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MLB Best Bets: Best bets from the first five innings and analysis for Thursday, May 9

MLB Best Bets for Thursday, May 9

Welcome to my semi-weekly first five innings article! Twice a week during baseball season, I write down some of the more intriguing first five innings of the day. Handicapping pitchers is such a big part of baseball betting, and betting on the top fives is something I’m drawn to as a bettor.

As always, keep an eye on Adam Burke’s columns, published daily. Adam is our premier baseball mind, and that will continue to be the case again this season.

Top MLB Resources:

I will keep track of the results throughout the season via this article, which you can view here.

The double-edged sword

In the days since the last column, we’ve seen some good examples of the pros and cons of handicapping these pitchers based on their stats. In particular, the practice of using the delta between a pitcher’s ERA and FIP as a starting point for determining whether or not we can fade or follow him at the window.

Let’s start with the good: Jose Berrios.

Heading into his start against the Phillies on Tuesday, Berrios had all the indicators worth betting on. He owned a 1.44 ERA over 43.2 innings of work, but his FIP (4.03) and xFIP (4.25) indicated there was some fraud in his production. A deeper look revealed a hard-hit price of 49.2% and he owned a below-average barrel price (8.2%). He also generated minimal strikeout numbers. At some point he would have to pay for such infractions, and he did just that against Philadelphia.

Berrios was decimated by the Phillies. He allowed 7 hits and 8 earned while going deep twice in 3.2 innings. Philadelphia was on him like bad teeth on braces – thank you Jamal Crawford – and those who played on the indicators that Berrios was due for regression were rewarded. Toronto is even 0-3 in the first five innings of the last three Berrios starts.

That example is extreme, but it’s a good example for those who might watch Berrios in his next outing, as he still has a 2.85 ERA. On the surface, he was an extremely solid starter. But there is plenty of evidence that water will eventually find its level with its stats.

However, it’s not that simple, which leads us to MLB’s unluckiest pitcher: Spencer Arrighetti.

During the day VSiN Primetime Last night I couldn’t help but laugh at the misfortune of the Astros’ third prospect. Arrighetti made his fifth start of the season at Yankee Stadium, and at one point the broadcast highlighted the 24-year-old rookie’s remarkable stats.

Arrighetti entered the start with an ERA of 8.27, but his FIP (3.40) and xFIP (4.15) suggested he was pitching much better than that. His barrel rate allowed at the time would have led the majors had he qualified, and he struck out 25.9% of batters he faced. His expected batting average of .240 was also very strong, but he had bad luck with balls in play (.413).

Arrighetti was the antithesis of Berrios. He had every purchase sign in the world. Then the Yankees happened. New York outscored Arrighetti for 8 hits, 5 earned runs and 3 home runs. His luck was so bad that this happened on the Astros’ broadcast while they were discussing his incredible numbers:


I thought focusing on these two pitchers was a good way to illustrate my process and show both the positives and negatives. Sometimes the numbers add up, and ultimately what they tell you plays out on the playing field. And sometimes 24-year-olds go to the Bronx and are rocked by one of the best lineups in baseball.

MLB best bets

St. Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers

Sonny Gray vs. Tobias Myers

As much as I enjoy looking for the discrepancies in numbers and playing on or against them, sometimes you just have to assume a pitching mismatch.

Sonny Gray is absolutely untouchable this season. Gray comes into this start with an ERA of 0.89 and an FIP of 1.58. Hitters just can’t connect with his stuff. According to Baseball Savant, of 71 events – essentially a batted ball – only 29.6% were considered hard hit and has a barrel rate of 4.2%. He ranks at the 89th and 82nd percentiles in these categories, respectively.

Gray commands the elite, ranking in the 94th percentile in strikeout rate (33.3%) and the 77th percentile in whiff rate (29.9%). He’s the best pitcher in baseball right now, and he’ll have a tough Brewers lineup to pick apart.

In Tuesday’s column, I mentioned Milwaukee’s problems recently, but they ultimately ended up pitching 13-of-40 against Kansas City. Luckily the Royals made it to Rea to win the bet, but the line-up was part of the handicap and that night it was wrong. Yet, as of April 21, this lineup ranks 14th in wRC+ (96) and is not producing anywhere near the level it was at the start of the season.

I also get Gray as my starting pitcher, not Seth Lugo.

But it’s not like the cardinals are setting the world on fire. They come into this match ranked 25th in wRC+ (86) and have shown few signs of life. St. Louis also just lost Willson Contreras, who owns a .280/.398/.551 slash line this season; by far their most productive hitter.

Tobias Myers – Milwaukee’s starter – hasn’t been great this season. He owns an ERA of 6.23 and an FIP of 7.62 through three starts. However, I’m not sure I can trust St. Louis to reach him, even with those numbers. So instead, we’ll specifically attack the Brewers and expect them not to produce much against Gray.

Play: Brewers F5 TT UN 1.5 (-105)