MLB Betting Notes: Paxton’s Encore, Plus Sunday Night Action
Joe Camporeale -USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Zack Godley
There have been 297 no-hitters in MLB history, an average of about two per season. While we only saw one in each of the past two seasons (Jake Arrieta in 2016 and Edinson Vólquez in 2017), we have already seen three (in three different countries) in 2018. James Paxton threw the latest no-no in his most recent start against the Blue Jays — a 99-pitch sparkler.
— C.J. Tumbarello (@TumbarelloHB) May 9, 2018
Maybe we can finally see someone throw back-to-back no-hitters for the first time since 1938 when Johnny Vander Meer did so for the Reds. Vander Meer, a southpaw like Paxton, remains the only pitcher in MLB history to accomplish that feat.
Let’s take a look at Paxton’s matchup against the Tigers, who will also send out a lefty in Blaine Hardy — who will make his first career start on Sunday afternoon. We’ll also touch on the Sunday Night Baseball game between the Diamondbacks and Nationals. Can Jeremy Hellickson really keep this up for Washington? I know Diamondback fans are looking at this as a matchup of Hell vs. God.
Seattle Mariners (-185) at Detroit Tigers (+165) | O/U: 8.5
James Paxton (2-1, 3.40 ERA) vs. Blaine Hardy (0-0, 2.70 ERA)
1:10 p.m. ET
The Big Maple: Everybody knows Paxton just threw a no-hitter, but if you include his previous start as well, he has allowed no runs and five hits and has struck out 23 over his past 16 innings. Locked in. — Stuckey
Looking beyond the no-hitter, Paxton has been one of the best starters all-around this season. Entering Saturday, the Canadian is one of only seven starters with 60+ strikeouts and an opponent batting average of .200 or less. He joins pretty impressive company on that list. — Evan Abrams
Southpaw Specialist: Detroit recently placed Miguel Cabrera on the 10-day DL. He joined Leonys Martin, reliever Alex Wilson and starters Daniel Norris and Jordan Zimmermann. As a result of the injuries to their starters, the Tigers purchased the contract of Hardy from Triple-A Toledo to allow him to make his first career start after 167 previous big league appearances out of the pen. You can expect the southpaw to throw 60 to 70 pitches — if all goes right.
There’s a reason Hardy has been used at times as a pure lefty specialist. For his career, lefties hit just .222 off him, while righties have hit a much healthier .290. After a doubleheader Saturday, the Tigers could be in trouble if Hardy can’t give them any length — especially with Wilson on the DL. Their long reliever option might be Ryan Carpenter, another pitcher who just got recalled from Toledo.
However, a lefty specialist shouldn’t bother Seattle, which has raked southpaws all season. The Mariners rank fourth in average, fourth in on-base percentage and seventh in slugging percentage against left-handed pitching. — Stuckey
Props to Paxton: Bovada has had a couple of props up for the past few days regarding Paxton’s start. They have a hits allowed O/U prop set at 5 and a strikeout O/U prop set at 7. Ever wonder how many hits and strikeouts a pitcher averages following his no-no? Well luckily, I did the research just for this occasion! Just kidding, I did it a few weeks ago following Sean Manaea’s no-no, but the research still applies!
Dating back to 2005, pitchers have averaged 5.55 hits and 5.325 Ks in their start following a no-hitter. However, I honestly believe you should treat each individual pitcher differently. It appears that the better pitchers tend to pitch to their normal abilities following a no-hitter, while the inferior, more random pitchers tend to do worse. As far as this game goes, I don’t see much value with the hits prop, as Paxton has allowed between four and six hits in six of his eight starts this year.
The strikeout prop may have some value on the side you wouldn’t imagine, though. The free-swinging Tigers have the third highest swing rate in the MLB, but this hasn’t led to more strikeouts. Instead, it has just led to short at bats. They walk the least of any team and strike out the sixth least. The only starters to eclipse seven Ks in a start vs. Detroit this year are Jakob Junis, Chad Kuhl, and Corey Kluber. Carlos Carrasco could only muster six in a complete game. – Mark Gallant
Washington Nationals (+113) at Arizona Diamondbacks (-124) | O/U: 8
Jeremy Hellickson (1-0, 2.28 ERA) vs. Zack Godley (4-2, 3.83 ERA)
8:08 p.m. ET
Blasphemous Bats: While Bryce Harper might scare Godley the most, he better pitch carefully to Trae Turner, Matt Adams and Howie Kendrick. That trio is a combined 12-for-25 (.480) with three homers against the Arizona right-hander. — Stuckey
Heavenly Start: So Hellickson has actually pitched pretty well so far this year. It’s a little weird, because he posted a 5.43 ERA and 5.51 xFIP (a better indicator of a pitcher’s actual performance) in 2017. This year, Hellickson has a 2.28 ERA and an encouraging 3.61 xFIP through his first 27.2 innings with the Nationals.
Although xFIP is a great way to judge how a pitcher has performed, a deeper dive into the 31-year-old’s numbers reveals how he’s been effective despite middling stuff.
- Hellickson has stranded an incredibly unsustainable 80.2% of runners.
- His 46.1% ground-ball rate sits well above his 38.9% career average.
- He’s only allowed 0.65 HR/9 (his career average is 1.28).
And I didn’t even mention his extremely fortunate .237 BABIP. Good luck the rest of the way, Jeremy.
That said, Arizona’s offense could go quietly into the night against Hellickson. Despite a great start on the team level, the Snakes have been largely mediocre at the plate. Their 91 weighted runs created plus (wRC+) and .306 weighted on-base average (wOBA) rank 23rd in the majors. — Michael Leboff
Roll Over: Godley’s a lot of fun to watch, what with his ritualistic sprinting off the mound after every inning. He’s also a decent little pitcher who thrives on striking guys out and inducing weak contact. Although the 28-year-old is still having issues with walks, Godley is still getting batters to roll over the ball at a nice clip this year. Through 40 innings, Godley has a 53% ground-ball rate. He should match up well against the Nats, as they rank fifth in GB%. I’m having a hard time talking myself off Godley at this price. — Michael Leboff
East Coast Bias: In Hellickson’s career, he is 98-104 on the moneyline with a small net loss of -4.1 units for bettors. He has enjoyed success when pitching on the East Coast (77-69, +7.3 units), but in any other time zone, the struggle has been real: 21-35 (-11.3 units). That includes a 2-6 record over the past two seasons. — Evan Abrams
Sunday Night Scaries: Hellickson will make his fourth career start on Sunday Night Baseball — all on the road — and his second for the Nationals this season. In his three previous Sunday night road starts, his teams are 0-3, and the Des Moines, Iowa, native owns a 6.28 ERA. — Evan Abrams
Walking Into Problems: Zack Godley’s first two starts of the season were great, as he cruised to a 0.64 ERA over 14 innings with just one walk to 12 strikeouts. Since then, however, he’s been wild AF, as the kids would say. Over his past five starts, his ERA has jumped to 3.83 thanks to a BB/9 of 5.9, which is the 7th worst of 135 pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched over that time frame.
Unfortunately for Godley, the Nats probably aren’t going to make it easy to get out of this funk. They have the third highest walk rate of any team at nearly 11% of all plate appearances to go along with one of the lowest strikeout rates. Add them together and they have the best BB/K ratio in the MLB. With batters not fishing for his curveball as much as they were last year (his outside of the zone swing rate is down 5%,) he may want to pitch to contact more. His 24.8% soft-contact rate is the 11th best in the MLB. – Mark Gallant
Stats via Baseball Reference and FanGraphs