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2019 MLB Win Total Opinions

NL EAST

BEST BET: UNDER 89 – Washington Nationals: Atlanta was by far the best team in the NL East last season and only won 90 games and while Washington being 82-80 last season despite +89 in runs signals a season of improvement, Washington might not have done enough to move up by seven wins. Patrick Corbin was a great add but the pitching staff wasn’t a major issue last season, allowing only 4.2 runs per game for an above average mark in the NL. Brian Dozier and Yan Gomes bounce-backs aren’t a given changing leagues and ultimately the case for the Braves, Phillies, and Mets to improve is strong. Losing Bryce Harper is replaceable on the field but it signaled to the roster that the team isn’t in it to compete for a title this year after falling short with great teams in several recent seasons. Washington had a huge 20-7 month of May last season that will be tough to replicate and this was a team that finished eight games below .500 from June 1 onward. It will be hard to match last season’s 11-7 mark vs. the Phillies and against the NL playoff teams Washington went a combined 17-28 last season as the great scoring numbers was built on a collection on blowout wins including outscoring the Marlins and Mets by 60 runs. Washington also went 5-1 vs. a historically bad Baltimore team in interleague play last season.

NL CENTRAL

BEST BET: UNDER 77½ Wins – Pittsburgh Pirates: There is a lot to like about the pitching staff in Pittsburgh but run support could be a problem and there is room for inconsistency with the rotation after possibly getting a few overachieving seasons last year. Ivan Nova is also gone as a stable starter and Chris Archer has been more flash than substance in recent years. Milwaukee, Chicago, and St. Louis look like NL contenders and Pittsburgh will have a hard time featuring a winning record vs. those three teams collectively as they did last season thanks to going 12-7 vs. the NL Central champion Brewers last season for a surprising outlier. Matching last season’s 14-5 mark vs. the Reds will also be a challenge with many expecting a rise for Cincinnati this season. Pittsburgh also went 15-5 in interleague play in 2018 beating up on the Tigers, White Sox, and Royals, three of the AL’s worst teams last season. In 2019 the interleague slate is featuring quality teams from the AL West, also adding to the travel miles on this year’s slate. For all that went right last season Pittsburgh still only won 82 games and getting close to that figure looks unlikely this season.

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NL WEST

BEST BET: OVER 93 – Los Angeles Dodgers: Starting the season with a losing record through May last season limited Los Angeles to only 92 wins last season but this was a .500 team in 44 one-run games. Los Angeles couldn’t run away with the West due to competitive Colorado and Arizona squads even though the Dodgers had the best scoring differential in the NL by a wide margin at +194. Signs are pointing downward for several of the other West squads and the pitching staff for the Dodgers should remain among the best in the NL. Los Angeles could be just as good at the plate and even better defensively with some of the changes they have made. As they have done several years in a row, if needed they will be mid-season buyers as this squad could get even better in the final two months ahead of the playoff push. This is a discounted price compared to last March on the Dodgers after a similar World Series finish in 2017 and ultimately a slide backwards from an overachieving Colorado team looks likely in 2019 while Arizona lost several key players as well. San Francisco and San Diego could improve but still appear to be far back from being contenders this season.

AL EAST

BEST BET: UNDER 74½ – Toronto Blue Jays: After being a huge disappointment last season many expect the Blue Jays to rebound this season. Getting better health from Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman is far from guaranteed and neither was consistently effective when they were healthy last season. The talented young offensive talent in the system doesn’t necessarily translate into instant success at the MLB level as well as this is a team with some exciting prospects but little proven MLB talent. Ultimately in a stacked division with Boston and New York likely to push 100 wins while Tampa Bay remains competitive, there aren’t going to be a lot of opportunities for the Blue Jays to pick up ground. Facing a likely significant deficit in the division race, valuable veterans could be shipped off as the trade deadline approaches as well as this looks more like a team building for 2020. Toronto isn’t likely to feast on Baltimore as they did last season as well going 14-5 in those matchups against a historically bad Orioles team. Despite the disappointment last season the Blue Jays were 10-6 in extra-innings games and 23-17 in one-run games while also going 13-7 in interleague play, records that simply aren’t likely to repeat.

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AL CENTRAL

BEST BET: OVER 74 – Chicago White Sox: Chicago didn’t have the off-season they envisioned with the front office coming up empty in pursuit of several prominent free agents. With a big jump from last year’s win total of 62 on this price many are likely looking ‘under’ on this team. The AL Central still looks like a marginal group of teams and improvement isn’t necessarily likely for any of the other foes. Chicago has room to improve after going just 7-12 vs. both the Twins and the Tigers in the division last season while the White Sox lost 25 one-run games. Chicago was 17-12 last August before folding in September as the young nucleus on this roster has potential and the rotation has another year of experience after enduring a lot of growing pains last season. Alex Colome can shore up the bullpen and a favorable late April schedule could allow the young unproven team a productive first month to catapult to a season of improvement. Unable to land a big fish in the winter, management could also be a surprise buyer mid-season as well knowing that they might have a tough time luring free agents again next winter and making a mid-season deal could provide an opportunity. It also won’t be a shock if no team in the AL Central has a great record and a playoff spot is attainable for a team willing to be aggressive, with Chicago the lone potential big spender in the division.

AL WEST

BEST BET: OVER 71 – Texas Rangers: Texas got off to a 4-11 start last season and never recovered. 2015 Manager of the Year Jeff Banister was fired in September and 42-year old Chris Woodward takes over with a fresh perspective after helping the Dodgers to great success the past three seasons.Most view Texas as again one of the worst teams in the AL but it is not hard to envision seasons of decline for the Athletics (97 wins in 2018) and Mariners (89 wins in 2018) in the AL West. The Angels are also turning a page with new management while Houston doesn’t have much room to improve after winning 103 games last season. Texas went just 34-47 at home last season 28-48 in the division last year as there is a lot of potential for picking up ground. Texas went 6-13 vs. both the Angels and Athletics last season and getting closer to even in those series would provide a significant boost. Texas was also 12-19 in one-run games last season while losing seven extra-inning games and after a respectable run from late April to June the Rangers closed the season 29-49 after July 1 after falling well out of the playoff race. The Rangers have won with a marginal starting pitching rotation in the past and the team could find modest success with a collection of veteran newcomers that includes Lance Lynn, Drew Smyly, Edinson Volquez, and Shelby Miller. None looks like a home run pick-up but even if two of those veterans have respectable results it could stabilize the pitching staff. The lineup still has some potential even if former budding stars have not ever fully blossomed into franchise players and it won’t take a major improvement for Texas to hit this number with reasons to expect a slide back to the pack from several of the other AL West teams.

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Free MLB Pick Tuesday

#904 Philadelphia Phillies (Velasquez) -105 over Arizona Diamondbacks (Ray) 6:05 PM CT

Arizona leads the NL with a 15-6 record but only a modest +31 scoring differential. Arizona has only played two games outside of the division however with most of the NL West rivals off to slow starts. Robbie Ray was a big part of Arizona’s rise last season winning 15 games with great strikeout numbers but he wound up with a FIP nearly a run higher than his ERA and so far this season his struggles have grown with a 4.98 ERA and a 5.30 FIP.

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Ray has faced the weak-hitting Giants in two of his starts as there is valid concern for the left-hander with Arizona’s rotation now being stressed with the season-ending injury to Taijuan Walker. Philadelphia presents a difficult matchup for Ray with the Phillies 5-0 vs. left-handed starters this season and 10-0 in games outside the division. Philadelphia is also 9-1 at home this season while scoring 7.8 runs per nine vs. southpaw pitching this season.

Arizona has actually hit just .217 while scoring only 3.6 runs per nine vs. right-handers despite the big names in the lineup and the successful start to April. At nearly 26 Vince Velasquez is no longer the highly regarded prospect he was when he was acquired ahead of the 2016 season but he is a candidate to show great improvement on last season’s tough campaign. So far his FIP is just 2.24 this season with a 10.1 K/9 despite taking two losses. After a tough opening start he has pitched well in three straight quality starts and this will be just his second home start of the season where his numbers have been stronger in his career.

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Free MLB Pick Tuesday

#904 Pittsburgh Pirates (Taillon) -100 over Los Angeles Dodgers (Stewart) 6:05 PM CT

Jameson Taillon has pitched well his past three starts and while his season ERA is 4.64 his 3.43 FIP would check in as the 8th best mark in the NL with Taillon just a few starts short of officially qualifying with 97 innings under his belt. His 9.1 K/9 is excellent with a BB/9 below 3.00 and the Dodgers don’t have a lot of experience against him. At 88-35 the Dodgers are on an amazing pace but fill-in starter Brock Stewart has struggled in both of his starting efforts, lasting fewer than eight innings while allowing eight runs. Six runs allowed in those starts were credited as unearned, thus a 1.64 season ERA but a 5.06 xFIP. Stewart lacks much strikeout potential and he hasn’t pitched more than four innings in any outing since joining the team.

Despite the runaway success the Dodgers are in an offensive slump with just a .715 team IPS the last 11 games, compared with a .792 season mark. Los Angeles is also significantly less productive vs. right-handed pitching and on the road. Pittsburgh has scored 40 runs in the past six games with an .868 team OPS as the team may have one more charge left in it sitting still in range of the NL Central and wild card pictures. PNC Park has featured a substantial home field edge for the Pirates and the Dodgers are built on an absurd 51-14 record at home. Cody Bellinger is likely to sit out again and Los Angeles has won just twice in the last 10 games in Pittsburgh.

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Free MLB Pick Monday

#966 Los Angeles Angels (Skaggs) -145 over Texas Rangers (Hamels) 9:05 pM CT

Tyler Skaggs has pitched much better than his 1-3 record suggests with a 3.63 ERA and in three outings since returning from a long DL stint he has been very effective with a 2.93 ERA in three outings, posting a solid 8.2 K/9. The Angels have been a great late season surprise at 13-5 in August to stay in the AL wild card race. The offense has been very consistent with five runs per game on average this month.

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Texas is 11-7 this month with 112 runs scored but recent home series with three struggling AL squads skew the numbers, including scoring 59 runs the past two series with the Tigers and White Sox. On the road the Rangers have a season OPS of just .693 for a huge decline in production. Cole Hamels is 8-1 but he owns a 4.52 FIP and he has allowed four or more runs in four of his last six starts. His K/9 is just 5.6 this season and he has an ERA a full run higher in his road starts. The Angels are 33-26 at home this season and this is a team playing with great intensity and urgency for a surprise run at a playoff opportunity.

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Free MLB Pick Tuesday

#927 Milwaukee Brewers (Garza) +110 over Minnesota Twins (Mejia) 7:10 PM CT

Matt Garza has resurrected his career in 2017 for the Brewers and the 33-year old might find himself in better position on the free agent market this winter than anyone expected. Garza has his ERA down to 3.68 in 16 starts and just 2.45 over his last six outings. He isn’t a great strikeout producer anymore but he has pitched just as well on the road as at home and he has been very tough on right-handed batters, holding them to a collective .235 batting average. This start should provide some extra juice for Garza going up against the team that drafted him back in 2005 before he was traded to Tampa Bay.

Minnesota delivered a surprising comeback win last night, getting the go-ahead run on a balk but the Twins are mired in an offensive slump with a .659 team OPS the past 11 games. Miguel Sano may still be out of action tonight and Minnesota is on a 15-22 run since late June while going just 26-33 at home on the season. Adalberto Mejia has completed six innings just twice in his last 11 starts as while he has acceptable numbers his pitch counts soar and he leaves a lot of outs for a shaky Twins bullpen. As such he hasn’t picked up a win in any of his last five starts and his 4.2 BB/9 is a problem.

Milwaukee is a strong hitting team vs. left-handed pitching and the Brewers soundly out-slugged the Twins last night with a tough-luck loss in a game they had a three-run lead in much of the way. The Brewers are 13-10 vs. left-handed starters and 11-6 vs. the AL this season while 99 runs superior to the Twins in scoring differential on the season.

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Late Season MLB Spoilers

Late Season MLB Spoilers

08/01/2017

The trade deadline has made it clear which teams are going after a big postseason run in 2017 but there are a few under the radar teams that may still have some promise in the final two months of the season even if the 2017 season will go down as an insignificant one.

The trade deadline has passed and the market turned out few true ‘buyers’ that went all-in for a big push in the final two months. With a few divisions essentially wrapped up already the top contenders mainly went after postseason pieces and the teams still muddled in tight races mostly focused on minor additions.

There are not likely to be major changes in the standings in the final two months but there are a few teams that will likely end up out of the postseason picture that could put together strong finishes while possibly playing spoiler in the wild card or division races. Here are a few teams to keep an eye with some potential for late season success especially in upcoming underdog situations against contenders.

Philadelphia Phillies: Count me among those that were wrong on the Phillies as a potential deep sleeper in the National League. After a respectable April Philadelphia posted miserable mid-season results to feature the worst record in baseball most of the season. With a 10-6 run since the All Star break the Phillies have found some life offensively and with some high-end talent in the rotation this is a team that some of the contenders might not want to see down the stretch if they are caught in a tight race.

Young talent in the rotation coupled with an above average defense made the Phillies an appealing threat to improve on a more respectable than most expected 71-91 2016 season even if the offensive potential was limited. Ultimately injuries devastated the rotation and the roster currently has zero qualified starters with veteran Jeremy Hellickson recently traded. Vince Velasquez, Jared Eickhoff, and Aaron Nola have all missed time but all three have shown some recent promise with Nola in particular on a dominant run with a 1.49 ERA in his last seven starts. Late April call-up Nick Pivetta has shown some real promise as well with good strikeout potential. The Philadelphia lineup has also been hitting its best stretch of the season with an .819 team OPS in the past 21 games, scoring five runs per game on average.

The August schedule will provide a good opportunity for the Phillies to keep posting winning results with only two series vs. teams in contention, facing the Rockies and Cubs in three-game sets. They have 10 games with the Nationals and Dodgers in September which could provide potential value opportunities as the NL East and NL West divisions will likely be locked up by then. While the 2017 season can’t be saved the Phillies could gather some momentum to possibly live up to NL sleeper status in 2018.

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Miami Marlins: There were mixed opinions on the Marlins this spring and the more pessimistic predictions have come true as Miami is 14 games out of the NL East lead and six games below .500. Being the second best team in the division isn’t much consolation though Miami’s season scoring differential is only modestly negative. Miami would need a miraculous run to get back into the wild card race currently 10 games out but the Marlins could play some decent ball down the stretch and possibly get above the .500 mark by October.

The lineup has been fierce with Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna providing great production. J.T. Realmuto is one of the best offensive catchers in baseball and Christian Yelich has been heating up since the All Star break after a lackluster first half. Justin Bour should be back in the lineup by mid-August as this will be a team that can produce some crooked numbers even against quality pitching, currently sporting a .811 team OPS over the past 22 games with nearly 5.2 runs per game while posting equally solid results vs. lefties and righties. There is also a bit more promise in the pitching staff right now with the return of Adam Conley who has looked much sharper since coming off the DL. Left-handed rookie Chris O’Grady has also turned in decent early returns while Dan Straily and Jose Urena are competent options on the mound.

Miami has games with both Colorado and Arizona in the final two months as they could impact the NL wild card race and they also have a mid-September home series with the Brewers that could be meaningful for the NL Central and wild card pictures. Down 14 games in the division the Marlins do face Washington 12 more times as if they want to make a run at a miracle charge in the division the head-to-head opportunity is there.

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Minnesota Twins: After adding Bartolo Colon and Jaime Garcia looking to improve their postseason chances the Twins changed course and flipped Garcia as well as shipped off closer Brandon Kintzler at the trade deadline. A nightmare schedule out of the break that featured the Astros, Yankees, and Dodgers pushed the Twins downward in the division race while the Royals and Indians put together long winning streaks. The Twins are still only 4.5 games out of the second AL wild card and they stopped short of selling off Brian Dozier or Ervin Santana as the team could still act like it is playing for something the rest of the way.

The lineup for the Twins is still fairly impressive, particularly against right-handed pitching. Dozier had a huge late season run last year and has shown recent signs of heating up. Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton will be back at full strength soon after July injuries and Eddie Rosario has quietly turned in a fine season for the Twins, going from a platoon role to being a clear every day starter in left field. The pitching for the Twins has been a problem with only two firm spots in the rotation for Santana and Jose Berrios and the bullpen has blown several recent games. Ultimately the Twins likely made the right call to sell in the crowded AL picture but this is a team that could play well down the stretch with a favorable schedule.

The Twins have eight games with the slumping White Sox in August and they have 10 remaining games with the Tigers before the season ends. Minnesota has gone 8-4 vs. the Royals this season and seven early September meetings with Kansas City could have a big impact on the AL Central picture. Milwaukee, Arizona, Tampa Bay, and New York will also draw the Twins in the final two months as Minnesota will play a meaningful role in the playoff race even if they won’t likely be the team benefitting.

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Oakland Athletics: Oakland was considered the most obvious candidate to deal some key pieces at the deadline and the team finally shipped off Sonny Gray as well after sending off a pair of relievers. Yonder Alonso was kept however and this is a lineup with a lot of power led by Khris Davis and Ryon Healy. Marcus Semien also recently returned from injury and recent call-up Matt Chapman has displayed great power along with elite defensive capability. Oakland has a .780 team OPS over the past 12 games with some recent success in late July. Oakland can be a dangerous team down the stretch with a 31-24 home record that is one of the better marks in the AL.

Losing Gray isn’t a positive but the frequently injured right-hander hasn’t come close to his 2015 season results. The current rotation has some promise with lefty Sean Manaea delivering on his potential with a fine 2017 season going while Jharel Cotton has shown some upside despite being inconsistent. The Athletics have had recent success behind Paul Blackburn while 36 year-old Chris Smith has proven to be a crafty option on the mound. Oakland has delivered a few recent wins in the bullpen and the team is still playing with good energy as the ‘seller’ status of the club was certainly not a surprise.

Oakland has upcoming home matchups with Kansas City and Houston but most of the remaining schedule is against teams that are out of the running for the playoffs as the Athletics could have some favorable opportunities to put together winning results in the AL West basement. The lack of high-end starters other than Manaea should keep Oakland in the underdog role most nights even at home despite their success at the Coliseum. Frequent matchups with teams out of the mix including Baltimore, Texas, and the Angels could provide some favorable opportunities for Oakland to keep adding on wins towards a respectable finish.

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Free MLB Pick Monday

#915/916 ‘UNDER 10.5’ Toronto Blue Jays (Estrada) at Chicago White Sox (Shields) 7:10 PM CT

It is easy to look at the starters in this Monday night matchup and expect big numbers but these are a pair of depleted offenses that have some of the worst production numbers in baseball. James Shields owns a 5.86 ERA on the season in 10 starts and he has allowed at least three runs in six straight starts. He nearly had a quality start against the Blue Jays earlier this season however and he has slightly better numbers at home. Toronto owns a .722 team OPS on the season for one of the AL’s worst marks despite the team still carrying the perception of being an offensive force. In the past 23 games Toronto is batting .236 with just 4.3 runs scored per game.

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The numbers are just as bad for the White Sox with a .708 team OPS on the season vs. right-handed pitching and Chicago traded away one of its best hitters yesterday. In the last 20 games Chicago has averaged just 3.2 runs scored per game and in the last week Chicago is batting just .194 as a team with only 3.0 runs per game. Marco Estrada owns a 5.43 ERA but with a 4.51 FIP and he owns a 9.6 K/9 rate. Estrada has had few dominant outings this season but this should also be one of his most favorable opportunities. There are issues for both bullpens but this will be the highest total in this series in the last three years despite both offenses being at low points and Guaranteed Rate Field has averaged just 9.3 runs per game. In the past 10 games both teams are batting in the .210s and this number won’t be easy to reach to start the series.

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MLB Top Contender Concerns

With double-digit game leads in their respective divisions and record setting paces it is easy to project a World Series matchup between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros. Both teams deserve to be the clear favorites in their leagues but here are a few concerns for baseball’s top contenders with the second half of the season underway.

The best regular season team doesn’t usually win the World Series: With 103 wins the 2016 Chicago Cubs had the top record and baseball and they went on to win the World Series as well in dramatic fashion to snap a long run of futility for the franchise. The Cubs were the first National League team to post the best record in baseball and also win the World Series since the 1986 New York Mets however and only the 1995 Atlanta Braves in a strike-shortened season joins those two NL teams having the top NL record while also capturing the World Series. A handful of American League teams have accomplished the feat but it is not the norm with the Cubs being only the sixth team overall to pace baseball and win the World Series since the Mets in ’86.

Wild Card Winners are dangerous: The change to a one-game wild card matchup in the 2012 season put more emphasis on winning the division and less value on being the wild card with a one-game do-or-die situation for those squads. While being in a wild card spot is less desirable in the current format, being the team that wins a wild card game can be a springboard to a great postseason run. In 2014 the Royals won a wild card game and kept playing until Game 7 of the World Series. In 2016 the Blue Jays were wild card winners and then also advanced to the ALCS. The 2014 Giants were World Series champions starting from a wild card spot while the 2012 Cardinals and the 2015 Cubs also won division series matchups from the wild card spot, upsetting the NL’s top seeds. Based solely on records, right now the #2 seeds in each league would be at an advantage over the #1 seeds as the current Central division leaders that would be the #3 seeds are weaker teams than the top wild card teams. Subjectively the Indians and Cubs could emerge in the Central title spots to change that equation but should the Brewers, Twins, or Royals win a Central division title, undoubtedly that will be a preferable draw for the East division winners than the wild card winner that the Dodgers or Astros would likely end up facing in the division round.

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The Dodgers reliance on left-handed pitching: Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, and Rich Hill have amazing numbers with a combined 32-6 record with great strikeout rates and ERAs. Having three excellent left-handed starters in the rotation is a luxury any team would love to have but in the potential NL playoff landscape it may create less than ideal matchups for the Dodgers. The Dodgers had the NL’s best team OPS vs. left-handed pitching in the first half of the season at .819 but the next five teams on that list are five of the six teams in contention for NL playoff spots with the Cubs (.802), Nationals (.793), Braves (.790), Brewers (.779), and Rockies (.779). Only Arizona struggles against left-handed pitching among the potential postseason opponents for the Dodgers and the Dodgers could wind up needing to beat two of those teams to reach the World Series. The Dodgers are good enough to out-slug any of those teams in a short series but the pitching advantage that Los Angeles might appear to have could be overstated in a short series. Against those five teams that excel against left-handed pitching Los Angeles is only a modest 14-10 as the amazing record this season has been built on going a combined 32-3 vs. a marginal grouping of squads (Reds, Royals, Marlins, Mets, Phillies, Pirates, and Padres). Despite the Diamondbacks struggling vs. left-handed pitching they have actually out-scored the Dodgers despite losing six of the 10 meetings this season.

Houston has struggled against the AL’s top teams: Houston has put up incredible scoring results to pull away with a huge lead in the AL West, creating little urgency for the team to make aggressive moves at the trade deadline. Houston is 25-9 vs. the Mariners, Rangers, and Athletics, outscoring those division rivals by 68 runs in 34 games. Against teams the Astros might actually see in the postseason the numbers are troubling however, going 1-2 vs. Boston and 1-5 vs. Cleveland this season. Houston is 5-2 vs. the Yankees but they only outscored New York by two runs combined in those seven games. Houston has a +169 net scoring differential on the season but they are +118 runs in games decided by five or more runs as they have poured on meaningless runs on several occasions in contests that were already in hand yet rarely have suffered a lopsided defeat. Houston has also gone 7-0 in interleague action drawing marginal Atlanta and Miami squads from the NL East as the path to the great record has been favorable so far and the team hasn’t been in a lot of tense close games in the late innings similar to what may be ahead in the postseason.

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Recent playoff demons for the Dodgers: Since winning the 1988 World Series the Dodgers have lost 10 of 14 playoff series that they have been involved in, going 22-37 in the individual playoff games including losing in the NLCS four times in the last nine years. Kershaw will unfairly shoulder some of the blame for the recent playoff failures and it is true that his postseason ERA is 4.55 in 89 innings and he was shelled in both of his critical NLCS Game 6 starts, allowing 12 runs in nine innings in 2013 and 2016. Wood owns a 4.91 ERA in his four playoff outings, Hill owns a 4.50 ERA in four playoff outings, Kenta Maeda had a 6.75 ERA in last season’s playoffs, and Brandon McCarthy has never pitched in the postseason as there will be questions for the starting staff in October. That concern is also making a big assumption that this quintet of starters with a lengthy injury history will be active on the playoff roster.

Playoff Inexperience for the Astros: Houston was deemed ahead of schedule with a run to the wild card game in the 2015 season, going 86-76 in the regular season. The Astros bested the Yankees in that game and then took a 2-1 ALDS lead on the Royals. Inexperience showed as Houston crumbled and lost the series, blowing early leads in all three games they lost in the series including notably losing Game 4 with the series on the line despite a 6-2 lead in the eighth inning. Given the huge division lead and a current 10.5-game edge over the AL’s #2 team Houston isn’t likely to have an overly meaningful game the rest of the regular season and will have to jump into October playoff intensity against a team that will have some momentum off a wild card game win. Add that star shortstop Carlos Correa is likely to be out until late in the regular season and this is a team that might get a wake-up call in the playoffs against a team that plays its way into the postseason despite the gaudy regular season numbers for Houston that will have been built mostly in early season action.

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Free MLB Pick Tuesday

#954 New York Mets (Montero) +105 over St. Louis Cardinals (Wacha) 6:10 PM CT

Michael Wacha owns a 3.13 ERA in his last six starts but the caveat is that five of those six outings have come in St. Louis. On the season Wacha owns a 7.03 ERA on the road and both right-handed and left-handed batters have decent numbers against him as he hasn’t resembled the star pitcher of the 2013 postseason or his fine 2015 season. As disappointing as the season has been for the Mets this is still a very good hitting team with a .774 team OPS vs. right-handed pitching which is one of the best marks in the NL.

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With a career ERA of 5.37 Rafael Montero look like he should be a heavy underdog in this matchup but his 9.9 K/9 this season stands out and his FIP of 3.53 is more than two runs lower than his current ERA. Montero had issues with walks as a reliever but that hasn’t been the case in his starting efforts. The Cardinals are only 32-38 vs. right-handed starters this season while going just 18-23 on the road. The Mets have scored over five runs per game vs. right-handers this season and while the bullpen edge appears to be with St. Louis the home/road splits paint a much different picture in the late innings on both sides. The Cardinals enter this season with just six wins in the past 20 road games as road favorite status looks questionable.

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Free MLB Pick Monday

#903 Milwaukee Brewers (Suter) +105 over Pittsburgh Pirates (Kuhl) 6:05 PM CT

After dropping a game to the NL Central lead on Sunday the Brewers are in a big spot Monday night in Pittsburgh with the Cubs picking up some momentum with a three-game winning streak since the break and a great showing from new acquisition Jose Quintana. Brent Suter has worked his way up to the big leagues with success as a reliever last season and early this season before getting a starting shot. His three starts this season have been solid including back-to-back quality starts bringing his season ERA to just 2.96, with an even lower FIP. Suter has good strikeout numbers and he gets to face a Pirates squad with a .701 team OPS in the past 22 games for barely four runs scored per game.

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Pittsburgh has only hit 20 of its 89 home runs vs. left-handers, posting a 10-12 mark vs. southpaw starters on the season. Despite Milwaukee’s success this season the Pirates have won four of seven meetings as this will be a big four-game road set for the Brewers. 24-yead old Chad Kuhl has adequate numbers this season but he has really struggled at PNC Park with a 6.46 ERA in 39 innings of work. Kuhl has pitched pretty well in the last month but four of those five starts were on the road with one home outing vs. lowly San Francisco. The Pirates have shown a bit of life of late but this is still a favorable price on a first place Brewers team that has a great record vs. right-handed starters as well as on the road.

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