This article is part of our MLB Betting series.
Previous day: 3-3, +0.72 RWBucks
Season: 52-69, -23.88 RWBucks
Yesterday was a rarity on the baseball calendar, a day with just three games, just two of those originally scheduled. The 2021 schedule was built before the 2020 season ever started, and appeared to clear June 7 so as to allow for full attention on the Rule 4 draft. That draft has been moved to the All-Star break, but the schedule was never changed.
As a practical matter, the main effect on the work here is that it lightens the load in tracking bullpens. Figuring out who might not be available, who might be pitching fatigued, is a big part of the day-to-day in this space. Well, just six teams played yesterday, and most of those didn't work the good halves of the bullpen. Adam Ottavino pitched for the Red Sox, but Matt Barnes got the day off. Mike Matheny worked Greg Holland an inning in an 8-3 loss. The Padres were the only team to use multiple good relievers, backing up Ryan Weathers with four guys in a 9-4 victory over the Cubs.
This matters most with teams who have just a few reliable relievers and clear patterns to how they are used. The best example is probably the Brewers, where Craig Counsell has reduced Josh Hader to a one-inning max save specialist who rarely pitches on consecutive days and never pitches on three straight. It's a far cry from the "ace reliever" role in which Hader made his name in 2018, and arguably one less valuable to the Brewers. To us, though; it's very helpful. We can know when Hader, the only Brewers' reliever with a FIP below 3.50, is unlikely to pitch (when he did the day before) and then when he is almost certain not to pitch (when he has pitched two straight).
Counsell's use of Hader isn't unusual. Managers have become extremely opposed to using relievers on even three straight days. There have been just 35 instances all season of a pitcher throwing three straight days, about one every other day around the league, and no instances of pitchers going four straight. Merely five years ago through the same date, there had been 127 pitchers who pitched three straight days, and seven of those had worked four in a row. Ottavino, to pick one guy, pitched Saturday, Sunday and Monday; you can rule him out tonight, thinning the Sox pen.
Some people avoid this stuff entirely by sticking to first-five-innings bets, taking the bullpens off their cards. That's a viable angle. I think the extra work to suss out which teams are light in the late innings, however, can provide an edge.
Just not after a day with three games. Small slate tonight, strangely, despite a 15-game card.
The early days of June have seen a small spike in offense, with R/9 (including extra innings) up to 4.9 per team, slugging percentage up to .418, and HR/FB jumping to nearly 15% – close to where it was in June 2019. I'm looking for opportunities to bet overs this week before the lines catch up, and this is a good one. Two teams that hit lefties well playing in a hitter's park. I've missed on Carlos Rodon a couple of times, expecting some regression, but will once again take a shot at fading him. 1.5 RWBucks.
This line seems a reaction to recent events, which include Martinez blowing up his stats by allowing ten runs in 2/3 of an inning last Wednesday. The Cardinals followed that by getting swept at home by the Reds over the weekend, their staff continuing its problems throwing strikes. Still, per Clay Davenport's numbers, the Cards have been a better team to date, and Shane Bieber isn't quite at the level he was in winning the Cy Young Award last year. There's value in the number. 1 RWBuck.