Best MLB prop bets for today 7/19: Eduardo Rodriguez whiffs Royals

Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (57) smiles as he walks off the mound after completing eight shutout innings against the New York Mets at Comerica Park.
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Yesterday’s league-wide offensive output will be hard to replicate again with numerous high-scoring, closely contested games providing massive entertainment value. There are still fantastic matchups, however, and crucial games for the standings as we enter the trade deadline. A game with less entertainment value but perhaps more betting value, is the Tigers vs Royals matchup, and we have a prop in that game. Let’s dive in!

Eduardo Rodriguez, DET, Over 5.5 strikeouts (-120)

Odds available at BetMGM Sportsbook at time of publishing. Playable to -135.

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With numerous contending teams in search of starting pitching, and a lack of top-end talent available on the trade market, Eduardo Rodriguez has been one of the more discussed arms entering this season’s trade deadline. The left-hander likely has 2 or 3 more turns through the Tigers rotation before being shipped off to a team with a better record, and his goal should be to maintain his current level of play. Rodriguez has had a very good season for Detroit and would likely have been their all-star game representative if he hadn’t been on the IL for an extended time. He missed all of June but has since returned for 2 starts this month, striking out 14 batters across 9.0 innings. Rust was apparent in his first start back against Oakland, allowing 5 earned runs across his 79 pitches. He bounced back nicely in his last outing against Seattle following the break, completing 5 innings of 2-run ball with 88 pitches thrown. Seeing his pitch count climb and having him back on his normal rest schedule are both good signs moving forward.

Rodriguez has amassed 81 strikeouts across 76.2 innings this season, but 72 have come in his last 10 starts spanning 60.2 combined innings. He has recorded 6 or more punch-outs in 8 of those outings with exactly 5 in both of the misses. In 8 of those 10 starts he has recorded a swinging strike rate of 10.1% or higher, and in 6 of those outings he has generated at least a 12.1% rate. His 29.2% CSW% ranks 61st percentile, and his chase rate sits 60th percentile. E-Rod fires first-pitch strikes a career-best 65.2% of the time which has helped lower his walk rate to a career-low 6.0%. Since June 1 against left-handed pitching the Royals have the 4th-lowest BB% at 6.5%. They are chasing on pitches outside the zone at the 7th-highest rate while connecting on those swings at the 7th-lowest rate. Their overall swinging strike rate during that span is 12.8% which is the 5th highest mark. Against left-handed pitching in this timeframe Kansas City has a 26.6% K% and a wRC+ of only 81.

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The veteran southpaw generates his strikeouts in a variety of ways. His pitch arsenal is comprised of a 4-seam fastball, cutter, changeup, sinker and slider mix. His usage of those pitches is in order of their mention, but it is his fastballs that generate the most strikeouts for him. His 4-seam fastball, cutter and sinker combine for 65 of his 81 strikeouts this season. Since June 1 Kansas City against left-handed 4-seamers, cutters and sinkers has combined for the 4th-highest K% and 8th lowest wOBA. Against left-handed hitters his slider usage jumps above 18% and he generates a 41.7% whiff rate and 35.3% put away rate in those situations. While Kansas City likely only has 2 lefties in today’s lineup, MJ Melendez and Nick Pratto are both great targets. We could see Rodriguez’s pitch count back closer to his season average of 94.4 tonight and I expect 6 or more strikeouts in this matchup.

Kenta Maeda, MIN, Over 5.5 strikeouts (+105)

Odds available at BetMGM sportsbook at time of publishing. Playable to -115.

I backed Kenta Maeda in his most recent start against the Oakland Athletics, and despite a poor performance overall the right-hander was able to come through with 6 strikeouts in only 3.0 innings of work. His outing was shortened due to allowing 3 earned runs and 4 walks to a weak Oakland offense. That being said, his swing and miss stuff was certainly apparent — generating a 17.5% swinging strike rate and allowing a remarkable 28.6% contact rate on chases. His chase rate was down 3.7% from his season average, but I was impressed with his ability to draw whiffs. Maeda draws another favorable matchup tonight against the Seattle Mariners.

Since June 1 against right-handed pitching the Mariners have a 26.0% K%, the 3rd-highest mark behind only Minnesota and Colorado. Against right-handed sliders in that span they have the 4th-highest K%. Maeda uses his slider more than any other pitch in his arsenal at 34.8%, and 18 of his 41 strikeouts have come from that pitch. He generates a 32.7% whiff rate and 25% put away rate with that offering. Against right-handed bats that usage spikes to 45% and Seattle is expected to have 4 righties in the lineup tonight including Julio Rodriguez, Eugenio Suarez and Teoscar Hernandez — all of whom strikeout often against right-handed pitching. Against left-handers his splitter usage spikes to an arsenal high 45.3% while generating a 36.8% whiff rate and 23.8% put-away rate. His 4-seamer remains a steady option against either handedness and plays well off his wipeout pitches, allowing him to also generate strikeouts with that pitch.

Maeda draws batters out of the zone with him often with his 82nd-percentile chase rate, and opponents connect on those chases 7.1% less than league average. While Seattle is just 13th in chase rate since June 1, the team has the 6th-lowest contact rate on those chases. The M’s also struggle connecting in the zone with the 5th-lowest zone contact rate. Maeda is allowing a career-high zone contact rate this season, but that mark is still 1.7% below league average and he is more than capable of winning within the zone. Seattle does have a few contact oriented bats with sub-20% strikeout rates against right-handed pitching, but its bench does not. In the event a starter was to sit today this line should only move in our favor. Sean Barber is a neutral to slightly hitter-friendly umpire which isn’t ideal, but he is typically not egregious with his errors and Maeda’s swinging strike rate should alleviate the need for called strikes more than the typical arm. With all things considered, I don’t think this line should be plus money and I will back the veteran right-hander again.

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