I made a pair of MLB Series Picks last week, and both resulted in a push.
The scheduled three-game set between the Reds and Cardinals ended up in a two-game series thanks to a Wednesday postponement, and unfortunately, the Reds couldn’t complete the mini-series sweep on Thursday afternoon after taking the Tuesday series opener by a 4-1 count. The Cardinals won 3-1 Thursday afternoon to earn the split.
The second pick last week was a four-game weekend set between the Nationals and Padres, and I was really looking forward to winning that pick with some serious advantages on the Nationals side, but that’s just not how it worked.
It was tough to see the Nats drop the first game behind Patrick Corbin, and after losing game two on Friday our pick of Washington at -110 was really against the ropes. However, a huge reason why I liked the Nationals was Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg pitching the final two games of the series.
Scherzer hurled seven shutout innings with nine strikeouts on Saturday to earn the win while Strasburg tossed seven innings of his own, allowing one earned run with six strikeouts.
It was a disappointing push but we will move on and head into the first pick of this week between a couple of AL Central foes as the Detroit Tigers head to Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City to take on the Royals.
Let’s have a look at the odds for the three-game set that kicks off Tuesday night, courtesy of BetOnline.
Tigers vs. Royals MLB Series Odds
Now let’s take a quick peek at the probable pitching matchups for this series, courtesy of MLB.com.
- Tuesday: Turnbull (DET) vs. Junis (KC)
- Wednesday: Norris (DET) vs. Duffy (KC)
- Thursday: Boyd (DET) vs. Bailey (KC)
Time to break down these pitching matchups and see if we can identify an advantage either way before looking into the offenses and bullpens and making my final pick!
Tuesday: Spencer Turnbull (3-5, 3.01 ERA) vs. Jakob Junis (4-6, 5.63 ERA)
It took a couple of injuries to get Spencer Turnbull his chance in the Tigers’ rotation on a full-time basis, and the 26-year-old rookie has impressed to this point in this season.
Turnbull’s numbers do point to some regression, but a 3.01 ERA, 3.80 FIP, and 4.49 xFOP to go along with an 8.54 K/9 and a small 0.75 HR/9 are just fine numbers from a right-hander that has just 16.1 big league innings under his belt prior to the 2019 campaign.
Turnbull has danced around some trouble at times, but has largely managed to escape. He tends to rack up high pitch counts – he’s managed five innings or less in six of 13 starts – but he’s used a wipeout slider to get strikeouts to limit any damage.
One thing to note is that most of Turnbull’s regression is anticipated to come on the road where he owns a 2.86 ERA but also a 4.47 FIP and 5.01 xFIP. His walk rate goes from 3.16 per nine at home to 3.63 per nine on the road while the strikeout clip falls harder from 9.73 per nine at home to just 7.27 per nine on the road.
However, at the end of the day, Turnbull has allowed more than three earned runs in a start just once in 13 starts this season and he’s allowed two earned runs or fewer in seven of his last 10 starts. Turnbull’s 3.01 ERA ranks 14th among qualified big league starters this season.
This will be Turnbull’s third start of the season against these Royals. He’s pitched 13 innings of three-run ball – good for a 2.08 ERA – while allowing 12 hits, but also posted a 17:3 K/BB ratio in that span. He earned a no-decision in both outings.
Facing Turnbull will be Junis whose results have not been up to snuff to this point in the season.
While some positive regression can be expected, there’s still not much to like about his 5.63 ERA, 4.77 FIP and 4.53 xFIP on the season. Junis is walking too many at 3.50 per nine innings while he’s allowed 1.50 HR/9, which is a poor trend as he owns a 1.53 HR/9 for his career and his HR/FB ratio have been fairly steady over the last couple of seasons.
While the 6.27 ERA at home is nothing but an ugly number, he has dealt with bad luck at home as evidenced by his 3.57 FIP while he’s allowed just 0.72 HR/9 at the pitcher-friendly Kauffman Stadium as well.
Junis is coming off a tough start at home against the Red Sox his last time out, lasting just 4.2 innings and allowing five earned runs on eight hits, three walks while striking out 5. He’s yielded less than four earned runs in just two of his last six starts.
Junis has enjoyed success against Detroit in the past, however, as he owns a 3.27 ERA across eight starts and nine appearances in his career against his AL Central rival.
That said, Turnbull has certainly been the better pitcher of the two here in 2019 so there’s not much of a choice who the advantage goes to here.
Wednesday: Daniel Norris (2-5, 4.60 ERA) vs. Danny Duffy (3-3, 4.68 ERA)
The Tigers acquired Norris in 2015 as the main piece coming back in a trade with the Blue Jays for David Price, but the oft-injured left-hander has struggled to deliver the promise that once had him as one of baseball’s top pitching prospects.
Norris owns just a 4.57 ERA for his career, a number almost identical to the 4.60 mark he owns for 2019. In fact, his 4.59 xFIP this season is exactly the same number he owns for his career.
He’s managed to keep walks down this season with a 2.30 BB/9 clip on the season, but his strikeout rate sits at just 6.89 K/9 for the season as well.
One factor holding Norris back from a breakout is his fastball velocity. Norris posted a 93.9 mph average in his first full season in Detroit in 2016, but the four-seamer is averaging just 90.9 mph this season, a full 3 mph off his high from that 2016 season.
Injuries have played a big role in his inability to get over the hump, to be sure, as he managed just 44.1 innings last season thanks to a groin issue and owns a career-high of just 101.2 frames from the 2017 season, his second full season as a Tiger.
His only outing against the Royals this season was as a reliever back in early April, and he allowed three earned runs – including two homers – in just three innings of work.
From one struggling southpaw to another, Danny Duffy hasn’t offered much more than his counterpart this season.
Enters Wednesday night’s outing sporting that 4.68 ERA to go along with a 4.37 FIP and a 5.11 xFIP. Duffy’s strikeouts are also down with a 7.44 K/9 clip on the season while he’s once again struggling with control as his 3.40 BB/9 rate is resembling his 3.33 career mark.
He’s been particularly poor in his last two starts. He lasted just 2.1 innings while allowing four earned runs on four hits – one homer – and two walks while taking the loss to the Red Sox. In his previous outing, Duffy was shelled for six earned runs on six hits in a loss to the upstart Rangers in Texas on the final day of May.
Interestingly, he’s held right-handed bats to just a .300 wOBA, which would normally mean good things, but it’s been lefties that have roughed up the southpaw to the tune of a massive .445 wOBA and 1.045 OPS against on the season.
He hasn’t faced Detroit this season, but Duffy hasn’t had much success against them in the past with a 4.49 ERA across 22 starts and 25 appearances for his career.
Neither pitcher has been any good this season, and this looks like a complete wash to me as a result.
Thursday: Matthew Boyd (5-4, 3.08 ERA) vs. Homer Bailey (4-6, 5.90 ERA)
In one of the quieter breakouts in baseball this season, Matthew Boyd has been among the best pitchers in baseball here in 2019.
The 3.08 ERA and 2.91 FIP speak for themselves, however, Boyd’s 2.8 WAR to this point ranks him fourth in all of baseball, behind only Max Scherzer, Lucas Gioltio, and Stephen Strasburg and ahead of Hyun-Jin Ryu who owns a 1.36 ERA this season.
Boyd’s 11.16 K/9 this season ranks him ninth in the big leagues while he’s limited walks to an elite 1.59 BB/9 rate on the season, good for seventh among qualified big league starters.
Boyd posted a 4.39 ERA, 4.45 FIP, 8.40 K/9 and 2,69 BB/9 last season. Even those numbers were an improvement from the 2017 season, but boy has Boyd become an elite starting pitcher this season.
Interestingly, he was also involved in the aforementioned Tigers/Blue Jays trade involving Daniel Norris and David Price from 2015, but was added as more of a secondary prospect, but also making the Tigers’ regime at the time look brilliant for identifying that arm.
Boyd is coming off seven innings of three-run ball with zero walks and eight strikeouts in a no-decision against baseball’s best offense in the form of the Minnesota Twins. He pitched seven innings of two-run ball with one walk and nine strikeouts in a winning effort over these Royals back on the third of May.
Bailey has been rather hit and miss this season.
He allowed seven runs to the Mariners in his second start of the season and has allowed five runs in two other starts this year, however, has held opponents to three runs or less seven of 13 starts as well.
No, he hasn’t been good, but he hasn’t been knocked around consistently as his 5.90 ERA might suggest.
Bailey deserves better as his 4.37 FIP and 4.50 xFIP do suggest while he’s increased his strikeout rate from 6.35 K/9 last season with the Reds to 8.11 K/9 this season with the Royals.
He’s faced the Tigers once this season, throwing six innings of two-run ball with two walks and four strikeouts in a win on May 4th.
Nonetheless, there aren’t many pitchers in baseball who have the advantage over Boyd this season and Bailey certainly isn’t one of them.
Tigers vs. Royals MLB Series Pick
Considering the pitching matchups, I think we’re getting plenty of value here with the Tigers.
Boyd and Turnbull have been their two best starts by a mile this season and both of their ERA figures are inside the top eight in the American League.
Looking at the offense, it’s a slight advantage to the Royals.
The advantage isn’t big, however, as the Royals rank 21st with a .304 team wOBA on the season and while the Tigers rank 27th with a .289 wOBA on the year. Both are bottom 10 offenses, however.
A deeper look, however, reveals the Royals might struggle to score runs in this series, against the starting pitchers at least. They will face two lefty starters and the Royals rank 28th with a .276 wOBA against lefties this season.
This is important for the second game of the series when both teams will face a lefty. That’s because the Tigers move up to 19th with a .306 wOBA against southpaws. The Tigers are simply a much better offense against lefties and the Royals a much worse one. I have the pitching matchup at even for that one with Norris and Duffy, but the Tigers’ offense gives them the edge in that game.
Game one I like Turnbull over Bailey, game two I like the Tigers’ offense against a lefty versus the Royals’ offense against a lefty and in game three I like Boyd to dominate the Royals.
The Royals’ ‘pen ranks 23rd with a 4.85 ERA, but also 15th with a 4.39 FIP.
At the end of the day, everyone has an advantage over this Tigers’ bullpen and the Royals are no exception.
Nonetheless, there’s still a ton of value in the Tigers based on starting pitching matchups and the fact the Tigers are rolling out two southpaws against a Royals team that flat-out stinks against lefties.
Give me the Tigers and the value all day.