MLB Picks Today | Odds, Expert Projections for Wednesday, May 31
Ethan Mito/Clarkson Creative/Getty Images, Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images and Christian Petersen/Getty Images. Pictured (left to right): Jorge Soler of the Miami Marlins, Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels and Ryan McMahon of the Colorado Rockies.
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 Wednesday, May 31
Los Angeles Angels vs. Chicago White Sox
Jaime Barria vs. Lance Lynn
First Pitch: 2:10 p.m. ET
Lance Lynn has seemingly struggled with the pitch clock this season. His walk rate (8.6%) has doubled after a career-best mark (3.6%) last season, his average fastball velocity is down 1.5 mph over two years, and his expected ERA or xERA increased from 2.72 in 2021 to 3.99 last season and is now 4.93 in 2023, as his home run rate has steadily increased.
Lynn is due for some slightly better luck in the future. His actual ERA is about an entire run higher than his expected mark due to a high BABIP (.329 vs. .299 career), a low strand rate (63.5% vs. 75% career), and a career-worst 18.5% home run to flyball rate (HR/FB) compared to an average rate of 10.5%.
He still has above-average command, but Lynn's Stuff+ has decreased by six points year over year, worth about a half-a-run difference on an ERA projection.
Conversely, Jaime Barria is trending in a positive direction, with his Stuff+ increasing by eight points (from 88 to 96) compared to last season while retaining above-average command.
The righty has only made one start this season compared to 12 relief appearances, but he has used his slider 52% of the time, around 10% higher than his career average and an increase of 5% compared to last season. And although he has mainly worked out of the bullpen for the past couple of seasons, Barria does have nearly 60 major league starts under his belt, and he'll use his changeup more aggressively as a starter (against lefties) since his fastball has never played particularly well at the MLB level.
I don't see much difference between Barria and Lynn on paper; pitching models prefer the former (101 to 100 Pitching+), as do the underlying indicators, but you would project slight regression for Barria as a starter rather than a reliever.
That said, the White Sox are a good matchup, ranking 27th against righties (82 wRC+), while they are closer to league average against lefties.
From a projection standpoint, I see a significant overnight edge for the Angels for Wednesday afternoon's matchup; I'm only concerned that one of Shohei Ohtani or Mike Trout will sit out a day game after a night game. The Angels were off last Thursday, but both stars have played in each game since. They aren't off again until next Monday, and they have an upcoming crucial series with the Astros.
Assuming they play their regular lineup, bet the Angels to +100 for the First Five Innings (F5) and +111 for the full game. Add some F5 spread (+0.5 runs) to -125, or increase the stake on the F5 moneyline.
If one of Trout or Ohtani sits out, there is enough room in the overnight projection to ensure that we'll still have an edge where we bet it — even if the line inevitably moves against us when lineups drop.
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Chicago Cubs
Zach Eflin vs. Justin Steele
First Pitch: 2:20 p.m. ET
Despite warm temperatures (84 degrees at first pitch), Wednesday's matchup at Wrigley triggered one of our most profitable Action Labs Under systems (15.9% ROI since 2005):
I have placed bets both in lockstep with this system — and against this system — in recent weeks. While I'm happy when aligned with its recommendation, its presence never stops me from betting an Over against it if I think the total has dropped too far.
I set Wednesday's total at 7.9. Bet Under 9 to -132, or Under 8.5 to -112. On a weather-neutral day at Wrigley, I would have made the number around 8.3.
While the Rays have hit lefties harder than any other offense (166 wRC+), Justin Steele (3.59 xERA in 2022, 3.22 in 2023) is highly underrated and generates weak contact like few other pitchers. And Zach Eflin (2.99 xERA) was one of the best free-agent signings this offseason; the Rays rarely miss when acquiring from outside.
I'm likely higher than the betting market on both starters, and we'll search for an F5 Under in the morning.
Atlanta Braves vs. Oakland Athletics
Jared Shuster vs. James Kaprielian
First Pitch: 3:37 p.m. ET
The Braves offense has fallen flat since arriving in Oakland, dropping two straight games as -250 favorites while scoring three runs in 18 innings against a pitching staff with a 6.78 team ERA.
James Kaprielian (5.92 xERA) has struggled this season and might be pitching through injury. His fastball velocity is down from 94 mph to 92.6 mph, but it hasn't affected his pitch modeling numbers (95 Pitching+ in 2022 and 2023).
However, I don't think the Braves have much of a starting pitching advantage. Jared Shuster (5.13 xERA, 87 Pitching+) is likely Atlanta's least effective arm. And the Athletics have the better offensive splits, ranking 12th against lefties, while the Braves are 17th against righties.
I wouldn't put it past A's to pull off the sweep in this series, but I would need around +200 to back Oakland (projected +183) to make it three straight.
Bet Over 9 (to -115) for now (projected 9.66), and wait for the A's moneyline to peak.
Pittsburgh Pirates vs. San Francisco Giants
Mitch Keller vs. Alex Wood
First Pitch: 3:45 p.m. ET
We might have gotten a little bump in value on Mitch Keller following his first real hiccup of the season (6 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 2 BB, 8 K at Seattle on May 26). His command held up well in that start (3.67 xFIP); Keller just gave up a couple of homers.
The growth in Keller's statistical profile is extremely apparent; His strikeout minus walk rate has more than doubled compared to last season (from 11.4% to 24.7%) thanks mainly to a 10% increase in strikeout rate, resulting in roughly a full run drop in both his xERA (from 4.23 to 3.03) and xFIP (from 3.99 to 3.06).
Keller fixed his arsenal last season (91 Stuff+ in 2021, 103 in 2022, 104 in 2023), but his command has gradually improved (from 99 to 100 and 105 Location+ since 2019) after continually modifying his pitch mix.
Keller's new cutter (24% usage rate) has been the difference-maker this season; it looks like he stole it from prime Corey Kluber:
Mitch Keller, Vicious 90mph Cutter. ✂️ pic.twitter.com/IZHE9VMWZC
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 27, 2023
My betting model likes the Pirates just as much as it likes the Angels for Wednesday, even though the Giants have a top-five offense (109 wRC+) against right-handed pitching.
Technically, the Pirates are also in their superior offensive split (15th vs. lefties, 104 wRC+; 20th vs. righties, 94 wrC+), and Alex Wood (3.89, 4.00, 4.02 xERA the past three seasons) has a solid floor but a lower ceiling than Keller.
Bet the Pirates to -101 (F5) and +106 (full game), and add either some F5 Spread (+0.5 runs) to -135 or increase the stake on their F5 moneyline.
Zerillo's Bets for Wednesday, May 31
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- Atlanta Braves / Oakland Athletics, Over 9 (-115, 0.5u) at WynnBet (need -115)
- Baltimore Orioles F5 (+110, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to +103)
- Baltimore Orioles (+106, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -105)
- Baltimore Orioles / Cleveland Guardians, Over 8 (-115, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -125 or 8.5, -105)
- Cincinnati Reds (+160, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +154)
- Colorado Rockies (+160, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +160)
- Detroit Tigers / Texas Rangers, Under 9 (-115, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to -117)
- Los Angeles Angels F5 +0.5 (-114, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -125)
- Los Angeles Angels F5 (+116, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to +100)
- Los Angeles Angels (+125, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +111)
- Miami Marlins (+112, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to +110)
- Miami Marlins / San Diego Padres, F5 Over 4.5 (-115, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to -120)
- Milwaukee Brewers (+170, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +168)
- Minnesota Twins (+155, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +153)
- Minnesota Twins / Houston Astros, Over 7.5 (-110, 0.5u) at Caesars (bet to -112)
- Oakland Athletics F5 (+170, 0.25u) at Caesars (small to +163)
- Oakland Athletics (+200, 0.25u) at WynnBet (small to +185)
- Pittsburgh Pirates F5 +0.5 (-122, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -135)
- Pittsburgh Pirates F5 (+114, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -101)
- Pittsburgh Pirates (+115, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +106)
- Seattle Mariners / New York Yankees, Under 7.5 (-105, 0.5u) at Caesars (bet to -106)
- Tampa Bay Rays F5 (-125, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to -130)
- Tampa Bay Rays / Chicago Cubs, F5 Under 4.5 (-115, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to -120)
- Tampa Bay Rays / Chicago Cubs, Under 9 (-122, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -132 or 8.5, -112)
- Washington Nationals / Los Angeles Dodgers, Over 9.5 (+105, 0.5u) at Caesars (bet to -110)