Top MLB Betting Picks for Saturday, May 22nd (2021)

The most prominent topic around the baseball world over the past week has not only been the rise in no-hitters but the absolute dominance of pitchers across the league all year long.

We saw two no-hitters this week – Detroit’s Spencer Turnbull and the Yankees’ Corey Kluber tossed them on back-to-back days, in fact. And while no-hitters usually are a cause for celebration, they’ve suddenly become a cause for concern.

We’ve seen six no-nos already this year, the most since 2015… and May isn’t even over yet. Offenses are struggling league-wide, power numbers are down, and low-scoring games are becoming the norm. Baseball may have yet another problem on its hands, and there doesn’t look to be an easy solution on the horizon.

In other news, we’re back with another Saturday slate of bets as we head towards the end of the second month of the MLB season. Coming off a 2-1 card last Saturday, which included an underdog winner from Pittsburgh, another winning weekend would go a long way to guaranteeing profit throughout the first two months of the season. Here’s who I like today.

View the best player prop bets for today’s slate with our MLB Prop Bet Cheat Sheet >>

Arizona Diamondbacks ML (-110)

The Diamondbacks haven’t been great this season and have been especially underwhelming lately, stringing together their second six-game losing streak of the month. Given their struggles, I didn’t expect them to make my best bets today, but they’ve historically feasted off the pitcher they’ll be facing this afternoon.

The Rockies will send Antonio Senzatela to the mound, and he’s had a rough start to his year. He owns a 1-4 record with a brutal 5.18 ERA and just 25 strikeouts in 41.2 innings. This will be his third time facing Arizona already this season, so I expect them to be prepared and dialed in to Senzatela and how he likes to attack their lineup.

Across 146 combined plate appearances from current Diamondbacks, Senzatela owns just an 11.6% strikeout rate, and the hitters he’ll be facing have put together a .312 batting average against him. He’s also in the 10th percentile or worse in strikeout rate, whiff rate, expected batting average against, and average exit velocity. 

A matchup with Senzatela could be exactly what Arizona needs to break out of their losing skid, and they’ll be sending Madison Bumgarner to the mound to help them do so as well. His numbers don’t look great on the surface, especially his 4.15 ERA, but he’s been really strong lately.

Madison Bumgarner has a 0.90 ERA, 0.467 WHIP and 34 K over his last 5 starts entering tonight.

No pitcher in MLB history has recorded a sub-1.00 ERA, sub-0.500 WHIP and at least 35 K in any 6-game span in MLB history.

— Stathead (@Stathead) May 17, 2021

Bumgarner has allowed just five total earned runs in his last six starts, and while it’s tough to expect such dominance at Coors Field, I’ll put my faith in the grizzled veteran who’s been hot, over Senzatela who hasn’t found his footing at all this year.

Cincinnati Reds F5 -0.5 (-120)

The Reds have been hitting all year… until this past week. They’re coming off a sweep at home at the hands of the San Francisco Giants, and for the first time all year, their bats betrayed them. Cincinnati managed to scratch across just nine runs in the four-game set, but they bounced back on Friday and hung nine on the Brewers to open the weekend series. I’m encouraged they’ll get back to their run-scoring ways again on Saturday, and after plating six of their nine runs in the first five innings yesterday, I’m even more encouraged they’ll be able to come out of the gate hot again this afternoon.

The Reds bullpen hasn’t been great, to say the least. Their 5.43 combined ERA is fourth-worst in baseball, so I’d rather not tempt fate and leave this bet in their hands. Instead, I’ll lean on another solid start from Sonny Gray, who is oddly winless this year, but it’s not for lack of individual effort on his part. Gray has allowed three earned runs or fewer in all but one of his starts this year and has allowed two or fewer runs four times. He hasn’t gone deep into games – an average just a shade under five innings per start – but that’s all the length we’ll need in this one. As long as the Reds’ bats continue to rough up Brett Anderson as nearly everyone has all season, Cincinnati should cruise.

Anderson is just 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA and only 14 strikeouts in 24 innings of work. Those numbers aren’t great, but the underlying metrics are even worse. Anderson is in the first percentile (worst among pitchers) in expected ERA and expected batting average against, the second percentile in expected slugging percentage allowed, the third percentile in strikeout rate, and the fourth percentile in barrel rate. I could go on, but I’ll spare you. The rest of the numbers are almost as rough as the ones I’ve already listed, and what they all add up to is: Anderson has been extremely ineffective all year long, and hitters are squaring him up without issue.

The Reds can hit, and I expect them to do plenty of it early in this game.

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Mike Wagenman is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him on Twitter @mjwags23.

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