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MLB’s unprecedented 60-game season kicks off Thursday night with a pair of contests. Max Scherzer and the Washington Nationals begin their title defense against the New York Yankees, who will send out Gerrit Cole for his team debut. Later in the evening, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants will meet in an NL West showdown. Using the research tools at Fade The Noise, let’s identify some of the most lucrative Opening Day wagers available for bettors eager to welcome back baseball.
Yankees vs. Nationals: Moneyline (-130/+114 FD, -132/+117 DK)
BASEBALL IS BACK! And what a doozy we have to start it off with the defending champion Nationals running out perennial Cy Young candidate Max Scherzer and his two-toned stare down against the Yankees and their shiny new ace. These are always tough games to pick find an edge. First game of the season between two fairly evenly matched teams with two of the best in the game toeing the rubber. And while home dogs are always tantalizing, there are few reasons why I am backing the Bronx Bombers in the 2020 opener.
Few teams benefited from the additional two months of rest the pandemic afforded players than the Yankees, meanwhile the Nationals’ lineup is missing two huge catalysts from its World Series-winning attack in Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman. Few teams, if any, hit the ball against righties as well as the Yankees and with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo (remember when he was named Mike?) Stanton back they are liable to go yard every time they step in the box. And what has plagued Scherzer in recent years? The longball.
The soon-to-be 36-year old saw his HR/FB rate jump from 9.7% in 2018 to 11.6% in 2019, a number that was even higher at Nationals Park. Scherzer did little to quell these concerns in his exhibition tuneup on Saturday when he allowed 2 homers and 7 earned runs against the Phillies. Considering New York smashed an MLB-best 220 home runs off right-handers in 2019, I’d expect to see at least one or two pinstripe-clad batters to be rounding the bases tonight.
While this may just be me reading into human nature a little too much, I believe Gerrit Cole will be better equipped than Max Scherzer to handle the lack of fans the pandemic has forced upon us. Both are fiery on the mound, but I think Scherzer feeds of the energy of the crowd while Cole has a little more of an inner bulldog. He even seems to walk off the mound with a quiet disgust after striking out hitters.
While the advantage the Yankees have is slight, New York has a better lineup, a better starter, and a significantly better bullpen. Home field and the pesky nature of the Nationals lineup is the only thing keeping me from taking the 1.5 run spread for the Yankees.
And if you read Matt LaMarca’s Daily Odds Boost article over at FTN Bets from Wednesday you know that if you deposit with PointsBet you can get the Yankees to beat the Nationals at +120. Well that is now at +135! Yea you should probably get on that.
Pick: Yankees ML (-130 FD, -132 DK)
Giants vs. Dodgers: Over/Under (8 FD & DK)
The back end of our 2020 Opening Day double-header is a bit more lopsided with the Los Angeles Dodgers heavily favored over the San Francisco Giants. While there isn’t much value to be had betting the sides, the run line for this game is very interesting at 8.
If this was 2014, the pitching matchup of Clayton Kershaw and Johnny Cueto would rival that of the early game. However, these two aging stars have seen diminished success in recent years and I don’t believe they are suddenly going to return to ace form. Cueto has thrown just 69 innings in the past two seasons and his 4.71 and 5.71 FIP respectively, quite frankly isn’t very respectable. He has always been slightly worse facing lefties but the splits have become even more exacerbated in recent years and he is facing a lineup featuring Bellinger, Seager, Muncy, Pederson, etc. Oh and also this newly uber-wealthy guy named Mookie Betts. The Dodgers might score 9 runs necessary to cover this by themselves but they might not have to.
We saw glimpses of dominant Clayton Kershaw last season as he got his K/9 back over 9.5 and won 16 games. However, his 3.86 FIP was by far his highest since his rookie season and it has been trending downward for three years now. Kershaw is still a good pitcher but he is not the unhittable wizard that he used to be on the mount. While the Giants won’t be confused with Murderer’s Row any time soon, they have a few right-handed bats that can scratch out a few runs off Kershaw.
The more I type out this analysis, the more convinced I am that this game is going to go over the eight-run total. So if you want to take the over eight at -110, by all means, hammer it. But when I am this confident in a total I like to go a little further and examine the Alternate Total Run lines. There I see over 9.5 runs sitting at +165 and I think that is a little more to my liking.
Pick: Over 9.5 runs (+164 FD, +165 DK)
Mauricio Dubon to Hit a HR
Yes, you always want to bet with your brain because that is how you make money, but betting with your heart on a crazy underdog is way more fun and aren’t longshots what sports are all about? Well, maybe we can meet somewhere in the middle here.
For my Make Your Rent For The Month In One Bet pick of the night, I am diving into the home run prop bets and taking Mauricio Dubon to hit a home run at +1100. You heard me correct. MAURICIO DUBON.
Before I get into my analysis, I recommend quickly reading Steve Buchanan’s explanation of baseball prop betting at FTN Bets, so you can get an understanding of what prop bets to exploit. For those who don’t know him, Mauricio Dubon is a former above-average prospect who couldn’t find playing time in a crowded Milwaukee infield and was shipped to San Francisco for Drew Pomeranz at the deadline last year. A solid hitter, Dubon really cranked up the power in his bat last season as he popped 20 home runs in Triple-A and added another four in just over 100 at-bats in the Majors.
While his track record speaks to a decent hitter, it’s his prior showdowns with Kershaw that have me intrigued. In two at-bats against the Hall of Fame-bound lefty last season, Dubon got himself a double and, that’s right, a home run.
Is slashing 1.000/1.000/3.000 against someone good? I think it’s good. Couple his previous success against Kershaw with the hunger to prove himself that Dubon should have in this shortened season and I think we will see some fireworks from the kid. So plug him in your DFS lineups and hammer this home run prop because the Dubonic Plague is coming and you are going to want some action on it.
Pick: Mauricio Dubon to Hit a Home Run (+1100 FD)
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Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)