Daily Expert MLB Picks: Saturday, April 14, 2018, Opening Line Report
With Tax Day imminent in the USA, seems a good time to take a look at Forbes' annual list of MLB team rankings. To no surprise, the New York Yankees are the most valuable franchise in the sport at $4 billion. It's the 21st straight year the Yankees are atop the MLB list. Forbes estimated the Yankees' 2017 revenue at $619 million, which is nearly 20 percent higher than any other team. The late George Steinbrenner, by the way, paid $8.8 million for the team in 1973. The Dodgers are second at $3 billion and bring in $522 million of revenue. The two Florida teams are last: the Marlins at $1 billion, even though they recently sold for $1.2 billion, and the Rays at $900 million. The average team value is $1.645 billion, seven percent more than last year. Mike Trout is the sport's highest-paid player for the first time with a salary of $33.25 million. The average salary this season grew only 1% to $4.52 million.
Rockies at Nationals ( -209, 7 )
A 1:05 p.m. ET first pitch from D.C. I almost always will recommend the Nationals on the runline when ace Max Scherzer (2-1, 0.90) pitches because there's not a ton of value betting them at -200 or higher when he's on the mound. That recommendation has worked in two of three starts this season. He comes off a complete-game two-hit shutout of the Braves, striking out 10. It was Scherzer's fifth career shutout - I thought that would be a bit higher. If Scherzer can reach double-digit strikeouts here, he would become one of 17 pitchers in MLB history to record three 10+ strikeout games in his team's first 15 games. The Rockies' Carlos Gonzalez is 3-for-12 off him with three solo homers. Colorado ace Jon Gray (1-2, 5.63) was rocked for seven runs over five innings last time out vs. a bad Padres offense. Gray lost his lone 2017 start vs. Washington, allowing three runs over seven.
Key trends: The Nationals are 8-2 in Scherzer's past 10 at home. The "over/under" has gone under in six of his past seven. The over is 4-0-1 in Gray's past five.
Early lean: Nationals on runline and under.
Yankees at Tigers (TBA)
This one gets underway at 1:10 p.m. ET on the MLB Network. When you are in full rebuild mode, you sign veteran pitchers perhaps past their prime but hoping they find some early-season success and you can flip them to a contender for a prospect or two. That's exactly why the Tigers signed lefty Francisco Liriano this spring, and so far so good as Liriano is 1-1 with a 2.13 ERA, going at least six innings in both starts. Last year, Liriano (who spent time with Jays and Astros) made one start vs. the Yankees and beat them, allowing two runs over five. Brett Gardner is 6-for-18 against him with five RBIs. New York will start Luis Cessa as a fill-in for CC Sabathia, so I'm not sure why this is TBA. Cessa has made two scoreless one-inning relief appearances since being recalled a week ago. He surely will not go the full five innings to have a shot at a win. No Tiger has more than one at-bat off him. Miguel Cabrera's was a homer.
Key trends: The Yankees are 4-1 in their past five vs. a lefty. The over is 4-0-1 in the past five meetings in Detroit.
Early lean: Like over what should be a total of 9.
Cardinals at Reds (TBA)
You may have heard recently that ESPN unveiled a new streaming service called ESPN+. It only costs $4.99 a month and promises a ton of live sports. The calling card for MLB on it was one game per day. The problem is: Subscribers don't pick the game. Frankly, you are better off getting MLB.tv or an MLB Extra Innings package built around whatever team you follow. I love baseball, but it's not like football or the NBA where I'll just watch a random game. This one is the ESPN+ offering on Saturday with a 1:10 p.m. ET first pitch. It's Miles Mikolas (1-0, 6.00) for the Cardinals. Before this year, the 29-year-old journeyman hadn't pitched in the majors since 57.1 innings in 2014 with Texas. Both of Mikolas' starts this year have been vs. Milwaukee, and he's allowed four earned in each. Like Mikolas, Reds lefty Cody Reed might not be long for his team's rotation. Reed has made one start, lasting three innings in a loss in Philadelphia. Reed has thrown 12.1 career innings vs. the Cardinals and allowed five runs. Not sure why this is TBA, either. There was some speculation Reed wouldn't start, but all indications are he will.
Key trends: The Reds are 0-12 in Reed's past 12 starts. The over is 10-1-1 in his past 12.
Early lean: Now those are trends! Reds and under (kidding - Cardinals and over regardless).
Phillies at Rays (-119, 7)
Probably more Phillies fans at this one considering it's still spring break in much of the Northeast and the Phillies have also held their spring training for years just up the road from St. Petersburg in Clearwater. Jake Arrieta (0-0, 4.50) makes his second career start with the Phils. He was signed after camp started so was a bit behind and debuted last Sunday vs. the Marlins, allowing three runs (all in the first) over four innings. Arrieta was on a pitch count, and you'd think that will grow a bit here. Denard Span has seen him by far more than any Rays batter, going 4-for-24 with five Ks. Tampa Bay ace Chris Archer (1-0, 5.94) has oddly given up four runs and six hits (one homer) in all three starts thus far. This will be his first career appearance against the Phillies, although I'm sure he faced them in the spring previously. Carlos Santana is 6-for-16 off him with two doubles. Philly adds the DH.
Key trends: The Rays are 10-4 in Archer's past 14 interleague starts. The under is 6-1 in his previous seven vs. the NL.
Early lean: Phillies and under.
Brewers at Mets (-120, 8)
The Mets are off to a great start and have been healthy - so you almost knew the latter part had to end with that team's luck the past few years. Injury-prone starting catcher Travis d'Arnaud has landed on the DL with a partially torn UCL in his right elbow, and it could lead to season-ending Tommy John surgery. Obviously, a catcher has to be able to throw. D'Arnaud was hitting .200 with a homer and three RBIs this season. Tomas Nido has been called up from Double-A Binghamton to share time behind the plate with Kevin Plawecki. If d'Arnaud is done, look for the Mets to search for catching help. They start Matt Harvey here. Harvey (0-0, 3.60) has lasted five innings in both starts, one a great one at home and last time out not so good in Washington. He lost his lone start vs. Milwaukee last year, allowing five runs in five innings. The Brewers' Chase Anderson (0-1, 3.38) threw a quality start last time out (6 IP, 2 ER) vs. the Cubs but still took the loss. Anderson has given up four homers in his last two starts after giving up 14 all of last year. New York's Adrian Gonzalez hammers him, going 9-for-18 with five walks.
Key trends: The Mets are 2-12 in Harvey's past 14 vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 7-1 in Anderson's past eight on the road.
Early lean: Mets and under.
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