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Free MLB Pick Friday

#953/954 ‘OVER 8’ Miami Marlins (Alcantara) at Philadelphia Phillies (Nola) 6:05 PM CT

Sandy Alcantara has posted capable results for the Marlins with a 3.73 ERA but a 5.01 xFIP looks more realistic and Alcantara has allowed four or more runs in six of his last 12 starts for erratic results. He allowed 11 hits and six runs vs. the Phillies earlier this season and his 4.2 BB/9 with just a 6.4 K/9 isn’t often a formula for long term success. He also has dramatically worse numbers away from Miami and the Marlins own a 5.22 bullpen ERA on the season that climbs to 5.67 the past 10 games. The recent relief numbers are even worse for Philadelphia with an 8.33 bullpen ERA the last 10 games and several short starting efforts on the current 2-8 run for the team that has suddenly handed the Braves a big division lead. Aaron Nola has shown some signs of promise after a tough start to the season, unable to back up his brilliant 2018 campaign. Nola is 6-1 with a 10.0 K/9 but he has a 4.0 BB/9 and a 4.89 ERA. His FIP isn’t a lot lower than that and he has allowed at least three runs in five of his last seven starts. His home numbers are better than his road numbers but expecting Nola to put up zeroes is a reach as he hasn’t had a scoreless outing in any of his 15 starts despite barely averaging 5.1 innings per start. Philadelphia pitching has allowed nearly 6.0 runs per game in June for a 6-11 run for the Phillies but the offense should find better returns this weekend back at home following a run of facing several elite starters. Philadelphia has still scored four or more runs in nine of the past 14 games while averaging 5.2 runs per game at home this season. The ‘over’ is 12-3 in Nola starts this season yet today’s number is equal to or lower than the total on each of his last five home starts. Wind in Philadelphia can be impactful but the higher afternoon wins are expected to calm by game time and it will remain warm through the early innings.

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Free MLB Pick Thursday

#913/914 ‘UNDER 9’ Cleveland Indians (Bieber) at Texas Rangers (Minor) 1:05 PM CT

After dazzling in several starts late last season Shane Bieber carried high expectations in 2019 and that weight has grown with the injuries in the rotation for the Indians. Bieber has a decent 3.92 ERA but with a 3.30 xFIP and an amazing 11.4 K/9 this is clearly one of the AL’s very best starting pitchers. Bieber has allowed five or more runs three times in his last seven starts but his home and road splits are similar and he has also had eight starts this season in which he has allowed two or fewer earned runs. Mike Minor has overachieved with a 2.63 ERA next to a 4.02 xFIP but the strikeout numbers are there and Minor continues to provide reliable outcomes for the surprising Rangers. In each of his last 10 starts he has pitched at least five innings with three or fewer runs allowed and he has allowed an average of barely over one home run per nine innings, no small feat in Arlington. Minor has thrived at home with a 2.18 ERA and he has equally impressive splits vs. right-handers and left-handers. Cleveland has put up big numbers the past two days in this series but they got 10 runs last night on only 12 hits, fortunate to earn seven two-out RBI. It will be warm in Arlington with conditions that can favor offense but these are two elite AL starters and on an early start getaway game the number could be kept in check.

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Free MLB Pick Monday

#904 Miami Marlins (Alcantara) +125 over St. Louis Cardinals (Wacha) 6:10 PM CT

Sandy Alcantara has dropped his ERA down to 3.80 on the season and while his 5.14 xFIP is alarming as are his very low strikeout rate and high walk rates, he has been getting the job done of late. His ERA is just 3.19 over his last eight starts and he has allowed only five earned runs over his past 27 innings. St. Louis prefers to face right-handed pitching but over the past two weeks the Cardinals have the worst OPS in all of MLB. In the past seven games the Cardinals have scored a total of 12 runs and having to play Sunday night won’t be helpful for the morale or fatigue of the squad facing long travel to Miami to start this series Monday night. Michael Wacha is still just 27 but his numbers have been challenging this season with a 6.30 ERA this season. With a 5.06 xFIP Wacha should have better numbers but a 5.8 BB/9 isn’t a path to success. Wacha hasn’t had a quality start since April 17 and his ERA is 7.99 since May started spanning four starts and his last two relief outings. The Marlins are 13-9 the past 22 games even with a current four-game slide and with a .756 team OPS the past two weeks the Marlins have been far more productive than the Cardinals who have posted a .641 team OPS in that span. Both bullpens have struggled of late but the Marlins have shown a slight improvement in the relief numbers in recent weeks and have received at least five innings from its starter in nine of the past 10 games to manage the workload while the Cardinals have had a starter clear five innings once in the past five games. St. Louis is just 11-19 on the road this season as this type of favoritism is hard to justify with Wacha’s struggles and with the Cardinals ice cold at the plate of late.

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Free MLB Pick Friday

#961 Washington Nationals (Fedde) -100 over San Diego Padres (Margevicius) 9:10 PM CT

Nick Margevicius was a compelling early-season story making the jump from AA to the San Diego rotation. The early returns were promising but his ERA is 7.24 the past six starts and his last outing after getting sent down for a tune-up start was among his worst of the season. Washington has been a big disappointment but the Nationals have been very good against left-handed pitching with an .851 team OPS. The Nationals have averaged 6.0 runs per game the past two weeks and quietly this team has gone 9-3 the past 12 games, scoring at least three runs in 12 of the past 13 games. In a small sample Erick Fedde has suspicious numbers with a 2.55 ERA but a 5.23 xFIP. The strikeouts haven’t been there for Fedde but he is a high-end prospect as a 2014 1st rounder and he had a 8.2 K/9 in just over 50 innings last year with Washington while posting a 9.4 K/9 in AAA last season. Fedde has made just three starts but he has allowed only three earned runs in 14 innings as a starter. San Diego continues to compete well but the Padres remain one of baseball’s worst hitting teams with a season OPS of just .713. San Diego is just 4-7 the past 11 games, topping five runs in only two of those games. Despite being six games below .500 while San Diego is above .500 Washington has the superior scoring differential on the season and projects as the superior team in the long run, and San Diego has a losing record at Petco Park.

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Free MLB Pick Friday

#961 Arizona Diamondbacks (Ray) -125 over San Francisco Giants (Pomeranz) 9:15 PM CT

Arizona had a pair of tough-luck losses vs. lefties in San Diego earlier this week but the Diamondbacks have nine wins vs. southpaw starters this season, tying for the most in the NL while a season OPS of .825 vs. left-handed pitching is also an elite figure that trails only a few teams in baseball. Mired in five straight losses, yesterday’s off-day should help the team re-group while they get to face a demoralized Giants team that lost in 13 innings in a game the Giants led most of the way Thursday afternoon. A strong start from Madison Bumgarner and a lot of bullpen innings were wasted in a loss that will make this Friday night game a difficult turnaround contest.

The Giants are 9-10 in May but -26 in scoring as a short-term surge early in the month appears to have been a mirage. San Francisco has very poor offensive numbers vs. left-handed pitching with a season OPS of just .619, posting only 11 home runs in 626 plate appearances while the Giants are 6-10 vs. southpaw starters on the season. Robbie Ray remains one of the top strikeout producers in baseball and after an injury-plagued 2018, he appears to be back in his 2017 form, posting a 11.5 K/9 with a 3.25 ERA. Ray has allowed just four earned runs over his last four starts and he pitched well vs. the Giants last week.

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San Francisco has a great bullpen but six key relievers were used yesterday for double-digit pitch counts and Drew Pomeranz will be hard to count on for a long outing. Pomeranz owns a 5.66 ERA this season and once in eight starts has completed six innings. He has a 4.6 BB/9 and his numbers don’t improve much at AT&T Park. Right-handed batters have hit .292 vs. Pomeranz this season and Arizona can generally feature a lineup with eight right-handed hitters. These teams are only a few games apart in the standings but are 75 runs apart in scoring differential and the losing streak puts Arizona at a very reasonable price in a favorable matchup and situation Friday.

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Free MLB Pick Saturday

#969/970 ‘UNDER 9.5’ Oakland Athletics (Mengden) at Detroit Tigers (Boyd) 3:10 PM CT

Pitching for the Tigers Matthew Boyd isn’t getting a lot of attention but he has had an All Star caliber run in his first nine starts with a 3.15 ERA and a 10.8 K/9. He has now allowed more than three earned runs in any of his starts this season and his 2.86 FIP suggests it is a sustainable pace for the 28-year-old who has shown potential but inconsistency in past seasons. Oakland is the last place team in the AL West a year after making the playoffs and while Oakland has hit significantly better vs. left-handers they are batting with a .712 team OPS the past 23 games for marginal production.

That production bests the Tigers potential with Detroit’s lineup among the league’s worst in most offensive categories. The Tigers have the second highest strikeout rate in baseball while offering a very low walk rate and the second fewest home runs in MLB. That bodes well for Daniel Mengden in his second start of the season after posting great AAA numbers. Mengden was a useful starter for Oakland last year and while he allowed four runs in his 2019 debut he surrendered only five hits.

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Detroit has not topped five runs in 10 straight games to average just 2.4 runs per game. Oakland has posted 24 runs in the first two games of this series but the 17-run showing on Thursday featured only 16 hits and five unearned runs while these teams scored nine runs on only 13 hits last night. The weather in Detroit this afternoon should also favor pitching with cooler temperatures and the wind blowing win fairly strong from left-center.

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Free MLB Pick Tuesday

#951 Chicago Cubs (Hendricks) -115 over Cincinnati Reds (Roark) 5:40 PM CT

With a pessimistic Pecota projection and some off-season uncertainty the Cubs started slowly in 2019 but now halfway through May, Chicago has the NL’s best record at 24-14, going 21-6 since April 11. The Cubs have won seven of the past eight road games and the lineup is crushing right-handed pitching with an .807 season OPS. Tanner Roark has posted good numbers for the Reds with a 3.27 ERA but a 4.80 xFIP hovers over his season line. While he has an 8.1 K/9 he also had a 4.1 BB/9 and Roark has benefitted from facing some of the NL’s lesser offensive teams this season.

Kyle Hendricks might be on pace to have a season that resembles his great 2016 campaign. While he has just two wins so far, his ERA is 3.19 and he has walked just eight batters in over 42 innings of work. He has an elevated BABIP and only a 65 percent strand rate as he is poised to improve his numbers in the coming weeks. His road splits present a great contrast to his 0.62 Wrigley Field ERA but his road starts have been exclusively against NL contenders and two of those outings were his first two starts of the season. Cincinnati has hit left-handed pitching quite well this season but with a .667 team OPS, this is one of the worst hitting teams in MLB vs. right-handed pitching. The Reds have outscored foes by 20 runs so far in May but are just 6-6, underscoring the recent issues of the bullpen with Cincinnati 1-4 in extra-innings games and 6-13 in one-run games this season.

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20-runs in season scoring differential came exclusively in  sweeping a three-game set with the lowly Marlins however and against two other elite NL squads the Reds have gone 0-6 facing the Dodgers and Brewers. On the road this season the Cubs have scored 7.0 runs per game while batting .283 vs. right-handers while the Reds have hit just .218 vs. right-handers at home this season. Even if Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist remain out this is a reasonable price to support the NL’s top team and a pitcher that is capable of being one of the best in the league.

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Free MLB Pick Friday

#956 St. Louis Cardinals (Wainwright) -140 over Pittsburgh Pirates (Williams) 7:15 PM CT

Adam
Wainwright owns a 4.71 ERA on the season but one bad start at Wrigley Field
skews the numbers as Wainwright had posted four quality starts in his previous
five starts before running into trouble in Chicago last Sunday. At home
Wainwright owns a 3.00 ERA and he gets to face a struggling Pirates lineup with
a .675 team OPS on the season.

Trevor Williams was a clear-cut regression candidate this spring after a strong 2018 season that saw his ERA finish 1.5 runs lower than his xFIP. His strikeout rate is again among the worst of eligible NL starters at just 6.6 K/9 and his xFIP is 4.35 this season despite a respectable 3.74 ERA. Williams has allowed 16 hits and nine runs in his last two starts and hasn’t allowed fewer than two runs in any of his last six starts.

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The offensive splits for the Cardinals are very clear with a .794 team OPS vs. right-handers and a .674 team OPS vs. left-handers. Against a righty last night the Cardinals had a big night and eventually torched the Pittsburgh pitching staff for 17 runs. Despite the big output the Cardinals still failed in 14 at-bats with runners in scoring position and didn’t hit a single home run in the game while having only one two-out RBI as the damage could have been even worse. Pittsburgh has a 5.98 bullpen ERA in the past 10 games and St. Louis is 14-4 in the last 18 home games.

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Free MLB Pick May 8

#972 Detroit Tigers (Boyd) -115 over Los Angeles Angels (Skaggs) 6:10 PM CT

Matt
Boyd has shown flashes of greatness in his MLB climb the past three years but
this season he has put it all together to emerge as one of the AL’s top pitchers.
Detroit lacks a great offense behind him but Boyd has posted a 3.05 ERA and
actually a 2.10 FIP that is the strongest in the entire American League by a
wide margin. His 11.6 K/9 is also among the best strikeout rates in the league
and he had accomplished that rate with a very low walk rate. Boyd had had to
pitch at Fenway and at Yankee Stadium this season as it has been a difficult
path and he is riding six consecutive quality starts since a marginal first
outing in late March.

The Angels have been competitive this season but the offensive numbers fall off a cliff vs. left-handers with a .631 team OPS vs. southpaws, the fifth worst mark in MLB compared to a very strong .774 team OPS vs. right-handers. Not surprisingly the Angels are 13-10 vs. right-handed starters but only 3-9 vs. left-handers. Detroit has been one of the lowest scoring teams in baseball but the Tigers are a winning team at Comerica Park where Boyd has posted even stronger numbers. The Tigers are also a much better hitting vs. left-handers with a jump of 28 points in team OPS.

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Tyler
Skaggs looked like a breakout candidate in a shortened 2018 season but he hasn’t
matched that pace this season even if his ERA is 3.12 in 26 innings this
season. His strikeout rate has plummeted while his FIP of 4.22 is more
indicative of his future path of mediocrity. In his five starts Skaggs has
faced a bottom seven team in MLB in team OPS vs. left-handers four times as he
has drawn a very favorable path and still has had marginal results. His road
ERA is also nearly double his home ERA and the Angels are only 5-10 in road
games on the season. Detroit’s bullpen has rough numbers of late but with
decent starting efforts the past two games the unit should be in better shape
for Wednesday night.

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Free MLB Pick Tuesday

#971/972 ‘OVER 8.5’ Detroit Tigers (Turnbull) at Philadelphia Phillies (Velasquez) 6:05 PM CT

Vince Velasquez has posted a 1.99 ERA in four starts and a relief inning for the Phillies, helping the rotation greatly with the early season struggles of Nick Pivetta and Aaron Nola. There are some big red flags for Velasquez however with his worst start his only home outing and an xFIP of 4.22. He has left 96 percent of his baserunners on base while posting a .228 BABIP. He has also made starts in Miami and at Citi Field for very favorable opportunities. Some light rain in possible in Philadelphia Tuesday but conditions shouldn’t be detrimental to offense and Philadelphia has scored 5.2 runs per game this season.

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The Phillies have
struggled pitching however with 4.7 runs per game allowed and Citizens Bank
Park has averaged 10.5 runs per game this season with the Phillies averaging
6.1 runs per game at home. This is the third city on the current road trip for
the Tigers who are the AL’s lowest scoring team with only 91 runs. Detroit has
averaged 4.9 runs per game over the past 10 contests, posting at least four
runs in six of the past nine games and averaging 5.0 runs per game on this road
trip.

Tyson Ross was scratched from this start but while Spencer Turnbull might look like a better option with a 2.77 ERA a 4.46 xFIP is a more realistic account. Turnbull hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last two starts but he has also faced a light crop of opposing lineups this season. His 3.8 BB/9 is a concern and little in his career numbers suggests that his current pace is sustainable with Turnbull posting one career win and a 4.04 ERA in now just over 42 innings at the MLB level. Surrendering flyballs at a high rate against the Phillies in this ballpark can be problematic and the Detroit bullpen owns a 4.81 ERA on the season while Philadelphia hasn’t been much better as both bullpens feature a WHIP above 1.40. Over the past 10 games Detroit has a 8.37 bullpen ERA and with a double-header a week ago and several short starting efforts over the weekend the Tigers haven’t had much chance to recover even with an off day Monday.

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