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Thursday MLB Odds, Preview, Predictions for Pirates vs. Braves: Atlanta Overvalued at Home (May 20)

Thursday MLB Odds, Preview, Predictions for Pirates vs. Braves: Atlanta Overvalued at Home (May 20) article feature image

Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images. Pictured: Drew Smyly #18 of the Atlanta Braves.

  • The Pirates and Braves start a four-game series Thursday in Atlanta below .500 teams.
  • The Braves are favorites at home, but with Drew Smyly on the mound, there may be value in fading the home side.
  • Michael Arinze previews the odds and trends to know for tonight's matchup.

Pirates vs. Braves Odds

Pirates Odds+170
Braves Odds-215
Over/Under9 (-105 / -115)
Time7:20 p.m. ET
Odds updated Thursday afternoon and via PointsBet.

The Pirates will be happy to see a team other than the St. Louis Cardinals as they head to Atlanta for a four-game series with the Braves. Pittsburgh was swept by St. Louis for the second time this season while being outscored 35-15.

After allowing six runs in the first two innings of Wednesday's ball game, the Pirates could have resigned themselves to another loss. Instead, they chipped away and plated five runs of their own.

Unfortunately, the early damage was already done by the Cardinals, and they lost 8-5.

However, they continued to show some fight in the ballgame after a poor start, and that's something positive to take into their series with a Braves team that needed a Ronald Acuña Jr. walk-off home run to avoid a sweep at home by the Mets.

Atlanta's performance at home (10-13) this season is why they find themselves in third place in the division and three games (20-23) under .500.

But perhaps none of their starting pitchers has struggled more at home than Drew Smyly, who will start on Thursday. We'll get into that a bit later, but the important thing to note is that Smyly and Atlanta are as high as a -205 favorite against Pittsburgh.

I'll share why I think that number is a bit inflated, which leads me to believe the value in this matchup must lie with the visiting Pirates.

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There's Upside for Pirates' Pitcher Wil Crowe

Wil Crowe will get the start for Pittsburgh in the series opener. He's yet to win a decision this season as he's 0-2 with a 4.35 ERA. His numbers would probably be even better if he could cut down on his walks. But to be fair, his 4.35 BB/9 ratio is an improvement from last season's mark of 8.64/9.

It was just his first year in the big leagues, so I think it's okay to give him a pass.

The second-year pitcher is still learning on the job, but he's shown some promise, judging by his last two outings.

He issued just one walk in each of his past two starts despite facing solid competition in the Cubs and the Giants. While his 7.4 K/9 ratio isn't elite by any stretch, those numbers should get better as he improves the command of his pitches.

Crowe has a plus fastball (31.8%) that averages 94.2 mph. He also throws four additional pitches: Slider (24.2%), changeup (19.6%), sinker (16.3%), curveball (8.1%).

One interesting thing to note is that hitters are batting over .300 when facing his slider, sinker, and curveball. But against his four-seamer and changeup, they're not batting any higher than .154.

Hitters tend to do their best when facing the fastball, so the fact they're batting .059 against the pitch suggests there's enough foundation there for Crowe to build on.

It won't surprise me if he eliminates one, if not two of his pitches in the future, to focus on those he has more success with. He is a pitcher with plenty of upside who can be a valuable arm for the Pirates in the years to come.

Should Drew Smyly be the Favorite in Atlanta? 

Drew Smyly's splits this season are so stark, I had to check if it was just an outlier or something prevalent throughout his career. In two starts this year, Smyly has a 10.00 ERA in nine innings of work.

He's been hurt by the long ball as he's allowed five home runs in those outings. Contrast that with his 3.27 ERA in four games in which he only allowed four home runs.

It appears that this is a clear trend for Smyly.

In 343.2 innings pitched at home, his ERA is 4.43 with 63 home runs allowed. Whereas, in 398 innings on the road, he has a 3.96 ERA and has allowed 57 home runs.

It's not as if Smyly has pitched in a bandbox his entire career.

In eight seasons at the big league level, he spent 2.5 seasons with the Tigers, 2.5 seasons with the Rays, and one season with the Phillies, Giants, and now the Braves.

The more you dig into the numbers, this dichotomy is starting to look less and less like a coincidence.

Overall, Smyly is 2-2 on the season with a 5.23 ERA. His 6.49 FIP, which is higher than his ERA, is a clear indicator of possible regression in the future.

Another troubling sign is that 48.9% of his batted balls are fly balls to the outfield. That's not exactly what you're looking for as a pitcher on the mound in Truist Park. Atlanta's home park is considered to be in the top ten in terms of stadiums most susceptible to allowing home runs according to ESPN's MLB Park Factors.

When you combine that with Smyly's unfavorable home splits throughout his career, it's justifiable to question his price as a -205 favorite.

Pirates-Braves Pick

I ran this pitching matchup in my model, and Atlanta comes up as a much shorter price. There's no question that sportsbooks are charging a tax to take Atlanta in this spot.

But here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • The Pirates are 5-3 (+3.8) units when they're on a three-game losing streak and facing the Braves.
  • This season underdogs opening at +170 or worse are +9.9 units.
  • Bettors are 29-26 when for a 15.9% ROI when fading Drew Smyly at home.
  • When the visiting team opens as a +140 underdog or higher against Smyly, they're 8-3 for +9.55 units.

All those trends are active in this game.

This line is grossly overvalued with the perception that Atlanta is the better team and that they're playing at home.

However, Atlanta as the home team clashes with the notion that they should be a 2-1 favorite, considering that their starting pitcher is essentially compromised when pitching in his home park.

As a result, the value is clearly on the Pirates in this matchup, and you can find them listed with a price of +170.

Lean: Pirates ML (+170)

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