Best MLB player prop bets for today, 10/21: Betting on Wheeler and Harper
The Arizona Diamondbacks have defended their home field well in the NLCS, winning Game 3 and Game 4 to tie this series at 2-2. Game 5 features a starting pitching rematch from the Phillies’ 5-3 Game 1 victory as Zack Wheeler and Zac Gallen will battle to see whose first name is spelled correctly. Today’s featured player prop is on Wheeler and his ability to work deep in tonight’s game. Let’s dive in!
Zack Wheeler (PHI) over 16.5 outs recorded (-115) (to win 1u)
Odds available at BetMGM Sportsbook at time of publishing. Playable to -140.
Zack Wheeler and his 0.70 postseason WHIP across 54.2 combined innings in the last 2 seasons will once again take on the Arizona Diamondbacks tonight in a rematch of his dazzling Game 1 performance. The right-handed ace of this Phillies pitching staff completed 6 full frames across an efficient 82 pitches in that outing, allowing only 3 base runners and racking up 8 strikeouts. That was his third matchup with this offense this year when including regular-season action, and Wheeler has amassed 6 complete innings in each of those games. During the tail-end of the regular season and so far in the playoffs, it’s hard to make an argument for a pitcher who has been better than this guy. Wheeler has dominated his opponents with his lethal 4-seam fastball that has carried velocity throughout starts. He locates this pitch well at the top of the zone and makes it difficult for opponents to catch him given the respect the rest of his arsenal deserves. The veteran throws both a slider and sweeper, and yes, they are different pitches for those still attempting to deny. A curveball is his 3rd most-used breaking ball while a sinker gives him another fastball with double-digit usage. These offerings play extremely well off one another when he is on his game, and it is safe to say Wheeler has been on his game of late.
Wheeler’s 19 playoff innings this season have resulted in a 2.37 ERA, 2.04 FIP, 1.98 xFIP, and 1.76 SIERA. With 26 strikeouts to 1 walk he has made his opponents beat him in the zone, and his 81.6% zone contact rate allowed in these playoffs is 2.9% lower than the next closest starter remaining this postseason. His 96.2 average 4-seam velocity is higher than his 95.8 average in the regular season, and he has shown no signs of fatigue. Wheeler is on 4 days of rest for this game, and that has been his best split in terms of days off between starts this season. He made 11 starts this year in this situation, tossing 69 innings with a 0.93 WHIP and 2.09 ERA. Strikeouts were a little down in that sample, but we just need efficiency in this spot, not long counts that take up 6 or more pitches. I was surprised with Arizona’s approach to begin Game 1 as they took a ton of early strikes and fell behind in counts often. Wheeler is the type of guy who will attack the zone regardless of matchup, and if Arizona attacks earlier in counts, we could see a number of quick results.
Something worth noting when dealing with a volume-based pitching prop in the postseason is the bullpen situation. This postseason has seen days off between games throughout series, giving bullpens extra time to rest up. This has resulted in fresh pens and a number of quick hooks on starting pitchers. This series hasn’t had a day off since Game 2, however, and the Phillies bullpen is heavily taxed heading into tonight’s game. They went all in, using 8 pitchers in yesterday’s game, including Jose Alvarado and Jeff Hoffman who also saw Game 3 action. They may be deemed available once again if needed, but even if called upon they may not be their sharpest given the usage. Craig Kimbrel was also used in both of those games, but with the losing runs allowed in both games there is likely no shot he enters this game. They still have pen arms to turn to despite utilizing their pen heavily last night, but I tend to believe Rob Thomson was more comfortable with that approach given his starter for tonight. I would play this to the -140 odds I listed above, but if a 17.5 number popped for less juice, I don’t mind that angle either. If you are someone who is worried about overs on out props this late into the season, I understand. I would pivot to Wheeler’s under 1.5 walks issued prop, a bet you can find for -125 odds on a couple of books. Wheeler has the ability to stay under this mark even if pitching deep, and a hypothetical short leash could only help the cause as well.
Bryce Harper (PHI) over 0.5 walks recorded (-115) (to win 0.5u)
Odds available at BetMGM Sportsbook at time of publishing. Playable to -130.
It should surprise nobody that we are going back to this angle, as this exact prop has cashed in each game of this series. Even including regular-season matchups between these teams, Bryce Harper has recorded 1 or more walks in 10 of 11 games. I am not betting this because of a hit rate, but it has been clear how Arizona would like to avoid him if they are at all able. Harper has seen just 21 of 70 pitches faced inside the strike zone in this series. He does chase, ranking in just the 21st percentile in that category during the regular season, but that did not prevent him from drawing walks at a hefty 14.7% clip. That mark ranked in the 96th percentile and sat among the top of the league among qualified hitters. Now with the high stakes of a postseason series where the opposition would rather see other guys beat them, Harper’s chances at getting pitches to hit has significantly decreased.
Tonight’s matchup for Harper is the Diamondbacks ace Zac Gallen. He has been far better at home this season and gets the benefit of pitching in his home park for Game 5. The issue is that he pitched ineffectively in Game 1, allowing 8 hits and 5 earned runs with 3 home runs and 2 walks. Harper had a home run off Gallen in his first PA but didn’t see any of the next 6 pitches from the right-hander within the zone across their next 2 matchups. The 3rd PA resulted in a leadoff walk to begin an inning, and it is no surprise that Gallen would like to pitch around the dangerous left-handed batter. Harper has a 1.214 OPS against Gallen in their 16 career head-to-head matchups, and with the team as a whole being cautious with the Phillies’ best hitter, I love the value on his walk prop today. Gallen limited free passes well across the regular season, but that ability slipped quite a bit during the tail-end of the year. His 1.75 BB/9 from the first half of the season increased to a 2.36 BB/9 after the All-Star break. Including his 3 postseason starts with 3, 2, and 2 walks issued, Gallen has allowed multiple free passes in 6 of his last 7 starts. His walk rate was also slightly higher against left-handed batters in the regular season. Strikeouts are also down this postseason for him with just 4 in each start and if he isn’t able to generate chases at his typical clip, we could cash this prop within Harper’s first couple of plate appearances.