MLB Regular Season
Matchup: Atlanta Braves at St. Louis Cardinals
Date/Time: July 25, 7:15 p.m. ET
Pitching Matchup: Shelby Miller (5-6, 2.33) vs. Carlos Martinez (10-4, 2.51)
MLB Betting Odds From BetDSI Sportsbook
Moneyline: St. Louis -180
This is a start that Shelby Miller has been waiting for. The former St. Louis Cardinals starter will get the opportunity to face his new team as a member of the Atlanta Braves. Miller was part of the offseason trade that included Jason Heyward and the Cardinals’ pitching depth, including Carlos Martinez, was a big reason why a deal was able to get done. The Braves started their MLB Trade Deadline selling with trades of Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson on Friday. The Cardinals are likely looking around for complementary pieces to help out the best team in the National League. The Cardinals are a huge favorite in this one.
It’s a tough time of year to be a team like the Braves. A lot of young players are going to get playing time the rest of the way as the organization tries to evaluate areas of need. The Braves have stockpiled a lot of young, controlled arms with upside that they may eventually spin into position players or will simply hold on to in order to build a better starting rotation. The Cardinals are on the opposite end of the spectrum. They have a couple injuries right now, but they are the best team in baseball when healthy. The Cardinals added to the bullpen by picking up Steve Cishek on Friday, so that gives you an idea of what the next week will look like for St. Louis.
Shelby Miller has been a pleasant surprise for the Braves this season. He had this type of upside in him and has bounced back from a down year in 2014. Miller has relied heavily on the cutter that he began throwing two seasons ago and has now refined. Miller has gone from being a fly ball pitcher to a ground ball pitcher and his strikeout rate has been climbing over the last several weeks. He has a 2.33 ERA with a 3.15 FIP and a 3.65 xFIP. His cutter has been one of the best in the bigs and it has truly become a weapon to go along with his mid-90s fastball.
These are sustainable trends for Miller. His strikeout rate dropped during his final season in St. Louis and his run prevention stats went up in a big way. Miller actually overachieved a bit in 2014 because of the Cardinals defense. He finished with a 3.74 ERA, but a 4.54 FIP and a 4.47 xFIP. He’s a guy that I have been high on since he made that usage change with the cutter. The cutter is the trendy pitch in baseball nowadays and pitchers are having boatloads of success with it because it is so hard to barrel up when thrown correctly. That could be Miller’s ace in the hole, since it was a developmental pitch when he was with the Cardinals.
Speaking of good young pitchers, Carlos Martinez has silenced a lot of doubters this season. Scouts spent a lot of time debating whether or not Martinez could handle the strain of being a Major League starter with a smaller frame and some discouraging splits. Martinez has put those concerns to bed with a 2.51 ERA, 3.51 FIP, and a 3.27 xFIP. Even with some regression, Martinez is among the game’s best middle of the rotation starters and that’s more than enough for a team with the pitching riches that the Cardinals have.
Martinez has been the benefactor of some sequencing luck this season with an 85.3 percent strand rate. While there is an element of luck in there, Martinez has also made pitches when he has needed to. His strikeout rate with the bases empty is 23 percent. With men on base, it climbs to 27.4 percent and with runners in scoring position, it balloons to 34.6 percent. His mechanics from the stretch seem smoother than his mechanics from the windup, which is why this left on base trend may not regress as much as expected.
MLB Prediction: St. Louis Cardinals
Don’t lay the -180 in this spot, but there may be some creative ways to bet this game. The concern is the Atlanta offense, which is down a couple of veteran bats and they aren’t all that great offensively to begin with. The under looks like a good play in this game, since both pitchers have done a good job of pitching in big spots this season.