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Welcome to Opening Pitch, my column that you’ll find daily throughout the 2023 MLB season.

My goal for Opening Pitch is to highlight my top daily projection edges for MLB moneylines and totals, share my favorite bets and provide some betting notes and analysis, mainly as I react to opening and overnight lines while using my baseball betting model.

I will look to release a new version of Opening Pitch daily between midnight and 3 a.m. ET; after I enter my overnight bets in the Action Network App and update the MLB projections. Hopefully, you will use it as your morning betting guide to get ahead of the baseball markets.

You can find my projections for every MLB game in the Action App (on both the PRO Projections tab and the game pages) and our Projections Hub (which you can bookmark).

You can also shop for the best lines on our odds page.

Expert Picks for Tuesday, August 8

Houston Astros vs. Baltimore Orioles

Framber Valdez vs. Grayson Rodriguez
First Pitch: 7:05 p.m. ET

Grayson Rodriguez has been a noticeably improved pitcher between his first and second stints in the major leagues. Across 10 starts through May 26, Rodriguez posted a 16.6% K-BB% alongside a 7.35 ERA, 5.91 FIP and 3.91 xFIP. Pitch models gave him a 103 Stuff+, 99 Location+ and 102 Pitching+ rating in those outings.

In five starts since getting recalled in mid-July, Rodriguez has posted a 14% K-BB%, 3.57 ERA, 2.56 FIP, 3.50 xFIP, and the same models see a significant improvement (126 Stuff+, 101 Location+, 109 Pitching+) in his arsenal. During that span, among the 91 starters who have tossed at least 20 innings, Rodriguez and NL Cy Young favorite Zac Gallen are tied for fifth in Pitching+, just behind Spencer Strider and a rejuvenated Sandy Alcantara.

Rodriguez is throwing the ball harder (98.1 mph since his recall; 96.7 mph before), but he’s also scrapped his cutter (used as much as 22% of the time this season) in favor of more fastballs and changeups.

Pitching models are seemingly never as high on Framber Valdez (109 Stuff+, 97 Location+, 101 Pitching+) as they probably should be; the southpaw has established himself as one of the most reliable starters in the game (3.38 ERA since 2019) and has seen an uptick in performance this season (19.9% K-BB% this season; +4.5% vs. 2022). Still, his underlying indicators (3.86 xERA) and pitch modeling metrics suggest that Rodriguez has a higher ceiling between them.

Bet the Orioles to +111 in the first five innings (F5) and +105 for the full game, compared to my moneyline projections of +102 and -104, respectively.

Chicago Cubs vs. New York Mets

Jameson Taillon vs. Carlos Carrasco
First Pitch: 7:10 p.m. ET

Although Jameson Taillon has struggled during his first year in Chicago, the righty has performed much better of late (2.08 ERA in his past five starts). Pitching models view Taillon (99 Stuff+, 105 Location+) as essentially the same pitcher he was last season in the Bronx (100 Suff+, 105 Location+).

Taillon’s defense has cost him almost as much as any other pitcher in baseball (-8 Outs Above Average), leading to a career-worst .312 BABIP and 64.6% strand rate (career averages of .297 and 73.3%). That’s extra unlucky, considering they are the third-best defensive team in baseball, per Defensive Runs Saved, and seventh per OAA. Alex Young (-12 OAA) and Josh Winckowski (-9) are the only pitchers with worse defensive luck.

Carlos Carrasco (6.62 xERA, 92 Stuff+, 98 Location+) has struggled to find his form this season and potentially never recovered after a spring elbow injury. In his past four starts (15 1/3 innings), Carrasco has allowed 32 hits, 23 runs and three home runs while recording just nine strikeouts against six walks. He is seemingly deteriorating with each outing and is clearly at a career-worst level.

I projected Chicago’s F5 line around -135 in this matchup; bet the Cubs’ first half (F5) moneyline to -124.

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks

Julio Urias vs. Brandon Pfaadt
First Pitch: 9:40 p.m. ET

Like Grayson Rodriguez, Brandon Pfaadt is a top-tier pitching prospect who has looked much more confident in his second real taste of the big leagues. In May, Pfaadt posted an 8.37 ERA, 7.15 FIP, 5.45 xFIP, and a 9.3% K-BB% across five starts and struggled in a June 29th outing, too (2 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 2 BB, 3 K).

Still, the strikeout artist has found his command since returning in late July (18 2/3 IP, 14 H, 7 R, 2 BB, 16 K), and his pitch modeling numbers (105 Stuff+, 105 Location+) have improved (103 Stuff+, 100 Location+ before).

Julio Urias (4.00 xERA) is also pitching noticeably better than he had earlier in 2023. Still, his results and pitch modeling numbers (106 Stuff+, 104 Location+) are down compared to recent seasons (110 Stuff+, 106 Location+ in 2022).

Bet Arizona at +138 or better compared to my projection of +127.

Zerillo’s Bets for Tuesday, August 8

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  • Atlanta Braves / Pittsburgh Pirates, Under 10 (-110, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to -120 or 9.5, -102)
  • Arizona Diamondbacks (+140, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +138)
  • Baltimore Orioles F5 (+112, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to +111)
  • Baltimore Orioles (+116, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to +105)
  • Chicago Cubs F5 (-114, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -124)
  • Cincinnati Reds F5 (+120, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to +120)
  • Cincinnati Reds (+125, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to +119)
  • Cleveland Guardians (+120, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +115)
  • Colorado Rockies / Milwaukee Brewers, Over 8.5 (+100, 0.5u) at Caesars (bet to -110)
  • Los Angeles Angels (+100, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to -109)
  • Oakland Athletics (+215, 0.25u) at WynnBet (small to +192)
  • New York Yankees F5 (-132, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -133)
  • San Diego Padres (+130, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to +122)
  • Toronto Blue Jays / Cleveland Guardians, Over 8 (-105, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to -110)

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