The third week of the MLB season is under way and the inevitable regression to the mean has begun to take place. Teams that seemed unable to win a game like Atlanta and Minnesota have won seven of their last eight combined. Teams that seemed like they’d never lose, like Baltimore, Washington and Kansas City have now lost six of their last seven games combined.
It’s baseball. It’s important to remember never to get too high, and never to get too low. I write it all the time, but the best teams win 95, the worst teams lose 95, and there’s only about 30 games separating them after 162 are played. It’s a slimmer margin than in any other major American sport, which is probably why the reliance on data and statistics is so prevalent in baseball. The good news is, we are starting to get some reasonably reliable sample sizes. Sure, there are still guys on pace for over 100 homeruns, guys hitting over .400, stars hitting under .200 and unknown hurlers sporting ERA’s of 0.00 and reliable vets with double-digit eye sores. Those things will settle down over the next two or three weeks. But we are getting settled in enough to have a pretty good idea of who is good and who isn’t – and largely, it’s been a Denny Green special – they are who we thought they were. With the exception of the Rockies, no one is over .500 who is surprising, with the possible exception of Arizona (and they aren’t a HUGE stunner, especially with the Pollock injury), no one is UNDER .500 who was expected to be good.
It hasn’t been one of my better starts to an MLB season in my seven years of coverage, but I’m confident we start turning it around this week. So no better time to start than right now…
Today’s Free Pick:
Pittsburgh Pirates -135 at San Diego Padres +133 (Total: 7.5)
Francisco Liriano (1-0, 2.45 ERA) vs. Colin Rhea (0-1, 5.56 ERA)
The Pirates are off to an average start, but the performance of Liriano has been a bright spot. He was the Opening Day starter due to Gerrit Cole being pushed back with minor injury, and has pitched like a number one starter so far this season. He has 13 strikeouts in 11 innings, and while his WHIP is a little high at 1.55, expect his nine walks to start regressing a little more to the norm in his next few starts. Plus, with the light-hitting Padres in Petco, there is little reason to be fearful of throwing some strikes. Expect Liriano to challenge hitters in the strike zone aggressively tonight.
Liriano has had great success in his career against San Diego since joining the Pirates, posting a 1.74 ERA and fanning 41 batters in 31 innings. He has allowed only four extra base hits in 120 batters faced.
Opposing him is Colin Rhea, who will have his work cut out for him. Even if he pitches well, it is not likely he will get great run support tonight against Liriano. The Pirates lead the league with a .385 on base percentage, so it stands to reason that they will eventually start scoring some more runs and stop stranding so many people on base. Rhea enters with a WHIP of 1.65.
Look for Pittsburgh to get a few runs off Rhea and then control the game with good starting pitching and a solid bullpen effort. They are a really good value tonight at just -135