If yesterday was any indication as to how this Major League Baseball season is going to play out, we are in for a rollercoaster ride in 2020. After making my pick, I was horrified to find out that the Nationals best hitter, superstar Juan Soto, had tested positive for the Corona Virus and would not be on the field. The line shifted over thirty points based on that news, and I went from loving my bet to feeling like I got stuck with a bad number.
But I still had Max Scherzer to fall back on, and even without his best bats in the lineup, you can never count Mad Max out of a game. And while Scherzer did manage to strike out eleven guys in five innings of work, he allowed four runs, all earned, and the Nationals fell behind early. Gerrit Cole was particularly sharp as well in his Yankees debut, as he allowed just one run on one hit, an Adam Eaton home run, in five innings of work.
Unfortunately, the rain came after the fifth, and the game was canceled. The game went a full five innings, so the result went final after a couple of hour delay, and we start out the year a disappointing 0-1.
I hate that Soto didn’t get to play, and I hate that the Nats didn’t get a chance to play the second half of the game and try and come back, but at the end of the day the breaks go both ways in the long run, and today we caught a bad one. For today’s daily betting pick, we will head to New York City, where the Mets host the Braves.
Atlanta Braves (0-0) at New York Mets (0-0)
The New York Mets open up their regular season tonight as they host the Atlanta Braves in game one of a three-game series from Citi Field. Both teams come into this season with playoff aspirations with the Braves opening the year as the favorites in the National League East Division, but not by much, as the Mets, Phillies, and Nationals are all considered playoff-caliber teams. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 PM PST.
The Braves had a turbulent offseason. They lost Josh Donaldson, Dallas Keuchel, and Julio Teheran but did backfill with guys like Marcell Ozuna, Cole Hamels, and Will Smith. So, a lot of the names on the back of the jerseys are going to be different, but from a high level, the talent level is about the same as they swapped some existing veteran players with some new veteran players and kept their young core of studs intact.
Atlanta tried to sign Yasiel Puig, but that fell through as he didn’t pass a team physical, and Will Smith, a guy that is expected to be a key part of the Braves bullpen, starts the season on the IL. On top of not having Puig and Smith, both Nick Markakis and Felix Hernandez decided to opt-out of play this season.
All of that being said, this team has a very talented roster with Ronald Acuna Jr, Ozzie Albies, Ozuna, and a trio of young starting pitchers with huge upside. One of those young starters makes his season debut today, as Mike Soroka will start for Atlanta.
Mike Soroka (0-0 0.00 ERA)
After making his Major League debut at just 20 years old in 2018, Mike Soroka, a former first-round draft pick and blue-chip prospect, got his shot at being a regular in the Braves starting rotation last year, and he did not disappoint. Soroka was an All-Star, finished runner up for the Rookie of the Year Award, and finished in 6th in the National League Cy Young Award voting.
Soroka went 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA, and that includes August when he hit a bit of a rookie wall and posted an ERA of over four runs. He started the season out hot as he was 9-1 with a 2.42 ERA in the first half of the year. On the road, where he will pitch today, he finished up 2019 with a 7-1 record and a 1.55 ERA in 16 starts. Against the Mets, he went 2-0 in three starts.
New York Mets
If you think that the Atlanta Braves had a tough offseason, wait until you hear what happened in New York! The Mets fired their manager, Carlos Beltran, before he ever managed a single game as he got wrapped up in the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal. The team was on the market as it was rumored to be sold the entire offseason, and they lost one of the best starting pitchers in the National League when Noah “Thor” Syndergaard got shut down and will require Tommy John surgery.
The Mets quickly went from a dark horse World Series favorite to a fringe contender in the NL East Division. Young guys Jeff O’Neil and Pete Alonso give New York fans a reason to be optimistic about the future, but this Mets team will need big contributions out of over the hill players like Robinson Cano and Yoenis Cespedes to truly compete, and recent history tells us that they aren’t going to get it.
Jacob deGrom (0-0 0.00 ERA)
The bright shining spot on this New York Mets team is back to back National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom. deGrom is an absolute beast on the mound, and after winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award back in 2014, he has been terrorizing hitters ever since. Only one time since 2015 has he not finished in the top ten of the NL Cy Young Award voting, and that was in 2016, when he missed significant time to injury.
Last year, deGrom posted an 11-8 record with a 2.43 ERA and 255 strikeouts. The only glaring issue for the Mets with deGrom on the mound, is that they just don’t seem to win all that often when he starts. Despite arguably being the best pitcher in the National League the last six seasons, he has just a 66-49 record to show for it. Last year the Mets were 10-18 in games that deGrom started, until they finished the regular season by winning his final four starts, a run that clinched his second straight Cy Young Award.
Who Do I Like?
It is very hard to bet against a starting pitcher like Jacob deGrom. He is almost always great, gets deep into games, and strikes out a bunch of guys. But for whatever reason, the Mets just don’t win when he pitches. We saw this last year in his four starts against the Braves as he posted a very respectable 3.08 ERA with 39 strikeouts in 26.1 innings, and guess what? The Mets went 1-3 in those four starts. And the exact opposite is true for the Braves when Soroka starts, as they won 19 out of his 29 starts in 2019.
When you look at these teams as a whole, the Braves are the better overall squad. In a 60-game sprint of a season like we are having in 2019, it is hard to say if the cream will have a chance to rise to the top, but assuming that the teams with the most talent win the most games in 2020, you can pencil in the Braves to finish well ahead of the Mets in the NL East standings.
I am taking the underdogs in this one. The early action came in on New York, shifting this line ten points in the overnight betting, and if you are a long time reader of my daily MLB picks, you know that I love nothing more than to fade the betting public by jumping on the other side of line moves. I hate to bet against deGrom, but I have done it the last several seasons, and fading deGromn as a favorite has been VERY profitable.
You can expect deGrom to be good, maybe even great, but when all the smoke clears, the Braves are going to find a way to win this game. Good teams find ways to win games they aren’t supposed to, and bad teams find ways to lose games they shouldn’t. That’s what I see happening in this one today. Give me the Atlanta Braves +133 today on Opening Day!