MLB Odds & Picks for Mets vs. Nationals: Battle of Aces Puts Value on the Total (Thursday, April 1)

Mark Brown/Getty Images. Pictured: Jacob deGrom

Mets vs. Nationals Odds

Mets Odds -162
Nationals Odds +136
Over/Under 6.5 (+102/-124)
Time 7:09 p.m. ET
TV ESPN
Odds as of Wednesday evening and via FanDuel.

Opening Day’s primetime game features two of this generation’s greatest starting pitchers in a NL East divisional matchup.

Both the Mets and the Nationals didn’t perform very well last season. New York and Washington finished the 2020 season tied for the worst record in the division, and both missed the playoffs.

This season, the Mets are +150 to win the division while the Nationals are +650. Clearly, Vegas has much higher expectations for the Mets than the Nationals in 2021.

While I believe Vegas is right, I don’t think the Mets provide enough value in this game. Instead, there’s a play on the total that looks very profitable.

It should be noted, however, that the Nationals’ roster situation is entirely up in the air after news Wednesday afternoon that a player tested positive for COVID-19. At the time of publication, news of who on Washington’s roster will miss Thursday’s game is unknown and could have implications toward both the line and the below pick. For real-time starting lineup updates, check out the Action Labs MLB lineups page.

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New York Mets

The Mets were the “big splash” team this offseason. At least one of them.

The addition of Francisco Lindor is massive for a lineup that’s already dangerous. Last season, the Mets finished first in batting average, second in wRC+ third in wOBA and third in OPS. Lindor struggled last season but is still projected to produce 5.0 WAR and a 888Sport close to 120, per FanGraphs.

Unfortunately, the Mets have early-season injury issues.

Starting pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard will both miss extended periods of times to start the season. Luckily, the Mets have Marcus Stroman as a clear No. 2 starting pitcher, but the Mets may have depth issues on the mound for the first half of the season.

if the Mets can tread water until those two are healthy, New York can win this division.

Starting Pitcher: Jacob deGrom

deGrom is incredible. Inexplicably, he continues to improve every year.

deGrom added 1.5 ticks of velocity to his fastball last season, raising it from an already amazing 96.9 mph in 2019 to a ridiculous 98.6 in 2020, per Baseball Savant. That number ranked second among all qualified pitchers.

As a result, his fastball numbers were even better. deGrom’s wOBA on his fastball dropped nearly 50 points from 2019 to 2020 while both his whiff percentage and put-away percentage increased about 10 points.

All-in-all, deGrom’s strikeout rate increased 7.1% and he posted a FIP under 2.3 and a WHIP under 1.0.

Once again, deGrom is projected to be the best pitcher in baseball. He’s currently the favorite to win the 2021 NL Cy Young.

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Washington Nationals

The Nationals bolstered their lineup during the offseason with the additions of Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber. Both are sluggers who finished above the 87th percentile in exit velocity last season, per Baseball Savant.

However, both also had ugly 2020 seasons. The two combined for exactly 0.0 WAR in the shortened campaign.

Schwarber hit well under .200 and his SLG dropped almost 140 points from the prior season. But his .219 BABIP was well under his career average of .267, so perhaps he’s due for positive regression.

Meanwhile, Bell’s SLG dropped more than 200 points from 2019 while his wOBA dropped 85 points. His walk rate dropped precipitously and his strikeout rate increased significantly, while his BABIP remained average.

Either way, a couple of 28-year-old power hitters could be useful for a Nationals team that finished 21st in home runs in 2020.

What is the outlook for the rest of the Nationals team?

Losing Adam Eaton hurts their position depth, but they did add an extra starter in Jon Lester. Putting him behind Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin and Stephen Strasburg should add up to another elite rotation.

Between the added power hitters, an above-average rotation and the always-explosive potential of Juan Soto — who’s the favorite to win the NL MVP this season — the ceiling is high.

However, the floor is also low given the team’s collective age and several players’ injury histories, which is why I think Washington’s odds to win the division are fair.

Starting Pitcher: Max Scherzer

Scherzer is one of the best pitchers of the past decade and still one of the best starters in the league. However, he struggled in the abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Scherzer’s numbers were worse across the board. After posting a 2.45 FIP and a 1.03 WHIP in 2019, those numbers ballooned to 3.46 FIP and a 1.38 WHIP in 2020. His strikeout rate dropped about four percentage points while his walk rate increased about three.

For some reason, Scherzer allowed a lot of home runs last season. He posted the highest HR/9 of his career, allowing 10 over 67 1/3 innings. The shortened season provided a smaller sample size, and his HR/FB rate (14.1%) was also the highest of his career, so that number could’ve regressed as the season went on.

But Scherzer’s swinging-strike rate was his lowest since 2014 and his barrel percentage was the highest of his career. So, there’s an argument that Scherzer wasn’t overpowering batters as much as before.

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Mets-Nationals Pick

Because of the reputation of these two pitchers, the public will be betting the under and that line will probably be overvalued.

In fact, at the time of this writing, PointsBet has the total set at 6.5 (-120), which is absurdly low and a great spot to take the over.

Moreover, the Action PRO Report is tracking sharp money on the over, which is getting only 32% of the tickets but 51% of the money at the time of publication. Plus, our model projects the total should be closer to 7.7, which means the 6.5 number provides a lot of value.

The over is 5-1 in the last six games between the Mets and the Nationals. That includes a deGrom vs. Scherzer game, where the two allowed a total of six runs in a shortened, seven-inning game.

Between Scherzer’s recent struggles, two improved lineups and the current betting market, the smart play is the over.

Pick: Over 6.5 (-120) | Play to 7 (-105)

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