After what seemed like an eternity, baseball is back and tonight we got our first big dose of action.
After we witnessed a rain-shortened Yankees win over the Nationals before a Dodgers blowout of the Giants to open up the 2020 MLB season, we get a total of 14 games on tonight’s schedule from 4:10 p.m. ET between the Braves and Mets all the way to the 10:10 start between the Angels and A’s.
So, let’s buckle up for a ton of MLB action on this beautiful Friday, but first, let’s take a look at a free pick featuring the Tigers vs. Reds from Great American Ball Park in Cinatinnati!
Tigers vs. Reds Betting Odds
- Tigers (+154)
- Reds (-167)
- Tigers +1.5 (-133)
- Reds -1.5 (+113)
- Over 9 (-102)
- Under 9 (-118)
Tigers vs. Reds MLB Pick Breakdown
Pitching Matchup: Boyd (DET) vs. Gray (CIN)
The Tigers, coming off an MLB-worst 47-win season in 2019, will send ace Matt Boyd to the hill for his first career season-opening start this evening in Cincy.
Boyd came out out of the gate fast last season, turning in a 3.13 ERA in March/April before hurling a 2.55 mark in the month of May. Home run issues saw him post a 5.51 ERA over the season’s second half, but more important for tonight is the fact that Boyd posting a 3.87 ERA in the season first half to go along with a stellar 3.57 FIP/3.38 xFIP.
Where Boyd truly excelled throughout the entire season was in the strikeout department as his second half still saw him post an elite 11.03 K/9 clip after he turned in a 11.94 mark in the season’s first half. At the end of the day, Boyd’s 11.56 K/9 from the 2019 season ranked him sixth in baseball among qualified pitchers, trailing only Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer, Robbie Ray, Justin Verlander and Lucas Giolito.
It was a fastball/slider combination that led Boyd to racking up the punchouts, but word on the street is Boyd has worked hard on a changeup to throw more frequently this season than on the 6% of his offering from last season.
For the Reds, it will be Sonny Gray taking the hill for the opener, and really the Reds could have also gone with Luis Castillo or Trevor Bauer as part of their elite 1-2-3 punch atop that rotation.
Nonetheless, it will be Gray coming off a stellar first tour of duty with the Reds as he posted a sparkling 2.87 ERA to go along with a 3.42 FIP, 3.65 xFIP and a big-time 10.52 K/9 clip that blew past his career mark of just 8.31.
Whether the strikeouts remain or not is to be determined, but Gray thoroughly put a tough 2018 season with the Yankees behind him after struggling to a 4.90 ERA in his lone full season in the Bronx.
Still, few pitchers in baseball have been as consistent as Gray has in his career as he’s turned in a 3.53 ERA/3.69 FIP/3.70 xFIP while keeping the ball in the yard at a 0.87 HR/9 clip while he matched that exact home run number last season with the Reds despite the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ball Park.
Pitching didn’t help the Tigers in the 2019 season, but the team’s offense was about as futile as it got.
Only the Marlins finished the 2019 season with a worse wOBA than the Tigers’ .290 mark while their 149 home runs ranked them dead last in the American League and ahead of only, you guessed it, the Marlins.
The club addressed some needs in the power department in the offseason, however, adding slugger C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop to fill out the left side of their infield and the hope is that a slimmed-down, healthy Miguel Cabrera can at least hit for gap power with his enormous home run power having not been present since he hit 38 home runs in the 2016 season.
At the end of the day, the rebuilding Tigers were at or near the bottom of the American League in nearly every offense-related category last season and despite some veteran additions in Cron and Schoop, the projection is that the Tigers should once again be near the bottom of the league at the plate again this time around.
The Reds got plenty of pitching last season, but the offense fell flat and was the foremost reason why they finished well out of the playoff race once again.
However, like the Tigers, the Reds addressed needs on offense in a big way this offseason, adding proven slugger Mike Moustakas and Nicholas Castellanos on four-year deals apiece to help anchor the club’s prowess at the plate.
Both players hit for a ton of power while Castellanos is notably coming off a monster 58-double season that ranks as the 10th-most in a single-season in baseball history, but also the most in a single season since the Rockies’ Todd Helton racked up 59 in the 2000 season.
That duo will be added to an offense that features 2019 49-homer man Eugenio Suarez and Joey Votto along with top prospect Nick Senzel.
After a season in which they finished with a 22nd-ranked .312 wOBA, the expectation in Cincinnati is that this Reds offense should be good enough to compliment what should be a lights-out starting rotation.
When you lose 114 games in a season, there’s more than one reason. The Tigers’ futile offense is one, the lack of rotation depth was another, but few bullpens were worse than the group the Tigers rolled out a season ago.
The Tigers’ 4.94 bullpen ERA ranked them 24th in baseball, but they also ranked 28th with a 5.06 FIP and 26th with a 0.6 fWAR from that group.
Unfortunately, the rebuilding club didn’t go out and sign immediate, big-name help, but are rather giving the bullpen reps to prospects, a Rule 5 addition and some other low-key signings.
Aside from 25-year-old closer Joe Jimenez – who struggled at times while posting a 4.37 ERA but also a 12.37 K/9 last season – and likely setup man Buck Farmer (solid 3.72 ERA/3.88 FIP), the Tigers’ bullpen roles and makeup are largely undetermined at this point with a cast of no-name arms set to do battle for spots moving forward.
On the contrary, the Reds got quality work from their bullpen in 2019 and will need that type of effort again this time around.
The clubs’ ‘pen turned in a 13th-ranked 4.28 ERA a season ago and ranked 12th with a 4.30 FIP and 3.8 fWAR as well. It’s not the most dominant group in the league, but that’s certainly a serviceable bullpen to say the least.
Raisel Iglesias will return as closer while Pedro Strop, Michael Lorenzen and Amir Garrett could actually form a formidable bridge to Iglesias to shut down games in the late innings.
On the surface it would appear the Reds could be in for improved work out of their bullpen this season as they continue to look like one of the more well-rounded clubs in baseball.
The Tigers aren’t expected to win many games again this season, although rolling out Boyd gives them the best chance of anyone in their rotation, barring a big return from former ace Michael Fulmer who is now fully healed from Tommy John surgery.
That said, the trouble in winning tonight’s game for the Tigers is largely the Reds’ pitching staff, beginning with Gray.
Surprisingly, current Tigers players have hit a combined .293 with a .224 ISO, .365 wOBA and .845 OPS off Gray in a combined 61 plate appearances, however that includes a prime Miguel Cabrera while the players with the best numbers against him aren’t projected to be in the club’s lineup tonight.
If anything stood out to me while watching last night’s action, it was that it seemed the pitchers were ahead of the batters. Of course, Gerrit Cole and Max Scherzer looked dominant, but so did Dustin May and Johnny Cueto in the night cap before the Dodgers teed off on the Giants’ bullpen.
In other words, my expectation is that Gray is set to dominate this Tigers lineup.
On the flip side, I can see Boyd holding the Reds in check as well. As noted, the strikeout artist was dominant in the season’s first couple months last year, and if he comes out anywhere close to that this time around in the next step of his development, it could make for a low-scoring game.
Based primarily on Gray and the Reds’ bullpen having their way with the Tigers’ offense, I’ll go ahead and lock in the under 9 in my first free MLB pick of the 2020 season.