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Odds and Ends

MLB Best Bets for April 22

by Kenny Ducey
Updated On: April 22, 2021, 11:06 am ET

Arizona Diamondbacks (+125) vs. Cincinnati Reds (-145) Total: 8.5

This one may seem pretty easy to the naked eye. The Reds rank fifth in wRC+ against righties after all, and have had plenty of success at the plate all season long, while the Diamondbacks are down in 23rd. So, what's there to love about Arizona?

Well, for starters, if you look at the last 10 days, the roles are reversed. It's the Diamondbacks all the way up in 12th place with a 95 wRC+, and the Reds down in 23rd with an 85 wRC+. Arizona could not have started the season more sluggishly at the plate, but the bats have begun to come alive late led by Carson Kelly, Eduardo Escobar and a late-career resurgence from Asdrubal Cabrera.

Opposing this hot lineup will be Jeff Hoffman, who's been cruising for a bruising all season long. His ERA currently sits at 2.94, which you'd think would happen after pitching your whole career at Coors Field, but in actuality not much has changed. His expected ERA is all the way up at 6.14, and that's for a myriad of reasons. First off, he's stranding a ridiculous 88.5% of runners so far, which is about 23% higher than his career average. There's also the fact that he ranks in the bottom 28% of the league in average exit velocity and the bottom 9% in expected batting average against him. He's been getting very fortunate this season, and I think this is the right lineup for his luck to turn, particularly in one of the friendliest parks for hitters in the league.

I see the Diamondbacks team total as criminally low here, and while I like them to win the game, I can't take my eyes off of it.

Edge: Diamondbacks Team Total over 3.5 (-130)

 

Pittsburgh Pirates (+105) vs. Detroit Tigers (-125) Total: 8

In this game, we have a pitcher with a very long track record of being bad in Jose Urena, coming off of a good start but still posting mixed results in 2021. On the other side, we have a pitcher in Mitch Keller that's shown promise at the age of 25 but has failed to carry over the early success he had in his debut season into 2020 or 2021. The result? A high-scoring game.

I'm not normally one to trust the Pirates offense, but they just may be figuring some things out. Colin Moran is a legitimately good hitter — maybe one of the most underappreciated in baseball — and the rest of the top four have really made pretty consistent contact and been disciplined at the plate to the tune of an 8.2% walk rate. That's the name of the game with Urena, who ranks in the bottom 11% of the league in walk rate this year and who has allowed an average exit velocity over 90 MPH in each of the last two seasons. The matchup is good for Pittsburgh.

On the other hand, though the Tigers hit a bit of a slide against right-handers, they're still right there in 16th with a 94 wRC+ and a league-average offense is more than enough to get to Keller and his unsightly 51.4% hard-hit rate. Both of these teams should be able to handle hitting mediocre pitchers.

Edge: Over 8

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Kenny Ducey

Kenny Ducey is a former member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, writing and editing for Sports Illustrated and Baseball Prospectus. His work also appears at DraftKings and The Action Network. Follow him on Twitter @KennyDucey.