MLB Betting Notes: Harvey Day and the Wonderful Jakob Junis
If the season ended today, there would be a compelling case to be made that Jake Junis, a 2011 29th-round draft pick, should win the Cy Young. Yes, it’s ridiculous to suggest calling the season in April, but a little pitcher hyperbole never hurt anyone, right?
Speaking of which, Cleveland’s Corey Kluber also has a strong case for the two-week Cy Young Award. The Klubot has already won the award twice, and a third victory is not out of the question if he keeps throwing baseballs the way he has to start the season.
Meanwhile, Matt Harvey will toe the rubber today against the Brewers, trying to throw the Mets to their 12th win in their first 13 games.
All that as Mother Nature figures to play a prominent role during today’s slate, with the wind expected to be out of control across the country.
Toronto Blue Jays (+210) @ Cleveland Indians (-236) | O/U: 7
4:10 p.m. ET
Jaime Garcia (1-0, 3.18 ERA) vs. Corey Kluber (1-1, 1.57 ERA)
Klubot: Last season, Corey Kluber became one of only 18 pitchers in the history of baseball to win multiple Cy Young awards. His bid to join an exclusive club to win at least three Cy Youngs (which includes active pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer) is off to a great start. He has dazzled so far this season, with a 1.57 ERA and a stunning 27:4 K:BB ratio in three starts. Kluber’s fast start should excite Indians fans, as he typically gets stronger as the year goes on. Just take a look at these numbers by month for his career:
*And those April numbers even include this year’s strong start.
In the last five years, the under is 72-55-3 (57%) when Kluber starts. If the wind is blowing in from the outfield (from left, from right or from center), the under improves to 27-16-2 (63%). The forecast calls for 16 MPH winds blowing in from right field. — John Ewing
Jay Walking: The Blue Jays have had some success against the Indians ace. In his career, Kluber has made at least three starts against 15 MLB teams. Of those 15, he has the highest ERA against the Blue Jays. In six starts vs. Toronto, Kluber has a 2-3 record with a 4.46 ERA, 1.51 WHIP and .271 batting average against. Josh Donaldson appears to see the ball particularly well against Kluber: He’s 7-for-19 (.368) with four walks and only three strikeouts. — Stuckey
Jaime’s Weird Start: Jaime Garcia was a nice little get by the Blue Jays to help shore up the back end of their rotation. There’s nothing too fancy about the veteran southpaw, but when he’s healthy he’s a master of the solid, unspectacular outing — which is all you can ask out of your fourth or fifth starter.
Garcia has logged 11.1 innings in his first two starts as a Blue Jay, posting a 3.18 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and a 3.64 xFIP (a regressed version of Fielding Independent Pitching). However, the 31-year-old’s underlying metrics have been very un-Jaime-Garcia-like. Over his career, Garcia has been a terrific ground-ball pitcher, with a 56.1 GB%. This year, despite his good back-of-the-baseball-card numbers, Garcia has a 40.7% groundball rate. Instead, the native of Reynosa, Mexico has been striking out batters at an unusually high clip. It’s a very small sample size, but through his first two starts, Garcia has punched out 26.7% of the hitters he’s faced, which is much higher than his 19.3% career mark.
So yes, this version of Jaime Garcia isn’t the one we will expect to see for the rest of the season, but that doesn’t mean his numbers will balloon. He’ll strike out fewer batters, but we should expect to see a lot more ground balls going forward. — Michael Leboff
Milwaukee Brewers (+104) @ New York Mets (-114) | O/U: 8
7:10 p.m. ET
Chase Anderson (0-1, 3.38 ERA) vs. Matt Harvey (0-0, 3.60 ERA)
Chasin’ Anderson: A few of the newer Mets have seen Anderson quite a bit in their previous stops. While Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce have had absolutely no success (1-23 combined with 12 Ks) against the Milwaukee right-hander, Adrian Gonzalez has owned Anderson. In his career, A-Gon is 9-for-18 with five walks and only one strikeout. — Stuckey
Amazin’ Start: The Mets have the best record in all of baseball. Any team starting the season with an 11-1 record is surprising, but the expectations around Flushing weren’t all that high. That being said, the Mets do have a strong roster, buoyed by a potentially devastating starting rotation. Unsurprisingly, the pitching has propelled New York in the early going. Heading into Friday’s series opener, the Mets led the MLB with a 2.47 ERA. Putting that number next to their 3.13 xFIP (which helps us determine how lucky a staff has been) suggests they’ve been a little fortunate, sure, but a 3.13 xFIP is still very good. The stars have aligned for New York off the field, however. Thanks to the way the Amazins’ schedule broke down, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard have each made three starts in the early going, and the Mets were able to skip their No. 5 starter once. — Michael Leboff
Two-Face: Matt Harvey’s first start of the season went off without a hitch. Considering the circumstances, it would be crazy to expect him to do better than the five innings of one-hit ball he tossed. The Dark Knight also limited the Phillies to just one walk while striking out five. Unfortunately, the 29-year-old couldn’t back that up with a second great start, as he got knocked around by the Nats, giving up four runs on nine hits — including a dinger — and a walk in five innings. Over 50% of the contact the right-hander allowed that day was hard hit according to FanGraphs. It was evident that Harvey didn’t have his best stuff in his second outing, but once again he only issued one walk. Which Harvey should we expect going forward? The easy answer is to anticipate him to post numbers somewhere in the middle of those two starts, but if he keeps limiting walks — something he hasn’t done since returning from surgery to deal with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome — I’d be much more confident in Harvey being closer to the pitcher he was in his opening start. — Michael Leboff
Los Angeles Angels (-167) @ Kansas City Royals (+150) | O/U: 8
7:10 p.m. ET
Garrett Richards (1-0, 4.20 ERA) vs. Jakob Junis (2-0, 0.00 ERA)
Jake the Snake: The Royals stink, but Jake Junis has our attention. If you’ve never heard of Junis and you saw his stat line, you’d probably assume the man throws cheddar, but we all know what happens when you assume. Junis does not throw hard, he doesn’t strike people out, and he doesn’t induce ground balls. So what the heck?
There is a bit of luck involved in Junis’ style, which is to pitch to contact. Heading into Saturday’s start, the 25-year-old owns a 3.03 FIP and a 4.58 xFIP, so that ERA isn’t going to be bagels for long. Still, Junis has been quite effective at what he does best. In his first two starts, Junis has allowed an average exit velocity of 85.7 MPH (according to Baseball Savant), which was good enough for 17th-best among pitchers with at least 25 hit balls against this year.
Should we expect him to hang around that mark? The short answer is probably not, as last year Junis’ average exit velocity sat at 88.9 MPH, which was the 20th-highest among pitchers with at least 150 batted ball events.
Junis has probably improved his approach from last year — players can get better over time, you know — and he’s capable of being a successful pitcher if he continues to refine his stuff and stay low in the zone. But his sparkling numbers are probably not long for his baseball card. — Michael Leboff
Garrett Richards’ base numbers listed above (1-0 4.20 ERA) don’t appear terrible, but take a second to look under the hood. He has yet to secure a quality start, failing to make it through six full innings in any of his first three, and his 5.75 FIP suggests lady luck has blessed him so far in 2018. The main culprit? Walks. Through Thursday, his 7.20 BB/9 ranks second-worst among all starters (minimum 10 innings). Only Bryan Mitchell of the Padres has a worse walks-per-9 ratio (7.59). Strikeouts have bailed him out so far this year (his 11.4 K/9 rate ranks in the top 20 in baseball), but the Angels will need to get more length out of Richards to save their pen. He will need to pitch much more efficiently than he has so far this year to do that. — Stuckey
Stats provided by Baseball Savant and FanGraphs.