April is about to end, and yet many MLB stars remain in spring training mode.
Forget flowers—baseball fans are hoping May brings more dingers. Dozens of hitters remain stuck under the Mendoza Line, and yet plenty of pitchers have also torpedoed their ratios during the opening month.
Those trends have created a hectic atmosphere in fantasy baseball, and it’s not much better for bettors. Is it smarter to ride hot streaks or wager on a star bouncing back to vintage form?
While Franmil Reyes will catch fire one of these days, banking on a hit from the slugger backfired last Saturday. Meanwhile, picking MLB’s worst team (Reds) to lose again paid off.
Let’s look at three more bets to place on Saturday before closing the chapter on April.
Logan Webb Strikeouts: O/U 4.5
The oddsmakers seem to be getting smarter and more reactive when setting strikeout lines. There aren’t as many market efficiencies to attack, and a favorable total typically comes at bad odds. For example, Sean Manaea is a good bet to clear 5.5 punchouts against the Pirates, but you’d have to lock that in for -144 on FanDuel. Not exactly a big payout.
That’s why it makes sense to exploit a concerning start rather than riding an encouraging wave. To do so, let’s return to an ace whose breakout won sage gamblers money last year.
After collecting 158 strikeouts in 148.1 innings last season, Logan Webb only has 17 Ks in 24.1 frames. As a result, FanDuel has lowered his over/under line to 4.5 at -108.
His fastball velocity has dipped slightly, but not enough to panic. The 25-year-old has still maintained a 10.7% swinging-strike rate that, while down from last year’s 12.4%, should yield more strikeouts than he’s accrued thus far. One bad road start against the Mets (3.2 IP, 3 ER, 3 BB, 1 K) is the culprit for any early disappointment.
Despite the low K tallies, Webb has cleared the 4.5 benchmark in two of his four starts. He’s also posted a 2.96 ERA while completing at least six innings three times. Webb should work deep into a fruitful outing against a Washington lineup possessing MLB’s second-lowest ISO (.097) behind the Tigers. While the Nationals don’t strike out much, five is hardly an unrealistic ask in six or seven frames.
Just use Sunday’s start as a barometer. Webb registered six strikeouts in 6.2 innings at Nationals Park.
Pick: Over (-108 on FanDuel)
Cleveland Guardians Total Runs: O/U 3.5
Cleveland’s hot start unsurprisingly didn’t last. After opening the season 7-5, the Guardians snapped a seven-game losing streak Friday night. An offense that surged out of the gate against the Royals and Reds faded hard, scoring a combined 14 runs during those consecutive defeats.
Yet, Cleveland still leads MLB in wOBA against righties entering the month’s final day. Though the Guardians will almost certainly fall far down this leaderboard, they’ve at least proven capable of hitting feeble pitching. Some of their strong April performances are unsustainable, but the same applies to Cole Irvin.
Irvin has posted a 3.32 ERA through four outings, most recently blanking the Rangers across five frames last Sunday. However, he’s done so with several red flags. He has a 5.04 FIP on account of just 14 strikeouts in 21.1 innings. The Oakland righty has already served up an MLB-high 10 barrels but evaded early trouble with a .227 BABIP and 87.6% strand rate.
While Oakland’s bullpen has also performed well so far (3.35 ERA, 3.44 FIP), the fairly anonymous unit has a concerningly high 10.4% walk rate. Look for Cleveland to exceed 3.5 runs and prevail behind Shane Bieber following Friday’s 9-8 comeback win.
Pick: Over (-118 on FanDuel, -120 on DraftKings)
Phillies at Mets: O/U 7.5 Run Line
The Mets just completed their second no-hitter in franchise history Friday night. Perhaps I only picked this game to brag about their bizarre five-pitcher, 159-pitch, six-walk feat that already puts them five games ahead of Philadelphia in the NL East standings. (Yes, the Phillies have made up more ground on the Mets in far less time. I don’t want to talk about that.)
Friday’s no-no continued a stellar start for the 15-6 Mets, whose pitching staff leads baseball in K rate (28.4%) while ranking second in ERA (2.79) and WHIP (1.03) without Jacob deGrom. Twelve of their 21 games—including two of four against the Phillies—have resulted in seven or fewer total runs. Maybe this line is a trap, but it feels light for a matchup with two potent lineups and beatable starting pitchers.
Taijuan Walker is scheduled to come off the IL and make his first start since April 11. He looked good before leaving early, retiring all six Philadelphia batters faced with four strikeouts. Yet that’s a small sample size for the 29-year-old, who unraveled last season with a 7.13 ERA after the All-Star break. The Phillies lineup hasn’t met expectations just yet, but don’t dismiss a star-studded crew led by Bryce Harper, Nick Castellanos, and Kyle Schwarber.
The unheralded Kyle Gibson continues to get the job done. Four starts into 2022, the 34-year-old righty has a 3.47 ERA with a 54.2% ground-ball rate and nearly a strikeout per inning. While he deserves considerable credit for a quality start at Coors Field, the rest of his schedule (OAK, @MIA, COL) has been favorable. He’s given up nine runs and seven walks in his last three outings after a dominant opener against Oakland’s lackluster lineup.
A deep Mets lineup boasts baseball’s third-best wRC+ behind the Dodgers and Yankees, so they should plate a few runs off Gibson before taking more hacks against Philadelphia’s shaky bullpen. Expect plenty of more hits from both NL East rivals at Citi Field tonight.
Pick: Over (+100 on DraftKings, -102 on DraftKings)
Andrew Gould Overall Record: 3-5-1
Net Money (Assuming all wagers are $100): -$169.70
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)