Ten games are on the docket the final week of the Major League Baseball regular season gets underway. We’d like to thank all of our loyal readers for being with us throughout the season. Hopefully these articles have helped more than they have hurt and that you have had a successful baseball season. There are some interesting lines and interesting situations to discuss for Monday, so let’s dive in and see where the value lies.
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For thoughts on this NL Central matchup, tune in to the latest edition of The Bettor’s Box, the MLB betting podcast hosted by me, Adam Burke.
The Red Sox and Yankees meet with a lot less on the line than usual. This was supposed to be one of the podcast free picks, but there was a pitching matchup change in this game. Unfortunately, the podcast states that Rick Porcello faces Masahiro Tanaka, but the game is actually between Eduardo Rodriguez and Ivan Nova. Sorry for the inconvenience.
Instead, we’ll break it down here. The Red Sox aren’t going to push Rodriguez very far in this start. He’s already over 160 innings for the season and they are going to limit the 23-year-old. He’s thrown 115.2 of those innings at the big league level with rate stats around average, a 3.97 ERA, a 4.04 FIP, and a 4.10 xFIP. There aren’t many outliers across the board, so this is a pretty true performance from Rodriguez in his rookie year. He has been a streaky guy, though, as he gave up one run on eight hits over his first three starts, 27 runs over his next seven starts, and 26 runs, 23 earned, over his last 10 starts. He’s pitched well down the stretch, which is very encouraging for a guy in his rookie season.
Ivan Nova’s return from Tommy John surgery has been rather uneventful, though he has factored in the decision in all 15 of his starts this season. He has a 4.87 ERA with a 4.72 FIP and a 4.67 xFIP. A low strikeout rate and high HR and walk rates have really hurt him this season. He’s given up at least three runs in all but two starts since the start of August, with a couple of very ugly starts mixed in. For the most part, as bad as the ERA is, he’s been able to keep his team in the game. Keep in mind that a “quality start” is technically a 4.50 ERA in a one-game sample. Do the Yankees need more than that to hang around in a game?
Definitely preferred this game when I first saw a Porcello vs. Tanaka pitching matchup listed, though I’m not sure if the source I pulled it from was wrong. This is a less desirable situation. The Red Sox are still playing hard and this rivalry should bring out the best in them. Rodriguez will be shut down after this start, so he can let it all hang out. I’d go with Boston if I had to make a pick here.
Marco Estrada opposes Chris Tillman in this matchup of AL East rivals. The Blue Jays take on an Orioles team that got shut out for the entire weekend by the Boston Red Sox. Estrada has been really solid this season. There are some signs of regression, but he’s been able to overcome those for a while. He has a 3.13 ERA with a 4.39 FIP and a 5.00 xFIP. His low strikeout rate is a big reason that advanced metrics don’t look favorably on his performance and it’s hard to say that a .223 BABIP and a 79.1 percent strand rate are sustainable. They have been this season so far. I think I’d back off of Estrada for next year, but he has had one of the league’s best changeups this season and changeups are the new market inefficiency for pitchers. Highest whiff rate across the league and keeps hitters off-balance. Also neutralizes platoon splits, which is a big deal with the high usage of platoons around the league.
It’s been a rough season for Chris Tillman, who has a 5.16 ERA, a 4.49 FIP, and a 4.58 xFIP. As he approaches his second offseason with arbitration eligibility, his peripherals are all trending in the wrong direction. His K rate is down, his BB rate is up, his command has dropped off again. He’s not a non-tender candidate since the Orioles don’t have much behind him and Wei-Yin Chen is gone in free agency, but he has been a disappointment for Baltimore. Tillman has been a lot better in the second half, going from a .287/.360/.460 slash to a .231/.298/.391 slash. But, he continues to fail to strand runners.
I’d have to look to Toronto in this one. I’m worried about the effort level of Baltimore after getting shut out in three straight games. This is a team that has experienced a lot of success lately and they aren’t this season. Toronto has a lot to play for, with the division still not clinched and a great shot at home field advantage.
A makeup game from May is on tap at Wrigley Field on Monday night between the Royals and Cubs. This would have probably been a day game if not for the Cubs playing on Sunday Night Baseball. It’s fair to wonder how invested both of these teams will be. The Cubs just got a big, emotional win over the Pirates on Sunday night and also clinched a playoff spot this weekend. They’re not catching Pittsburgh for the top wild card spot and home field.
On the other side, the Royals have been stuck in neutral for a while. They salvaged the final game against the Indians on Sunday, but they’ve fallen back into a tie with the Blue Jays for the top seed in the AL. Looking solely at the pitching matchup, I like Yordano Ventura over Kyle Hendricks. Ventura has a 4.40 ERA, which has people all worried, but he has a 3.77 FIP and a 3.73 xFIP. His K rate is up and his left on base rate is down, which points to a sequencing issue and not a stuff issue. His xFIP is right in line with last season when everybody thought he was the next big thing. He’s been just as good or better than last season without the batted ball and sequencing luck.
I like Kyle Hendricks a lot. He has a 4.23 ERA with a 3.55 FIP and a 3.39 xFIP, which are great numbers. Like Ventura, sequencing and batted ball luck have not been kind to him. His lower walk rate thanks to facing the pitcher has helped his advanced metrics. He’s definitely an underappreciated pitcher in this Cubs rotation and would be my choice over Hammel in a playoff series.
I think my play here would be the under, though we don’t know what the number will be. I’d be surprised if either of these teams was excited for this game and these are two pretty good pitchers that have limited exposure against these offenses. Wrigley wind conditions always affect totals, so who knows what number we’ll see here, but I’d be shocked to see a high-scoring game.
Justin Verlander and Colby Lewis are the listed pitchers for this one as the Rangers attempt to move a step closer to clinching a playoff spot. Justin Verlander’s become a more extreme fly ball pitcher this season and owns a 3.49 ERA with a 3.59 FIP and a 4.25 xFIP. Remember that saber stats like xFIP and SIERA don’t look kindly on extreme fly ball pitchers. Verlander has an average strikeout rate (roughly) and a solid walk rate. Like most extreme fly ball pitchers, he has a low BABIP against.
It’s stunning how much the current state of Justin Verlander looks like Colby Lewis. Lewis is also an extreme fly ball pitcher, but he pitches in Arlington, a major step down from the spacious outfield at Comerica Park. Lewis misses fewer bats, but has a better walk rate than his counterpart. If these two cancel out, the Rangers bullpen is definitely better than -130 against the Tigers bullpen. Also, the Rangers have something to play for. I don’t like laying money with pitchers like Colby Lewis, but it’s justified here.
Lance McCullers is still throwing the ball really well for the Astros and they’re going to need him when they hit the road for the last week of the season. He’ll get two starts this week and Houston is just 29-46 on the road this season. McCullers has just five wins in 20 starts, despite very strong numbers as a rookie. His 3.22 ERA, 3.18 FIP, and 3.55 xFIP are all very strong numbers. He’s also struck out more than a batter per inning in his 114.2 innings this season.
Roenis Elias had a decent start against Kansas City on the 23rd and should be better making a regular turn in the rotation, but he’s a guy that can lose his mechanics and his release point and then become erratic. The Royals don’t walk much, but they drew four walks and worked a lot of deep counts in Elias’s 5.1 innings in his last start. The Astros work deep counts and walk at a high rate as well. The worry for Houston on this trip is that it begins in Safeco Field, a park that suppresses power. The Astros need to hit home runs to score. Elias has allowed 12 in 107.1 innings, which isn’t a ridiculous number by any means. The Astros have their work cut out for them this week because the Mariners are still playing hard. They severely underachieved this season, but they’ve been competitive for the most part in the second half.
I’d look to the Astros, only because Elias hasn’t gotten consistent work and he’s a guy that needs it. Houston has had some major bullpen melts lately, so I’d try to take them out of the equation with a 1st 5 bet.