MLB Picks Today, Best Bets, Odds, Predictions for Thursday, May 16, 2024

Tyler O'Neil
Anaheim, CA - April 05: Tyler O'Neill #17 of the Boston Red Sox high fives teammates after a solo home run against the Los Angeles Angels in the second inning of a baseball game at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

A miserable day. We only dropped 0.25 units, but the actual games were agonizing. We won in Baltimore, but the Orioles went 0-10 with RISP. They should have won the game easily, but it took a walk-off home run.

We lost on the first five over in Oakland. It’s hard to believe Brooks only gave up three runs, but it was a bad read considering Valdez was lights out.

On a smaller slate, I found value in some props today. Let’s get after it.

These picks are available on BetMGM. Code “JustBaseball” for a first bet offer up to $1500.

2024 Record: 48-58 (-11.26 U)

Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox @ 7:10 PM EST

Pitching Matchup: Zack Littell vs. Cooper Criswell

I was looking into this game to try and pick a winner, but I came away focusing on two prop lines with these two starting pitchers.

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We’ll start with the smaller wager surrounding Zack Littell. The Red Sox have done an excellent job of driving up pitch counts, which hasn’t allowed a Rays pitcher to go over 15 outs this series. Manager Kevin Cash has also shown to have a quick trigger, limiting his pitchers to 90 pitches.

The only pitcher on the Rays this month who has gone over 90 pitches is Zach Eflin, who has one start with 91 pitches and one with 94.

Cash’s trust in his bullpen—they’ve been a much better unit over the last few weeks—is an ample reason for this change. In their first 22 games, they had a 5.54 ERA. Over the previous 22 games, they have a 3.40 ERA.

Can Littell get through six innings against this Red Sox team while staying around the 90-pitch mark? It’s possible, but it’s more likely he doesn’t.

He’s been under this number this season in four of his eight starts. In those four starts where he went over, he got precisely 18 outs. In three of those four starts where he went over, he faced teams who don’t see as many pitches per plate appearance as the Red Sox.

The only team that did see more pitches (and he went over) was the Tigers. That was a weird game, where he allowed five earned runs in six innings and finished with 86 pitches. If we get one of those games, I’ll tip my cap.

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He’s been under in two of his three road starts. They have four relievers in a fine rest spot, so if Littell’s pitch count is getting high, it’s unlikely that they will push him longer. I’m following this new trend in Tampa for a half unit. Play to -110.

The Pick: Zack Littell Under 17.5 Pitching Outs (+100) Risk 0.5 Units

Cooper Criswell’s strikeout line is off; I would make it 4.5 at -110 on both sides. He’s a product of the new Red Sox pitching lab. He’s been over this line in four of six appearances, and he’s starting to punch out more hitters as the season progresses.

His last three starts, in particular, have been fantastic. He’s thrown 14.1 innings and has struck out 18 batters. Over the entire season, he’s rocking a 24.8% strikeout rate, which places him in the 65th percentile, marking an above-average strikeout rate.

Based on his strikeout rate, he’s getting one per inning. With the Red Sox giving him more length as he continues to pitch well, I have no reason to believe the plan isn’t five innings as it has been lately. In his last three starts, he’s gone 79 or 80 pitches. That seems to be his limit right now, but he should get at least four strikeouts in that span.

The Rays are one of the heavier strikeout teams in the league. Over the entire season, they rank 20th in strikeout rate. Over the past month, they rank 19th. In the last two weeks, they rank 23rd. They strike out at an elevated rate, the Rays tend to chase against his offspeed pitches.

Criswell’s sinker doesn’t garner any swing-and-miss, but his changeup, sweeper, and cutter do. The Rays have a 29% whiff rate against those three pitches, an above-average swing-and-miss rate compared to other teams. They also have the lowest xwOBA in baseball against that mix.

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The Rays also chase a lot. They have the fifth-highest chase rate in the league, which implies they are swinging and missing at pitches outside the zone. Criswell wants you to chase, sitting in the 71st percentile in baseball.

My cutoff price for Criswell is -160. Definitely worth the play.

The Pick: Cooper Criswell Over 3.5 Strikeouts (-135) Risk 1 Unit

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