Yesterday was a tough day. Not many of the games worked out in our favor and it was a humbling reminder of just how difficult handicapping baseball games can be. We’re going to have days like that and it’s all part of the process. Remembering proper bankroll management – not chasing losses, not overbetting games the next day – is paramount after a bad day. Variance is part of the game. Yesterday was just one of those days. You shake it off and try to do better today. That’s what I’ll do with this look at the Saturday card.
I try to shy away from the day games on weekends because of the timeframe of this article and the slightly later posting time, but this line is too interesting to ignore. The White Sox just lost as an almost 2-to-1 favorite with Chris Sale on the mound on Friday night because they can’t hit. Despite that, they are favored once again against regression candidate Nick Martinez. The White Sox have Carlos Rodon on the bump.
We’ll start with 22-year-old Carlos Rodon. The 2014 draftee made nine appearances in the minor leagues before making the jump to the Majors as a reliever. After three appearances out of the pen, he has made seven starts. In those seven starts, he has a 4.03 ERA, a 39/21 K/BB ratio, a 3.13 FIP, and a 3.78 xFIP. His control and command are unpolished, but the raw stuff is so good that hitters have trouble stringing hits together. Prior to getting blasted last week by the Pirates, Rodon had allowed three earned runs over his last four starts covering 24.1 innings of work.
You know all about Nick Martinez. He has a 2.76 ERA with a 4.22 FIP and a 4.80 xFIP. He adopted more of a two-seamer/slider approach to induce more ground balls and more weak contact. The results have been very positive. Hitters are chasing more frequently and he has worked ahead in the count more. The last time he faced the White Sox, he allowed seven runs on nine hits over 3.1 innings. That was two starts ago.
Overall, I don’t have an opinion on this play, other than to point out the respect that Carlos Rodon is getting and the lack of respect that Nick Martinez is getting. Take that as you wish.
Another fascinating day game line here. This is the same range in which yesterday’s Kyle Hendricks vs. Phil Hughes line closed. Hughes put it all together and pitched well, while Hughes and the Cubs pen struggled in one of the games I liked the most. In looking at this game, there are a few things to point out. The first is that Jon Lester has run really bad this season. He’s been terrible in April and June, with a terrific month of May sandwiched in between. He has a 3.99 ERA, 3.51 FIP, and 3.28 xFIP. The projection system ZiPS has Lester down for a 3.26 ERA, 3.28 FIP the rest of the season.
Lester has fallen victim to bad luck. He’s struggled from the windup, allowing eight of his nine home runs. Even though he has allowed a .257/.293/.338 slash with men on base, opposing hitters are enjoying a .347 BABIP. The Cubs defense has not been awful overall, but it has hurt Lester in a big way. It’s also good to point out that teams have been running at will on Lester and personal catcher David Ross. The opposition has stolen 18 bases and has only been caught three times. The Twins are 23rd in stolen bases with 26.
Trevor May is a guy that I’m high on. His 4.26 ERA is defense-induced, as his strikeout rate is around league average and his walk rate is well above. His 3.17 FIP and 3.74 xFIP are good marks for the American League. The Twins are 16-9 against left-handed pitching this season, even though they are 17th in wOBA and have a 95 wRC+. That’s a stat that you will see thrown about by people regarding this game.
A very slight lean to the Cubs would be my call on this game. I like both pitchers to show improvement throughout the season, but the higher upside belongs to Lester if his defense can start performing better. I think the early morning arrival in Minneapolis had a bit of an effect of the Cubs on Friday night.
Ed Volquez has really fallen ass backwards into some great situations over the last three seasons. He was able to rebuild some of his value with the Dodgers late in 2013 and then became the latest project for Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. He outperformed his advanced metrics in a big way last year with the Pirates with a 3.04 ERA, 4.15 FIP, and 4.20 xFIP. Well, he’s doing the same with the Royals this season with a 3.10 ERA, 3.45 FIP, 4.10 xFIP. The Royals have an elite defense, as we all know, and the .260 BABIP against is proof of how much they have helped.
For Rick Porcello, Boston isn’t working out. His 5.29 ERA is accompanied by some positive signs with a 4.11 FIP and a 3.94 xFIP, so things could get better and the hope for him and the Red Sox is that they will. His numbers from the windup have been pretty good, especially his 5.63 K/BB ratio. But, his mechanics from the stretch have not been good and it has shown in the .285/.356/.442 slash against. He’s going to give up baserunners in this start against a high-contact Royals team and that makes the Royals a good look for Saturday. Lefties are hitting .281/.324/.452 against Porcello and Kansas City has no shortage of those.
Williams Perez steam? On the Braves?! That’s what the overnight lines have produced and it shouldn’t come as all that big of a surprise to you. Of course, this is a classic case of two pitchers due for opposite types of regression. We usually see the betting market side with the one due to improve, which, in this case, is Noah Syndergaard. That’s not the case.
Syndergaard has been really good. His 3.76 ERA is hurt by one bad start. He was shelled for seven runs on 10 hits by the Padres two outings ago, but he struck out 10 in four innings in that start. He was dynamite against the Blue Jays last outing with 11 punchouts over six innings. There is a little bit of start-to-start inconsistency, which is understandable for a kid making his first go-round in The Show. I’m a believer. You should be too.
Williams Perez is an interesting pitcher. His heavy ground ball split is accompanied by a slightly below average strikeout rate and a high walk rate. The number of ground balls allows him to limit the damage of walks. He has a 2.29 ERA with a 3.79 FIP and a 4.09 xFIP. Normally, when we see stat lines like that, it’s because of a low BABIP. His is .304, right in the normal range. The reason is because he has an 85 percent strand rate. I really don’t see that continuing for a ground ball pitcher.
I’m concerned that I’m missing something in this line movement because it doesn’t make sense to me. The Mets are the side for me in this one. Syndergaard actually has reverse splits, so he has been better against lefties and the Braves lineup is very left-handed heavy. Gimme the Mets.
Former Miami Marlin Anthony DeSclafani gets the ball against his old team and will oppose Tom Koehler. First, we’ll look at Koehler, who is the epitome of a National League fifth starter. There’s nothing exciting about him at all His 3.76 ERA is accompanied by a 4.65 FIP and 4.39 xFIP because his K/BB rates are both below league average and his home run rate has spiked this season. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to see that Koehler pitches well at Marlins Park, where he owns a 1.52 ERA, a .192/.263.276 slash against, and just three of his 11 home runs allowed. On the road, those numbers balloon to a 6.21 ERA, .291/.365/.534 slash, and 19 extra-base hits, compared to six at home.
Anthony DeSclafani’s second and third trip around the league as a starter have not been as positive as his first trip, but he still has a respectable 3.36 ERA and a 3.61 FIP. What I really like about DeSclafani in this start is that he has fared a lot better against right-handed hitters this season with a .254/.305/.351 slash and .288 wOBA against. Great American Ball Park has not been favorable to DeSclafani, with a .304/.370/.455 slash against. I’m not all that worried in this start. This matchup clearly favors the Reds and this line looks 10-to-15 cents too low to me. Take the Reds.
The first thought that crosses my mind about this game is that the line is a trap. Dallas Keuchel is showing that last season was not a fluke with a 2.04 ERA, 2.89 FIP, and 2.95 xFIP. On the other side, Taijuan Walker continues to struggle to find consistency with a 5.00 ERA, 4.25 FIP, and 4.04 xFIP. The oddsmakers seem to be asking for Houston money. Seattle has struggled and a good portion of their lineup is left-handed, which doesn’t match up well with Keuchel and what he has done this season.
Perhaps the oddsmakers are selling Taijuan Walker a little bit short. He has two things going for him in this start. The first is that he can miss bats. He sits in the mid-90s with what PITCHf/x seems to classify as a strong split-change. Command is his problem, as evidenced by his home run rate against. The second time Houston faced him this season, they blasted him for eight runs on nine hits in three innings and hit three home runs. That was on May 2.
I’m not big on small sample sizes, but Walker’s last four starts have been encouraging with five earned on 22 hits over 29 innings and a 27/3 K/BB ratio. He made two starts against Cleveland, a start against the Yankees, and a start against the Giants, so those are some decent offensive teams. I think the Mariners are the side to look at in this game, though it’s certainly a lot to ask of their offense against an Astros team capable of hanging a big number on any given night.
How much has the perception of these two teams changed? The Padres are essentially a money line pick ‘em with Tyson Ross on the mound against minor league call-up Robbie Ray. As I’ve mentioned before, the Padres lineup is very right-handed heavy. One would expect a right-handed heavy lineup to hit lefties, right? The Padres rank 18th in wOBA at .304, which is actually just a few ticks below leage average by wRC+. They do have a decent walk rate. The lower wOBA has been from a lack of power.
Robbie Ray is an interesting prospect. He’s still only 23 years old and has the mold of your standard-issue lefty with low 90s velo and predominantly three pitches. There are some worries about Ray. He is more of a fly ball pitcher with iffy control, which is a major problem pitching in a ballpark like Chase Field. So far, it hasn’t bothered him with a 1.09 ERA over four starts, but his 4.36 xFIP is more indicative of future performance because his home run rate is very low thus far. With a below average pop up rate in his two cups of Major League coffee, Ray is at risk of hitting hard regression. He doesn’t miss bats and struggles with control.
As for Tyson Ross, this should be a good matchup for him. He’s very good against righties and the Diamondbacks get most of their production from righties like Paul Goldschmidt and Yasmany Tomas. As I correctly predicted last week, Ross had trouble with a patient Oakland lineup. His .368 BABIP against is ugly, but he still has an ERA under 4.00, which is a testament to how good he has actually pitched with the terrible defense behind him.
Take the Padres in this one. Recency bias is playing with this line and the Diamondbacks got to James Shields on Friday. This game is a little bit different and I think the Padres are the right side.