Another week of baseball will come to a close with two National League favorites doing battle on Sunday Night Baseball.
The only problem is, neither team is playing much like a contender so far.
The Nationals and Dodgers are a combined 19-21 coming into Sunday. As we’ve been saying all month, it’s still plenty early, but given the hot starts by the Mets and Diamondbacks, these two squads may want to kick things into gear with the quickness.
Washington Nationals (+155) @ Los Angeles Dodgers (-170) | O/U: 8
8:05 p.m. ET
Jeremy Hellickson (0-0, 3.86 ERA) vs. Alex Wood (0-2, 3.91 ERA)
Knock on Wood: Alex Wood has the clear edge on the rubber over Jeremy Hellickson tonight. Wood’s win-loss record and 3.91 ERA are a little misleading. Wood has benefited from a .227 BABIP (batting average on balls in play), but his xFIP (a regressed version of fielding independent pitching) sits at 2.68 this season, suggesting he’s been a bit unlucky. In fact, Wood’s peripheral numbers this year have been really strong, so let’s see if we can spot any red flags under the hood by putting them next to his career metrics.
It looks like a couple of those numbers could be outliers, but they require further attention. Wood’s 2018 ground-ball rate is seven clicks higher than his career mark, but over the past two seasons, the 27-year-old has put up better than a 53% GB%. If we are to assume his career numbers tell a more complete story than his 2018 numbers, we can expect to see more walks and dingers when Wood pitches. The former Brave has always been good at keeping the ball in the yard, but his current home run-to-flyball rate is at 5% and his BB/9 is absurdly low, so those numbers will tick up.
Even if his advanced metrics level out, Wood still has the potential to be an ace if he stays healthy and his early season numbers are encouraging, but he will always fly under the radar because he pitches on the same team as Clayton Kershaw. — Michael Leboff