Last Updated: 2018-08-18
Four day games and 11 night games make up the card for Saturday August 18. We’ve also got a whole bunch of NFL Preseason games, so if you filled overwhelmed with the number of things on the card, just wait a couple of Saturdays until college football gets going. In fact, this is the last Saturday without college football until December 15, so let’s get happy, y’all.
We should also be happy about yesterday’s results. [Ice-Cube-it-was-a-good-day.gif] The Pirates and Cubs stayed well under the total in a 1-0 affair, as the Pirates helped us by hitting into seven double plays. The Reds won. I didn’t play it, but maybe you did. If so, congrats. Houston pushed the first five, unfortunately, as the A’s scratched out two runs in the bottom of the fifth. The Dodgers did not allow the Mariners to push, as they rolled to an 11-1 win and won the first five comfortably.
Let’s see if we can keep the momentum going with the picks and tips for August 18, 2018:
New York (NL) at Philadelphia (-105); Total: 7.5
With no thoughts on Blue Jays/Yankees, we slide to the next afternoon game on the card between the Mets and Phillies. We’ll see Jacob deGrom for the visitors and Jake Arrieta for the host squad. This has been a wild series. The Mets scored more runs than they’ve scored the entire rest of the season in Game 1 of Thursday’s doubleheader and then the doubleheader system held in Game 2. Last night, Aaron Nola shoved and outdueled Noah Syndergaard.
Today, we get another solid pitching matchup. deGrom, who better win the NL Cy Young, enters with a 1.81 ERA, a 2.14 FIP, and a 2.73 xFIP in his 159 innings of work. His K% is up, his BB% is down, his HR/FB% is down 9.5 percent from last season, and his contact management has gotten quite a bit better. The guy is spectacular. It’s been a horrible year for the Mets, but we can definitively say that Mickey Callaway’s ability to maximize elite pitching talent is still applicable.
deGrom has allowed more than three runs in a start exactly once this season and it happened way back on April 10. He has done it three times in his last five starts, but he’s allowed an unearned run in two of them. He’s been stellar. Whatever adjective you want to use to describe deGrom, it fits.
He’s a bad matchup for just about everybody, but especially the Phillies, who rely on walks and home runs. deGrom has allowed just 36 walks in his 159 IP and he’s only given up eight home runs, with no more than one in any start. It’s going to be hard for the Phillies to score runs today if deGrom continues what he’s been doing.
So, we shift our focus to Jake Arrieta and see if we can find an edge or an under play. Arrieta has a 3.33 ERA with a 3.95 FIP and a 4.11 xFIP in his 132.1 innings of work. The xFIP is due to a career-worst strikeout rate, but Arrieta has traded whiffs for ground balls. It’s an interesting strategy, and maybe unintentional, but it has worked for the most part.
Arrieta has been a buy candidate for me in the second half because of his 67.2 percent LOB%. He’s basically been a continuation of his first half self with a 3.68 ERA, a .255/.317/.385 slash against, a 3.50 FIP, and a 4.02 xFIP. His LOB% isn’t much better at 68.2 percent. It is worth pointing out that the Phillies are pretty poor defensively, so his LOB% gains just may not be coming. His K% also drops to 12.6 percent with men on base and that makes it even harder to strand runners.
Still, the Mets aren’t a good lineup, as we know full well at this point. The Phillies bullpen isn’t in any kind of dire straits right now. deGrom should efficiently work deep into the game. This looks like a matinee under right out of the gate. I am a little bit worried about the Phillies defense with a 7.5 total, so we’ll lower this one to a 2% play.
Stronger Lean: Under
Houston (-105) at Oakland; Total: 8
The A’s are living well right now. Every mistake made by the opposition gets magnified. The Astros defense let Charlie Morton down in the fifth and it resulted in a tie game and a push on our first five play. Otherwise, the A’s didn’t do much against Morton. We talked about how Morton was a good matchup against the A’s because he had one of the lowest average launch angles against and the A’s love to elevate. Morton gave up one extra-base hit in five innings out of the 21 batters he faced. You’ll take that every day.
We have a similar situation, though not as exciting of one here with Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel and his extreme ground ball stylings should, in theory, match up well with the A’s. Among pitchers with at least 200 batted balls this season, Keuchel ranks fourth in lowest average launch angle. Interestingly enough, Oakland starter Trevor Cahill ranks fifth. (spoiler alert)
There seems to be some kind of crazy misconception out there that Keuchel isn’t very good. The dude is running a 3.43/3.75/3.68 pitcher slash in 155 innings across 25 starts. He doesn’t miss bats like his rotation brethren, but his 55 percent GB% is a skill. Furthermore, since allowing three home runs against the Mariners to run his HR/FB% up to 19 percent on June 5, Keuchel has been running a 10.9 percent HR/FB% over his last 13 starts with only six home runs against.
He’s gotten much better. This is a great matchup for him in that regard. The Astros miss a top-notch defender like Jose Altuve, and that has an impact in a game like this, but Keuchel’s skill set and what he does well matches up quite nicely with this Oakland lineup.
I’m sure you’re going to see somebody sell this pick based on Keuchel’s two starts against Oakland earlier this season, as he allowed six runs on seven hits, including three homers, on April 27. He worked eight innings of one-run ball on May 7 in Oakland, but the combined starts lead to a 4.20 ERA, so somebody is going to point out how that sucks and how bad he’s been. Well, he was bad once and great once and he’s been great since June 5, so how is that relevant information? It’s not. At all.
Trevor Cahill has been effective when he’s been able to be out there. The right-hander has a 3.39 ERA with a 3.24 FIP and a 3.33 xFIP in his 79.2 innings of work. Cahill has been limited to 14 starts because of injuries, but he’s got a strong set of numbers. He’s posting a 53.9 percent GB% with an 11.5 percent HR/FB%. He’s struck out just shy of a batter per inning with a solid walk rate and a strong BABIP/LOB% combination that doesn’t show any significant signs of regression.
The Astros aren’t as dependent on fly balls for offense, but they still rank seventh in FB% this season. They are 10th in average launch angle. Cahill would seem to be a tricky matchup for them as well.
These are two solid bullpens, despite Houston’s penchant for having bad nights in big spots. There are a lot of low ERAs and FIPs in that Houston pen and we all know how good Oakland’s pen has been.
This is a pretty clear-cut under play for me. These two pitchers are not good matchups for the opposing lineup and the two bullpens are really solid. In the past, I’d have fixated on the fact that two ground ball pitchers means a lot of balls in play and a lot of batted ball variance, but with more shifts, better advance scouting reports, and a better understanding of the game, I’m less worried. Sure, it’s still a consideration, but if we stayed off of bets because of reservations, we’d never make any. I’m just playing the matchups and my expectation of how the game will go. I think it will be another tight, low-scoring affair. If Cahill wasn’t as solid as he has been, I’d be on Houston, but I’d rather play the under here.
Chicago (NL) at Pittsburgh (-115); Total: 8.5
The Cubs and Pirates continue their weekend set in the NLC with a matchup featuring Tyler Chatwood and Joe Musgrove. There was not an overnight line on this game with the Chatwood announcement.
Chatwood…man. I can’t recall ever seeing a pitcher stat line like this. The 5.06/5.52/5.67 isn’t unique to Chatwood by any means, but having an 8.13 BB/9 after 99.2 innings of work is insane. He has walked 90 batted and has struck out 85. It’s crazy to have something respectable for a strikeout rate and still have issued more walks this deep into the season.
For a while, Chatwood was able to work around the walks, but it was only a matter of time. As his BABIP, HR/FB% and LOB% all regressed, life got really hard for him and he lost his rotation spot. He’s signed for the next two seasons, too. This will be Chatwood’s first start since July 26. In 5.2 relief innings, he’s walked five and struck out three. I assume a lot of work is being done behind the scenes, but Chatwood hasn’t pitched in a week. I have no idea what to expect, but I’d have to lean on the side of it not being very good.
Joe Musgrove has been solid in his 80 innings with a 3.49/3.60/4.31 pitcher slash. The right-hander doesn’t have a whole lot of strikeouts, but he has a 47 percent GB% and a 7.3 percent HR/FB%. He’s 31st in average exit velocity and 13th in average exit velocity on fly balls and line drives. It’s a really nice contact management profile. He also had one of the lowest barrel rates in baseball.
The Cubs make a lot of good contact, but also create a lot of baserunners by drawing walks. Trevor Williams and Ivan Nova have issued two walks combined in this series and the Cubs have only scored two runs. Musgrove should limit opportunities for the Cubs as well.
5Dimes has a number up at time of writing and it’s -115 on Pittsburgh with a total of 8.5. I’ll play the Pirates at that number.
Tampa Bay at Boston (-215); Total: 8.5
You never want to overreact to small sample sizes, but what Tyler Glasnow is doing for the Rays is very impressive. In three starts covering 12 innings, as he gets stretched out from pitching in relief for Pittsburgh, Glasnow has a 20/3 K/BB ratio with three runs allowed on six hits. He’s allowed two home runs. He looks outstanding. The stuff has a ton of life.
As mentioned in our last write-up regarding Glasnow, the 6-foot-8 right-hander now has a confidant in 6-foot-8 pitching coach Kyle Snyder, who is already having a huge impact on his new charge. I know, I know, it’s easy to take a dump on everything because Glasnow has faced the Angels, Orioles, and Blue Jays, but the Blue Jays make the second-most hard contact in the league and the Angels, who have the third highest launch angle in the league, put 80 percent of balls in play on the ground.
I really think the Rays found something here. They’re not pushing him as they stretch him out, but he worked five innings last time out and is going on an extra day of rest, so I would expect him to be solid.
David Price is having a fine season, but I think he’s one of those guys that gets mispriced in the market. His peripherals are all solid and he has a 3.75/3.94/3.99 pitcher slash in 134.1 innings of work, but I just feel like there’s this sentiment about him that he’s still the dude that was regularly posting 4+ WAR seasons.
I get it here in that the Rays aren’t anything special and Price has been great over his last four starts with just three runs allowed and a 25/5 K/BB ratio. I do, however, think that the Rays for the first five are worth a gamble here at better than a 2/1 return. Bookmaker is the only one showing the derivative line right now and it is Boston -230. I truly believe the Rays have something in Glasnow and I’m willing to see that through. Again, we’re just talking about a X to win 1% play here at better than 2/1, so it’s a small wager, but I think it’s one that comes through more often than the line would suggest.
Lean: Tampa Bay 1st 5
Milwaukee at St. Louis (-140); Total: 8
It is hardly surprising to see money flowing in against Wade Miley. The Cardinals are also one of the hottest teams in baseball, so they’re running pretty good right now as they send Miles Mikolas to the bump. It seems like the market has come to terms with the fact that Mikolas is probably not going to see the degree of regression that the numbers would traditionally suggest, so that’s good.
Miley, on the other hand, is running a 2.23 ERA with a 4.20 FIP and a 4.82 xFIP in his 40.1 innings of work. He has a .238 BABIP and an 83 percent LOB%. You have to give a lot of Milwaukee starters the benefit of the doubt because of what the team has focused on, but it’s tough to do that with Miley, who has almost walked as many batters as he has struck out in his eight starts. Miley’s average exit velocity against is 86.5 mph on 124 batted balls, so he does rate very well in that department, which should lead to some sustainability with the BABIP, but probably more in the .260 range, not the .240 range.
I’m a little bit upset with myself for not laying yesterday’s Cardinals price, but I won’t go chasing this one down today. While they probably are the right side with the pitching matchup edge, my respect for the Brewers and what they do with their starters is high enough that I’m not going to get involved, despite the signs from Miley.
Los Angeles (NL) (-135) at Seattle; Total: 8
Rich Hill and Erasmo Ramirez are the slated starters for today’s game at Safeco Field. The Mariners were pummeled by the Dodgers on Friday night, as Walker Buehler shoved and the offense showed up. The Mariners will be in search of better fortunes today.
Hill has a 3.57 ERA with a 4.29 FIP and a 4.09 xFIP in his 85.2 innings of work on the season. Context, however, is important. Hill had two month-long DL stints earlier in the season. Since he returned full-time on June 19, Hill has posted a 2.51 ERA with a 3.44 FIP and a 3.78 xFIP. He’s struck out 65 and walked 17 and has only allowed six home runs, with only two in his last five starts. The southpaw is always at increased risk of injury with his age and blister problems, but when he’s out there, he’s been very effective. I would expect nothing less today, as he slants to the fly ball side and is pitching in a good park for fly ball hurlers. The Mariners, who were better against lefties early in the season, have fallen to 17th in wOBA in that split.
Erasmo Ramirez has had a frustrating season. He made 19 starts and 18 relief appearances last season, but has spent most of this year on the shelf. Ramirez fired five shutout against the Astros last time out. His other two starts, which were awful, came back in April. He threw the ball well in his seven rehab starts, including five in Triple-A with a stellar K/BB ratio and a 2.41/3.29/4.22 pitcher slash.
I’m not really sure what to expect here, but it won’t have the same ceiling as a Rich Hill outing. That’s not to say that Ramirez will be bad or good, but that Hill has a much higher level of expectation, hence this line.
This looks like a similar situation to last night, where I like the Dodgers starter quite a bit more and would want to play him, but don’t want to involve the Mariners bullpen. Kenley Jansen is expected to return soon, but the Dodgers pen is still in a state of flux.
Unfortunately, we’re paying an extra 10 cents of juice to look up the Dodgers for the first five rather than the full game. Hill has held opposing hitters to a miniscule .174/.263/.254 slash line the first time through, but they are slashing .289/.363/.529 the second time and .266/.321/.526 the third time.
I’m not laying 45 cents on that against an AL lineup.
-END OF AUGUST 18 PICKS-
A full-fledged Friday in the Major League Baseball world is on tap, as we have 15 games to look at going into the weekend. By Sunday, we will only have seven weeks left of the MLB season, but it isn’t time to slow down during this marathon just yet. We’ve got two more weeks until rosters expand and really make life difficult, so we’ll try to enjoy it while we still can.
There wasn’t much to enjoy yesterday. All three leans lost in the Pittsburgh game thanks to a 1-0 shutout loss for the home team. The Blue Jays also lost, so that was a chalky loser on a -135 favorite. It was a rare day of bad handicapping, as things just didn’t work out. Those that followed the doubleheader angle cashed a winner on the Phillies, but that wasn’t an official pick from the article, as we had no idea what would happen in Game 1.
We’ll look to get it back today and get back to our winning ways. Here are the picks and tips for August 17, 2018:
Chicago (NL) (-135) at Pittsburgh; Total: 8.5
It isn’t a surprise at all to see the Cubs a clear-cut favorite with Cole Hamels on the bump against Trevor Williams. It also isn’t a big surprise to see the line swinging a little bit in Chicago’s favor, as Williams is a guy that the market hasn’t had a whole lot of interest in for a while now. Williams has a 3.66 ERA with a 4.85 xFIP, so he’s one of the Garbage Pail Kids in MLB terms for bettors.
Williams just doesn’t allow home runs, so his xFIP is irrelevant to me. He has an 8.9 percent HR/FB% and a career 10.3 percent HR/FB%. With league average up in the high 12s, this isn’t a worrisome statistic. His 4.27 FIP is a possible sign of regression. The projection systems don’t have high hopes for his remaining starts, but they also aren’t capable of understanding contact management. Williams ranks 12th in average exit velocity in our regular sample size and has a hard-hit percentage of just 30.4 percent. In that respect, his .264 BABIP is certainly sustainable and his 73.3 percent LOB% is right in line with league average.
Hamels will make his fourth start for the Cubs. In his previous three starts, he’s been a godsend. The southpaw has allowed two earned runs on 11 hits in 18 innings of work with a 20/4 K/BB ratio. Home runs were a problem for him with the Rangers, but he’s yet to allow one with the Cubs. Perhaps all it took was Hamels getting into a playoff race and getting back into the National League. It also seems that the Cubs may have fixed a mild mechanical problem because Hamels’s velocity is up since joining the team. Craig Edwards at Fangraphs did a good job of evaluating the numbers over these three starts.
We’ve got Williams, who is a little underappreciated by the markets, and Hamels, who seems to have found something with the Cubs. I’m playing the under here. These are two solid bullpens and a good park for pitchers, especially those like Hamels that have had a bit of a home run issue.
San Francisco at Cincinnati
No line is out for this one, as Casey Kelly takes the mound in a spot start capacity for the Giants. It will be Anthony DeSclafani for the Reds. Kelly worked five scoreless relief innings on August 11 and then threw 1.1 innings on the 15th with one run allowed on two hits. The 28-year-old is a journeyman, with stints in the organizations of the Red Sox, Padres, Braves, Cubs, and Giants.
Like we talked about on Wednesday’s edition of BangTheBook Radio, evaluating call-ups takes an understanding of the leagues in which these guys most recently played. Kelly made 23 starts for Triple-A Sacramento and posted a 4.78 ERA with a 4.92 FIP and a 4.71 xFIP. His K rate was below average. His walk rate was solid. His 11.5 percent HR/FB% was a good improvement on his 2017 season, in which he got beat up by the long ball.
He’s basically a marginal, pitch-to-contact type of dude. I, personally, don’t think that plays well in Cincinnati. The Reds offense has really fallen off over the last several weeks, but this is a bad park to be a guy like Kelly. He’s stretched out enough that he should go through the lineup more than one time and that’s when the Reds should be able to do a little bit of damage.
DeSclafani has a 4.46 ERA with a 5.17 FIP and a 4.15 xFIP in his 66.2 innings of work, but his last two starts have been good ones. He’s allowed one run on nine hits with an 11/1 K/BB ratio in his last 14 innings. He’s allowed 15 home runs in his 12 starts, which is clearly a problem, but the Giants don’t have a whole lot of power. They rank 27th in home runs overall and 26th in home runs on the road, so it isn’t just AT&T Park.
Time is running out for the Giants, who fell back to .500 and are six back in the NL West and 6.5 out in the Wild Card. They had an off day to get acclimated to Eastern Time and a day to erase the bad memory of Wednesday’s loss. The Giants haven’t played east of the Rockies since June 14. I’m not sure if that matters or not, but this could be a little bit of a shock to the system.
I don’t know if I want to play the Reds yet, as I’m still waiting on a price, but they’d be the only way I could look today.
Pass for Now
Colorado at Atlanta (-130); Total: 8.5
Two of our favorite left-handers matchup today as Kyle Freeland and Sean Newcomb get together. The Rockies drew first blood last night by dealing the Braves a blown save. It had to feel good for the Rockies to get one of those comeback wins, as so many opponents have been doing that to them.
Freeland’s ERA is actually down to 3.02, as he’s getting stronger in the face of the Regression Monster. The soft contact master has a 3.95 FIP and a 4.31 xFIP. He’s been getting some run on the baseball sites and in the blogosphere, so the clock may strike midnight sooner rather than later, but it has been fun to watch. Freeland even struck out 10 last time out. He has only allowed more than four runs once this season and has only allowed four runs three times. He’s been really fantastic. You already know about all of the contact management metrics with him.
Per usual, you know I still have to remain skeptical. As much as I love the dude, and as much as I have him to thank for taking a deeper look into contact management, he’s got an 82.4 percent LOB% with a below average strikeout rate and a well below average swinging strike rate.
I like Sean Newcomb a lot. Newk has a 3.40 ERA with a 4.15 FIP and a 4.36 xFIP in his 129.2 innings. Because his advanced metrics don’t stand out, he’s only been worth 1.5 fWAR. I will say this about Newcomb, his declining strikeout rate does worry me. After posting a 28.1 percent K% in March/April, a 21.6 percent rate in May, and a 22 percent rate in June, he’s down to 17.9 percent in July and 16 percent in August. While he limits hard contact, he also opens himself up to trouble because he still walks a lot of guys. He’s cut the walk rate down, too, but he’s still “effectively wild”.
Newcomb has been something of a high-variance pitcher lately. He allowed five runs on 12 hits last time out after having three magnificent starts to begin the second half.
On one hand, I’d like to look up Freeland here because I have a more confident set of expectations for him. On the other hand, he’s also got the possibility of regression. Newcomb has a higher ceiling than Freeland in all likelihood, but also a higher probability of not pitching well.
I’ll stay away, but if you’re looking for something to watch tonight, give this game a look and watch these two guys operate. It should be pretty fun.
Milwaukee at St. Louis (-130); Total: 8
Freddy Peralta and Jack Flaherty meet to open a weekend series with enormous implications in the NL Central race. The Brewers are now 3.5 back of the Cubs and the Cardinals and 1.5 back of the Brewers. The Brewers would be the second Wild Card if the playoffs started today, with the Cardinals 1.5 back of both them and the Phillies. This is a big series and these two teams are going in different directions lately.
As I correctly predicted, and should have played, yesterday, the value side swung back to the Nationals, as they snapped the skid and slowed the Cardinals down a bit. St. Louis has still won eight of 10 and things have been a lot different under Mike Shildt than they were under Mike Matheny. This should be a good one.
Peralta’s stat looks reads like a puzzle that is missing pieces. In 56.1 innings, he has struck out 74 batters, which is awesome. He’s also walked 33 batters, which is not. He’s got a .244 BABIP against, which is solid, and an 8.2 percent HR/FB%, which is awesome. He also has a 67.2 percent LOB%, which is not awesome. All in all, we’ve got a 4.47 ERA (LOB%), a 3.66 FIP (K rate & HR rate), and a 4.29 xFIP (HR/FB% with a 31.1 percent GB%).
Peralta has allowed seven runs in two of his last four starts. He hasn’t been particularly efficient, which is no surprise with the K and BB rates. I’m not quite sure how to approach him, to be totally honest. The strikeout prowess and low exit velocities against mean he can work out of jams. The walk rate means he creates more than his fair share of them. The seven hits he allowed last time out were easily a season high, as he hadn’t allowed more than five hits in his other 10 starts. There seems to be a high number of high-variance starters on the mound today.
Flaherty has a 3.22 ERA with a 3.89 FIP and a 3.41 xFIP in his 103.1 innings of work this season. The right-hander has 127 K over those 19 starts and has issued 36 walks. The long ball has been his problem, as he has allowed 15 of them. The 17 percent HR/FB% is the only negative outlier, as his other stats all show pretty well. Even with those home runs, Flaherty is 17th in average exit velocity.
Flaherty basically went on regular rest around the All-Star Break, so he didn’t get any extra downtime, but it seems like it was still a chance to wipe the slate clean given his numbers since then. In five starts since the Midsummer Classic, Flaherty has 40 K in 28.1 innings of work with a 3.18 ERA and a 3.14 xFIP.
Flaherty has held opposing hitters to a .185/.254/.335 slash with a .261 wOBA the first time through. Hitters have a .218/.311/.340 slash with a .290 wOBA the second time through. He has a 7.36 ERA the third time through, but has a .211/.317/.423 slash against with a .324 wOBA, so that ERA is certainly overblown.
I’m not sure I can lay 30 cents on the Cardinals here when Peralta has a lot of upside of his own and Milwaukee’s bullpen is strong.
Lots of games, but not a lot of good betting opportunities so far.
Houston (-145) at Oakland; Total: 8
The Astros are at Oakland Coliseum to battle the A’s in a series with some significant AL West implications. Oakland is two games behind the Astros in the division and three games behind the Yankees for home field in the Wild Card Game. The Astros have had some major bumps in the road and some noticeable injuries lately.
I’d like to think Charlie Morton overpowers the A’s today. Morton is a really bad matchup for Oakland. He’s a power right-hander with 171 K in 137.1 innings of work. His GB% is down to 49.4 percent and he has a 15.2 percent HR/FB%, but Morton has allowed the ninth-lowest average launch angle this season. Oakland has the league’s highest launch angle offensively, which is how they’ve been able to have so much success. Morton doesn’t allow hitters to elevate the ball much.
That makes this matchup about as bad as it gets for Oakland. We’d certainly like to think that the Astros can get to Edwin Jackson. Jackson is a regression candidate with a 2.48 ERA, a 3.84 FIP, and a 4.46 xFIP in his 54.1 innings of work. He’s carrying around a .224 BABIP and an 80 percent LOB%, both of which should regress as we go forward. Jackson has made nine pretty solid starts, but his last six starts have been against San Francisco twice, Texas, Toronto, Detroit, and the Angels. The Astros are far superior to those teams.
I won’t be invested in the full game play, as the A’s bullpen is exceptional, but I find it hard to believe that the A’s will get a lot off of Charlie Morton here. It’s chalky, but I’ll be laying the first five tonight. Morton is a terrible matchup for Oakland. Since Morton got some extended rest around the All-Star Break, he’s come back since to allow seven runs on 20 hits in 25 innings with a 25/9 K/BB ratio.
Pick: Houston 1st 5
Los Angeles (NL) (-120) at Seattle; Total: 8
Hmmm. The market is moving in favor of the home dog in this one with Walker Buehler on the hill for the Dodgers and Wade LeBlanc on LeMound for the Mariners. Buehler got his cage rattled a little bit last time out as he and Max Muncy collided, but Buehler fired seven shutout to drop his season numbers to 3.32/3.36/3.29 with well over a strikeout per inning. Buehler has allowed some hard ground ball contact this season, which has run him up the average exit velocity chart, but he’s top 30 in percentage of batted balls of 95+ mph and has only allowed 13 barrels in his 219 batted balls.
LeBlanc has a 3.80 ERA with a 4.12 FIP and a 4.34 xFIP in his 118.1 innings of work. We’ve talked about this before, but he’s been a savior for this Mariners team. This rotation needed help and they found it from an unlikely source.
Let’s be honest, Buehler has more upside than LeBlanc. But, the Mariners bullpen has more upside than the Dodgers bullpen, especially with Kenley Jansen out of the equation right now. As much as I love the LeBlanc story, he has a 5.08 ERA with a 4.38 FIP and a 4.40 xFIP over his last 10 starts. The command is waning and some of the luck metrics are regressing.
I won’t take the Dodgers for the full game, but I’m a big Walker Buehler fan and I think he may be the most underrated and underappreciated pitcher in the National League. No, that’s not hyperbole. I think in a rotation with Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill, he’s overshadowed and not talked about enough. I believe I said recently that he could be a dark horse Cy Young candidate next season. The only thing that could hold him back would be an innings restriction because this kid is bordering on elite already and he’s only getting better.
Pick: Los Angeles 1st 5
Arizona (-125) at San Diego; Total: 7.5
We’ve got a good pitching matchup in this one between the Diamondbacks and the Padres. We’ll see Robbie Ray for the Snakes and Joey Lucchesi for the Friars. We’ll get to Ray in a minute, but I want to focus on Lucchesi.
He’s got over a strikeout per inning in his 88.2 frames. His 18.4 percent HR/FB% is what really stands out, but he has the 22nd-lowest average launch angle against. Unfortunately, Lucchesi is also only a two-pitch pitcher. That makes it really hard to survive and thrive in today’s MLB. He’s 65 percent sinker, 35 percent churveball, which is a combo curve/changeup thing that he hasn’t commanded terribly well this season. The future is bright, but I also wonder how capped the future is by not having a third pitch.
We’ve got a pretty standard Robbie Ray season going on. He has a 4.83 ERA with a 3.78 xFIP. Ray gets a lot of strikeouts, issues a lot of walks, and allows a lot of home runs. It’s like clockwork with him. This season, for good measure, he mixed in an oblique injury that has limited him to 15 starts. Ray made four starts and then the All-Star Break hit. I look at pitchers that get hurt early in the season and basically say that they need to go through Spring Training again. It’s hard to evaluate those numbers.
So, we’ll look since the Break itself and Ray has allowed 14 runs on 25 hits with a 28/12 K/BB ratio. He’s only allowed three home runs, but he’s also only faced the Rockies, Cubs, Rangers, Giants, and Reds. He’s only completed six innings once, which isn’t great. I’m not sure I’d be in any rush to back him, despite an ERA that is more than a run above his xFIP.
All in all, I’d pass here, but the Padres keep taking money and keep losing. If this one slides down towards a money line pick ‘em, I’d consider Arizona. They’re just a better team.
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