MLB Betting Preview: Samardzija vs. Kuhl at PNC Park

MLB Betting Preview: Samardzija vs. Kuhl at PNC Park article feature image

When we talk about a great pitching matchup, an image of two aces going toe-to-toe usually pops into your mind. Chris Sale vs. Max Scherzer, for example. However, the matchup between Chad Kuhl and Jeff Samardzija is just as interesting in its own right.

Both pitchers could be labeled as enigmas, as you truly never know which version will show up. That’s what drew us to this otherwise ordinary-looking Pirates vs. Giants game on Saturday evening. A couple of knuckleheads on the mound in a pitcher’s park. That’s the good stuff.

San Francisco Giants (+126) at Pittsburgh Pirates (-136) | O/U: 8.5

Jeff Samardzija (1-2, 6.62 ERA) vs. Chad Kuhl (4-2, 4.12 ERA)
7:05 p.m. ET

Shark Watch: When you compare his ERA to his xFIP, Jeff Samardzija was one of the unluckiest pitchers in 2017. The former Notre Dame football star finished with a 4.42 ERA, but his 3.61 xFIP suggested it should have been much lower. Samardzija’s poor fortune put him on my radar as a potential underrated pitcher in the betting market, but his slow start to 2018 — which included missing a chunk of time with an injury — has quashed those grandiose plans.

Thus far, Shark has struggled with his control (6.62 BB/9) and keeping the ball in the yard (1.53 HR/9). The latter plagued him last year as well, but he’s always displayed decent control. I still am a semi-believer, even if his velocity has dipped again in 2018. — Michael Leboff

The former Cub has pitched more innings against the Pirates than any other club. During his career, Samardzija has pitched in 25 games (14 starts) against the Bucs, compiling a 6-4 record with an impressive 2.80 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and .228 BAA. He has enjoyed even greater success at PNC Park: 5-2 with a 2.29 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and .193 BAA. The Pirates’ current active position players have seen Shark a total of 122 times — and the results aren’t pretty for the hitters.

This looks like a good spot for Samardzija to get on track — he just has to limit his walks. — Stuckey

Kuhl Hand Chad: Chad Kuhl must frustrate the ever-living hell out of Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. The dude has great stuff; he just can’t keep his form consistent. However, Kuhl has made strides this year with his control — one of his main bugaboos. The 25-year-old currently owns a 2.75 BB/9 — significantly better than his ugly 4.12 walks per 9 last year. Kuhl still has issues keeping the ball in the yard, however, allowing seven homers in 39.1 innings pitched (1.6 HR/9). — Michael Leboff

As Leboff mentioned, Kuhl still gives up too many long balls; he owns the 19th-highest HR/9 rate among all qualified starters. The good news for the University of Delaware product is that the Giants have demonstrated almost no power against right-handed pitching this year. Their 20 home runs against righties in 2018 ranks next to last in the majors — ahead of only the Rays’ 18.

Also, while not a significant sample size, Kuhl has some interesting early career splits.

Those have played out in 2018 as well, as Kuhl is 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA during the day and 2-2 with a 5.81 at night. That will be worth monitoring in the future once we get more data. — Stuckey

The over is 6-0-1 in Kuhl’s first seven starts this season, going over by an average of 2.2 runs per game. In those seven games, the Pirates and their opponent have combined to score an average of 11.7 runs. In contrast, the under finished the regular season 11-4-1 in Kuhl’s last 16 starts in 2017, staying under by a full run per game. Kuhl had an ERA of 3.38 during that stretch compared to 4.12 this season. — Evan Abrams

Entering Friday, the Giants had a .500 record but had been outscored by 23 runs. If we take a page out of Pythagoras’ notebook, they should really be closer to four games under .500. Fading teams that fit that mold in the month of May has yielded an approximate 3% return on investment historically. This situation applied for their loss on Friday as well. — Mark Gallant

Fantasy Focus: Andrew McCutchen returns to his old stomping grounds on quite a streak. The Giants outfielder has hit the H out of the baseball recently. He should get consideration as a viable DFS option given his batted-ball data. Players who have hit the ball harder and farther over the past 15 days than the past 12 months have had great fantasy value, historically over-performing their price tag. Through Friday, McCutchen had a distance differential of +47 feet and an exit velocity differential of +3 mph. Players hitting the ball at least 40 feet farther and 3 mph harder have yielded a DraftKings plus/minus of +1.29. — Mark Gallant