MLB Betting Notebook, Odds, and Schedule: Stars Aligning For Aaron Judge

New York's Aaron Judge has all of the pieces needed to build a strong MVP case this season — including a superstar presence in America's biggest baseball market. We break down his chances in our weekly MLB betting notebook.

Last Updated: May 20, 2022 1:44 PM ET Read Time: 6 min
Aaron Judge New York Yankees MLB
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It's another big edition of our weekly MLB betting notebook.

We're talking about one of the best pitchers to bet on giving up the longball, Aaron Judge's breakout campaign, and are the Blue Jays in trouble?

Let's go ahead and jump in. 

MLB Notebook: May 20-22

Click on each item to read the full update.

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MLB betting news for this weekend

One pitcher to bet home runs against

Robbie Ray is doing it again. 

He is seventh in home runs given up this season and well on his way to finishing in the Top 10 of home runs allowed by a pitcher. He finished third last season, didn't play enough to qualify the year before, and then 11th a season before that among qualified pitchers. This year, he's surrendered seven long ones despite not playing a schedule that's featured big bats. 

Ray is a fine pitcher - I mean, he won the Cy Young last season - but this is his flaw. So far in 2022, he's in the 11th percentile of hard-hit rate for all pitchers. This is a baseball way to say when hitters make contact with their pitchers, they usually hit them hard. 

This season, Ray has made eight starts. Of those eight starts, he's faced three teams ranking in the Top 15 of baseball in barrel rate. He's surrendered a home run to all of them. So how should we approach this from a betting perspective? If we dig a little further, maybe we've discovered a "system" for when to be on home runs against Ray.

Ray has given up home runs to the following players on teams ranking in the Top 15 of barrel rate: Gio Urshela, Mike Zunino, Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez, and Tim Anderson. All but one had a hard-hit rate of over 40%.

If you look at all the home runs Ray has given up, you'll see the same. Just one that didn't have a hard-hit rate over 40%. Oddly enough, the players who had the deepest home runs had a barrel rate of over 10% and a hard-hit rate of over 40%.

What does this mean? Well, mainly that Ray is a guy you should be betting home runs against.

The above is a minimal sample size, and it's hard to say how much it means, but we can continue to track it, and it can start tonight. Ray starts against the Red Sox, who rank in the Top 15 in hard-hit rate.

They have six players with a hard-hit rate of over 40%, but if you push it even further to those with a barrel rate over 10%, you're left with two guys: Rafel Devers and J.D. Martinez. You can find them at +450 and +350 to hit home runs on DraftKings. For me, it's worth a bet.

The Aaron Judge MVP case

Aaron Judge bet on himself, and it's paid off.

His spray chart reads like a thing of beauty. There are not many places you go from a shifting perspective when he's locked in. Judge is raking at the moment, ranking first, second, or third in each of these categories: slugging percentage, average exit velocity, barrel percentage, and XOBP.

You could go on and on with this. The places where Judge isn't near the top of the leaderboard are easier to find than the ones where he is. He's been sensational, full stop, but more critical than any of the numbers is the unique situation with a massive star having a breakout season (can we call it that?) in New York City.

Maybe it's purely anecdotal, but I have a hard time believing a Yankee won't win a significant award if they remain in serious contention. There's too much romanticism among baseball writers in regards to the "Yankees being back" and what that could mean for the sport. 

Being a budding superstar in the biggest American market and having the situation he's had with his contract? That's the cherry on top — the story practically writes itself. 

Last week, I wrote about Nestor Cortez's Cy Young chances. The likelihood of having a Cy Young winner and MVP winner on the same team isn't exactly high, but they are both worth bets. As previously stated, we can call this the "Yankee Effect".

I'm not one for taking a +450 chance on an MVP race this early season, but for this particular Arron Judge situation, I may have to make an exception. 

Should we be concerned about the Blue Jays?

Last week, I wrote pretty in-depth about why I wasn't worried about the Phillies' slow start. They had been unlucky and also a victim of a relatively demanding schedule. Since then, the Phillies took three of four off the best team in baseball and seem to be getting it together. However, unlike Philly, I have real concerns about the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Jays have been OK in May, but that's not good enough for a team with the talent and expectations of Toronto. They've lost four of five to divisional rivals New York and Tampa Bay and suddenly find themselves at 20-18, eight games back of first in the AL East. 

The biggest issue facing Toronto is what they see in their division and the teams they are going to play the most. As a collective, their starting pitching rotation has the highest barrel rate in the division and one of the highest hard-hit rates in baseball.

That's not an issue in some places, but it's a problem when the Yankees and Rays are in your division. For that reason, it's no surprise that Toronto is 3-9 against those two so far this season. They have the bats to compete, but they haven't had the arms.

Hyun Jin Ryu hasn't been close to what you'd expect. Some thought he'd bounce back after last year and be a star, others thought he'd be a solid option in the rotation, but either way, quite honestly, he hasn't been either one of those things.

He's yet to make it over four innings in any of his appearances and has been shelled in every start. Almost all of his peripherals are among the worst in the league, and like the rest of the pitching staff, he's been plagued by the hard-hit ball. He ranks in the Bottom 5% of all pitchers - not just starting pitchers - in average exit velocity — a shocking development for someone near the top of that same category just two years ago. 

It isn't all doom and gloom for the Blue Jays. Ryu's expected ERA is massively different from what his actual ERA is, so he's probably been a bit unlucky. Nevertheless, his improvement would be a big step in improving the overall direction of the staff as a whole. There are some solid pieces there and some that have underperformed.

The bats will eventually wake up as they have too much talent not to. The pressing issue for the Jays is their pitching and, more specifically, their pitching inducing more soft contact in a division with plenty of bats hitting the ball very hard. If they don't fix that, nothing else will matter.

For now, the Jays are a team to fade from a pure value perspective. That doesn't even stop this week against the historically bad Cincinnati Reds. They've quietly won five out of their last eight (a big deal for them!) and could sneak up on a Toronto team in this weekend series if they're locked in. I'll be looking to take advantage of them on the team totals market and what may be some watered-down numbers. 

Featured MLB games for this weekend

Friday, May 20

Mariners vs. Red Sox: Robbie Ray vs. Michael Wacha, 7:10 p.m. ET, Root Sports Northwest, NESN
Dodgers vs. Phillies: Julio Urias vs. Ranger Suarez, 7:10 p.m. ET, NBCS-Philadelphia

Saturday, May 21

Yankees vs. White Sox: Johnny Cueto vs. Luis Severino, 1:05 p.m. ET, MLB Network
Tigers vs. Guardians: Alex Faedo vs. Shane Bieber, 6:10 p.m. ET, Bally Sports Detroit, Bally Sports Great Lakes

Sunday, May 23

Braves vs. Marlins: Ian Anderson vs. Sandy Alcantara, 1:40 p.m. ET, Bally Sports Southeast, Bally Sports Florida
White Sox at Yankees: Jameson Taillon vs. TBA, 7:08 p.m. ET, ESPN

Check out the full MLB schedule, matchups, odds, and more!

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