My white-hot start to the MLB season continued last night as I hit my lone pick of the night featuring the Cubs and Royals from Kansas City.
It was a close game through as the Cubs took a 2-1 lead into the late innings, but they rallied off the Royals’ bullpen with the help of some shaky Royals defense, scoring four runs – one earned – off the Royals’ pen.
Their six-run output was more than enough to support Yu Darvish who hurled seven innings of one-run ball as the Cubs improved to 10-2 with a 6-1 victory over the Royals. They’ll go for the four-game sweep later tonight.
Let’s carry this hot streak into Thursday night’s MLB action!
Season Record: 10-4
Now let’s take a look at this free MLB pick featuring the Reds vs. Indians from Progressive Field in Cleveland!
Reds vs. Indians Betting Odds
- Reds (+107)
- Indians (-117)
- Reds +1.5 (-210)
- Indians -1.5 (+180)
- Over 7.5 (+105)
- Under 7.5 (-125)
Reds vs. Indians MLB Pick Breakdown
Pitching Matchup: CIN – Castillo (0-1, 4.50 ERA/0.65 FIP) vs. CLE – Carrasco (1-1, 3.75 ERA/4.48 FIP)
We have a real nice pitching matchup on tap for this one tonight as the Reds send right-hander Luis Castillo to the hill in search of his first victory of the season.
Both of his starts have come against the Detroit Tigers this season, the first of which he dominated only to see his bullpen blow the lead before being roughed up in the second meeting with Detroit.
The Tigers own MLB’s worst strikeout rate at 30.3% which has helped Castillo post a 12.75 K/9 clip in the early going, but he’s also displayed impeccable command of his pitches with a 1.50 BB/9 on the season, hence the wonderful peripheral numbers in the early going.
Even in his second start of the season in which he allowed eight hits and five earned runs in six innings, he posted a 1.48 FIP and 3.55 xFIP and induced 57.9% ground balls and just 5.3% line drives in that effort. That’s a recipe for success.
One the best up-and-coming pitchers in baseball, Castillo posted a 3.40 ERA/3.70 FIP across 32 starts last season while issuing a 10.67 K/9 clip and a 55.2% ground-ball rate.
Plenty of strikeouts and ground ball is a good way to make a living in this sport.
Of course, Carrasco is no stranger to success in the big leagues as he enters this one owning a career 3.82 ERA but also a excellent 3.42 FIP and 3.22 xFIP to go along with a stout 2.25 BB/9 rate in more than 1100 big league frames.
Like Castillo, Carrasco has once again displayed excellent command with a 1.50 BB/9 on the season himself, but he’s been touched up by the long ball, allowing three homers in six innings against the powerful Twins his last time out.
Carrasco has been flirting with danger this season, allowing 53.3% hard contact through the early going, and actually allowed 61.5% hard contact to the Royals in his first start. He also owns just a 40% ground ball rate to this point.
Carrasco has displayed fly-ball tendencies in his big league career, as he posted a small 40.8% ground-ball rate in 2019, and he dealt with home run issues there as well with a 2.02 HR/9 clip in 2019.
You wonder if his 27.3% HR/FB rate from this season will trend down towards his 13.7% career mark, but not if he can’t keep the ball on the ground in the launch angle era.
The Reds enter this one sporting the offensive advantage over the Indians despite being shut out by Mike Clevinger and the Indians’ bullpen in last night’s contest.
The Reds enter this one ranked 13th with a .317 wOBA on the season while their .190 ISO is tied with the Angels for the sixth-best mark in baseball.
However, they’ll be without a key bat in that lineup tonight as Mike Moustakas remains out of the lineup for tonight’s contest with a quad injury. Moustakas was off to a nice start with his new club, posting a .286 ISO and .857 OPS through seven games, so it’s a notable blow to the Reds’ lineup.
Nonetheless, the club has to be happy with the early-season improvement after they struggled at the plate last year – the single-biggest reason they finished well back of the playoffs despite some dominant starting pitching.
We knew that if the Indians were to compete this season it would be due to their pitching, but I don’t think they suspected their offense would be this futile.
The Indians rank 29th with a .254 wOBA on the season and dead last by a mile with a .081 ISO while stealing just two bases to this point in the season.
A total lack of power and speed has the Indians sitting 23rd with 34 runs scored on the season while their outfield is mostly to blame.
Indians outfielders have posted an MLB-worst .202 wOBA on the season and have slashed just .122/.250/.157 on the year, good for a ghastly .407 OPS and a .035 ISO that also ranks dead last in baseball.
The pitching better remain dominant or they’re in serious trouble.
Despite some excellent start pitching a productive offense, the Reds sit 5-7 on the year thanks mostly to a bullpen that’s struggled out of the gate.
The bullpen cost them two of their first three games of the season after electric outings from their starters as the ‘pen will carry a 25th-ranked 5.84 ERA into this one with a 4.14 BB/9 clip that needs to improve.
That said, if you’re looking for positives, the Reds’ bullpen also ranks first with a 12.65 K/9 clip and their 4.04 xFIP suggests positive regression moving forward as their 25% HR/FB rate should make it’s way down in a hurry.
Still, arms that are going to be relied on for high-leverage work have struggled including closer Raisel Iglesias (6.23 ERA) and Michael Lorenzen (12.46). The good news is Iglesias should be fine with a 2.29 FIP and 1.34 xFIP with zero walks and a 16.62 K/9 clip in 4.1 innings this season.
After boasting one of the top bullpens in baseball last season, the Indians are at it again in 2020.
Entering this contest tonight, Indians relievers have combined to post a second-ranked 1.47 ERA on the season while their 1.97 FIP is in support of such a figure. They have been able to rack up strikeouts with a 10.27 K/9 clip, but perhaps more importantly they have displayed excellent control with a 2.05 BB/9 rate without allowing a single home run in their 30.2 innings of work to this point.
Six of the eight relievers the Indians have used so far have yet to surrender an earned run while closer Brad Hand’s 8.31 ERA stems from one outing in which he allowed three earned runs in 0.1 innings against the White Sox.
Combine the rotation and the dominant relief pitching and you have the best pitching staff in baseball with a 2.21 ERA on the season.
There’s some interesting factors at work here.
To start, you have an excellent pitching matchup featuring two right-handers capable of shutting down the opposition with authority.
That said, you have an Indians offense that’s been horrendous this season and one that has dragged the team down to a 7-6 record on the season despite possessing the best pitching staff in the game.
The Reds’ offense has been far better, but they’re missing a key bat in Moustakas.
The bullpens have also trended in opposite directions this season and while the Reds should see improvement moving forward, it’s not going to be a bullpen that will compete with what the Indians have.
So, where to go?
I’m looking at the starting pitching matchup and I’m concerned with the hard contact that Carrasco has allowed in addition to the 60% batted ball rate between line drives and fly balls.
It’s not surprising to see his home run rate spike as his ground-ball rate has dropped over the last couple of seasons.
On the other hand, Castillo hasn’t allowed much hard contact while his peripherals suggested he deserved better in his most recent outing.
Both pitchers strike out a lot of hitters and both have limited walks, but the Reds’ offense is one that can pounce on a pitcher yielding a ton of hard contact.
If they do, the Indians’ dominant bullpen won’t be a factor.
Add it up and I’ll take the Reds as slight road dogs tonight.