Eight of the 30 teams will get some national TV exposure on FOX Saturday Baseball this week as the basic cable home of Major League Baseball manages to shove four games into its exclusivity window to wrap up the month of June. The National League will be well-represented with six of its 15 teams on FOX, while the latest installment of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry will be the lone AL representative. From the National League, the games are Atlanta at Philadelphia, Washington at Chicago, and St. Louis at Los Angeles.
Boston at New York
The Yankees are trying to fight their way to the top of the mediocre AL East, while the Red Sox are simply trying to fight to stay afloat as the two long-time rivals exchange pleasantries at the House That A Lot Of Money Built in the Bronx. Here’s a rather interesting tidbit about the history of these two franchises. The first game between the Red Sox and the Yankees, as we know them today, was actually a battle between the Boston Americans and the Baltimore Orioles. It was the first game in franchise history for both teams and the Baltimore Orioles were victorious 10-6. Some guy named Cy Young was 33-10 with a 1.62 ERA for the Americans that season. The Orioles moved to New York in 1903 and were the New York Highlanders until 1913 when they were renamed the Yankees. The Red Sox were the Americans until 1908 when they adopted their current name.
A lot of legendary games have been played between these two teams. Saturday’s probably won’t be one of them, but it’s a tremendous pitching matchup between Jon Lester and Masahiro Tanaka. Lester enters this one with a misleading 8-7 record and a 3.14 ERA. Lester’s advanced metrics support his ERA, but a 3.20 SIERA rarely leads to an 8-7 record. While in the game, Lester has only gotten 52 runs of support in his 16 starts and it’s unlikely that number will improve much, if any, going up against Tanaka.
The Red Sox are 9-7 in Lester’s 16 starts for a slight profit of 0.6 units. Lester’s runs allowed at home and on the road are nearly identical, but eight unearned runs at home have allowed him to have an ERA that is nearly a run lower than on the road. Away from Fenway Park, opposing hitters are slugging 83 points (.428) higher off of Lester and he has a 3.69 ERA over 53.1 innings. Lester has certainly seen his fair share of the Yankees in his career with 28 previous starts against the Pinstripes with a 12-6 record and a 3.96 ERA. He’s 8-3 with a 4.07 ERA in New Yankee Stadium.
Masahiro Tanaka is the runaway leader for the Rookie of the Year Award in the American League, even with Jose Abreu’s monster season. Tanaka is 11-2 in 15 starts with a spectacular 2.11 ERA and a 7/1 K/BB ratio. In 15 starts, Tanaka has allowed more than three runs in exactly one start, and one of the runs was unearned. That means that Tanaka has thrown a quality start in all 15 outings. The Yankees are 12-3 in Tanaka’s 15 starts for a profit of 6.68 units.
Tanaka’s performance at home and on the road is nearly identical. The 25-year-old Japanese right-hander was the prize of the free agent season and he has certainly lived up to expectations. Tanaka made his first start in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry and threw 7.1 innings with two runs allowed on seven hits with his standard 7/1 K/BB ratio. The Yankees have scored 55 runs while Tanaka has been in the game, for just 3.6 runs per game of support. Luckily, he doesn’t need much.
Pick: New York
The Red Sox entered their series with the Yankees as one of the worst road teams in the league and have had a lot of trouble with right-handers this season. There aren’t many better than Tanaka.
Atlanta at Philadelphia
You have to go all the way back to May 4, 1883 to find the first time these two storied franchises playing against each other. The Boston Beaneaters bested the Philadelphia Quakers 11-10. The Braves were in Boston until 1953 as the Red Stockings, Beaneaters, Doves, and Rustlers before becoming the Braves in 1912. The name lasted until 1935 when the Braves became the Bees for five seasons before staying the Braves through a stint in Milwaukee from 1953-65. The Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966. The Phillies have been the Phillies since 1890.
In 2014, these are two teams going in different directions as the Braves have been a consistent contender for the better part of 20 years while the Phillies are an aging team on the brink of a rebuild. From a name recognition standpoint, Saturday’s matchup may be one of the most forgettable games in the series history between these two. David Hale will go for the Braves, while Sean O’Sullivan. This is Game 2 of a doubleheader, with the first game featuring Ervin Santana against Roberto Hernandez.
Hale has been up with the Braves all season, working in 19 games out of the bullpen with four starts mixed in. Hale made a couple of impressive starts at the end of last season and may have been a fixture in the rotation had the Braves not signed Santana. There’s not much to talk about with Hale, a ground ball, pitch-to-contact guy with a 3.14 ERA this season but some unsettling peripherals. His FIP is 4.27 because of a 1/1 K/BB ratio and that also contributes to a 4.88 SIERA. The Braves are 2-2 in Hale’s four starts for a modest profit of 0.24 units.
O’Sullivan has bounced around since his pro ball debut in 2006 with the Angels. He’s spent time in the minors with the Angels, Royals, Blue Jays, and Padres with just 50 career Major League appearances and 37 starts. In those games, he has a 5.89 ERA. With the Phillies Triple-A team in Lehigh Valley, O’Sullivan has a 4.31 ERA in 15 starts. Like Hale, O’Sullivan is a pitch-to-contact guy with poor strikeout rates and pretty neutral ground ball-to-fly ball splits.
Neither pitcher is particularly favorable at Citizens Bank Park and the play on this game likely depends on what happens in the first game with the bullpen situations and who sits in the second game.
For a lean, however, look to the Braves in the nightcap because of Hale’s ability to keep the ball on the ground and limit deep fly balls. The first game will dictate a lot, but Hale has a lesser chance of getting rocked.
Washington at Chicago
The Chicago Cubs were victorious over the Montreal Expos in walk-off fashion back on April 11, 1969, the fourth game and first extra innings game in franchise history for the Expos. Now in Washington D.C., the NL East-leading Nationals send youngster Blake Treinen to the mound against Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija. At this point, every start could be Samardzija’s last start with the Cubs, so that’s always a situation worth monitoring.
Treinen, who will turn 26 on Monday, was recently sent down to Triple-A, but will be recalled to pitch Saturday’s nightcap of a doubleheader. Gio Gonzalez and Dallas Beeler are expected to be the starters for Game 1. Treinen has four Major League starts this season and four relief appearances. As a starter, he has a 2.49 ERA, but is only going five innings per start. He has a 9/8 K/BB ratio and his peripherals suggest that a rough patch is on the way. Treinen relies heavily on a 95 mph sinker more than 80 percent of the time which leaves him at the mercy of the batted ball gods. The Nationals are 0-4 in Treinen’s four starts for a loss of four units.
Samardzija has run into the regression monster this month with a 4.82 ERA in June after ERAs of 1.98 and 1.32 in April and May. One of the biggest issues for Samardzija has been a spike in extra-base hits. After allowing nine doubles, two triples, and three home runs in his first 75 innings, Samardzija has allowed 12 doubles, a triple, and two home runs in just 28 innings this month. Extra-base hits can really wreck an ERA and that’s what has happened as Samardzija’s command has been off, possibly from the trade rumors. The Cubs are just 3-13 in Samardzija’s 16 starts for a loss of 10.67 units. Only Brandon McCarthy starts have lost bettors more money.
Treinen is still looking for his first Major League win and Samardzija would just be happy to get a win. He’s just 2-6 on the season in 16 starts because of just 35 runs of support. While there’s a lean posted here, what happens in Game 1 will likely dictate how you approach Game 2, so bet with caution.
Treinen’s sinker is a tough pitch to do much damage on and that’s evident in how much success he’s had without being able to strike out many hitters. Trade rumors clearly seem to be taking their toll on Samardzija and the Cubs don’t project to give him much support on Saturday night.
St. Louis at Los Angeles
The Cardinals and Dodgers will play a 4:15 local time first pitch thanks to their national TV appearance on FOX. These two franchises go all the way back to the American Association, a league that played alongside the National League. When the American Association stopped play in 1891, a few teams joined the National League. The Cardinals, then the St. Louis Browns, were one of those teams. Brooklyn played for one season as the Atlantics before changing names to the Grays and then the Bridegrooms before shortening it to Grooms and then back to Bridegrooms. From 1899-1910, the Dodgers were known as the Superbas. After a brief period of being the Dodgers, short for Trolley Dodgers, they were the Robins before becoming the Dodgers for good in 1932. They moved to Los Angeles in 1958.
Games between these two began in 1884 when the Brooklyn Atlantics defeated the St. Louis Browns 2-1. Another low-scoring affair could be on tap Saturday night when Lance Lynn faces off against Zack Greinke. Lynn is in his third season as a full-time Major League starter and is posting a career-best 2.90 ERA. There are some concerns, however. In Lynn’s previous seasons, his ERA has been higher than his advanced metrics, suggesting that some regression has been building. With his 2.90 ERA this season, his FIP sits slightly better than his career mark at 3.22, but his xFIP and SIERA are both higher than his career averages.
What the sabermetric stats don’t take into account is that Lynn has been better this season against lefties than at any other point in his career. Lefties own a .247/.337/.365 slash line after posting a .252/.361/.404 last season and a .268/.384/.456 in 2012. More than anything, that explains Lynn’s higher success rate. The Cardinals are 10-6 in Lynn’s 16 starts for a profit of 2.65 units.
Greinke has been one of the game’s elites over the last calendar year. He’s putting together another great season for the Dodgers with a 9-4 record and a 2.89 ERA. Greinke’s 2.83 xFIP and 2.90 SIERA support his sub-3.00 ERA and his K/BB ratio of better than 5/1 is one of the league’s best. Dodger Stadium has been extremely kind to Greinke with a 14-3 record and a 2.35 ERA in 22 starts. His 0.998 WHIP is a spectacular mark in those Dodger Stadium starts. Surprisingly, the Dodgers are just 9-7 in Greinke’s 16 starts for a loss of 0.63 units.
Pick: St. Louis
Expect an inflated number on Greinke and Lynn is a tough customer in his own right. Greinke has obviously been great at Dodger Stadium, but the Dodgers offense has not returned the favor for him. The Dodgers may very well win, but the Cardinals are likely going to be the value side in this matchup.