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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 Monday

#951 St. Louis Cardinals (Weaver) -145 over Miami Marlins (Chen) 6:10 PM CT

With a managerial change and trading or releasing a few prominent players the Cardinals appeared to be content to play for next season but St. Louis is only four games out of the second wild card spot in the National League. Luke Weaver is 6-9 with a 4.75 ERA to fail to meet high expectations that grew after great numbers in 10 starts last season. Weaver has a much lower FIP than his ERA however he possesses steady strikeout and walk counts. Since a brutal start hosting the Braves in late June Weaver has put together a good recent run of outings with a 3.38 ERA in his last five starts. Weaver has pitched better in his road starts and Miami has some of the worst offensive numbers in baseball.

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After a nice mid-summer stretch the Marlins are back in the NL East basement with losses in six straight games and 10 of the past 13. Miami has a .619 team OPS in the past 20 games, averaging just over 3.6 runs per game. The Cardinals meanwhile have a solid .758 team OPS the past 23 games, averaging more than 4.8 runs per contest. St. Louis has also been a dramatically superior hitting team vs. left-handed pitching this season. Wei-Yin Chen has been erratic in 17 starts this season but he ultimately owns a 5.86 ERA with a low strikeout rate and an above average walk rate. He had a marginal four-inning start against the Cardinals earlier this season and while his home numbers are good, a win in his most recent home start was his first since April in Miami.

The Marlins have one of the worst bullpens in baseball and over the past 10 games St. Louis has a 1.58 ERA for relievers compared to a 7.24 bullpen ERA for the Marlins. In that span St. Louis is batting .354 vs. left-handed pitching as the road favorite price looks worth the risk fading the slumping Marlins tonight.

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Free MLB Pick Thursday

#960 San Diego Padres (Lyles) -135 over Miami Marlins (Chen) 8:10 PM CT

Jordan Lyles has mixed results in four starts since moving to the rotation from the bullpen for the Padres with two excellent outings and two marginal outings. Both of his home starts have been excellent with just six hits and one earned run allowed in more than 12 innings of work. Lyles has a 4.51 FIP overshadowing his 3.83 ERA but at Petco Park his ERA is just 1.85 with opponents batting .182 against him.

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The Padres stole a win in the ninth inning last night for a second straight win in this series and Miami has the NL’s second worst record with a 10-17 road mark as well. Miami averages just 3.4 runs per game as baseball lowest scoring team and the bullpen edge for the Padres is severe. The Marlins own a 5.80 bullpen ERA on the season with that figure climbing to 7.33 the past 10 games.

Wei-Yin Chen has only made 33 starts since joining the Marlins in 2016, coming off a great run in 2014 and 2015 for the Orioles. Chen has a 5.22 ERA in six starts this season and his FIP of 6.39 suggests things could be even worse as Chen has benefitted from a .233 BABIP. He has thrown well in his past three starts but only once has he cleared six innings this season and a very high walk rate is a concern in a ball game that isn’t likely to feature a great deal of runs.

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Free MLB Pick – Friday, June 24

#906 Miami Marlins (Koehler) +150 over Chicago Cubs (Hendricks) 6:10 PM CT

There has been some recent erosion in the numbers for Kyle Hendricks who still owns a great 2.94 ERA and a nearly 4:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The Cubs have lost four of his last seven starts and for the first time all season Chicago has lost four consecutive games. While the run differential for the Cubs is still remarkable, leading baseball by a mile at +162, the division lead is now just nine games over the Cardinals and the Rangers are actually just a game behind the Cubs for baseball’s best record. Hendricks featured a lot of groundball outs in the first two months of the season and there has been a sharp decline in those percentages over his last three starts. His strikeout numbers have been good in that run but he has allowed seven runs in his last three starts, including giving up three home runs. Incredibly the Cubs are only 6-7 behind Hendricks and 41-17 behind the other starters for the team and the home/road splits severely contrast for the right-hander with Hendricks 1-5 on the road with a 4.36 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP. The recent slide has mostly been due to the offense however as Chicago is batting just .229 in the last 10 games while scoring 3.8 runs per game, big drops from the season production. Chicago has been held to four or fewer runs in eight of the last 10 games and they face a hot pitcher in Tom Koehler. With rather average career numbers Koehler may be on track for a career year as he has been outstanding since early May. After allowing eight runs on May 1 Koehler owns a 2.58 ERA in nine starts since, posting seven quality starts in that run and allowing only one home run in over 55 innings of work. His season numbers are much stronger in Miami and this is a Marlins team that has quietly charged right into the playoff race including a recent 7-3 run the past 10 games. Miami’s bullpen owns a dominant 1.67 ERA in the past 10 games while the late innings have been a recent sore spot for the Cubs and Miami is batting .311 with 5.6 runs per game in that span vs. right-handed pitching. The host has won five of the last six in this series and despite his team playing in its worst stretch of the season Hendricks is a similarly priced road favorite today against a 39-34 Marlins team as he was at home vs. a 34-39 Pirates team in his last start.

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Early Season NL Pitching Underachievers

Early Season NL Pitching Underachievers

05/06/2016

Heading into the second month of the season there are several prominent pitchers off to disappointing starts. Here are a few National League starters that could be due for a turnaround in the coming weeks and may provide some value in some of their upcoming starts.

Jose Fernandez – Miami Marlins: The Marlins have quietly been one of the hottest teams in baseball the past two weeks with a 10-1 run through May 5 including getting sweeps over the Dodgers and Diamondbacks. While the attention in the NL East is rightfully on the Mets and Nationals, Miami may have the tools to slide into the wild card picture this season. The solid record comes even with the disappointing news of Dee Gordon being suspended as well as a bit of a struggle through six starts for ace Jose Fernandez. With a 4.28 ERA Fernandez has battled in the early going without a scoreless start and without going further than six innings in any game. 47 strikeouts in fewer than 34 innings will tell you that his stuff is still top shelf and he has been unlucky with a .360 BABIP so far this season. Pitching on an overlooked Marlins team, Fernandez won’t be overvalued like some of the big name pitchers on high profile squads and his conventional numbers figure to only improve the rest of the way.

Zack Greinke – Arizona Diamondbacks: Twice this season Greinke has allowed seven runs in an outing to boost his ERA up to 5.50 on the season. Greinke’s strikeout rate has been down so far this season and he has allowed 47 hits in fewer than 38 innings of work. He still has very impressive command and he should find better results as through six starts his FIP is nearly two runs lower than his ERA and he has been burned by a very high batting average on balls in play as well as a very low rate of stranding runners as a third of his base runners have come around to score. Trading Dodger Stadium for Chase Field means Greinke likely won’t match his dominant 2015 season numbers but any suggestion that Greinke is no longer an elite starter in the NL is foolish.

John Lackey – Chicago Cubs: Supporting Jake Arrieta or Jon Lester for the red hot Cubs costs a severe premium but veteran John Lackey can still be found for reasonable prices in many outings. Lackey owns an average 4.32 ERA but he has done a good job of keeping runners off the bases only to see almost 40 percent of those base runners come around to score. Lackey finished with a 2.77 ERA last season for the Cardinals with only about 17 percent of base runners scoring with him on the mound. Expect his 2016 numbers to fall somewhere in the middle of those two figures and Lackey is a good candidate to have improved numbers in the coming weeks. With baseball’s best record the Cubs are likely to be favored almost every night but Lackey will likely be relatively discounted compared with the rest of the staff until his conventional numbers improve with a six-run 2016 debut still weighing on his season statistics.

Alex Wood – Los Angeles Dodgers: With a great 2014 season and strong numbers in 20 starts for the Braves last season Alex Wood was acquired for the stretch run with the Dodgers last season. He didn’t have the same success despite moving to a more favorable ballpark and playing with a better team behind him, eventually relegated to only mop-up duty in the playoffs. Wood looked like a promising candidate to help the Dodgers get through the early season injuries in the rotation but he hasn’t gotten the job done so far with a 5.18 ERA in six starts and the Dodgers only going 2-4 behind him. Wood had a rough opening start but since that game he has not allowed more than seven hits in any start and over his last three outings he has 21 strikeouts against just four walks. A .324 BABIP has hurt his cause as well as a very low rate of stranding runners so far through six starts. He has had to make a start in Colorado already this season and he has only pitched twice at home, making his best two starts of the season at Dodger Stadium. As a left-hander with an unconventional delivery Wood looks like a good bet to show improvement in the coming months and he may be worth a look in upcoming home starts with much more modest pricing compared with Clayton Kershaw or Kenta Maeda.

Jerad Eickhoff – Philadelphia Phillies: Aaron Nola and Vincent Velasquez are rightfully getting some attention for the surprising Phillies but Eickhoff also deserves to be looked at as a quality prospect with potential even if his ceiling is a bit lower. Eickhoff is having a lot of success with his curveball and while he is just 1-4 this season he has a nearly 5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In five of his six starts he has allowed six or fewer hits and he has a 2.25 ERA in his home starts. Even with the strong start to the season the Phillies seem likely to be dogged almost every game this season and the prices will be much more favorable with Eickhoff on the mound in comparison to Velasquez or Nola, especially with the early season numbers that have been generated. In 14 big league starts Eickhoff has 83 strikeouts while walking just 20 batters and that type of command and swing-and-miss potential is likely to lead to success even if the first month of the season has not gone as well as would be expected.

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