The first weekend of MLB baseball is in the books, and my first set of free MLB picks from Friday worked out nicely as I went 2-1 and notched a 1-unit profit in the process.
The first winner came when Kyle Hendricks dominated the Milwaukee Brewers, hurling a complete-game shutdown to open the season as part of a 3-0 Cubs win, earning us a unit profit off the bat.
The profit increased to two units with the Tigers and Reds going under the 9-run total, although it was close. Despite the Tigers scoring just one run while being dominated by Sonny Gray, the Reds’ offense teed off on Tigers pitching, scoring seven times. At the end of the day we notched the win in a 7-1 Reds victory.
However, we gave a unit back later on in the evening in a contest between the D-backs and Padres where I had Arizona as +134 road dogs. It was a tie game getting into the later innings before Eric Hosmer’s magical night began with a bases-clearing double that game San Diego a lead it would not relent in a 7-2 victory.
I’ll keep track of my record and units as the season moves along, but it was certainly a nice way to start the season!
Season Record: 2-1
Now let’s take a look at this free MLB pick featuring the Blue Jays vs. Nationals from Nationals Park in Washington!
Blue Jays vs. Nationals Betting Odds
- Blue Jays (+105)
- Nationals (-115)
- Blue Jays +1.5 (-175)
- Nationals -1.5 (+155)
- Over 10.5 (-107)
- Under 10.5 (-113)
Blue Jays vs. Nationals MLB Pick Breakdown
Pitching Matchup: Thornton (TOR) vs. Sanchez (WSH)
Trent Thornton gets the ball tonight in D.C. to kick off his sophomore season after turning in a 4.84 ERA/4.59 FIP as part of his 154.1 innings of work a season ago.
When the Blue Jays re-tooled their rotation with Hyun-Jin Ryu at the top and veteran additions of Tanner Roark and Chase Anderson underneath, it appeared Thornton’s job security was in jeopardy, however he indeed opens the season in the Jays’ rotation.
One area of improvement required this season will be Thornton’s command as he issued 3.56 walks per nine innings a season ago. That said, I would anticipate Thornton cutting that number down this season as he demonstrated quality control throughout his minor league career, never turning in a number above 1.80 at any single minor-league stop.
Thornton owns a wide-ranging arsenal as he used his four-seam fastball, cutter, slider and changeup all on at least 13.4% of his pitches a season ago while he also featured a splitter 8.8% of the time and a sinker on 3% of his offerings. He averaged 93.2 mph on the four-seamer while his changeup drops all the way down to 79.8 mph, on average.
From a sophomore to a grizzled veteran, Anibal Sanchez will get the ball for the Nationals to kick off his 2020 campaign.
After struggling mightily in his final three seasons with the Detroit Tigers, Sanchez caught on with the Braves for the 2018 season and sparkled with a 2.83 ERA/3.62 FIP in 136.2 innings of work.
That apparently wasn’t enough for the Braves to make a more substantial investment in Sanchez, however, as he signed with the Nationals prior to last season before turning in a quality 3.85 ERA/4.44 FIP in his 166 innings of work last season.
Sanchez struggled big-time out of the gate in 2019, posting a 5.91 ERA in his first 32 innings of the season before dominating through much of the summer and into the postseason for the Nationals who, of course, went on to win the first World Series in franchise history.
The Jays might have finished 1-2 to open the season, but they gave a quality Tampa Bay Rays team all they could handle.
The offense showed up in games 1 and 3 of that series as the club touched up 2019 Cy Young candidate Charlie Morton to open the season and scored five more runs on Sunday, albeit in a losing effort.
The club’s offense is all about the youth as Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Cavan Biggio – who put a dagger into Morton with a loud home run off of him on Friday – are looked upon to be the new core of the Blue Jays’ offense after years of veteran experience holding down the fort.
The Blue Jays ranked 23rd with a .310 wOBA in a transition year a season ago, but they displayed plenty of pop in posting a .192 team ISO, good for a share of ninth alongside the Milwaukee Brewers.
Biggio’s drive on Friday was one of just two home runs in the season-opening series and it will be interesting to see how the young guns fare this time around.
While the Blue Jays didn’t flex a ton of muscle to open the season, the same cannot be said for the Nationals who homered five times and currently lead baseball with a .262 ISO in this young season.
Most of that damage was done on Saturday as the Nats jumped on James Paxton early and often before finishing the contest with nine runs in a rout of the Yankees.
Whether or not the power is sustainable remains to be seen.
While the defending champs have intriguing bats in the lineup – even without Juan Soto – my money is on the loss of Anthony Rendon being felt as the season moves along.
One player never makes a team – not in this sport – but Rendon has the fourth-highest fWAR in baseball over the last three seasons behind only Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Christian Yelich – all three of whom have MVP trophies on their mantle within the last two seasons.
Rendon’s glove was also elite at third, but his bat will be missed after he turned in a 154 wRC+ at the plate last season – by far a career-high – as were his 34 homers and a walk rate of 12.4% that nearly matched his strikeout clip of .279.
Without Rendon and now Soto for an undetermined period of time, you wonder how the Nats’ offense will fare moving forward as they scored just three runs over games 1 and 2 combined – spanning 14 innings.
The Blue Jays were in a prime position to trade then-dominating closer Ken Giles at last year’s trade deadline before elbow soreness put a kibosh on that notion.
It’s deja vu already this season, however, as Giles lost velocity and effectiveness during Sunday’s outing in Tampa Bay and has been diagnosed with right elbow soreness once again.
Such a happening is a big blow to a Blue Jays’ bullpen that is likely to go with a closer-by-committee approach, although the bottom line is the club lost its best reliever in just the third game of the season.
The club finished last season with a bullpen ERA of 4.35 (15th), but also ranked 21st with a 4.75 ERA and 19th with a 1.9 fWAR, and that was with Giles posting a 1.87 ERA/2.27 FIP in his 53 innings of work.
The Nationals finished the 2019 season with a bullpen that ranked 29th with a 5.68 ERA, but the good news was they were able to mitigate that disaster by having their elite rotation go deep into ball games and thus hide the ‘pen a little bit.
Indeed, the 500.2 innings of work the Nats got from their bullpen last season was the fewest in the majors. They added Will Harris to bolster that group and form a nice late-inning trio alongside Daniel Hudson and closer Sean Doolittle.
Things did not get off to a good start over the weekend, however, or more specifically on Sunday when Harris and Doolittle each surrendered late home runs that cost Washington the game in a 3-2 loss.
Last year’s peripheral numbers indicated the bullpen was better than that disastrous ERA and given their histories, Harris and Doolittle should be just fine. However, it’s a less than ideal start for a group with a lot to prove in 2020.
It’s tough to know how a pitcher feels or how effective he could be once we get down into the back-of-the-rotation arms.
Over the weekend we more or less knew what to expect from the starting pitching, and while you can never be sure, it’s certainly more difficult with 4th/5th starters.
That said, some quick researched shows that Thornton has been looking good as he threw three scoreless in his last exhibition outing against the Red Sox and Sanchez looked quite good in spring training 1.0 back in March.
The bullpens are a mystery at this point while the Blue Jays are missing a key arm and the Nationals’ didn’t fare well as a group yesterday.
That said, while we’ve seen some high scores as well as low ones to this point, I remain in the belief that the pitchers seem to be ahead of the hitters early in the season.
We’re looking at an awfully high 10.5-run total in this one, and it’s not as if we are dealing with terrible starters or loaded offenses. Both offenses are capable, but this isn’t the Yankees, Dodgers or Twins we’re dealing with here.
My money is on the Nationals’ offense scuffling a bit as we move forward while it’s difficult to gauge what the youthful Jays offense can bring to the table on a day-to-day basis.
As a result, I will head for the under 10.5 for tonight’s interleague matchup.