MLB Picks Today | Odds, Expert Projections for Thursday, May 18

MLB Picks Today | Odds, Expert Projections for Thursday, May 18 article feature image

Getty Images. Pictured: Gavin Sheets and Aaron Judge.

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).

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Expert Picks for

Thursday, May 18

Cleveland Guardians vs. Chicago White Sox

Logan Allen vs. Dylan Cease
First Pitch: 2:10 p.m. ET

I typically mention that the model will look to target the White Sox against left-handed pitchers and avoid them against righties; Chicago ranks above league-average on offense against southpaws (106 wrC+, T-13th) but falls to 23rd against righties (87 wRC+) — a difference of 19 percent relative to league average.

While the Guardians ranked much better against righties (11th) than lefties (27th) last season, they have struggled against all types of pitchers in 2023 (29th in both handedness splits), and after their offseason acquisitions, I'm not sure that their split is pronounced as last season, even if they do pick things up.

We are seeing a slightly reduced version of Cease this season relative to what he was over the past few years. His strikeout rate is down more than five percent compared to last season, and both his velocity and expected indicators (4.29 xERA or expected ERA; 2.70 in 2023) are trending in the wrong direction:

Still, his opponent — Logan Allen — has been fortunate to carry a 3.43 ERA in four starts compared to 5.68 xERA, carrying an 81.6% strand rate alongside a .355 BABIP. Typically, one would expect both stats to regress toward league average, but Statcast says that the seemingly unlucky BABIP is far closer to justifiable than the high stand rate. Allen has allowed a lot of hard contact (23.8% line drive rate) and a healthy amount of fly balls, but he's mostly emerged unscathed.

I projected the White Sox at a -158 favorite (61.2% implied) for the first five innings (F5) of this matchup. Bet Chicago's F5 moneyline up to -145 (59.2% implied), at a two percent edge compared to my projection.

New York Yankees vs. Toronto Blue Jays

Nestor Cortes Jr. vs. Jose Berrios
First Pitch: 7:07 p.m. ET

I see some chatter about home/road splits for Berrios occasionally. While I don't consider that often, there might be something to it for certain players. For his career, Berrios has a strikeout minus walk rate about six percent higher at home (19.1%) than on the road (13.1%). That split has repeated mainly on an annual basis and held steady during his time in Toronto.

Even though Berrios has pitched to an expected ERA of around five in the past two seasons and 40 starts, he has performed significantly closer to his All-Star caliber reputation at Rogers Centre. Still, the Yankees are playing much better baseball with last season's AL MVP back in the middle of their lineup, and I expect Wednesday's game to be competitive.

Nestor Cortes Jr. has been wildly unlucky this season (5.53 ERA, 3.92 xERA), thanks to a 65% strand rate and a .310 BABIP (career marks of 78% and .272). Cortes has always had a home run issue (1.47 home runs per nine innings, or HR/9 for his career). And that might become further amplified in 2023 with the juiced baseballs and a ground ball rate that has dipped to a career-low 23.6%:

Still, aside from the homers, Cortes generates far too much weak contact to carry a BABIP north of .300, especially with one of the top defensive teams in baseball playing behind him.

I projected Thursday's matchup around a coin flip in both halves. Bet the Yankees to +105 for the first five innings (F5) and +107 for the full game.

Zerillo's Bets for Thursday, May 18

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  • Chicago White Sox F5 (-144, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -145)
  • Chicago White Sox / Cleveland Guardians, Over 7.5 (-115, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to -117 or 8, +101)
  • New York Yankees F5 (+112, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to +105)
  • New York Yankees (+125, 0.75u) at WynnBet (bet to +107; reduce the risk below +116
  • St. Louis Cardinals F5 (+140, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +132)
  • St. Louis Cardinals (+135, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +135)
  • Tampa Bay Rays F5 (-115, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -120)

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