MLB Betting Notes: Kershaw, Ohtani and Verlander Star on Sunday’s Slate
When it comes to the battle for baseball supremacy in Los Angeles, the Angels clearly have the edge by a wide margin to start the year.
Thanks to the excitement surrounding Shohei Ohtani, the Halos’ starter today, and a deep lineup, the Angels have started 13-3 on the young season. They could prove to be a real thorn in the Astros’ side in the AL West.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, now sit 6.5 games back of the Diamondbacks heading into this afternoon’s tilt. Still very early, sure, but falling behind any further could put the Snakes in the driver’s seat in the NL West.
And finally, this week’s edition of Sunday Night Baseball features two completely different pitchers, both of whom have previously won a Cy Young, as the Texas Rangers trot out Bartolo Colon against Houston’s Justin Verlander.
Los Angeles Angels (-205) @ Kansas City Royals (+183) | O/U: 8
Shohei Ohtani (2-0, 2.08) vs. Eric Skoglund (0-1, 9.64 ERA)
2:15 p.m. ET
Shoh-Time: Ohtani became the first pitcher in the past 20 years to go 7+ shutout innings with at least 12 strikeouts in one of his first two career starts. Oh, and did I also mention that Ohtani leads all of baseball with a .767 slugging percentage (minimum 30 ABs). How good is a .767 slugging percentage? Only Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds have ever finished a season with a slugging percentage higher than .767. Speaking of Ruth, Ohtani became the first player since the Babe in 1921 to record a win as a pitcher and then homer in his next game as a nonpitcher. — Stuckey
Ohtani’s start at both ends of the ball has been electric, but let’s see if we can punch some holes in his pitching stats. Through two starts, Ohtani has posted a sparkling 2.08 ERA and 0.46 WHIP across 13 innings of work. Those numbers actually understate how well he has pitched when you take a look under the hood. The 23-year-old’s 1.87 xFIP (a regressed version of Fielding Independent Pitching), 12.46 strikeouts per 9 innings (K/9) and 9.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio all suggest Ohtani’s head-turning performance thus far is no fluke. — Michael Leboff
Overmatched: As the odds suggest, Ohtani will have a plus-matchup Sunday. The Royals have struggled mightily on offense to start the year, ranking in the bottom five in three offensive catch-all statistics: wOBA (weighted on-base average), wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) and OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage).
The B-Side: All eyes will once again be on Ohtani, but let’s spend some time getting to know Eric Skoglund. The 25-year-old was a third-round pick in 2014 and has logged just 22.2 innings in the majors over his career. His numbers in those starts aren’t pretty, but that’s because he’s been uncharacteristically wild in his six MLB outings. If Skoglund has his command with him against the Halos, his numbers will improve, and this could end up being a bit of a pitchers’ duel. — Michael Leboff
Arizona Diamondbacks (+179) @ Los Angeles Dodgers (-200) | O/U: 7
Zack Godley (2-0, 0.64 ERA) vs. Clayton Kershaw (0-2, 1.89 ERA)
4:10 p.m. ET
In a League of His Own:
Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball. Period. I’ll let his career numbers do the talking.
- 2.36 ERA (best among all active starters … Chris Sale next at 2.96)
- .206 BAA (best among all active starters … Sale and Jake Arrieta next at .222)
- 1.00 WHIP (best among all active starters … Sale next at 1.05)
Kershaw dominated the Diamondbacks in two regular-season starts last year, compiling a 2-0 record with a 0.59 ERA, with 19 strikeouts to just three free passes. He did allow four earned runs in 6.1 innings in a postseason start against Arizona, but he still got the win.
Since the start of 2015, Kershaw is tied with Zack Greinke for the most home wins (28).
Fantasy note: Kershaw had three starts for the first week of scoring in most league formats. He didn’t allow more than two runs in any of the three, but didn’t pick up a win (0-2). — Stuckey
Godleyzilla: Godley has certainly backed up his breakout 2017 season in the early going. The 27-year-old right-hander doesn’t have an overpowering arm, but he makes up for it with a wonderful four-pitch mix. He features a fantastic curveball, which he’s thrown 41.3% of the time this year. Thanks to his ability to effectively mix pitches, Godley gets hitters off-balance quite often. His 55.4% groundball rate ranks 10th among pitchers (min. 100 IP) since the start of 2017. He’s not in the same league as Kershaw, but he is more than capable of shutting down the Dodgers. In what should be a tight game, the price on the Snakes certainly seems long. — Michael Leboff
Texas Rangers (+284) @ Houston Astros (-325) | O/U: 8
Bartolo Colon (0-0, 1.64 ERA) vs. Justin Verlander (2-0, 1.45 ERA)
8:08 p.m. ET, ESPN
Gigantic Price: To see value in the Astros’ number, you’d have to expect them to win this game 77% of the time. It’s a pitching mismatch for sure, but that’s a huge price. — Michael Leboff
Houston Opponents, You Have a Problem:
How good has Verlander pitched from the end of last year through this start? Just take a look at his past 17 games:
Including the postseason, he has a 13-1 record over his past 17 games. During that span, he only allowed 20 earned runs in 109.2 innings — good enough for a 1.64 ERA. He didn’t allow more than three runs in any of those games, while holding opponents to one run or fewer in 11!– Stuckey
Big Sexy: Everybody loves Bartolo Colon. It’s nice to see him get off to a nice start with the reeling Rangers, but how long until things go off the rails for the affable right-hander? Colon owns a 1.64 ERA in 11 innings, but his 2.84 xFIP, while outstanding, does suggest a little regression. If you dig deeper, you will notice even more red flags. Over his long career, Colon owns a 6.67 K/9 rate. That number sits at what looks like an unsustainable 8.18 strikeouts per 9 so far this year. He’s also stranded 93.8% of base runners — an absurdly high amount that will certainly drop down, methinks. — Michael Leboff