Usually going to a National League ballpark is a detriment for American League teams because the pitcher has to bat. When that pitcher is Shohei Ohtani and he would have been the DH/P anyway, it isn’t that big of a deal.
The Los Angeles Angels hit the road on Friday night for some interleague action against the Arizona Diamondbacks. It will indeed be Ohtani on the mound for the Halos, as Merrill Kelly takes the ball for the Snakes. This duel in the desert will start at 9:40 p.m. ET with the first pitch from Chase Field.
Ohtani and the Angels are favored in the -135 range at BetUS Sportsbook with a total of 9.
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels were a popular team throughout the week, as they swept the Kansas City Royals in a three-game series. Each game featured line moves on the Angels, as it seems like bettors have isolated them as a team that should improve a little bit. Either that or market confidence in the Royals is extremely low.
In any event, the Angels can get within a game of .500 with a win here. They’ve won three and a row and seven of their last 10 as they try to make a push in the AL West. Oakland and Houston remain in the top two spots and Houston has a couple of games in hand on the A’s. The Angels are -25 in the run differential department, so their 30-32 record is actually a little bit on the lucky side.
It’s really about survival for the Angels at this point. Mike Trout remains out of the lineup, so the league’s best player is sidelined, but the Angels are still an above average offense by wRC+ with a mark of 104. wRC+ does adjust for how hard it is to hit at Angel Stadium and in the other AL West ballparks, but even with that, the Angels are 10th in wOBA on the season.
Shohei Ohtani has been big on the pitching side, but also on the offensive side. The MVP frontrunner has a .262/.349/.602 slash with a .397 wOBA and has hit 17 home runs in just 235 plate appearances. He’s been a huge part of the offense, especially with Trout on the bench. Ohtani hasn’t been the only one, as guys like Jared Walsh and Justin Upton are having big years. Even with a down year from Anthony Rendon, the Angels offense has been quite solid.
As a pitcher this season, Ohtani has a 2.76 ERA with a 3.59 FIP in his 42.1 innings of work. He’s struck out 60 batters and walked 26 with only 23 hits allowed. Given that the Angels are one of the worst defensive teams in baseball, Ohtani’s low hit total is a testament to how difficult it is to make solid contact against him. His Hard Hit% is 43.7%, which is on the high side, but opposing batters have hit a lot of pop ups and a lot of ground balls against him.
A lot of people were probably looking at the opening line wondering why it isn’t higher. The Diamondbacks have been in freefall mode. Some of it has been a result of injuries. Some of it has been a result of not having a good pitching staff. The Diamondbacks won to move to 15-13 on May 2. They enter this game with a record of 20-43. You need don’t to be a math major to see that Arizona has lost 30 of the last 35 games.
The offense, which got off to such a nice start in April, wound up being sidetracked by injuries to Ketel Marte, Kole Calhoun, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Carson Kelly. The Kelly one was a big injury, as he is also a very strong defensive catcher. To make matters worse, as the offense suffered, guys like Zac Gallen and Luke Weaver hit the IL. There have also been some key arms missing from the bullpen as well.
It has been one thing after another for Arizona and having the worst bullpen in baseball by fWAR has not helped. Torey Lovullo has been seen yelling at his players in the dugout and everything really points to the Diamondbacks bottoming out this season. They simply have not been good.
Merrill Kelly hasn’t been very good either. The right-hander underwent thoracic outlet syndrome surgery during the offseason and spent the winter rehabbing instead of preparing for the season. He had a horrible Spring Training and then carried that over to the regular season with 16 runs allowed over his first three starts.
Kelly got better for a while, but has allowed 10 runs on 15 hits in his last 12.2 innings of work. For the season, he has a 5.12 ERA with a 4.08 FIP and a 3.94 xFIP. His 64.2% LOB% is the reason for the big ERA-FIP gap and he does have some signs of positive regression in the profile that could be part of the reason why this line is where it is.
Angels vs. Diamondbacks Free Pick
Ultimately, you look at this game and the line smells funny. It seems awfully cheap on Ohtani. The Diamondbacks have never stood in the box against him, not that it has mattered a ton for AL West teams this season. The Angels don’t lose anything by having the pitcher bat here because the pitcher is actually a really good hitter. Kelly is also a guy who has some pretty high spin rates and it may be worth following up to see if he has a decrease or a decline.
All in all, as funky as this line smells, there is no reason not to take the Angels.
Pick: Los Angeles Angels