Happy Weekend! After Friday night’s slate of top-notch starters wound up with a mixed bag of results, we turn our focus to Saturday and a selection of games with playoff implications and intriguing pitching matchups. It was good to be back with yesterday’s picks and analysis article and thank you to those of you that expressed your happiness with the return of this article on Twitter. Let’s see what we have going on for August 8.
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This line looks a little bit short for Saturday. The Pirates picked up an emotional win in walk-off fashion on Friday night after Clayton Kershaw and Gerrit Cole were a bit disappointing in their starts overall. Mat Latos takes the ball for the Dodgers against Francisco Liriano. Why is this line short? The Dodgers have been noticeably worse against left-handed pitching that right-handed pitching this season. They are just 11-10 against left-handed starters and 51-37 against righties. While they have one of the league’s best offenses against righties, they are in the middle of the pack against lefties.
I seemed to be in the minority with the Mat Latos deal for the Dodgers. I liked it a lot. He’s not the most likable guy, but he had some strong advanced metrics with the Marlins and his fly ball style should play well at Dodger Stadium. PNC Park is another park where pitchers like Latos can have success. His 65.8 percent strand rate is basically the sole cause of his 4.29 ERA, which is why he has a 3.36 FIP and a 3.66 xFIP.
Frankie Liriano has been dominant this season, which is why the line is surprising. Over 20 outings, Liriano has a 2.92/2.95/2.83 and is averaging almost 10 strikeouts per nine innings. Surprisingly, Liriano is worse at home than on the road, though “worse” in this case is a .271 wOBA against. To put a .271 wOBA into perspective, Juan Lagares and Wilson Ramos are right around there. So is Nick Ahmed with a .227/.284/.339 slash. So we’re talking about a pitcher that has been extremely good.
Perception of the Dodgers and all their big names plays a role in every one of their lines, but this number still looks a little light. For that reason, I think the Dodgers are the play from a value standpoint, but I don’t have a lot of interest in playing this one.
I don’t understand this line move at all. The Mariners opened north of -130 at several books and this line is gradually trickling down to the -120 range. The Rangers send Martin Perez to the mound against Mike Montgomery. Recency bias seems to be playing a factor for those backing the Rangers after Perez threw 8.1 masterful innings against a great San Francisco Giants lineup last time out. He struck out six, but, overall, Perez is really dependent on batted ball luck and pitch sequencing to keep hitters off balance because he doesn’t miss many bats. It’s a better philosophy to have in Safeco Field than Globe Life Park, but I’m hardly ready to say that Perez is back after a good start against the Giants. This will be his fifth start in the Majors since returning from Tommy John and the control and command are still rounding into form.
Mike Montgomery doesn’t miss a whole lot of bats either, but the southpaw has 12 MLB starts under his belt this season with a 3.07 ERA. His advanced metrics at 4.17 and 4.13 show some regression on the horizon. A .250 BABIP against and a 78.5 percent strand rate with low strikeout totals will do that. The Rangers enter this game ranked 21st in wOBA against southpaws and they have the largest sample size in the league, so they have faced a lot of them.
The Mariners are the play here. They’ve been really good offensively for the last several weeks, like the Rangers, but the difference here is Perez vs. Montgomery. Montgomery isn’t great, but you have a reasonable expectation of what he will do. Perez is a complete wild card and his last start has no predictive value as a guy just returning from a major injury.
Expect this number to climb as the surging Mets take on the light-hitting Rays. The public has latched onto the Mets as a team to back because their starting rotation has been so dominant and they’re doing it with a lot of media attention. The Rays consistently fly under the radar and the fact that they’re sniffing the postseason with all of the injuries that they have endured is a testament to how good their player development and coaching staffs are.
Noah Syndergaard takes the ball here. I like Syndergaard a lot, as most people that watch baseball do. Over 15 starts, he has posted dominant numbers across the board with a 5/1 K/BB ratio, a .223 batting average against, and a pitcher slash of 2.66/2.78/2.94. With about 10 starts left, Syndergaard has a shot at a four-fWAR season as a rookie. That’s impressive. There are no weaknesses in his game right now. The sequencing is good, the stuff is elite, the swing-and-miss stuff is special…
But, don’t overlook Nate Karns. Karns has been better than anyone in the Rays front office could have expected with a 3.37 ERA, 3.77 FIP, and 3.82 xFIP. Karns was hovering around a strikeout per inning for a while before tailing off recently, but it’s clear that he is a mainstay in this rotation. The two downfalls for Karns are two things that the Mets are unlikely to exploit. His walk rate is a little bit higher than you would like and his HR/FB% could come down a tad. The Mets are 16th in HR and 17th in BB%. The Trop isn’t a great hitter’s park.
As much as I love Thor, I think today may be the day that the Mets’ winning streak comes to a close. Something about this game seems like a trap. They don’t score much for Syndergaard, which doesn’t have a whole lot of predictive value, but the Rays need low-scoring games to win. To be honest, this is more of a “handicapper’s intuition” pick.
Here’s a line I don’t get. The Indians scored nine runs on Friday night to potentially snap out of a long offensive drought and they still lost. The market has been against the Twins for a while now, so there’s definitely some perception bias in this line. Ervin Santana hasn’t been great in his six starts since returning from an 80-game PED ban. He’s 2-2 without sharp command and has a 3.89 ERA, but a 5.56 FIP and a 4.83 xFIP. He has already given up eight home runs in 39.1 innings.
We would expect a drop from last season’s numbers with the Braves, so that’s something to consider about Servin’ Ervin. What we have to ask ourselves is whether or not the Indians are officially out of it or if Friday was the anomaly. I’m inclined to think that it was the latter. The Indians are basically trotting out a Triple-A lineup plus Michael Brantley, Carlos Santana, and Yan Gomes right now.
Another element to this game is Trevor Bauer, a fly ball pitcher who appears to be operating without the safety net of a real center fielder in this one. Tyler Holt was optioned to Columbus after an awful game on Friday night. That will likely push Michael Brantley to CF and put Ryan Raburn/Jerry Sands in left field with Lonnie Chisenhall in right field. That’s terrifying for a fly ball hurler.
The Twins have regressed offensively from last season’s quality walk rate, and have been one of the worst offensive teams in the league most of the season. You also don’t know what to expect from Trevor Bauer. Bauer owns a 3.98 ERA with a 4.19 FIP and 4.03 xFIP. He has strung together two good starts, but you never know what will happen.
The Twins are the value side here because laying -140 with the Indians lineup can’t be a +EV move at this stage of the season. The Twins are out of it. They don’t realize it yet, but they played with a lot of emotion on Friday night and that has a way of carrying over against a team that is playing a lot of youth and just traded away two veterans.
We live in a world where Jeremy Guthrie is favored over Jeff Samardzija. The pitching matchup isn’t the only thing that gets factored into the line, but that’s a strange line to write. Either the market for Jeff Samardzija was soft or Rick Hahn is naïve, but the White Sox did not trade Samardzija at the trade deadline and have now tailed off. In Samarzija’s first start after the deadline, he was bombed for nine runs on eight hits by the Yankees. He has only struck out three batters in four straight starts, which isn’t like Samardzija at all. Could there be something there? Maybe.
The Royals go through ebbs and flows, but they always seem to hit a rough patch that is supposed to shut them down and then they rattle off 10 of 12 or something. Jeremy Guthrie has been awful. He’s somehow 7-7 with a 5.65 ERA, 5.07 FIP, and 5.06 xFIP. He doesn’t miss bats, he’s become even more extreme of a fly ball pitcher, he’s given up 17 home runs and 145 hits in 113 innings. And yet, here he is, favored over a much better pitcher.
The Royals are some kind of sorcerers. What this team has done with arguably the worst rotation in baseball pre-Cueto is fascinating. They’ll probably do it again on Saturday. As ugly as it is, taking the Royals at -115 against just about anybody seems like a worthwhile endeavor given the fact that they’ve sold their souls to the baseball gods for a three-year window of contention.
Today’s LOL line comes courtesy of the NL East clusterf--- between the Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves. The Marlins, who are tied for the worst record in baseball, are favored, on the road, with Tom Koehler, who owns a 4.37 career road ERA. The Marlins have the worst offense in baseball against right-handed pitching and face flamethrower Mike Foltynewicz in this one.
Frankly, this line is stunning. On one hand, I’d say take the Marlins because the line suggests it. When you get a line that makes no sense, you often defer to the oddsmakers for being smarter than you. On the other hand, taking the Marlins as road chalk without Jose Fernandez on the mound is as –EV as it gets.
It’s best to stay away, but this line is absolutely incredible.