The MLB schedule is a long journey lasting more than half of the year. While that makes it a grind, it also makes it a tremendous betting opportunity. It gives our MLB picks ample time to build a sample and hopefully overcome variance, and it provides the biggest menu of bets (and potential value) when compared to almost any other sport.
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MLB Picks For Thursday, Aug. 18
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Chicago Cubs At Baltimore Orioles
For the third straight day, I bet the Cubs. It doesn’t excite me here as Spenser Watkins has been a thorn in my side all year. But every time I check in on him, he still has an xERA and SIERA around 4.9. It’s not as if he’s managing contact especially well, with an average exit velocity of 90.2 mph and an above-average barrel rate. The Cubs lineup should be at full strength today after Willson Contreras got the day off on Wednesday.
And Adrian Sampson has pitched legitimately well. All of his ERA estimators are pretty solid, with a 4.24 SIERA the low point. Batters have had a tough time squaring him up as his exit velocity and barrel rate both look good. The only real red flag is a 24.1% called strike+whiff rate but given that most of the lag comes from called strikes, it’s not a huge deal-breaker for me. With a better pitcher and a comparable lineup, I think the Cubs have a small edge to +130.
Current best price: Cubs
Boston Red Sox At Pittsburgh Pirates
You won’t find many worse MLB lineups than what the Pittsburgh Pirates have run out lately. In fact, it’s a stretch to call this lineup MLB-caliber. A player called Tucupita Marcano is projected to lead off and I think some pitchers could match his .220 xWOBA. A generous person could see three MLB starters in the lineup and it’s all dreck after that with Ke’Bryan Hayes out injured. However, JT Brubaker has actually pitched pretty solidly following the Mitch Keller game plan of switching from four-seam fastballs to sinkers. Most of his peripherals sit average to above, and he has at long last pitched in the ballpark of them.
My main concern here is a pair of awful bullpens, but at least we get the spacious confines of Pittsburgh’s home park to mitigate that.
Current best price: Under
New York Mets At Atlanta Braves
I’m not sure it’s possible to pitch better than Jacob deGrom has pitched since the start of last season. The number are simply staggering: 24.6% swinging strikes, 44.5% O-Swing% and a 0.92 SIERA. That just shouldn’t be possible from a starting pitcher. Even with the Braves coming in elite against four-seamers and sliders (almost all of deGrom’s pitches), I just feel like it doesn’t matter. He dominated them once already this year. Having the fourth-highest O-Swing% really concerns me from the Braves’ point of view as the lineup just isn’t very disciplined.
Now, I will say that even with deGrom’s incredible play, as long as he has a true talent around 2-2.5 ERA and not the 1.xx he’s been running, this edge isn’t large. Max Fried has pitched tremendously and become a true ace. The Mets rank middle of the pack against lefties with a 105 wRC+. I wouldn’t go past -125 here.
Current best price: Mets
What to know about using MLB Picks
Generally, when looking over these MLB lines and breakdowns, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, it’s a long season. There will be hot and cold streaks. Swings of 20+ units will happen. While I’ve had multiple winning seasons, there’s no guarantee I’ll come out ahead this year or any other. Always bet responsibly, and always line shop using our MLB page to find the best lines available at legal sportsbooks in your state. That will give you the best chance of turning a profit.
- MLB futures bets from TheLines writers Eli Hershkovich and Mo Nuwwarah
Furthermore, note that because of the process I’ll be using (attacking overnight markets), lines may shift significantly by the time you read this if you’re checking it out on game day. Hopefully the lines have moved in my favor, and if that’s the case – use your best judgment as to whether you still think the bet is as good as the current line.
I’ll base my plays heavily on starting pitchers, like most any MLB bettor. If you want to learn more about baseball so you can do your own handicapping, start with these resources breaking down a variety of useful metrics:
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