As we approach the halfway point of the Major League Baseball regular season (I know I can’t believe it either), we are starting to see the playoff picture in both leagues come into focus. After a wild start to the year that saw the Tigers, Orioles, and Rockies all looking like division title contenders, things are beginning to normalize.
A quick glance at the National League standings shows us the Braves, Cubs, and Dodgers all in first place, and all three teams were the betting favorites to win their respective divisions coming into the season. In the AL, we have the Twins, Yankees, Rays, Indians, White Sox, and Athletics all separating themselves from the rest of the pack, and each of those teams were expected to be playing postseason baseball in 2020.
As crazy of a season as this has been, we are quickly realizing that the new normal, isn’t all that different from the old normal, at least as far as Major League Baseball is concerned. This weekend we have several high-profile series on tap, including series between the Braves and the Phillies, the White Sox and the Cubs, and the Astros and the Padres. For our free daily betting pick, we will head to San Francisco, where the Giants host the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Arizona Diamondbacks (13-13) at San Francisco Giants (11-16)
The San Francisco Giants are looking to extend their season-high three-game winning streak tonight as they host the Arizona Diamondbacks in a game one of a three-game set, between National League West Division foes. These two teams are going to see a lot of each other here in the next couple of weeks as they match up ten times between now and September 7th. Whichever team can emerge from these games as the winner, will have a major leg forward when it comes to chasing the NL wild card.
For Arizona, the DBacks were heating up as they had won ten of their previous thirteen games before dropping their last two games to the buzz saw that is the Oakland Athletics. With the recent surge, Arizona got back to .500 on the year, and if the season were to end today, they would qualify for the postseason as the final wild card in the National League.
Starting tonight for the DBacks is Robbie Ray (1-2 8.59 ERA), and for the Giants, it is Logan Webb (1-2 3.54 ERA). The game total over/under is set at nine and a half runs. The DBacks are small -110 road favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 6:45 PM PST from Oracle Park in San Francisco.
The Arizona Diamondbacks started this season really struggling at the plate. In their first eleven games, they scored two runs or fewer six times, and were averaging just over two and a half runs a game. Not surprisingly, that low scoring output didn’t convert well to wins, as Arizona lost eight of their first eleven contests. But since then, Arizona has figured things out at the dish, and they have seen their run production skyrocket, and they are winning games.
In the last fifteen games for Arizona, they have scored double-digit runs in a single game four times, and they are averaging over six runs a game. That includes their last two games where they scored just one run per contest in losses to the Oakland A’s.
One of the big drivers of this recent success has been the newly acquired Kole Calhoun, who has twelve hits, five of which were home runs, in his last ten games. Calhoun was hitting just .109 before this recent explosion at the plate and has seen his batting average go up a whopping fifty points. If Arizona is going to keep up this torrid pace at the plate, they need Calhoun to stay hot.
Robbie Ray (1-2 8.59 ERA)
Robbie Ray was one of the best pitchers in the National League in 2017 when he went 15-5 with a 2.89 ERA and racked up 218 strikeouts. He was an All-Star that year and finished in the top ten of the NL Cy Young Award voting. But since then, he has seen his ERA go up in each of the last two seasons. Last year, he had elite strikeout numbers, as he punched out 235 batters, but his ERA was one of the highest of his career, at 4.34.
This year, Ray was dreadful in his first four starts as he got hammered for twenty earned runs in only seventeen innings worked. For those of you less mathematically inclined folks out there, that is an ERA of 10.59. In his last start, he had one of the stranger outings of the year, as he pitched five innings, didn’t allow a single hit, but walked six batters and allowed just one run.
San Francisco Giants
Everyone knew that 2020 was going to be rebuilding year for the San Francisco Giants. They lost most of their talent from last year’s underachieving squad and decided to start the rebuilding process this year. So, the fact that they are in last place in the NL West Division, trailing the Dodgers by eight full games for first place, isn’t all that shocking. But what is fairly shocking, is that the Giants are just two and a half games back of the last playoff spot in the NL.
One guy that has been surprisingly good this year for the G-Men is Mike Yastrzemski. The kid with the famous last name, he is the grandson of Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, has had a very productive season at the plate for San Francisco. He is hitting .313 with a .429 on-base percentage and is second in the Majors Leagues in runs scored and is third in the National League in RBI. Yaz is still on the right side of thirty and looks like he could have All-Star potential.
Logan Webb (1-2 3.54 ERA)
Logan Webb seems to be one of the guys that should be around long enough to see the end of what is likely going to be a multi-year rebuild in San Francisco. Webb made his big league debut last year at the tender age of 22, and made eight starts, with mediocre results. But with the Giants more focused on the future, than the present, Webb was granted a spot in the Giants rotation and got his first chance as a regular player this year.
Webb has made five starts this season and hasn’t been very good. His 3.54 ERA might lead you to believe that he is pitching well, but in reality, he has just given up a lot of unearned runs, which, while they aren’t technically the pitcher’s fault, they still count on the scoreboard, and teams are scoring a lot of runs when he is on the mound. Webb has allowed a total of thirteen runs, only eight of them earned, in just 20.1 innings pitched.
He has allowed a lot of baserunners as he has given up 21 hits and walked 11 batters. That has led to high pitch counts early in games, and he has yet to pitch more than five innings in any start and has lasted less than five innings in four out of his five outings. If Webb wants to stick around in this Giants rotation, he is going to have to find a way to work more efficiently and get deeper into games.
Who Do I Like?
I have been very hard on Robbie Ray this season. Maybe I am hating on him so much because I took him on my fantasy team, and he can’t stop getting blown up. But when I look back at who he has pitched against, its no wonder why he has been struggling. Ray has started against the Dodgers, the Padres twice, the Astros, and the Rockies at Coors Field.
The Dodgers lead MLB in runs scored, the Padres are second, the Astros are fourth, and the Rockies are fifth. And while the Giants have done a respectable job at the plate this season, their season stats are a bit inflated after their recent four-game series with the god-awful Los Angeles Angels, where they hammered the Halos for 31 runs.
I think Robbie Ray figures things out tonight. He has great swing and miss stuff, and I think that his bad results have been more of a function of overly cruel scheduling than actual bad pitching. The Giants are no slouches at the plate, but they are certainly not on the same level as the teams that Ray has been forced to pitch against this season.
And when I look at the overall body of work for both teams, I see the DBacks as the far superior team. They started slow, but they have looked like a playoff-caliber team here in August. It’s not like Logan Webb is going to go out and shut this, or any, team down, and I think Arizona has him run from the game before the fifth inning, yet again. Give me the Arizona Diamondbacks tonight in game one against the Giants, laying just -110!