I currently have one pick on the go at the moment, so I’ll briefly summarize the status of that pick before getting into my first pick for the weekend.
I currently have the Detroit Tigers at +135 to pull the upset on the Royals in Kansas City, and the pick is looking pretty good heading into Thursday night’s finale.
In fact, the pick should have already been won, but the brutal Tigers bullpen I mentioned in my piece on Tuesday came to bite me. Behind a strong effort from Spencer Turnbull, the Tigers took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning. However, the Royals scored a pair of runs in the eighth and went on to take the series opener by a 3-2 count.
Game two also ended in a 3-2 score, however, it was the Tigers who were on the winning side of it. Both Daniel Norris and Danny Duffy were good, allowing two runs apiece, but this time is was the Royals bullpen costing them the game as an eighth-inning RBI double from Ronny Rodriguez ended the 2-2 deadlock and the Tigers’ bullpen threw four clean frames to give themselves the 3-2 victory.
Detroit will go for the series win on Thursday night behind ace Matthew Boyd opposite the Royals’ Homer Bailey.
As we wait and see if we can hit a winner at very nice +135 odds, I have another pick coming your way featuring the Cardinals and Mets from Citi Field in Queens, New York.
Let’s take a look at the odds for this four-game set, courtesy of MyBookie.
Cardinals vs. Mets MLB Series Odds
Now let’s have a peek at the probable starting pitching matchups for this series, courtesy of MLB.com.
- Thursday: Flaherty (STL) vs. deGrom (NYM)
- Friday: Ponce De Leon (STL) vs. Matz (NYM)
- Saturday: Wacha (STL) vs. Syndergaard (NYM)
- Sunday: Hudson (STL) vs. Wheeler (NYM)
Now, let’s break down these pitching matchups before getting into some notes on the offenses and bullpens and my final pick!
Thursday: Jack Flaherty (4-3, 4.08 ERA) vs. Jacob deGrom (3-6, 3.45 ERA)
Flaherty’s sophomore season hasn’t gone quite as swimmingly as his rookie season in 2018, but he’s still been a rock-solid arm all-round, especially for a 23-year-old.
Entering Thursday night’s series opener, Flaherty owns that 4.08 ERA while his 4.39 FIP and 3.97 xFIP more or less agree with that ERA figure. He’s not quite generating strikeouts at the same rate from 2018, but he still owns a 9.61 K/9 on the season after posting a 10.85 mark a season ago.
However, his walks are down to 3.03 per nine compared to 3.52 last season, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that number continue to trend down as Flaherty’s minor league track record displayed firm command with a 1.99 BB/9 rate as recently as last season in his five Triple-A starts.
The one thing we need to strongly consider with Flaherty here is his home/away splits. At home, he’s posted a 2.25 ERA to go along with a 3.52 FIP and 3.31 xFIP. On the road, however, he’s posted a 6.67 ERA with a 5.62 FIP and 4.90 xFIP while he’s issued a whopping 5.08 walks per nine innings on the road and 1.91 home runs per nine.
He struggled again in his most recent road start, allowing four earned runs in 3.2 innings of work with three walks and zero strikeouts in a no-decision at the Cubs.
deGrom isn’t anywhere close to his Cy Young form from the 2018 season, however, that’s not to say he’s been bad, either. He was just that good a season ago.
He’s certainly been more hittable this year as his 3.45 ERA, 3.12 FIP and 3.28 xFIP are notably higher than the 1.70 ERA, 1.99 FIP and 2.60 xFIP he posted a season ago. However, this 2019’s numbers are obviously still very good and capable of shutting down any offense on any given night.
That said, the strikeouts remain elite with 11.18 of them per nine innings while the walk rate sits at just 2.38 per nine. Home runs have been somewhat of an issue, albeit a minor one with a rate sitting just over one per nine at 1.07, although more than double last year’s insane 0.41 mark.
He’s actually allowed five or more runs in three of his 13 starts this season, but has also allowed two earned runs or fewer in nine of his 13 outings, including in four straight while he owns a 2.33 ERA over that span.
Not much of a choice here regarding the advantage in this one.
Friday: Daniel Ponce de Leon (0-0, 1.80 ERA) vs. Steven Matz (5-4, 3.88 ERA)
Friday will mark just the second big league start of Ponce de Leon’s season as he pitched five innings of one-run ball in a no-decision against the Brewers back on April 23rd.
He’s taking the rotation spot of the injured Adam Wainwright and has made 11 Triple-A starts in the interim. In those outings, he’s posted a 3.90 ERA but also a scary 5.34 FIP and 6.53 xFIP.
In four starts and 11 appearances with the Cardinals last season, Ponce de Leon posted a very nice 2.73 ERA and 3.34 FIP to go along with a 4.36 xFIP.
One very interesting thing about this righty is his historical HR/FB rates and therefore his ability to greatly outpitch his xFIP. In all of his minor league stops dating back to 2014, the highest HR/FB rate he’s ever posted as this year’s 8.5% mark at Triple-A. That’s insane.
He’s posted marks of 2.4% (42.1 innings at Single-A, 2015) and even posted a 5.6% mark in his 33 big league innings last season. For whatever reason, he manages to keep the ball in the yard on fly-balls, likely due to low hard-hit rates.
Nonetheless, he proved to be a reliable big league arm when they needed him last year and through one start this year he’s done the same.
Opposite Ponce de Leon will be left-hander Steven Matz who carries that 3.88 ERA into action, but also a 4.63 FIP while his 3.99 xFIP is in more agreeance with his ERA.
While maintaining a solid 2.87 BB/9 rate, Matz has seen his strikeout rate jump from a career 8.55 K/9 clip to 9.48 this season. One issue so far as been his 1.72 HR/9 rate that can be attributed to an elevated 20% HR/FB clip, which gives us some perspective on Ponce de Leon’s insane HR/FB rates throughout his professional career.
At home this season, he owns a 1.80 ERA, 2.88 FIP and a 3.23 xFIP to go along with a 10.50 K/9 and a 0.60 HR/9 rate. Compare that to his 5.79 ERA, 6.24 FIP, 4.68 xFIP, 8.54 K/9 and 2.76 HR/9 on the road and we can tell he’s just simply much better in the confines of his home ballpark.
In fact, Matz hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in a home start this season in five tries. He’s coming off an outing over the Rockies where he hurled six innings of two-run ball with 10 strikeouts in a winning effort.
To be honest, his ERA mostly comes from a start back in Mid-April when he allowed six earned runs at Philadelphia without recording an out.
Aside from that start, Matz owns a 3.04 ERA on the season.
Once again, it’s advantage Mets given Matz’s fantastic work at home and the regression due Ponce de Leon’s way from his minor league outings.
Saturday: Michael Wacha (4-2, 5.63 ERA) vs. Noah Syndergaard (4-4, 4.45 ERA)
It’s been a trying season for Wacha in plenty of areas.
The 5.63 ERA is no good, nor is the 5.90 ERA and 4.83 FIP.
His walk rate is outrageously high at 5.46 batters per nine while his home run rate is far too high at 1.93 HR/9.
There have been years where he’s been really good, such as the 2014 and 2015 seasons. He struggled in the 2016 season and pitched okay in the 2017 season. He was back to his fine form last season with a 3.20 ERA before going down with a season-ending injury, and this season has been a struggle.
He’s seen better results on the road, however, where he owns a 4.50 ERA on the season compared to a ghastly 7.36 mark at home.
After allowing six earned runs in back-to-back starts, Wacha pitched 2.1 scoreless innings of relief against the Reds before returning to the rotation to hurl six scoreless frames in a win at Miami. The test will be stiffer on Saturday, but he’ll at least be riding some confidence into this one.
Inconsistency has been the name of Syndergaard’s game this season.
The once-feared Thor has taken a significant step back this season with a 4.45 ERA compared to his 3.16 career mark. However, his 3.47 FIP and 3.87 xFIP do call for some improved fortune as the season moves long, mostly in the strand rate department as he’s stranded just 65.6% of baserunners this season compared to his 73.7% career mark.
His hard-hit rate is up almost eight full percent from last season, but still sits under 30% nonetheless.
His strikeouts are down to 8.90 K/9 on the season compared to a 9.80 career mark, but the walk rate is excellent at 2.22 BB/9 and the home run rate is a little higher than he’s used to at 1.01 HR/9 compared to his 0.73 career mark.
After posting an even 6.00 ERA over a three-start span, Thor hurled seven shutout innings while allowing just one hit in a win over the Rockies his last time out. Still, he’s allowed at least four earned runs in seven of his 14 starts this season, something that showed just how inconsistent he’s been.
He owns a 3.91 ERA and a 3.26 FIP at home compared to a 5.02 ERA and 3.70 FIP on the road.
As inconsistent as he’s been, Thor likely gets the nod here over the also-inconsistent Wacha.
Sunday: Dakota Hudson (5-3, 3.47 ERA) vs. Zack Wheeler (5-4, 4.87 ERA)
Hudson, a 24-year-old rookie right-hander, has that real nice 3.47 ERA on the season, but his 4.80 FIP and 4.33 xFIP would suggest would regression moving forward.
The problem with Hudson is that he doesn’t strike many out and he walks too many. If you aren’t going to rack up strikeouts, you should at least limit free passes, but that hasn’t been the case.
Hudson owns just a 6.32 K/9 on the season and a 4.09 BB/9 as well. Across 13 starts and 40 big league appearances (he worked out of the bullpen last year), Hudson has posted a 6.30 K/9 rate but also a 4.59 BB/9 rate as well.
However, you can’t argue with results and Hudson has delivered those in spades of late.
Hudson has allowed just one earned run in each of his last three starters while pitching at least six innings in each outing. That’s good for a stout 1.41 ERA. If you want to dial it back even further, he owns a 2.43 ERA over his last eight starts and has allowed more than two earned runs just once in that eight-start span.
Wheeler is coming off an ugly start in the Subway Series against the Yankees and has overall disappointed after an electric second half to the 2018 season. Wheeler’s 1.68 ERA after the All-Star break last season was the second-best mark in all of baseball, even better than his teammate deGrom.
However, results-wise, he’s been poor this year with that 4.87 ERA. However, his 3.73 FIP and 3.83 xFIP, both more than a full run under his ERA, point toward some bad luck mixed into that ERA figure.
He’s striking out 10.05 batters per nine innings this season, much higher than his 8.82 mark for this career, and his 2.64 walk rate is a really solid figure. His 65.1% strand rate should climb towards his 73.2% number as the season moves along.
In his last start at New York, Wheeler was roughed up for five earned runs – including two home runs – in just 4.2 innings of work. He also allowed an additional four unearned runs for nine runs total.
He hasn’t allowed fewer than three earned runs against since May 10th, a span of six starts. He’s allowed four or more in three of his last six starts.
This is a results-based business and Hudson’s results have been far superior to Wheeler’s so far this season.
Cardinals vs. Mets MLB Series Pick
Yes, I’m giving the nod to the Mets in three of the four starting pitching matchups, but I’m still very much liking the value the Cardinals bring to the table.
Keep in mind we are also getting some protection with a possible push in this four-game series.
That said, I’m looking at the Mets offense against righties, considering they will face four right-handed starters, as well as their bullpen, and I’m not liking what I’m seeing.
I mean, these two clubs are about dead even against righties as the Cardinals rank 15th with a .313 wOBA against righties while the Mets rank 17th with a .312 mark. However, we’re getting one of these teams at +140 and the other at -165.
There is also a huge discrepancy between the bullpens.
- The Cardinals rank 11th with a 4.19 ERA from their bullpen this season.
- The Mets are way down at 25th with a 5.13 mark.
- The Cardinals rank 12th with a 4.20 bullpen FIP.
- The Mets rank 18th with a 4.51 mark.
- The Cardinals rank sixth with a 4.06 bullpen xFIP.
- The Mets check in at 25th with a 4.88 mark.
Sure, there is an advantage to the Mets in the starting pitching department. However, Syndergaard has been wildly inconsistent, as has Wheeler. If the Cardinals can win either of the first two games of the series against deGrom or Matz, I think we’re in great shape here.
I’m going to go ahead and roll the dice on the road underdogs here and see if we can pull the upset at wonderful odds.