MLB Picks Today | Odds, Expert Projections for Friday, June 2
David Berding/Getty Images, Patrick Smith/Getty Images and Stacy Revere/Getty Images. Pictured (left to right): JD Davis of the San Francisco Giants, Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels and Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers.
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 Friday, June 2
Milwaukee Brewers vs. Cincinnati Reds
Corbin Burnes vs. Brandon Williamson
First Pitch: 5:10 p.m. ET
The Reds have an excuse to hold Elly De La Cruz down in the minors a bit longer, following his 0-for-5 night with five strikeouts on Wednesday, but sitting three games back in the NL Central and continuing to start Brandon Williamson (7.55 xERA or expected ERA, 91 Pitching+) seems like an equally poor decision.
Williamson posted poor numbers in the high minors (4.2% K-BB% this season in Triple-A), but scouts thought he had a decent arsenal with poor command. In a limited sample, pitching models think he has below-average stuff (89 Stuff+) alongside that erratic command.
Based on splits, the Brewers (29th vs. lefties per wRC+) are one of the softer matchups Williamson can get. Still, the Reds are also in their lesser split (23rd vs. righties), and Corbin Burnes is a significantly better pitcher.
To be clear, I am way down on Burnes this season and have bet against him regularly. His K-BB% (13.2%) is down nearly 11% compared to last season (24.1%) and closer to 17% compared to his Cy Young season in 2021 (30.4%). As a result, Burnes' xERA has climbed from 2.00 to 3.05 and now 3.79, as his Stuff+ has decreased from 133 to 126 and now 119.
Among 167 starters who have tossed at least 20 innings this season, Burnes ranks 30th in Pitching+ (104), compared to seventh last season (109) and 5th in 2021 (112).
With temperatures in the low 90s at first pitch on Friday, I set the total at 10.5; bet the Over to 10 (-108).
Additionally, back the Brewers in the first half or first five innings (F5), up to -200. Even though we're watching a lessened Burnes, there is still a significant difference between him and Williamson.
Philadelphia Phillies vs. Washington Nationals
Zack Wheeler vs. Josiah Gray
First Pitch: 7:05 p.m. ET
Both Zack Wheeler (3.33 xERA) and Josiah Gray (4.18 xERA) have pitched well this season, and I generally trust both pitchers, even though pitching models are generally skeptical of Gray (89 Stuff+, 94 Location+).
Placing a bet on the Over in this matchup isn't an indictment of either starting pitcher but rather a result of the weather (89 degrees at first pitch, 4 mph winds blowing out to left-center field), two below-average bullpens (Philadelphia 16th, Washington 28th in bullpen xFIP) and a pair of bottom five defensive units (tied for 27th in Defensive Runs Saved at -16).
I set the total at 9.24; bet Over 8.5 to -118.
Toronto Blue Jays vs. New York Mets
Chris Bassitt vs. Justin Verlander
First Pitch: 7:10 p.m. ET
Coming off of a spring training injury, Justin Verlander's Stuff+ has dropped from 118 last season to 103 this year, which explains his lowest strikeout rate (18.1%) since 2018, albeit through just five starts.
All three of his fastball, slider, and cutter ranked as above-average offerings last season; this year, only the slider remains a plus pitch. Perhaps Verlander continues to improve as he gets into the season, but he's still 40 years old, and the floor can drop out from under him at any moment.
Chris Bassitt is also showing his worst strikeout and walk rates since 2018 with a 4% dip in K-BB% compared to last season and a 7% decline over two years. Bassitt's fastball velocity is down a tick, and his Stuff+ has declined from 98 to 92, year over year. He's been lucky to maintain a sub-four ERA compared to a 4.95 xERA.
Citi Field should see nice weather on Friday night (76 degrees at first pitch, 5 mph winds blowing out to left field), but I am also lower on both of these pitchers than the betting market, and I projected the total closer to 9.
Bet Over 8.5 to -115, and consider betting the Mets F5 moneyline at -130 or better. Verlander remains an above-average starter, while Bassitt has dipped into below-average territory, and I made the F5 line around -140.
Los Angeles Angels vs. Houston Astros
Shohei Ohtani vs. Framber Valdez
First Pitch: 8:10 p.m. ET
Despite posting the best strikeout and walk rates of his career, Framber Valdez has never seen a higher expected ERA (4.01). His soft-contact rate (8.9%) is at a career-low and ranks 160th out of 167 qualified starters (min. 20 IP). Pitching models have never loved Valdez — rating him as a league-average arm — but the southpaw is a unicorn. With a career 65.5% groundball rate, Valdez erases a lot of walks and singles with double plays.
Shohei Ohtani leads Valdez in virtually every notable predictive metric (+2.4% in strikeout minus walk rate; 2.87 xERA; 103-101 Pitching+). On a per-start basis, I had Ohtani ranked neck-and-neck with the now-injured Carlos Rodon as the most valuable starting pitcher in the American League.
The Angels have the offensive splits advantage, ranking fourth against lefties (120 wRC+), while the Astros rank 18th against righties (95 wRC+) and are built to crush left-handed pitching.
Back Ohtani on the moneyline to -106 for the first half and +110 for the full game, and bet Over 7.5 to -115. Despite the starting pitcher quality, I projected this total around 8.2.
New York Yankees vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Luis Severino vs. Clayton Kershaw
First Pitch: 10:10 p.m. ET
A healthy Luis Severino gives the Yankees a nasty right-handed power combination at the top of their rotation. The 29-year-old righty has posted No. 1 starter caliber results at the MLB level (3.1 xERA in 2018, 2.94 XERA in 2022). And through two starts, Severino is flashing his best fastball velocity in four years.
Pitching models think his stuff is back to where it was last season (108 Stuff+), but Severino has commanded the ball even better in a limited sample. I bet him at longshot odds as a Cy Young contender in the preseason; while that ticket was dead after his spring training injury, I remain extremely high on Severino on a start-to-start basis.
He has a difficult matchup against a Dodgers offense that ranks second against right-handed pitching (120 wRC+), but with the way he's throwing the baseball, it's hard to imagine many hitters giving him issues.
Luis Severino, Gorgeous 99mph Paint. 🖌️🎨 pic.twitter.com/fPpTNmjuoI
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 27, 2023
The Yankees will get a crack at Clayton Kershaw, who has seen his xERA rise back to 3.41, in line with his 2018-21 levels (range from 3.06 to 3.64) after a renaissance 2022 season (2.28 ERA, 2.51 xERA).
Current Yankees hitters own a .870 OPS against Kershaw in 140 plate appearances, with Anthony Rizzo (10-31, 3 HR) and Giancarlo Stanton (5-18, 2 HR) performing the majority of that damage during their time in the National League. And DJ LeMahieu (64 plate appearances. .740 OPS) is responsible for nearly half of that sample.
Adding Stanton (career 160 wRC+ vs. lefties, 130 vs. righties) and Josh Donaldson (career 152 wRC+ vs. lefties, 127 vs. righties) back to their lineup should give the Yankees a significant lift against southpaws.
And on paper, I don't see much difference between Severino and Kershaw; if anything, I'd lean toward Severino as the superior arm.
Bet the Yankees to +110 for the first five innings and +120 for the full game as their roster rounds into shape.
Baltimore Orioles vs. San Francisco Giants
Dean Kremer vs. Logan Webb
First Pitch: 10:15 p.m. ET
Dean Kremer struggled in April (6.67 ERA, 4.76 xFIP, 12.1% K-BB%), and his results (2.45 ERA) were better in May, but the underlying metrics (4.56 xFIP, 12.4% K-BB%) stayed roughly the same (99 Pitching+ in April; 101 Pitching+ in May.). To me, Kremer is a replacement-level arm whose value comes from an ability to take the ball every five days and eat innings over a long season.
And he draws a tough matchup on Friday against the Giants — a top-five offense against right-handed pitching.
Logan Webb (3.19 xERA) is also a significantly better starting pitcher, and like Luis Severino, one I bet as a longshot to win the Cy Young and on whom I am generally higher relative to the betting market.
Webb has also made some in-season modifications, changing his slider's grip before his May 13 start. The Stuff+ metrics have decreased by five points on the pitch since the modification. Still, he feels more comfortable with the pitch based on interviews, and it's hard to argue with seven consecutive quality starts or 18 strikeouts in his past 48 batters faced (37.5%).
Looks like Logan Webb tweaked his slider in his last start.
The pitch usually gets about -10" of horizontal break with minimal to no IVB. Last start it was up to -15" with 1.5 IVB. Here's the "new" slider.
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) May 22, 2023
I also think pitching models would love Webb even more (104 Stuff+) if they didn't struggle to measure changeup quality accurately; Webb (33.6%) and his teammate Alex Cobb (35.1%) throw their changeups more often than any other starting pitchers. The Giants also have Ross Stripling (18th), Sean Manaea (21st) and Alex Wood (41st) on their staff, so it's clearly part of their organizational philosophy.
On a per-pitch basis, the Orioles rank 27th against changeups this season after finishing 26th last year.
This seems like a strong matchup for Logan Webb. Bet the Giants to -183 in the first half and -150 for the full game.
Zerillo's Bets for Friday, June 2
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- Arizona Diamondbacks (+115, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +110)
- Los Angeles Angels F5 (-106, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -106)
- Los Angeles Angels (+115, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to +110)
- Los Angeles Angels / Houston Astros, Over 7.5 (-110, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -115)
- Milwaukee Brewers F5 (-188, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -200)
- Milwaukee Brewers / Cincinnati Reds, Over 9.5 (-110, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to 10, -108)
- New York Mets F5 (-130, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to -130)
- New York Yankees F5 (+112, 0/5u) at FanDuel (bet to +110)
- New York Yankees (+125, 0/5u) at WynnBet (bet to +120)
- Pittsburgh Pirates (+130, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to +120)
- Pittsburgh Pirates / St. Louis Cardinals, Over 8.5 (-115, 0/5u) at DraftKings (bet to -123 or 9, -104)
- Philadelphia Phillies F5 (-170, 0.5u) at Caesars (bet to -170)
- Philadelphia Phillies / Washington Nationals, Over 8.5 (-110, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -118)
- San Francisco Giants F5 (-164, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -183)
- San Francisco Giants (-145, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to -150)
- Toronto Blue Jays / New York Mets, Over 8.5 (-110, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to -115)