We have a fresh week of MLB baseball ahead of us, but first let’s briefly touch on my last set of MLB picks from last Thursday.
After a wonderful run, I endured a 1-1 night on Thursday that consisted of a loss between the Reds and Indians, but also a win between the Orioles and Marlins.
I had the Reds as road underdogs with Luis Castillo on the mound against Carlos Carrasco, and while Castillo pitched fine, the Indians absolutely teed off on the Reds’ bullpen and ended up winning that one by a final score of 13-0 in what I hope is the biggest rear-end kicking we’ll take all season. Yikes.
However, we managed to go 1-1 and dead-even on units thanks to a Marlins victory over the Orioles by an 8-7 final. It was a back-and-forth affair with neither starter faring well in that one, but the Marlins stayed hot in notching the win.
It’s been a fantastic start to the 2020 MLB season, so let’s keep it going in tonight’s action!
Season Record: 11-5
Now let’s take a look at my lone free MLB pick of the night featuring the Giants vs. Astros from Minute Maid Park in Houston!
Giants vs. Astros Betting Odds
- Giants (+175)
- Astros (-190)
- Giants +1.5 (-123)
- Astros -1.5 (+103)
- Over 9 (-116)
- Under 9 (-104)
Giants vs. Astros MLB Pick Breakdown
Pitching Matchup: SF – Webb (1-0, 2.13 ERA/4.08 FIP) vs. McCullers Jr. (1-1, 9.22 ERA/5.97 FIP)
Giants young right-hander Logan Webb makes his fourth turn in the rotation tonight and he’s generally experience quality results to this point in the season.
Webb’s pitched just 12.2 innings across his first three starts, but he’s posted that stout 2.13 ERA. That said, the peripherals surrounding it aren’t as encouraging.
Webb owns a 4.08 FIP to go along with a 4.78 xFIP while he’s not missing many bats with a 7.11 K/9 and his 3.55 BB/9 isn’t exactly displaying impeccable command, either.
If we want to dig a little deeper, we find Webb owns a 4.71 SIERA (skill-interactive ERA). That’s a stat that measures a pitcher’s performance based on factors not in his control. His 4.71 SIERA is quite a drop from his surface 2.13 ERA.
That said, Webb appeared headed for a tough matchup in Colorado against the Rockies his last time out, but worked five innings of one-run ball with zero walks and four strikeouts while posting a 1.37 FIP in that effort.
A 2014 fourth-round pick by the Giants, Webb impressed throughout his minor league career and has pitched well to this point this season.
McCullers’ first start out of Tommy John surgery went well when he hurled six innings of two-run ball with six strikeouts in a win over the Mariners at home.
That said, he hit the road for starts at Los Angeles (Angels) and Arizona and allowed a combined 12 earned runs over 7.2 innings to skyrocket his ERA all the way to 9.22 on the season.
McCullers noted that the D-backs opening their roof prior to the fourth inning – in which he allowed all eight of his earned runs – turned Chase Field into a launching pad and was a curious mid-game decision.
That said, McCullers is certainly a better pitcher than the small sample from 2020.
He’s the owner of a career 3.83 ERA/3.32 FIP/3.35 xFIP with a 10.01 K/9 and 3.56 BB/9 for his career while he’s kept the ball in the park at a fine 0.73 HR/9 rate in his career.
His strikeout rate sits at just 7.24 K/9 on the season and his walk rate is all the way to 4.61 BB/9, however his 55% left-on-base rate this season is due for serious positive regression (72.2% career), as his 25% HR/FB rate (12.1% career).
That said, his 4.78 SIERA still isn’t great and is almost identical to that of his counterpart tonight.
The Giants’ offense has surprised a little bit early on, ranking 19th with a .308 wOBA but also a 15th-ranked 102 wRC+. That said, they haven’t hit for a ton of power as a team with a 21st-ranked .153 ISO on the year and their 8.1% walk rate checks in at 22nd.
Still, it’s a young offense and one that many thought would reside at or near the basement in most offensive categories.
One of the biggest surprises in baseball has been the productive Mike Yastrzemski who has burst onto the scene as a late-bloomer at age 29 after impressing in a small sample last season.
Yastrzemski owns a .322/.452/.661 slash line with four homers and a massive 206 wRC+ on the campaign. He hits 22 homers and posted a 2.2 fWAR in just 107 games last season, but is already up to a 1.5 fWAR in just 17 games in the 2020 season.
The team’s biggest offensive performers weren’t expected to be big contributors this season while the veteran likes of Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria, Brandon Belt and Pablo Sandoval are the ones dragging down the team’s overall offensive output.
Of course, the offensive advantage is clearly in the Astros’ favor in this one tonight.
George Springer remains questionable with a wrist injury that’s kept him out of the lineup the last couple days and while the team’s 13th-ranked .315 wOBA isn’t anything to write home about at this point, it would be foolish to write them off at this point coming off a season where they paced the league with a .355 wOBA.
The Astros plate discipline remains excellent as their 20.8% strikeout rate is the third-best mark in the league while their 10.2% walk rate puts them ninth.
Rather, it’s been a power outage in the form of a .163 ISO that’s tied for 17th that’s hurt them the most in this young season.
At the day, you would expect the Astros’ offense to turn it around, although in a 60-game season there might not be enough time.
The Giants owned one of the better bullpens in baseball last season, but it’s a group that lost key members in Will Smith, Mark Melancon and Sam Dyson.
The result this season has not been pretty to this point.
The Giants sport some of the worst bullpen numbers in baseball as their 5.35 ERA ranks 24th, their 5.65 FIP ranks 27th and their 5.15 xFIP ranks 28th. Add in a small K-rate of 7.71 K/9 and an elevated walk rate at 4.48 BB/9 and the Giants’ -1.2 bullpen fWAR checks in at 29th, ahead of only the Mariners and their -1.4 figure.
Webb has maxed out at five innings in his three starts this season, but he may be hard-pressed to get that far against an Astros lineup that works at-bats as per the walk and strikeout rates above.
In turn, this Giants bullpen should get a good chunk of this game tonight barring a dominant performance from Webb.
The storyline for the Astros’ bullpen this season has not been who has done what on the field, but rather who is even available.
That ‘pen has been decimated by injuries to key contributors in Roberto Osuna – out for the year with Tommy John surgery – as well as Joe Biagini, Chris Devenski, Austin Pruitt, Brad Peacock, among others.
They did get Ryan Pressly back and have gotten some solid contributions from the likes of Blake Taylor and Josh James, which is why they’ve hung in there with a 13th-ranked 3.49 ERA to this point.
That said, regression could be in the works as they also own a 19th-ranked 4.25 FIP, a 26th-ranked 4.96 xFIP and a huge 5.56 BB/9 clip that sits 28th league-wide.
It’s a decimated group, but it’s a group that’s going to need to contribute with the starting pitching also looking thinner than ever in Houston.
While I believe the Astros’ offense gets to Webb and a weak Giants bullpen tonight, I believe more in McCullers to deliver a bounce-back effort.
It’s no surprise to see McCullers struggle in his two road starts after a real nice outing at home to kick off his season.
After all, he’s spun a stout 2.67 ERA at home in his big league career, but has struggled on the road to the tune of a 5.06 ERA. While it’s nothing new to see a pitcher perform better at home, those splits are some of the widest you’ll see with a starting pitcher.
It appears he’s been bitten by some bad luck on the road as his FIP and xFIP splits are far closer, however the bottom line is McCullers is at his very best at Minute Maid Park where he will toe the rubber tonight.
An Astros bullpen that appears due for regression doesn’t bother me once I look at the work from the Giants’ bullpen this season, and with the offensive advantage I feel very comfortable in taking the Astros to win this one on the runline tonight.