Welcome to my second MLB Series Pick of the week beginning here on Tuesday night as the Reds and Cardinals get together for an NL Central showdown.
In case you haven’t made it over to my Twins vs. Indians MLB Series Pick, I’ll quickly recap my weekend series’ results.
The Red Sox and Yankees series was shortened from four games to three thanks to a Thursday postponement. The Red Sox dropped two of the first three games of the series to hand us a loss at -135 before salvaging the Sunday Night Baseball finale.
Our second pick was better as the Twins rebounded from a 14-3 shellacking on Thursday to win the next three games of their series in Tampa Bay and took the series at excellent +130 odds to boot.
I won another pick that began on Friday between the Giants and Orioles. After dropping the opener, the Giants won the final two games of the series while outscoring the O’s by a 16-3 count to notch the series win at -125 odds.
Finally, the Cubs were swept by the Cardinals in their NL Central rivalry series, sinking my Cubs pick at +130 odds. It was actually a close series as the Friday and Sunday games were won by 2-1 scores and the Friday game was won in extra-innings. All the starters in the series pitched pretty well, but the Cardinals’ bullpen came to life and pitched very well against a very good Cubs offense.
It was a 2-2 weekend, although I lost precisely 0.05 units, meaning you lost $5 if you bet all four series’ at a $100 bet apiece.
Let’s move on to my second pick of the week as the Reds and Cardinals get together beginning Tuesday night as Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
Let’s have a look at the odds before we get into any fine details, courtesy of BetOnline.
Reds vs. Cardinals MLB Series Odds
Now let’s take a look at the probable pitching matchups for the series, courtesy of MLB.com.
- Tuesday: Castillo (CIN) vs. Cabrera (STL)
- Wednesday: DeSclafani (CIN) vs. Hudson (STL)
- Thursday: Mahle (CIN) vs. Mikolas (STL)
Let’s get an in-depth look at these matchups before getting into the offenses and bullpens and my final pick!
Tuesday: Luis Castillo (5-1, 2.45 ERA) vs. Genesis Cabrera (0-1, 7.36 ERA)
At the time, a 25-year-old Luis Castillo was the worst qualified pitcher in baseball in the 2018 season by the All-Star break when he owned a 5.49 ERA.
However, if you watched the second half, perhaps you saw the breakout coming. Castillo went on to pitch to a 2.44 ERA across 66.1 innings in the second half of the season and hasn’t missed a beat with a 2.45 ERA across the first 12 starts and 69.2 innings of the 2019 season.
Sure his 3.31 FIP and 3.37 xFIP suggest a little regression, the dude still owns a 10.59 K/9 clip on the season and a tiny 0.65 HR/9 clip. The walks have been his biggest weakness this season with a 4.13 BB/9 clip, however, he’s allowed just 32.5% hard contact this season after allowing a 38.4% mark in 2018.
His work hasn’t been quite as good on the road where he owns a 3.08 ERA but also a 4.66 FIP and 3.92 xFIP. That said, his strikeout rate has actually spiked on the road to the tune of a 12.30 K/9 clip and he’s allowed just a .211 average against on a very normal .281 BABIP.
He’s allowed more than two earned runs in a start on just two occasions this season, once against the Giants at home in early May and another time in his second-to-last start in Milwaukee.
It’s been two earned or less in 10 of 12 starts. That is some serious consistency for the 26-year-old right-hander as Castillo gets set for his first start of the season against the rival Cardinals.
Tuesday will mark the second start of the season for the 22-year-old Genesis Cabrera, and the first did not go well. He allowed three earned runs on five hits, two walks and a homer across just 3.2 innings while taking the loss at Philadelphia.
While it’s certainly not a surprise to see a 22-year-old get hit around in his first taste of the big leagues, it is worth noting that he was being hit around before getting the call to the bigs.
In seven starts and nine appearances in Triple-A this season, Cabrera posted a 6.35 ERA lesser than 6.86 FIP and 6.32 xFIP, numbers that thoroughly agree that he’s been poor this season.
Both walks and home runs are big-time issues as he walked 4.31 batters per nine and allowed 2.50 homers per night, averages that are about the same after a minuscule 3.2-inning sample so far in his big league career.
He wasn’t all that great in 2018 either as he posted a 4.74 ERA and 4.91 FIP with the Cardinals’ Double-A team after being included in the deal for outfielder Tommy Pham.
There’s no debate on who has the starting pitching advantage in game one of this three-game set.
Wednesday: Anthony DeSclafani (2-3, 4.97 ERA) vs. Dakota Hudson (4-3, 3.93 ERA)
DeSclafani will be happy to see the calendar flip to June as he endured a tough May that saw him post a 5.59 ERA across 29 innings while he also surrendered 2.79 homers per nine innings in the month as well.
He’s actually doing a solid job of keeping walks in check, as he’s done throughout his career, as he owns a 2.98 BB/9 on the season, but the homer numbers are big with a 2.32 HR/9 rate and a 20.3% HR/FB rate.
A big 44.2% fly-ball rate compared to an also-large 40.6% hard-hit rate is a good concoction to surrender a lot of home runs, especially at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati where the ball tends to leave the yard more consistently than other venues around baseball.
If nothing else, he’s been consistent. He’s allowed 3 or four earned runs in each of his last five starts after a stretch where he allowed one or less in three straight starts heading into May.
He’s able to generate strikeouts with a 9.11 K/9 on the season, but there’s not much else that spells shutdown arm from the oft-injured veteran.
He’s made two starts against St. Louis this season, one of which has gone poorly and one of which has gone swimmingly. He allowed four earned runs in just four innings in his first start against them in mid-April at home, but bounced back just two weeks later with six shutout innings with six strikeouts in a winning effort in St. Louis in his final start of April.
He posted a 2.63 ERA in 2018 and owns a 3.94 mark here in 2019 across 11 starts and 12 appearances. That said, while his career 3.53 ERA might look nice, he also owns a 4.72 FIP and 4.56 xFIP and his walk rate of 4.67 BB/9 is way too close to his 6.33 K/9.
His FIP for this season sits at 5.11 and his xFIP at 4.46, so we certainly have a hittable arm here.
That said, the results have been good of late, as he’s allowed two earned runs or fewer in each of his last three starts while his FIP has been no higher than 3.46 in any of those outings.
Aside from his 3.58 ERA, his numbers at home are scary, and not in a good way. He owns a 5.07 FIP and 4.82 xFIP at home while his tiny 4.68 K.9 rate is not much higher than his 3.86 BB/9 clip. He owns a 1.62 WHIP at home that is almost sure to come back and bite him very soon.
I don’t see much of an advantage either way, but I suppose we can give the advantage to the Cardinals’ right-hander here given this league is a results-based business.
Thursday: Tyler Mahle (2-5, 4.26 ERA) vs. Miles Mikolas (4-5 4.41 ERA)
It’s been a little bit of an up-and-down season for Mahle as his results have varied.
Five times in 11 starts as he allowed one or fewer earned runs. On the other hand, he’s allowed four earned runs or more in five of the other six starts he’s made, including in two of the last four.
That said, the numbers are good. He owns a decent 4.26 ERA, but also a 4.07 FIP and 3.45 xFIP. He’s been unlucky to allow home runs on 20% of the fly-balls he’s allowed, especially since he’s not a fly-ball pitcher with a 36.3% fly-ball rate on the season.
He’s been able to generate strikeouts at a very attractive 9.83 K/9 clip on the season while limiting walks to a borderline elite 2.05 BB/9 clip, a massive improvement over his 4.26 mark from the 2018 season.
Mahle’s results have been better at home where he’s posted a 2.25 ERA compared to a 4.96 mark on the road, however, the 3.95 home FIP and 4.11 road FIP suggest the splits shouldn’t be that exaggerated.
Mahle was lit up for five earned runs on seven hits and three walks in five innings in his only outing against the Cardinals this season.
This time around, he’s pitched to a 4.41 ERA and 4.67 FIP while his home run rate has particularly regressed from 0.72 HR/9 in 2018 to 1.56 here in 2019.
He is, however coming off a really nice start against the Cubs where he pitched seven innings of one-run ball in a no decision against the Cubs over the weekend. This time after allowing 10 earned runs in his previous two starts, spanning just 8.1 innings.
The strikeout rate is small at 6.36 K/9, however, the walk rate is elite at 1.56 BB/9.
His work has truly been better at home where he’s pitched to a 2.87 ERA and 3.67 FIP while his walk rate falls to just 1.34 BB/9 and the home runs fall from 2.82 HR/9 on the road to 0.9 HR/9 at home.
With how well Mikolas has pitched at home this season and his dominant start of the Cubs fresh in the rearview, he likely deserves the advantage over Mahle who has struggled on the road this season.
Reds vs. Cardinals MLB Series Pick
The biggest advantage from a starting pitching standpoint in this series is in game one where ace and Cy Young contender Luis Castillo takes on the struggling Genesis Cabrera, a pitcher that has even been roughed up outside of the big leagues here in 2019.
You could give the Cardinals the starting pitching advantage in the next two games, but those advantages to me are slight and not distinct. Realistically those games could go either way.
Looking into the offenses, it’s advantage Cardinals, but not by as much as you would think on paper.
Despite sporting a deep lineup with star power aboard, the Cardinals still rank right in the middle of the pack at 15th with a .321 wOBA on the season while their ISO falls to 22nd at .164.
I glanced at some numbers for both teams against right-handed pitching as five of the six starters are right-handed, but there’s literally no difference in the numbers. The Cardinals still sport a .321 wOBA against righties and the Reds have an identical .304 wOBA versus righties than they have against lefties.
Looking at the bullpens, the advantage has to go to the Reds. Cincinnati ranks fifth with a 3.69 bullpen ERA on the season while the Cardinals sit around the middle of the pack at 15th with a 4.27 mark. The number gap actually widens when he looks at the FIPs as the Reds rank third with a 3.67 bullpen FIP while the Cardinals sit 13th with a 4.40 mark.
Again, I really like the Reds to win the opener behind Castillo, especially after diving into Cabrera’s numbers on the other side.
After that, the next two games are really too close to call and with the Cardinals only sporting a slight advantage on offense, there isn’t a big difference to me in terms of one team’s chance to win over the other.
When you add in the Reds’ top-five bullpen, I like the roadside to pull the upset here. Give me the Reds at nice +105 odds and enjoy a rivalry series from St. Louis.