Who will throw today’s no-hitter? One of the toughest pitching accomplishments now seems to take place nightly, as the baseball and the bad offenses are combining to rewrite the record books. With six no-hitters prior to May 20, and a record of seven in a season, it sure looks like we’re going to see a record that may never be broken.
There aren’t a lot of no-hitter candidates on the betting board for today and we’re not going to see one in the game between the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays, but we do have an interesting game and pitching matchup. It will be Nick Pivetta against Steven Matz with the host Blue Jays favored in the -130 range at BetUS Sportsbook with a total of 10 at TD Ballpark in Dunedin, FL.
Let’s see which team has the upper hand in this one.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox are still third in wOBA, just one point behind both Houston and the Chicago White Sox, but the adjustments made to their wRC+ as a result of calling Fenway Park home leave them fourth in that department. If the Red Sox walked more often, they’d be up at the top of the league in wOBA because they easily lead the league in SLG at .448, 13 points higher than the Astros.
Boston’s .263 batting average is up there as second-best in a season where the league has batted right around .236, setting an historic low in that statistical category. The Red Sox are an aggressive, free-swinging offense, but one that makes a lot of contact and sits fifth in baseball with 57 home runs.
While the offense has been more of a story, due in large part to how bad league-wide offense has been, it is actually the pitching staff that deserves all of the accolades. We knew the Red Sox would hit. What we didn’t know is that they would be a top-five pitching staff by fWAR and second in FIP this late into May. What looked like a huge weakness for the Red Sox has actually been quite a strength.
Nick Pivetta has been a big part of it. After struggling as a Major League over parts of four seasons with the Phillies, Pivetta seems to have found something that works with Boston. He has a 3.16 ERA with a 3.70 FIP in his 42.2 innings of work. He’s been able to pitch around a 12.8% BB% with a 24.4% K%, a .240 BABIP, and only three home runs allowed across eight starts. He allowed four in just 15.2 innings in 2020 and 20 in just 93.2 innings in 2019.
Pivetta has cut his curveball usage in favor of more sliders and has easily had the best fastball command of his career. How long all of this continues is a fair question, given that Pivetta, who has a career 17.1% HR/FB%, has a 4.52 xFIP that is suggestive of regression.
Similarly, the Boston bullpen, which also looked like a weak spot for the team, is fifth in FIP and fourth in fWAR thus far.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays have found their stride offensively. After getting off to a slow start this season, the Blue Jays are now tied for second in home runs and sit sixth in wOBA as play begins on May 20. Toronto’s .341 wOBA over the last 30 days is the third-best mark in baseball and their 39 home runs are right up there with the league leaders. Over the last 14 days, Toronto’s .367 wOBA is only bested by Houston, who has a 10.2% BB% in that span compared to a 6.9% for Toronto.
The nomadic Blue Jays will return to Buffalo to play on June 1, barring any sort of changes to the policies in Ontario to allow Toronto to go home. They’ve enjoyed their adopted home of TD Ballpark in Dunedin, where the Blue Jays lead the league in home batting average at .285. They’re also far and away first in wOBA and also wRC+, though data for that Spring Training field is limited and a wRC+ correction will likely take place when the park factors come into play.
Nevertheless, it has been a big ballpark for offense and the Blue Jays have provided a lot of the punch in those games. Their .503 SLG is the best in baseball by 24 points at home. In that respect, we shall see if they send Pivetta down the path of regression.
Regression found Steven Matz, but his last start may have given Jays backers and fans some hope. After allowing just three runs on nine hits over his first 18.1 innings of the season, Matz allowed 17 runs over his next 18.2 innings. He’s coming off a start against Philadelphia in which he scattered four hits over five scoreless innings with nine strikeouts.
Add it all up and Matz has a 4.29 ERA with a 3.94 FIP and a 3.57 xFIP in 42 innings of work. He’s struck out 46 and walked 13 with six long balls allowed. He allowed six runs on eight hits to Washington in Dunedin on April 28, but pitched well in his other two starts. The southpaw Matz draws a Boston lineup that is seventh in wOBA against LHP this season.
Toronto’s bullpen is an above average unit. The 3.77 FIP ranks 12th in baseball, but the 3.06 ERA is one of the best marks in the league. The relievers have been strong across the board for the Jays, which gives their offense a chance to get back in games when trailing or add to the lead when ahead.
Red Sox vs. Blue Jays Free Pick
Both of these offenses have been putting up some numbers, but 10 is a lofty total, even with how the month of May has seen some offensive improvements league-wide. It is tough to like the projection of either pitcher in this game, as Pivetta has pitched better than Matz, but Pivetta also profiles as a negative regression candidate in a lot of ways. For me, I’ll side with the Blue Jays as a result, as their offense, particularly at home, has been quite strong this season and the Red Sox pitching staff doesn’t seem likely to keep this up in my estimation.
Pick: Toronto Blue Jays