07/23/2013 04:41 PM
Today's Free Picks for Jul 23, 2013
Miami @ COLORADO
Miami +145 over COLORADO
The Rockies continue to struggle at the plate. A close looks reveals that Colorado has scored three runs or less in 15 of its past 23 games. Against career stiff Tom Koehler last night, the Rocks scored once. They’ll now have to deal with Jose Fernandez. Fernandez is a strikeout pitcher with 103 K’s in 105 innings. He’s been off for 10 days and the last time he had seven days rest or more, he threw a three-hitter in six innings. Fernandez has allowed just 10 hits and four runs over his past 20 innings, covering three starts and over that span he's struck out 19 batters. A strikeout pitcher at this venue against a struggling offense is plenty attractive at this price.
The Rockies are heavily favored here because Jhoulys Chacin is 9-4 with a 3.50 ERA. Chacin rebound is fool's gold. Chacin saw his season cut in half by a pectoral injury last year and even when he was on the mound the results were ugly. But his surface numbers indicate a rebound so far this season. Already he's tripled last season's win total and shaved a run off his 2012 ERA. Chacin's skills suggest his comeback could run into trouble. Chacin has improved his control by more than a walk per nine innings but the improved control comes amid further erosion in his strikeout rate, which is far below the benchmark we look for (just 68 K’s in 113 IP). His groundball % has rebounded but that too is trending the wrong way, down to 42% from 47% in his last five starts. Chacin’s very lucky and unsustainable 0.2 % hr/f has helped him outperform his xERA. Chacin is just 25, but his skill set isn't nearly as enticing as it was just a few years ago. In fact, he's transformed into very much of a different pitcher who pitches to contact and relies much more on his defense to record outs. It's worked so far this year but we can expect the HRs to begin departing Coors Field at a greater rate in the second half and his ERA to head north. Chacin’s 28% line-drive rate over his past five starts is also a warning sign that he’s running out of gas. Nice overlay here.
Miami +145 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.90)
Baltimore @ KANSAS CITY
Baltimore -1½ +151 over KANSAS CITY
The Orioles have won five in a row and eight of their past nine, which includes a three-game sweep in Texas after the break followed by an easy 9-2 victory in the opener of this series. The O’s have scored 30 times over their five-game winning streak and should have little trouble getting to Bruce Chen in this one. Chen's 5.09 xERA on a 2.04 ERA is the main red flag. An 88% strand rate has kept the base-runners who contributed to his 1.37 WHIP from scoring. While he's maintained a slightly above average K rate as a reliever this year, he’s never been able to do so as a starter and the walks have started piling up since his May 27th outing. Finally, while he's been mainly a fly-ball pitcher, over the last month he's allowed more line drives than grounders. One only needs to look at Chen’s 23%/34%/43% groundball/line-drive/fly-ball profile to summarize that he’s about to get pounded. Baltimore leads MLB with a .771 OPS on the road.
Jason Hammel owns a rough 5.24 ERA and 1.44 WHIP after 19 games started. After posting elite skills in 2012, his skills have tanked in 2013. Hammel’s strikeout rate and fastball velocity have regressed and he's no longer able to induce groundballs at a high rate with his sinker. However, he’s showing signs of returning to last year’s form where a newfound sinker and added velocity worked wonders, driving both K rate and groundball rate north before a knee injury derailed him in mid-season. Hammel has had 10 days off since his last start and was outstanding in two of his last four starts before the break. He also has a good history against K.C. batters. This wager, however, is all about fading Chen, a pitcher who has the worst under the surface stats in the game and who makes Barry Zito look like Clayton Kershaw.
Baltimore -1½ +151 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 3.02)
Tampa Bay @ BOSTON
Tampa Bay +126 over BOSTON
Jon Lester takes on the hottest team in baseball in the Tampa Bay Rays. Tampa has won 18 of their last 20 games after taking the opener in this series last night. The Rays also hit left-handed pitching extremely well, as they have a MLB-best .290 BA and .794 OPS against southpaws. Lester faced the Rays on June 11 and May 15. In those two games, Lester was tagged for 16 hits and nine runs in 11.2 innings. Lester has not only labored against the Rays, he’s labored the entire season and he’s getting progressively worse. He’s walking more batters than ever and he has a 4.52 xERA over his last three starts versus Oakland, Seattle and San Diego. Last season, Lester’s second half disaster start % spike was a big red flag. We’re not going to wait around this year for those second half disaster starts before fading this overvalued pitcher. A serviceable, reliable starter, perhaps so but nowhere near the elite one he was in 2010 and prior. Jon Lester is showing signs of a “dead arm”.
Roberto Hernandez has a crazy 21% hr/f with runners on base, the highest mark in that scenario among starters with at least 50 IP. It's the primary reason why Hernandez has a near-5.00 ERA even though his base skills have been elite with a 50% groundball rate and a 25/84 BB/K rate in 108 frames. Hernandez’s best pitch is a change-up that he’s not afraid to use at any time. That could be the key to success here, as the Red Sox have a .115 team batting average against that pitch this season when they have two strikes on them. Hernandez is a solid buy low candidate and he and the Rays absolutely have a great shot to keep this train rolling.
Tampa Bay +126 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.52)
Minnesota @ L.A. ANGELS
Minnesota +150 over L.A. ANGELS
Ron Gardenhire deserves a medal. That this Twins team is 12 games under .500 with the worst starting pitching staff in the last 40 years is a miracle. The Twinkies record is similar to that of the Blue Jays, Mets, Cubbies and Giants. That’s incredible. Minnesota took the opener last night and at this price against Tommy Hanson, they are very worthy of a bet. A partially torn rotator cuff led to new delivery last year for Hanson, which led to his worst MLB results. A high second half hit rate left his backers with an especially bad taste and nothing has changed this year. Hanson has made just nine starts with only four of those being of good quality. His 1.55 WHIP is awful and his 5.10 ERA is fully supported by his xERA of 5.01. Hanson’s strikeout rate is down, his batted ball profile is a fly-ball biased one, he’s been off for over a month and his ERA at home is 6.16. If pitching through a slightly torn rotator cuff with concurrent strikeout rate loss and control jumps weren't enough to scare you away from backing Tommy Hanson, his awful skills, which have suffered a dramatic decline over the past season-and-a-half should be.
Kyle Gibson is laboring along with a 2-2 record and an unhealthy 6.45 ERA. However, he has far more upside than Hanson, as he’s learning on the job. Gibson is tall (6’6”) and uses his height and arm slot effectively to pitch downhill and keeps his fastball low in the zone. Gibson uses both a two-seam and four-seam fastball that generally work in the 89-94 mph range. He induces tons of groundballs and can effectively pitch to contact and get hitters out early. He also has the ability to wipe out hitters with an above average slider and excellent change-up that features high-quality sink. His biggest obstacle is himself. He has the stuff to do well at this level but he has to believe in himself before he’ll have any success. Gibson has an elite 52% groundball rate and is on the verge of putting together some solid outings. It may not come here but the Twins have won four of five and Gibson taking back a price like this is a far better option than the Angels spotting -160 or more.
Minnesota +150 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 3.00)