I have a pair of MLB Series Picks on the go at the moment, and both got off to wonderful starts on Thursday night, so I’ll briefly recap those outings before getting into my first of two picks that begin Friday night.
While the starting pitching matchups aren’t aligning how MLB.com had them going heading into the series, I still liked Stephen Strasburg to get the win for his club in game one, regardless of who was starting for the Braves. However, I expected Strasburg to do on the mound, but he actually buried the Braves at the plate as he went 3 for 3 including a home run while knocking in a whopping five runs.
He wasn’t as sharp on the mound, allowing three earned runs in 5.1 innings of work with seven strikeouts, but on the back of an eight-run third inning, the Nationals pounded the Braves 13-4 in the series opener. That’s certainly the way we wanted to get things started with the Nationals to win the series at +110.
Our second pick of the Giants to win the series at identical +110 odds also got off to a nice start.
Noah Syndergaard hurled seven innings of one-run ball, but the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner topped that with a whopping nine innings of one-run ball. However, both pitchers departed in a 1-1 tie. The game would go 16 innings deep, but a walk off single by the Giants’ Donovan Solano gave the Giants a series-opening 3-2 win after the Mets scored in the top half of the 16th. Again, we’re sitting pretty with that pick as well with the Giants at +110 odds.
Hopefully, the success with those picks can continue into the weekend while we take a look at an all-Pennsylvania matchup between the Phillies and Pirates from the Steel City in Pittsburgh.
Let’s have a look at the odds for this three-game set, courtesy of MyBookie.
Phillies vs. Pirates MLB Series Odds
Now let’s take a quick look at the probable pitching matchups for this series, courtesy of MLB.com
- Friday: Arrieta (PHI) vs. Lyles (PIT)
- Saturday: Eflin (PHI) vs. Williams (PIT)
- Sunday: Velasquez (PHI) vs. Musgrove (PIT)
Let’s take a look at these starting pitching matchups in greater detail before getting into some notes on the offenses and bullpens before making my final pick for the winner of this three-game set!
Friday: Jake Arrieta (8-7, 4.54 ERA) vs. Jordan Lyles (5-6, 5.16 ERA)
It appears Jake Arrieta is going to pitch through the bone spurs in his right elbow that could have cost him the season if he decided to undergo surgery to repair the issue.
His first start since discovering the issue went well, however, as he pitched five innings of one-run ball in a tough-luck no-decision against the Washington Nationals. His numbers for the season aren’t too pretty, however, as he sports a 4.54 ERA, but also a 5.04 FIP and 4.55 xFIP to go along with a poor 6.93 K/9 and 3.35 BB/9.
On the road, his ERA increases to 4.81, however, Arrieta owns an improved 7.91 K/9 and 2.48 BB/9 rate, giving him a much better 3.19 K/BB rate on the road than his poor 1.38 mark at home. Still, his 5.18 road FIP isn’t predicting much improvement from here on out.
Arrieta hasn’t faced the Pirates this season, and he owns a 3.94 ERA across 11 career starts at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
While Arrieta’s numbers aren’t providing much inspiration entering this game, neither are Jordan Lyles’.
Lyles enters this one sporting a 5.16 ERA, although his 4.44 FIP and 4.39 xFIP do suggest some bad luck so far this season, However, Lyles has been brutal of late, pitching to a whopping 10.13 ERA over his last seven starts.
He’s allowed seven earned runs in each of his last two starts and hit a new low when he registered just two outs while allowing four hits, seven earned runs, one homer and four walks against the Cubs in Chicago his last time out. Lyles has failed to exceed four innings in four of his last six outings.
Lyles’ home/road splits are almost dead seven, meaning both are poor. He owns a 5.17 ERA at home to go along with a 4.36 FIP and 4.69 xFIP. His 5.15 ERA, 4.52 FIP and 4.06 xFIP on the road are quite similar, as are the 1.41 HR/9 he’s allowed at home compared to the 1.47 mark he’s allowed on the road.
Is the fact that Lyles’ strikes out a whopping 11.78 batters per nine innings on the road but just 7.51 per nine at home. That number somewhat balances out as he also walks 5.15 per nine on the road and just 2.35 per nine at home.
Regardless of how you slice it, Lyles’ recent outings have been downright disastrous and his work at home hasn’t been very good, either.
Still, given Arrieta’s vast inconsistency, there’s not much of an advantage to be had on either side in game one.
Saturday: Zach Eflin (7-9, 4.16 ERA) vs. Trevor Williams (3-3, 5.17 ERA)
Eflin was a saving grace earlier in the season when he was consistently allowing two earned runs or fewer, however some lofty peripherals have caught up to him over his last four starts.
In those four starts, Eflin has pitched to a 9.90 ERA while allowing seven home runs. Things have gotten even uglier over his last two starts in which he’s allowed 13 earned runs over nine innings, good for a cool 13.00 ERA.
Despite the lack of success, Eflin has managed to keep walks to a minimum with just five walks allowed in those 20 innings over his last four starts and owns a real nice 2.29 BB/9 on the season. It would appear his 4.16 ERA has more room to regress, however, as he still owns a 4.64 FIP and 4.78 xFIP.
Home runs have been an issue for Eflin, especially of late, as he owns a 1.53 HR/9 on the season.
In his only career start against the Pirates, which came way back in 2016 and was just the eighth start of his big league career, Eflin hurled a complete-game shutout with just three hits allowed, zero walks and six strikeouts. Surely he’ll look to recapture some of that magic and put a poor four-start stretch behind him on Saturday.
Trevor Williams enjoyed a very nice start to his season, but like Eflin and every pitcher in this series so far, he’s struggled of late.
Over his last four outings since coming from a stint on the IL, Williams has been roughed up to the tune of a 9.53 ERA. Prior to said IL stint, he sported a 3.33 ERA and continued off of the stout 1.35 mark he posted after the All-Star break last season.
Williams isn’t going to strike out many, but boy does he keep the free passes to a minimum. Williams owns a minuscule 1.88 BB/9 clip this season to go along with a weak 7.16 K/9 clip. He does own an elevated 1.41 HR/9 rate as well, a number that’s jumped over those aforementioned four starts in which he’s surrendered eight long balls.
Opponents are making 37.1% hard contact against Wiliams this year, much higher than his 30.7% career mark. Add in the tiny 37.7% ground-ball rate and it’s clear why the home run rate has elevated.
Homefield advantage has not been such for Williams as he owns a 6.37 ERA at PNC Park, although his 4.02 FIP and 4.13 xFIP at home suggest he should enjoy better fortunes at home as he sports a very nice 4.60 BB9 rate at home on the back of a minuscule 1.52 BB/9 clip.
Both pitchers have struggled mightily of late. As a result, it’s really difficult to give a distinct advantage one way or the other, so I’ll call this one a wash as well.
Sunday: Vince Velasquez (2-5, 4.87 ERA) vs. Joe Musgrove (6-8, 4.31 ERA)
Velasquez has seemingly had all the talent in the world but he continues to underwhelm as a starting pitcher and may very well be best suited for the bullpen in the long term.
The 27-year-old has long had issues with the home run ball with a career 1.43 HR/9, however, those issues have been increased this season as he’s surrendered a whopping 2.51 HR/9 including four in just 4.2 innings of work his last time out against the Dodgers.
Velasquez actually worked out of the bullpen after being removed from the rotation earlier in the year, making nine consecutive appearances out of the ‘pen and 10 total this season. He was scoreless in eight of his 10 bullpen outings this season. As a starter, he’s surrendered four runs in three of his five starts since returning to the rotation and has failed to exceed five innings pitched in any of those starts.
Things just haven’t gone as well as a starter and his work on the road is suspect at best. Velasquez owns a 5.26 ERA away from home on the season and his 5.91 FIP and 4.96 xFIP more or less support that number. He does own a real nice 10.30 K/9 on the road this season, but also a 4.35 BB/9 clip and a 2.29 HR/9 rate.
Velasquez has also struggled mightily in two career starts at PNC Park, posting a 7.15 ERA across 11.1 innings of work.
Musgrove projected as a nice breakout candidate this year, but that hasn’t quite been the case.
His 4.31 ERA is above his nice 3.78 FIP, however, his 4.56 xFIP suggests there is a regression to be had on his 0.95 HR/9 clip.
He doesn’t generate a ton of strikeouts at 7.76 K/9, however, he also doesn’t yield many walks with a 2.24 BB/9 clip, which is actually above his impressive 2.14 BB.9 rate. Command is the name of Musgrove’s game.
Musgrove has struggled at home, however, as he owns a 4.62 ERA at PNC Park this season, a number that is very much supported by his 4.44 FIP and 4.50 xFIP at home. He’s allowed 1.60 HR/9 at home compared to just 0.34 on the road, although his walk rate does drop to a tiny 1.60 BB/9 at home as well.
A common theme in these pitching matchups, Musgrove has run into some trouble of late. He has allowed seven earned runs over his last two starts spanning 10.2 innings, good for a 6.18 ERA while he’s allowed three home runs in that time. He uncharacteristically walked three across 4.2 innings of four-man ball in St. Louis his last time out.
Again, this is a tough one to distinctly give an advantage to either side here as both pitchers are coming off ugly performances and both don’t have numbers all that pretty on the season. This one is, again, more or less a wash.
Phillies vs. Pirates MLB Series Pick
What to do when the starting pitching matchups don’t give you much to work with?
Well, to start, let’s look at the bullpens.
I’d love to tell you the bullpen numbers tell us something, but there isn’t much to work with there, either.
The Pirates have the better ‘pen of the two this season, but their 4.88 bullpen ERA is tied for 21st. The Phillies sports a bad 5.03 bullpen ERA, good for 26th.
You can give an advantage to the Pirates if we narrow the numbers down to the month of July, however, as the Pirates’ ‘pen has pitched to a 4.26 ERA, good for 15th, while the Phillies’ ‘pen as struggled to a 6.46 ERA, good for 25th.
Still, I want to see what the offenses tell us.
At first glance, the Pirates and Phillies’ offenses this season have been almost identical with the Pirates ranking 18th with a .318 wOBA and the Phillies ranking 20th with a .314 wOBA.
Narrow it down to the last seven days and we have the Phillies at 26th with a .278 wOBA and the Pirates at 28th with a .270 wOBA.
In a series that features six right-handed starters, it’s worth noting that the Pirates rank 10th with a .329 wOBA against righties and the Phillies rank 20th with a .312 mark.
I believe the Phillies enter this one riding some confidence. It’s been a turbulent season, but they just took two of the final three games from the Dodgers including a come-from-behind win last night. They scored at least seven runs in two of their last three.
The Pirates, on the other hand, have dropped five of their last six and have scored an average of just three runs per game in that time.
Despite hanging on in the NL Wild Card race – until recently – the Pirates’ -54 run differential is the second-worst mark in the NL next to Miami’s -84 mark. They deserve a record of 43-52 based on MLB.com’s win/loss records based on run differential. They sit with a 45-50 mark on the season.
The Phillies are coming off a high and know they need to win ball games moving forward. The Pirates are coming off a low and know they have a long way to go in the race. They’ll also likely be sellers at the deadline.
That stats don’t give us much to work with, so I’ll go with the secondary rationale for a Phillies team that should absolutely come in and win at least two of these three games if they plan on playing in October.