MLB Underdog Odds, Picks, Predictions for Braves vs Guardians
Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images. Pictured: Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Guardians.
The Payoff Pitch podcast MLB experts break down their favorite picks from the day's slate every Monday, Tuesday and Friday, including each analyst's favorite underdog on the slate, and they've got two more to recommend today.
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Braves at Guardians, 7:10 p.m. ET
Bryce Elder vs. Gavin Williams
Sean Zerillo: This is a scary pick.
The Braves, since June 1, have 63 home runs in 26 games, which is just ridiculous. The next closest team has 48. They're hitting .306, with a .370 OBP and a .573 SLG as a team since June 1, so they have an OPS of .943 as a team in the last month. They're all hitting like Ronald Acuña basically.
It comes down to the starting pitching matchup here.
We've talked about Bryce Elder a ton on this podcast, so I don't want to beat it into the ground. However, even in his last start, he let up a ton of base-runners and got out of every inning. He's the king of stranding runners so far; his strand rate is nearly 85%, while the Major League average is 71.7%. So, his strand rate is 13% higher than the big-league average.
In terms of Pitching+ metrics, he's four points below average. He has a 96 Pitching+ and a 74 Stuff+. I don't think Stuff+ sees him with a single above-average pitch.
Gavin Williams is a guy I really like for the Guardians. He has an incredible fastball that he locates up and down in the zone, and he can hit the corners too. He has a 34% strikeout rate between Double-A and Triple-A this season. He was a former first-round pick, so he comes with a ton of pedigree as well.
I just give the Guardians the starting pitching advantage here.
I don't think Elder is bad; I really don't. I think he's a No. 3 starter, but he's pitching like a No. 1 right now with a 2.44 ERA. I think if he adds strikeouts at some point in the future he can be a No. 1 starter, but right now, he's not.
It's really tough to go against the Braves right now, because they hit three home runs in the first inning of every game, and you're immediately down 3-0. I'm often watching other games, and I see the little black box with the score and the little graph showing which runners are on base. I then see 1-0 Atlanta, 2-0 Atlanta, and none of the out dots are filled in. I'm like, "Oh, they hit two solo home runs to start the game! Of course they did; that's just what they do!"
They're really frustrating to bet against at this point, but at some point, they're going to lose. Hopefully, it's tonight. Guardians +130 or better is where I would bet it. I made them about +120.
BJ Cunningham: I agree. I have the Braves only at -112, so I'm projecting a little bit of value on the Guardians. Sean hit the nail on the head; going against the Braves lineup sucks every single week.
However, Cleveland's offense has improved. Since the beginning of June, they have a .330 weighted OBP, and a 111 Weighted Runs Created+. That's eighth in Major League Baseball, while from April to May, they were near the bottom of baseball in both of those categories.
Gavin Williams had really good Triple-A numbers; he had a 120 Stuff+ in Triple-A. He's got a great fastball that can hit triple digits. When he was at East Carolina, he had the third-highest K/9 rate in college baseball, and he continued that through the minors with really high strikeout rates.
It's a small sample size of two Major League starts, but his 2.70 xERA is very encouraging.
I think the Guardians have a starting pitching advantage, and their offense has improved. It sucks going against the Braves offense, but I like Cleveland at +138.