MLB Picks Today, Best Bets, Odds, Predictions for August 21, 2023

Yordan Alvarez
HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 11: Yordan Alvarez #44 of the Houston Astros celebrates after hitting a walk-off home run against the Seattle Mariners during the ninth inning in game one of the American League Division Series at Minute Maid Park on October 11, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Friday stunk, and the weekend was meh. It’s just been a weird year. Plenty of blown leads, but that doesn’t change my process.

Something about this board is speaking to me. I have a lot of plays. In an effort to get these plays out quicker, the writeups are a bit shorter than usual, but it doesn’t mean I am any less confident in the plays.

2023 Straight Plays Record: 139-147 (-4.68 U)

I’m using BetMGM lines only this year. Here’s a link to get started with a first bet offer of up to $1000.

All prop entries will be on PrizePicks: Here’s a link to get a 100% deposit match.

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Chicago Cubs vs. Detroit Tigers @ 6:40 PM EST

Pitching Matchup: Javier Assad vs. Alex Faedo

I’m going to be real with you. I did not intend to bet on the Tigers until I pulled up the model. I banned them about a month ago and never planned on going back. However, this is one of the largest edges the model has ever shown.

The Tigers are +115 on the full game ML and +105 on the first five ML. The model has them priced at -184 through the full game and has them at a 56.5% chance (-130) to lead through five innings.

You have to admit; this is a weirdly short line. The difference in ERA between Javier Assad and Alex Faedo is a full two runs, and the Tigers are this short of favorites at home against a Cubs team that just took two of three from the Royals and is 6-4 in their last ten games.

Alex Faedo is +105 to surpass 2.5 earned runs, and Assad is -110. The pitching outs aren’t any different, either.

Models continue to like Faedo because his ERA estimators (4.01 xERA) point to a lot positive regression. His command is fantastic (104 Location+), and he’s coming off his best start of the season against the Twins, only allowing one hit and no runs over five innings. He also tossed a gem against the Padres, tossing six innings with that same stat line.

Javier Assad lines up on the other side, who looks to be the complete opposite of Faedo. His 4.56 xERA is much worse than his 3.11 ERA, but he’s made some solid starts against the Blue Jays and White Sox. By xERA, Faedo is the better starter, even though the ERA tells a different story.

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This is it. If the Tigers lose, they remain in the banned bin until next year because it’s clear that models can’t figure them out. I’m betting them in both halves as long as they are plus money.

The Pick: Tigers First 5 ML (+105) 0.5 U to win 0.525, Tigers ML (+115) 0.5 U to win 0.525

Tracked on Pikkit

San Francisco Giants vs. Philadephia Phillies @ 6:40 PM EST

Pitching Matchup: Scott Alexander vs. Aaron Nola

This isn’t exactly the “Sunday Night Baseball system,” but it originally led me to this game, and I believe I found an edge.

Aaron Nola started the season off poorly, as his velocity was down across the board. However, it all came back in the middle of June towards July, and while the results weren’t there, I was excited about his second half. However, his fastball is back down to 92-93 MPH, and he’s been limping to the finish line. He’s had one great start in August and two rough starts against the Royals and Blue Jays.

We can point to his ERA estimators and say, “Aaron Nola is due for positive regression.” I feel like I’ve been doing that for three years, and at this point, he is who he is. He’s at a 4.58 ERA this season and a 3.71 ERA in his career. The Phillies’ defense doesn’t do him any favors, and he continually falls below the expectations that nerds like me put on him.

He is facing a bad Giants offense. They have been better against righties this season (95 wRC+), but they haven’t been hitting them at all in the last 30 days (65 wRC+). Over the entire season, this is a slightly below-average offense against righties. Regardless, I’m not betting on this game because I think the Giants’ offense explodes against Aaron Nola.

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I’m betting this because I think the Phillies’ bats come out slow. They will get a classic Giants bullpen game after Sunday Night Baseball in a different environment than they are used to.

Scott Alexander will be the opener before Sean Manaea. Alexander can be effective as an opener, posting a 3.08 FIP against lefties and a 3.58 FIP against righties. He likely won’t go longer than an inning and will turn it over to Manaea.

Manaea started the season off horribly before moving to the bullpen, where he’s been fantastic. In his last eight appearances over 23 innings, he’s posted a 2.74 ERA. He’s been pitching at the top of his game in August, only allowing one run through 10.1 innings in August. The Phillies are the opposite of the Giants in that sense. Hitting lefties lately (121 wRC+) but averaged over the full season (102 wRC+). I’m betting on the average Phillies coming to play after Sunday Night Baseball.

The Phillies own the offensive advantage overall, but I believe we get slow Phillies bats that neutralize that advantage. The first five innings, in my opinion, don’t show a clear edge with how Nola looks at the moment. The Giants own the bullpen advantage, ranking higher in SIERA and ERA this season.

The model puts these teams on an even playing field. +100 all the way around. I somewhat agree with that prediction, as I make the Giants +120 in this matchup. This is a value play more than thinking the Giants should be clear favorites in this one. If the Phillies are hot, we stay away. However, occasionally the Phillies will go through lulls offensively, and I think that shines today in a historically bad spot for offenses.

Give me the Giants down to +125. The under is also a good play, but give me the value on the Giants.

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The Pick: Giants ML (+138) 1 U to win 1.38 U

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St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates @ 7:05 PM EST

Pitching Matchup: Drew Rom vs. Bailey Falter

The Cardinals acquired Drew Rom in the deal for Jack Flaherty, and after two dominant starts in AAA, he’s getting the call-up to make his debut on the road against the Pirates. We faded rookies making their debut on the road a lot last season, and it became increasingly more profitable as the season ended. It makes sense, as teams who are out of it decide to try their young pitchers. The question is, is Drew Rom ready for the big leagues? I’m willing to bet against it.

While he has been fantastic in the minors in his past few starts, this is a pitcher the Orioles were willing to depart with in exchange for Jack Flaherty. With those two great starts, he has a 4.82 ERA in the minors this year with a 1.57 WHIP. He’s a 23-year-old left-hander with some strikeout upside, but I don’t consider him a top prospect.

I’m also happy to fade the Cardinals. This team looks so bad right now as they completely bottomed out against the Mets. The fact that they won yesterday makes me want to fade them today. Let’s see this team win two in a row.

The Pirates’ offense isn’t any good, but they are a big-league team with plenty of capable hitters. This is a big test for a young pitcher like this.

On the other side, Bailey Falter has shown to be a massive reverse splits pitcher, which should end up helping him against the Cardinals. Lefties have demolished Falter this year, posting an OPS over 1.100. However, against righties, that OPS falls to the mid-.700s. It also shows up in his FIP, posting a 7.61 FIP against lefties and a 4.36 FIP against righties.

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The Cardinals will deploy an almost all-right-handed lineup with Nolan Gorman and Lars Nootbar on the shelf. Against lefties, that usually works, but with Falter’s strength against right-handers, I expect him to pitch relatively well today.

At this point in the season, I think we are all well aware of what the Cardinals bullpen brings to the table. If the Cardinals have a lead, I’m not too worried about the Pirates battling back. Both bullpens are pretty well-rested for this one, so we should see the best arms in this opening game.

I make the Pirates and Cardinals an even -110 across the board. If the Pirates are at least +105, it’s worth the play, in my opinion.

The Pick: Pirates ML (+108) 1 U to win 1.08 U

Tracked on Pikkit

Boston Red Sox vs. Houston Astros @ 7:05 PM EST

Pitching Matchup: James Paxton vs. Cristian Javier

I normally will look back on the board to see how the lines have moved while I’m near the end of my article. This is the one play that did not move in my direction, so take that as you will.

This is simply a spot I want to play. The Mariners swept the Astros, and the Red Sox dismantled the Yankees. Now, the Red Sox travel from New York to Houston without an off-day, while the Astros didn’t have to leave the stadium. While both teams are gunning for playoff spots, the clearly better team is the Astros.

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The Astros also destroy left-handed pitching. We faded the Astros against a lefty with Miami, and Verlander did get hit, but the Astros put up 12 runs. In the last two weeks, this Astros team has a 177 wRC+. That ranks number one for any team with at least 100 PA. In the last 30 days, they have a 155 wRC+, placing them second in baseball. This is an extremely high-powered attack right now against left-handed pitchers, and they’ll get James Paxton.

Paxton has been really solid for the Red Sox this season, but he’s shown his weaknesses on the road, posting a 3.94 ERA compared to his 2.58 ERA at home. He also hasn’t faced an offense that comes close to the Astros this season. The closest he’s faced is Toronto and San Diego; we know how well those offenses have done this season (bleh).

Cristian Javier hasn’t been a fun pitcher to back this year, but he is at his best in Houston. He’s posted a 3.19 ERA this season at home versus a 5.33 ERA on the road. The Red Sox have an above-average offense against righties in the last 30 days, posting a 111 wRC+. In the last two weeks, it has fallen to a 106 wRC+. It’s a good lineup but doesn’t come close to the Astros against lefties.

This is the Red Sox’s seventh game in a row, all coming on the road. This is a simple bet, I think the better team in a better spot in their better split wins this one.

The Pick: Astros ML (-130) 1 U to win 0.77 U

Tracked on Pikkit

Texas Rangers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks @ 9:40 PM EST

Pitching Matchup: Jordan Montgomery vs. Slade Cecconi

Just a big starting pitching mismatch, but the Rangers bullpen is completely burnt out.

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Slade Cecconi has a 5.95 xERA facing a Rangers offense that was just embarrassed by the Brewers’ strong pitching staff. The Rangers are still a very strong offense against righties (115 wRC+ last 30 days)

Jordan Montgomery is the definition of solid. He’s been fantastic with the Rangers since he’s been brought over, and the Diamondbacks mediocre offense against lefties (90 wRC+ last 30 days).

Something weird I noticed. Cecconi is +500 to get a win. That’s crazy; you rarely see pitchers beyond +300. I think this is a wake-up call for him today. Give me the Rangers to build a lead early. After that, anything can happen with the Rangers bullpen as used as it is right now.

The Pick: Rangers First 5 ML (-145) 1 U to win 0.69 U

Tracked on Pikkit