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NL Contender Concerns

National League Contender Concerns

While the American League playoff field appears to be set, the National League should provide a fascinating September with eight teams vying for five spots and no division lead currently greater than three games. Here is a look at the eight contenders and a possible concern down the stretch or in the playoffs in a wide open NL pennant race.

Chicago Cubs (81-57): Too Many Lefties?

The 2016 World Series champions have the best record in the NL and are near certain to be in the playoffs in some fashion, though the division lead over Milwaukee has slipped to just three games. The Cubs have perhaps the most established starting rotation of all the contenders with five viable options on the mound. Four of those starters are left-handed however and looking at the current playoff field, many of those teams have feasted on left-handers this season.

The Cubs would likely be comfortable throwing Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, Kyle Hendricks, or even Jose Quintana in a big playoff game but only Hendricks is right-handed. Potential foes Colorado, Arizona, St. Louis, and Atlanta all have team OPS marks of at least 40 points higher vs. left-handers than vs. right-handers as the Dodgers and Phillies would be the only NL foes that are at a significant disadvantage vs. the left-handed heavy rotation for the Cubs. Chicago is a deserving NL favorite but they may draw a problematic matchup along the way.

Milwaukee Brewers (79-61): Who will Pitch?

Milwaukee is chasing down the Cubs in the NL Central race despite only two starters having enough innings for the Brewers as qualified starters on the season, Jhuolys Chacin and Chase Anderson. Both have suspicious numbers with Chacin 14-5 despite a 4.45 xFIP and in eight of his 29 starts he has allowed four or more runs including allowing eight or more runs twice. Chacin and to a more significant degree Anderson both have worse numbers at Miller Park. Anderson owns a 2.89 ERA on the road but a 5.01 ERA at home and if Milwaukee ends up in one game wild card draw it will be an interesting decision on who to start.

Junior Guerra looked like the team’s best pitcher in May and June but he owns a 7.62 ERA in his last nine starts. Newcomer Gio Gonzalez hasn’t had a great season and he has zero wins in six career playoff starts and while Wade Miley has been on a roll of late there isn’t much in his career numbers to suggest it is a sustainable pace. Milwaukee’s opponent could also be one of the aforementioned NL teams that rakes against left-handed pitching as well. Milwaukee’s bullpen has seen its numbers deteriorate as the Brewers will likely face a taxing September looking to hold on to a spot.

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St. Louis Cardinals (77-62): Unsustainable Hot Streak?

The Cardinals have put together an epic second half run to climb into the NL playoff picture going 23-9 since August started. With a 1-3 start to September and a decline in recent scoring there are signs that that hot streak is ending as St. Louis clings to the final wild card spot. 16 of the 22 August wins came against teams that wouldn’t make the playoffs right now as the schedule certainly helped the Cardinals climb back into the race.

Four of the final five series will be against playoff contenders although the Cardinals do have 13 of the final 19 games at home. St. Louis has had surprise pitching stars but Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty, and John Gant all appear to be great overachievers in viewing their ERA against their FIP and as teams have more film and more at-bats against them, the numbers could erode.

Colorado Rockies (76-62): Law of Averages?

All season long Colorado has outperformed it scoring numbers currently 14 games above .500 despite being -10 in scoring differential. Like Arizona, Colorado has a difficult remaining schedule with 13 games against the two division rivals they are fighting with in the NL West race plus drawing the Phillies and Nationals in the final two home series. A Rockies team that has been fortunate going 24-14 in one-run games while just 11-14 vs. the Diamondbacks and Dodgers could have trouble holding on to the division lead.

Colorado only has a winning record vs. Atlanta among the seven other potential NL playoff teams and the Rockies have been outscored by nine runs despite going 18-14 since August started. Colorado has been outscored at home on the season and still has a negative scoring differential in going 25-17 since the All Star break. The Rockies do have a good defense and a capable bullpen while the unimposing starting staff led by Kyle Freeland has figured out how to pitch at Coor’s Field. Colorado would be a very improbable NL playoff threat historically with the current scoring numbers however.

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Atlanta Braves (76-62): Unproven Ace?

The NL Cy Young race will be very interesting but more incredible is that the three likely leaders in that race might not be in the playoffs. Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer are on losing teams and while Aaron Nola still has a realistic path to the playoffs the Phillies certainly have work to do to get him there. Add that long time NL Cy Young contenders like Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke would all also miss the playoffs as of today’s standings and the NL playoff picture won’t have many proven starters that batters will fear in October.

Mike Foltynewicz won’t win the Cy Young but he could be among the top vote getters actually on a playoff team. A 1st round pick of the Astros in 2010 Foltynewicz will turn 27 as the playoffs begin and while he is just 10-9 his 2.80 ERA and 10.4 K/9 showcase his potential. His strikeout rate is significantly higher than in his past MLB seasons as is his walk rate and a more realistic 3.68 xFIP overshadows his ERA. Since mid-July his ERA is 3.54 with a decline in his strikeout numbers as it isn’t clear he is ready for the big stage in October as his best work was done in the season’s first three months.

Los Angeles Dodgers (76-63): Close Game Failures?

The Dodgers have the top scoring differential in the entire NL yet have been outside of the postseason picture much of the season. Los Angeles owns a marginal 39-35 record home and the 4.7 runs per game scoring average has been built on blowouts. The Dodgers have 25 wins and only eight losses by five or more runs and those 33 games have accounted for more than the +133 scoring differential for the team on the season. The Dodgers are .500 in one-runs games and .500 in extra-inning games and thus is only slightly above .500 since August despite big offensive production.

The bullpen is an easy target but with a 3.85 season ERA it has been a respectable unit and the Dodgers actually own the second best team ERA in all of baseball behind Houston. The Dodgers have blown 26 save opportunities this season for the third most in baseball and the Dodgers have gone 31-32 in games decided by the bullpen. That means the strong rotation simply hasn’t factored in enough decisions as only the Rays (who employ the opener frequently) have had more outcomes determined by relievers. The Dodgers are running out of time for their record to catch up to their production.

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Arizona Diamondbacks (75-64): Brutal September Schedule?

Arizona has recently surrendered the NL West lead they have held for much of the season but the Diamondbacks still look like a serious threat. With Zack Greinke, Patrick Corbin, and Zack Godley plus Robbie Ray and Clay Buchholz the starting options for Arizona are formidable while the Diamondbacks have had the NL’s best bullpen numbers this season.

Arizona has likely the toughest remaining path to the playoffs however as only one series remains vs. a team that isn’t in a playoff race. Seven remaining division games with Colorado loom large but the Diamondbacks also have the Braves, Cubs, and Dodgers for a combined 10 games while still having an interleague road series with the Astros as well. The final three games in San Diego provide a favorable finish but that also means if Arizona is on the road for a potential wild card game they could face a long trip on a short turnaround.

Philadelphia Phillies (73-65): No Offense?

Philadelphia is by far the worst scoring team of the playoff contenders actually only outscoring the Mets, Giants, Padres, and Marlins on the season among NL teams. Philadelphia has averaged just 4.2 runs per game while going 20-23 since the All Star break, getting outscored by 24 runs in that span. The numbers are going in the wrong direction as well as Philadelphia has scored fewer than 3.8 runs per game since August started.

Philadelphia has a high-ceiling rotation but in the last four weeks over 24 games Philadelphia has hit .244 as a team with a .711 team OPS. In that span Philadelphia has struck out almost four times as often as it has taken a walk. Philadelphia has really poor recent numbers vs. left-handed pitching while also featuring a 30-39 road record that is by far the worst of the NL playoff threats. That does mean that Philadelphia is an impressive 43-26 at home but the current picture allows for a very slight chance that Philadelphia will get many opportunities at home early in the playoffs.

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Free MLB Pick Monday

#901 Pittsburgh Pirates (Taillon) +105 over Washington Nationals (Roark) 6:05 PM CT

Jameson Taillon has some of the best numbers in baseball through three starts as the Pirates had a hot start out of the gate. After allowing just nine hits and two runs in more than 20 innings to start the season a correction has come swiftly with Taillon allowing 12 runs in his past two starts. Taillon will fall somewhere in the middle of those stretches by season’s end and his FIP is still substantially lower than his ERA. His BABIP has been low but his strand rate has also been extraordinarily low with 32 percent of his base runners scoring. His strikeout-to-walk ratio remains impressive and Taillon is still a candidate to put together an All Star caliber season, now catching underdog pricing.

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Washington knocked off Arizona Sunday but they caught a huge break with tough left-hander Robbie Ray leaving in the second inning due to injury. The Nationals have still been a disappointing team at 12-16 and Washington is incredibly just 4-9 in home games. Pittsburgh is 17-11 on the season and +21 in scoring differential as they continue to look like a team that plans to hang around in the playoff race while going 14-9 vs. right-handed starters.

After a tough-luck 2017 campaign Tanner Roark is a bounce-back candidate in the Washington rotation this season but so far he has overachieved despite picking up only one win. He has been far from dominant with at least two runs allowed in each of his last four starts and his FIP is nearly a full run higher than his respectable 3.77 ERA. Roark has benefitted from a .192 BABIP in 31 innings which is .114 lower than his career mark. Pittsburgh scored nine runs in six innings against Roark last season as this could be again a favorable matchup for the Pirates.

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Free MLB Pick Monday

#906 Atlanta Braves (Teheran) +120 over Philadelphia Phillies (Nola) 6:35 PM CT

Atlanta is 8-6 looking like a team that will at least stay in the NL Wild Card conversation most of the year with a formidable lineup. Atlanta’s solid start has come despite a marginal start for their most established starting pitcher, Julio Teheran. The Braves kept Teheran two summers ago despite a lot of trade interest and after a down 2017 season he appears to be a bounce-back candidate for 2018. Through three starts he has struggled with a 7.07 ERA but in fairness he faced a great Washington offense twice including posting a quality start on the road in his last outing.

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Aaron Nola is one of the bright young starting pitchers in the NL and he has lived up to the billing with a 1.96 ERA so far this season. Nola owns a FIP that is nearly twice that high however benefitting from a .188 BABIP so far this season. His K/9 is just 6.4 and this will be Atlanta’s second look at him this season. The Phillies are off to a 9-5 start but eight of nine wins have come against the Marlines, Reds, and Rays, perhaps MLB’s three worst teams.

Atlanta has featured a 2.88 bullpen ERA this season with opposing battings hitting only .188 as there could be an edge in the late innings for the Braves. Atlanta outscored Philadelphia 27-12 in three games to start the season in Atlanta and this line is nearly identical to the opening day price in this exact matchup despite Atlanta certainly exceeding spring training expectations so far this season.

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2018 NL Win Totals

Here are three National League win total projections for the 2018 MLB season. Check out Nelly’s 2018 MLB Preview Issue and consider joining Nelly’s for the 2018 season. We’ve won each of the past three years on the diamond and won in five of six regular season months in the 2017 MLB season. Coming off huge returns in football and basketball this year we are ready to keep the profits coming in this summer!

NL EAST

BEST BET: OVER 74½ – Atlanta Braves: The Phillies made a big splash bringing in Jake Arrieta but the Braves quietly could piece together a very respectable rotation. Mike Foltynewicz had a breakout season and a pair of young left-handed starters offer upside with Luiz Gohara and Sean Newcomb and veteran Scott Kazmir could join the rotation at some point as well. Atlanta won 72 games last season to stay respectable, finishing above the Mets and Phillies who are projected for bigger gains this season but the lineup has promise as well with Ozzie Albies and Preston Tucker looking ready for everyday roles and super prospect Ronald Acuna in waiting. The Marlins have cleaned house and opposing lineups look light in three of the four division matchups as the Braves won’t need elite pitching to improve on a 33-43 record within the division last season. The AL East interleague pull also doesn’t look as daunting as it would have a few years ago.

NL CENTRAL

BEST BET: UNDER 73½ Wins – Cincinnati Reds: The Reds haven’t topped 68 games in the past three seasons and the while there is some young talent in the rotation led by Luis Castillo keeping this unit healthy has been a big problem in recent years and none of the projected starters in the five-man rotation reached 100 innings last season. The Brewers, Cubs, and Cardinals all look stronger in 2018 than in 2017 and while the Pirates could again struggle at the plate the pitching in Pittsburgh offers many more proven options in the rotation. Despite improved defensive numbers and a MVP-caliber season from Joey Votto last season Cincinnati was still one of the worst teams in baseball. An AL Central pull in interleague action is an opportunity but ultimately this is a team that should expect to be dealing any valuable parts in July as the rebuilding process continues.

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NL WEST

BEST BET: UNDER 82 Wins – Colorado Rockies: A lot went right for Colorado with several overachieving pitching performances to propel Colorado into the playoffs. Colorado only won 87 games however and certainly it helped to have an extreme down year for the Giants in the division with Colorado going 12-7 in those games. Somehow Colorado had a winning record against the Dodgers last season and Colorado’s potential certainly still looks several notches below the Dodgers and Diamondbacks in the division. Kyle Freeland and German Marquez won 22 games combined last season despite suspicious numbers. Colorado spent a lot of money on the bullpen bringing in Wade Davis and Bryan Shaw but getting to the late innings with a lead will be a challenge for the starting staff while pitching in Coor’s Field has ruined several impressive pitchers in the past. At 32 Charlie Blackmon will have a hard time replicating his success last season while there appears to be a few clear holes in the lineup.

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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 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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Nelly’s Free MLB Pick Thursday

 

#923 Tampa Bay Rays (Archer) -115 over Pittsburgh Pirates (Taillon) 6:05 PM CT

Chris Archer is back to being one of the better right-handed starters in the AL this season after a down 2016 campaign. Archer has pitched even better than his solid traditional numbers appear as he owns the fourth lowest FIP among all 77 qualified MLB starters at 2.88 even if his ERA is a full run higher. Archer has the second best K/9 in the AL and while the Pirates are a better hitting team vs. right-handed pitching they still boast just a .718 team OPS vs. right-handers which is the fourth worst mark in the NL. Tampa Bay is crushing right-handed pitching with a .809 OPS that barely trails the Astros and Yankees on top of the AL. The Rays are 32-22 vs. right-handed starters while going 6-2 so far in interleague games. Jameson Taillon has made three June starts after a six week absence due to a cancer diagnosis and while his future looks bright he is overvalued in a matchup against one of the top established pitchers in baseball. Taillon owns steady numbers but a FIP a half a run higher than his ERA is a red flag as is a very high strand rate and an unusually low home run rate. Taillon actually hasn’t pitched that well at PNC Park with a 4.22 ERA on the season and right-handed batters own a .278 average with a robust .845 OPS against him this season. Ultimately getting the Rays vs. a right-handed pitcher at near-even pricing with Archer on the mound is a great opportunity even with a bullpen edge for the Pirates and a slight losing road record for the Rays on the season.

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Free MLB Pick Tuesday

#911 Colorado Rockies (Hoffman) -130 over San Francisco Giants (Cain) 9:15 PM CT

With the Rockies losing six games in a row there is a reasonable road favorite price on Colorado tonight in San Francisco despite these teams being separated by 19 games in the standings and 136 runs in scoring differential. Colorado is 25-17 on the road and while the Giants have played better at home they are just 15-21 on the season even after last night’s surprising 9-2 win. San Francisco reached nine runs with only four extra-base hits last night, incredibly getting seven hits with runners in scoring position. Jeff Hoffman is 4-1 in six starts this season and while his ERA is 4.29 his FIP is just 2.86. He owns a glowing strikeout rate of 9.6 K/9 with a better than 4:1 K/BB ratio and away from Coor’s Field his ERA is 1.33. Against one of the worst offensive teams in baseball in one of the best pitching ballparks in baseball Hoffman is a strong candidate for dominant outing with MLB’s second best defense behind him. On a lousy team Matt Cain is earning his barely hefty paycheck by at least eating innings but in 15 starts his ERA is 5.54 with a similar FIP. Cain allowed just two runs in Colorado two starts back but he allowed nine hits in that game for some great fortune. He has allowed five or more runs in four of his last six starts and while his home numbers are respectable he has still allowed 10 runs in his last three home starts and has taken a loss in six of his last seven outings. San Francisco is 18-34 vs. right-handed starters this season and last night’s win snapped a 10-0 run in this matchup this season for the Rockies. The Giants have a .667 OPS vs. right-handed pitching this season and in the last 10 games the once great San Francisco bullpen owns a 9.49 ERA. In that span the Rockies are batting .288 with 5.4 runs per nine while San Francisco is batting .236 with a 3.6 runs per nine vs. right-handers as this should be an ideal opportunity for the Rockies to get back in the win column with a greatly reduced price considering Colorado was -190 vs. Cain less than two weeks ago in a 5-1 win.

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National League Lefty/Righty Splits

National League Lefty/Righty Splits

Comparing team batting splits against right-handed pitching and left-handed pitching can offer some handicapping opportunities. A team’s win loss record vs. each hand can carry some meaning but a squad’s OPS offers a little more meaningful insight into performance potential. Here is a look at some of the lefty/righty splits in the National League just over two months into the 2017 MLB season.

Biggest preference for right-handed pitching: Arizona Diamondbacks

In a disappointing 93-loss 2016 season Arizona still featured a robust .820 OPS vs. left-handers that was the best mark in the NL while featuring a more modest clip with a .730 OPS vs. right-handers. That script has completely turned around for the Diamondbacks in 2017 as they are the National League’s second best hitting team vs. right-handers with an excellent .818 OPS, just behind Washington for the league lead. Arizona has just a .692 OPS vs. left-handers this season however with the team’s two most productive hitters Paul Goldschmidt and Jake Lamb showing a severe preference for facing right-handed hurlers. Arizona is still 10-8 vs. left-handed starters this season but they are a serious NL contender because they are 30-18 vs. right-handed starters. The Cardinals and Mets are also teams with a clear dramatic improvement vs. right-handed pitching.

Biggest preference for left-handed pitching: Chicago Cubs

A lot of people are trying to figure out what has happened to the Cubs in 2017 as after a dominant World Series championship season in 2016 Chicago has spent most of this season near the .500 mark. The splits for Chicago vs. left-handers are nearly identical from 2016 to 2017 with a .807 OPS for the season which is where the 2017 mark currently is sitting in mid-June for the best mark in the NL. Chicago has won 60 percent of its games vs. left-handed starters this season but they have only faced 15 of those games so far after going 28-17 vs. left-handed starters last season. Against right-handed pitching Chicago has fallen dramatically from a .759 season OPS in 2016 to a .715 mark this season for one of the worst marks in the NL. Losing switch hitter Dexter Fowler plus the struggles of left-hander Kyle Schwarber are factors but ultimately the lineup as a whole hasn’t matched last season’s success. Two other NL teams with big gains in production vs. left-handers are Atlanta and Miami.

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Biggest improvement vs. left-handed pitching: Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers won 91 games last season and ultimately made it to the NLCS but in the regular season Los Angeles went just 22-24 vs. left-handed starters in 2016 while featuring by far the worst OPS vs. left-handers in the NL at just .623. The Dodgers are winning at an even better percentage this season despite more competition in the NL West and while Los Angeles is only 11-9 vs. left-handed starters this season the team OPS has improved to .747 vs. southpaw pitchers. The Dodgers have actually shown a slight decline vs. right-handed pitching so far this season but more balance may make Los Angeles an even more serious contender this season. Atlanta also deserves mention with a .103-point improvement vs. left-handers compared with 2016, featuring a .783 OPS that is the fourth best mark in the NL vs. left-handers. Colorado has also shown improvement vs. left-handers while actually suffering a decline in production vs. right-handers compared with the 2016 numbers despite the Rockies being one of the surprise success stories of the season so far.

Biggest improvement vs. right-handed pitching: Washington Nationals

Technically Arizona has improved by a greater OPS margin but Washington’s domination of the NL East so far can be credited to a NL best .821 OPS vs. right-handed pitching so far in 2017. Washington remains an excellent hitting team vs. left-handers as well with a .783 OPS that matches the 2016 season figure. Against right-handers the Nationals have gone from an average .742 OPS in 2016 to the league-leading .821 mark so far in 2017 while sitting 12 games above .500 vs. right-handed starters. The Brewers can also attribute some of the surprisingly successful first half results to a big jump in production vs. right-handed pitching as well.

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Improvement vs. both right-handers and left-handers: Cincinnati Reds

The Reds have fallen off an early season pace that included Cincinnati as a NL sleeper but the Reds have shown solid improvement at the plate this season. A .781 OPS vs. right-handed pitching is the third best mark in the NL and a 50 point improvement over the 2016 numbers. Cincinnati has made an even bigger leap vs. left-handers going from a .699 OPS in 2016 to a .773 OPS so far in 2017. It is puzzling however that Cincinnati has gone just 3-12 vs. left-handed starters this season despite the above average offensive production in those matchups. Despite a recent slide the Reds are only a handful of games out of the NL Central race and Cincinnati has 10 losses against the NL West this season as the Reds could have an opportunity to climb back into the playoff picture if they can continue to hit at the very solid current season pace.

Decline vs. both right-handers and left-handers: San Francisco Giants

In making the playoffs last season the Giants were still a team with just modest offensive production. There have been struggles across the board in 2017 but even for the modest offensive standards of the Giants the lack of production at the plate is the biggest reason San Francisco has one of the worst records in the NL. San Francisco holds a .663 OPS vs. right-handed pitching which is the very worst among 30 MLB teams. The Giants are actually even less productive vs. left-handers with a .643 OPS though San Diego has an even lower mark vs. southpaws. With declines of .074 points vs. right-handers and .065 points vs. left-handers the Giants are struggling in every matchup as one of baseball’s worst hitting teams. Pittsburgh and San Diego are both teams that have displayed a huge decline vs. left-handed pitching this season to account for struggling in the standings so far in 2017.