This article is part of our MLB Betting series.
Previous day: 2-2, -0.53 RWBucks
Season: 29-42, -17.29 RWBucks
The first ten days of May did see an expected uptick in offense, with batting average up nine points, from .232 to .241, over April, mostly thanks to a nine-point jump in batting average on balls in play (.283 to .292). Run scoring was up as well, to 4.68 runs per game, but that's influenced by the extreme run environment in extra innings: a 781 OPS that is 45 to 50 points higher than the highest regular innings, the first and third.
By my count, so far in May there have been 34 half-innings played with the runner-on-second rule. Those innings have seen 44 runs scored, about 2.6 runs for every full inning. (This is slightly understating the case, as some innings end with fewer than three outs recorded and high-value situations abandoned.) If you take that artificial inflation out, assume that 17 runs – roughly normal scoring for 34 half-innings – would be scored in those innings instead, you find league scoring drops by about 3% in May. (Seven-inning games have the opposite effect, but only to a much lesser degree as you're losing three or four half-innings with a much lower expected run environment.) The league hits .234/.309/.391 for nine innings, and then .258/.374/.406 once the ghost runner arrives.
The fact is, it's hard to use league-level stats right now. "Runs per game" is a mess because the definition of a "game" is fluid. "Runs per inning" is ruined by extras. About 1.5% of PAs are coming in those artificial extra-inning games. It's probably best to just use nine-inning games, as is often done for time-of-game calculations. Park factors are a mess; single-season ones have sample-size problems, while multi-year factors drag in the distortion of the 2020 season that was played within three geographically constrained conferences. I'm finding myself avoiding park-adjusted stats, such as wRC+ or OPS+, in favor of their unadjusted counterparts. This is before we get into the effects of the modified baseball, which seem to be having a serious effect on power and run scoring.
If it feels like I'm meandering today, well, I am. I've been a stathead for more than 30 years, and at no point have I ever had to side-eye the numbers the way I have this year. If I don't trust the numbers, it's hard for me to trust my analysis and my conclusions, whether covering the game as a writer or as a bettor. Usually, this part of the season is a good time for baseball betting, with enough in-season information to provide edges. I'm not sure that's the case just yet, and am looking forward to what more we learn, especially about the baseball itself, in the coming weeks.
Until then, let's be careful out there.
It was a week ago that I landed behind Jeff Hoffman and the Reds offense in a game in which they were shut out. Tonight in Pittsburgh, our site projects an 11-mph wind blowing out, offsetting the chill in the air (52 degrees). Brubaker had some helium coming into the season, and has floated to a 2.78 ERA in six starts, with a 37/8 K/BB. Half those walks, however, came in four innings against these Reds in his first start. I'll count on the Reds' patience, even absent Joey Votto, and Hoffman's shakiness to push this game over the total. 1 RWBuck.
I wrote earlier this year about betting preseason projections, and how deep into the year you lean on those. I'm still doing it here, getting my projected better team at home at plus money, behind a starter, even for just four innings, who I rate very highly. At the time of the Blake Snell trade, I said that the Rays might win the deal in the short term and the long term, as Patino, a highly-rated prospect buried in low-leverage relief for the Padres last year, is already a very good pitcher. 1.5 RWBucks.
I had to check to make sure this was a nine-inning game. I've taken the over on Senzatela at home once this season and walked into a shutout. All the numbers, including a 13% strikeout rate, still point to runs being scored on him at Coors. As for the Padres, Dinelson Lamet has gone two innings twice in two starts, and Ryan Weathers will almost certainly not be available after going 54 pitches Sunday. I'll take my chances with Miguel Diaz in the middle innings of this one. (Note: this pick has action no matter who starts for the Padres.) 1.5 RWBucks.