As we reach now 6 full weeks into the MLB season, the narratives that will define baseball in 2021 are beginning to take shape. Pitchers are dominating hitters across the league, to the tune of four no-hitters already (the record for an entire season is 7). Teams like the Twins and Nationals have their fans wondering if they’ll turn it around in time to avoid being sellers at the deadline. Above all else, however, 2021 has been the season of injuries - all over the league, teams are missing key players on a nightly basis. While a single player may not be as meaningful to a betting line in baseball as in basketball or football, the accumulation of injuries can render teams a shell of what they normally would be.
Over the past 10 days alone, Major League Baseball has lost two of its most promising young starting pitchers to injuries in Dustin May and Zac Gallen. While Gallen’s injury figures to be relatively minor, May underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this week and isn’t expected to return to the Dodgers until July 2022. It’s hard to say exactly why injuries have piled up this season the way they have - some would theorize that the move back from 60 games to 162 is to blame, although no team has played close to 60 games yet this season. Others would suggest that changes to player’s mechanics - throwing harder, an offensive focus on launch angle, etc - are causing more injuries. Regardless of the answer, keeping track of these injuries is essential for anyone consistently betting on MLB.
As the injuries pile up, the show must go on. Given the pitching matchups announced so far for this weekend, here are a few spots I like quite a bit:
Last Week's Picks: 1-0
Season's Picks: 4-3
Friday, May 14th
Cincinnati Reds @ Colorado Rockies (Wade Miley vs German Marquez)
If you follow baseball, you’ve heard Wade Miley’s name a lot over the last week - his last start on Friday in Cleveland, the lefty through the fourth no-hitter in baseball this season in a 3-0 win over the Indians. A no-hitter is an impressive feat regardless of the situation, but Wade Miley isn’t exactly the power pitcher that comes to mind when one watches baseball in 2021. It was a no-hitter of smoke and mirrors, with only two of Miley’s pitches registering above 90 miles per hour on the radar gun all night. I wrote last week about the Indians' struggles against lefties - entering the game, they were 4th-worst in Major League Baseball against left handed starting pitchers. I’m glad to have been right, although I certainly didn’t see a no-hitter coming.
Friday night, Wade Miley will be exposed to a different beast entirely. The Colorado Rockies are nobody’s idea of a good baseball team - at 13-24, they’re last in the NL West and probably still overachieving. Unlike the Indians though, the Rockies absolutely demolish left handed pitching - especially at home at Coors Field. On the season, Colorado is hitting .264 against left handed pitching, good for 7th in the league - at home, their average jumps all the way to .296 (3rd). A pitcher who relies on finesse and movement, Coors Field is a nightmare for a pitcher like Wade Miley with it’s notoriously thin air flattening offspeed pitches for decades.
Miley’s opposition, German Marquez, has quietly been the ace of the Rockies staff for several years now - although his 2021 has not lived up to expectation quite yet. There’s plenty of reason to believe in Marquez as a very good MLB pitcher - he’s posted a DRA- of 83 this season, 17% better than the average starting pitcher. What’s alarming for Marquez is just how different of a pitcher he’s been at Coors Field versus on the road - at home, he allowed 2.5 more runs per 9 innings last season than away from Denver. He’s also averaged fewer than 4 innings per start over his last 3 outings, a terrible formula for run prevention with the train wreck that is Colorado’s bullpen entering the game behind him. Entering Colorado as the 2nd-best team against righties in baseball, the Reds are likely to push Marquez to the limit pretty early on Friday night. With both teams in the top-5 offensively against the opposing pitcher’s side and two very gettable bullpens, this game has all the makings of a classic Coors Field slugfest.
The Pick: Over 10.5
Saturday, May 15th
Kansas City Royals @ Chicago White Sox (Mike Minor vs Carlos Rodón)
Sunday on the south side of Chicago it’ll be two southpaws facing off in Mike Minor and Carlos Rodon. When I played baseball in the early 2010s in the ACC, Carlos Rodon was a household name as the most intimidating pitcher in the conference at NC State. He consistently dominated the league, leveraging a multitude of effective pitches to create both whiffs and soft contact, and an infield led by Trea Turner playing behind him made him even more effective. After battling through injuries and mixed results for several years, Carlos Rodon has absolutely arrived at the big league level. His 2021 stats speak for themselves - at 5-0 with a miniscule 0.58 ERA, it’s hard to argue anyone in the league is pitching better than he is this season. His peripheral stats back it up, too - he’s above the 90th percentile in the league in xwOBA, xBA, xERA, xSLG, and Whiff%. In short, hitters just can’t seem to square him up. On Sunday, he’ll take on a Royals team that he threw six shutout innings against a week ago and is 21st in the league against lefties this season.
The White Sox, on the other hand, have absolutely curb-stomped left handed pitching this season. It’s no surprise coming from a lineup packed with power-hitting righties, but the numbers are staggering for Chicago - their .315 batting average against LHP is tops in baseball by a ridiculous 35 points. They just touched up Mike Minor for 5 earned runs over 5 innings last week, and Minor has allowed 4 or more runs in 4 of his 7 starts this season. By the time these two pitchers exit, I’d guess we’re looking at something like 5-0 White Sox - and if the Royals bats are anywhere as cold as they were this week getting swept by Detroit, that should be more than enough to bring this bet home on the run line.
The Pick: White Sox -1.5 -135 or better