mph Sinker and 86mph Slider, Overlay. pic.twitter.com/ARrBj5bbY2
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 4, 2018
Eflin’s 2.89 ERA is due for regression, but his batted ball data since the beginning of 2018 suggests that he can pitch to an ERA of about 3.90 going forward.
Tampa Bay faces another left-handed starting pitcher today, in Clayton Kershaw. The Rays and A’s have been extremely profitable against left-handed starting pitching, and Tampa Bay is consistently underrated on bullpen days.
The Rays will be using Hunter Wood as an opener today for Jalen Beeks. Wood is electric to watch. With the hair and his mechanics, he gives off some Tim Lincecum vibes:
Hunter Wood, Mechanics (96mph Fastball/Rear view/Slow). pic.twitter.com/2e8FmxnNdy
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 12, 2018
At 6’1, 165 lbs., you have to get your entire body behind the ball in order to generate that much velocity. With that Tommy John Twist though, those mechanics could be a ticking time bomb for his elbow.
Wood will likely be followed by Jalen Beeks, who has increased his changeup usage from 18% in 2018 to 34% this season:
Not the best CH, but I love watching how Jalen Beeks hides the ball. pic.twitter.com/VZNalRCph1
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) May 15, 2019
The Rays come at you with a bevy of nasty arms. I wouldn’t doubt them on a bullpen day, and especially as a home underdog facing a lefty; even if that lefty is one of the best pitchers of all time.
I also added the Texas Rangers in the first half against the Mariners. After a hot start, the Mariners are now 23-27 and in last place in the AL West.
Tommy Milone has earned a 43:12 strikeout to walk ratio over 49.1 innings in Triple-A for Seattle this season, but he also showed excellent control in 2018 in the major leagues for the Nationals; with a 23:1 ratio over 26.1 innings – where he also allowed 37 hits and 17 runs on 7 home runs.
Milone has pitched to an xwOBA of about .360 since the start of the 2016 season, equating to an expected ERA of over 5.80. Lance Lynn is slightly above league average, with a .315 xwOBA and a 4.44 expected ERA.
I have the Rangers winning the first half 59% of the time and took them at a price that suggests a 55% probability.
Bets (So Far) for May 21
- Cincinnati Reds (+135) F5 Moneyline
- Cincinnati Reds (+0.5, -110) F5 Spread
- Minnesota Twins (+100) F5 Moneyline
- Philadelphia Phillies (+128) Game Moneyline
- Tampa Bay Rays (+128) Game Moneyline
- Texas Rangers (-125) F5 Moneyline
- Toronto Blue Jays (+145) F5 Moneyline
- Under 11.5, Seattle at Texas
Zerillo’s Full MLB Model, 5/21
Download the Excel doc with my projections to input odds from your sportsbook. These projections cover the full game and First 5 moneylines and over/unders. A sample of one of the sheets is below.