MLB Picks, Predictions: Cleveland Indians vs. Detroit Tigers, San Diego Padres vs. Seattle Mariners (Friday, Sept. 18)
Stephen Brashear/Getty Images. Pictured: Yusei Kikuchi
- Friday's MLB slate is loaded with 14 matchups.
- Our staff details their two favorite Friday MLB bets, including Indians vs. Tigers and Padres vs. Mariners.
Another doubleheader-infused MLB slate means 18 games will get underway over the course of Friday afternoon into the evening.
Below are our experts’ top spots for the overfilled slate.
Advanced Stats Glossary
FIP or Fielding Independent Pitching measures what a pitcher’s ERA would look like if the pitcher experienced league-average defense and luck. xFIP is a regressed version of FIP that adjusts or “normalizes’ the home run component based on park factors.
wRC+ or Weighted Runs Created Plus takes the statistic Runs Created and adjusts that number to account for critical external factors — like ballpark or era. It’s adjusted, so a wRC+ of 100 is league average, and 150 would be 50 percent above league average.
wOBA or Weighted On-Base Average is a catch-all hitting metric with more predictive value than on-base percentage. An average MLB hitter can be expected to post a .320 wOBA. xwOBA is a regressed version of wOBA that accounts for variables like park factors.
BJ Cunningham: Indians vs. Tigers Under 8.5 (-106)
Despite its 10-run outburst last night, Cleveland’s offense has been awful this season, checking in with a .301 wOBA and 84 wRC+. In fact, Jose Ramirez and Franmil Reyes are the only two Indians with a wOBA over .350. The rest of their lineup will need to pick up their level of play if they are going to be a threat in the playoffs.
The Indians have particularly struggled against right-handed pitchers, posting a .228 batting average and a .305 wOBA against righties this season. Michael Fulmer hasn’t been his usual self this season (5.46 xFIP), but he has the talent to shut down this Indians lineup.
Detroit’s offense, which ranks 24th in wOBA, has been especially bad over the past two weeks, accumulating a .263 wOBA and 61 wRC+.
Plesac has been one of the best starters in baseball this season. He has a 2.20 ERA and 3.67 xFIP through his six starts in 2020. The reason he’s been so effective is because his secondary pitches have been almost unhittable. Opposing hitters have been able to manage only a .100 average against those pitches. Additionally, all three pitches are generating a whiff rate over 24% and have tallied 29 strikeouts in only 41 innings.
The Tigers have struggled against sliders, changeups and curveballs, so Plesac will have a favorable matchup against their lineup tonight.
I have 7.46 runs projected for this game, so with two lackluster offenses, I am going to back Under 8.5 runs at -106.
Sean Zerillo: Mariners F5 Moneyline (+150) vs. Padres
If you just looked at Yusei Kikuchi’s ERA over the past two years (5.46 in 2019, 5.35 in 2020) it’d be easy to dismiss the vast improvements that he has made since the end of last season.
Most strikingly, Kikuchi’s fastball velocity has increased by 2.6 mph over 2019, bringing his stuff back in line with his peak form with Japan’s Seibu Lions.
Kikuchki’s swinging strike rate has increased by 3.1% over 2019, as batters are making significantly less contact on his pitches inside of the zone (89.3% in 2019, 80.4% in 2020). The whiff rate on his fastball has increased from 16% to 29.5%, and the xwOBA has improved from .381 to .321.
Furthermore, Kikuchi has introduced a very effective hard-cutter this season (.264 xwOBA):
Yusei Kikuchi, Wicked 94mph Cutters. ✂️ pic.twitter.com/zbxJ8JSIvs
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 28, 2020
As a result, his strikeout rate has increased by 10.1% year-over-year, and the southpaw’s 18.8% strikeout minus walk rate ranks in the top 20 amongst starting pitchers — ahead of Zac Gallen, Carlos Carrasco, Aaron Civale and Kyle Hendricks.
Kikushi’s xFIP (3.29), SIERA (3.78) and xERA (3.05) are all 1.4 to 2.4 runs better than his 2019 metrics, and his hard-hit rate has also improved by six percent.
Perhaps most importantly, Kikuchi has halved his barrel rate (from 7.7% to 3%) and now ranks in the 92nd percentile for that stat, while allowing just two home runs (0.49 HR/9) after permitting 36 round-trippers in 161 innings (2.00 HR/9) last season.
I also wanted to touch briefly on his opponent, Chris Paddack, who is technically pitching as well or better than he did in 2019 (xFIP down to 3.57 from 4.05). There are some concerning signs in his profile, however.
Paddack’s hard-hit rate has increased from 32.5% to 46.5% this season, as the league starts to sit on his fastball knowing that he doesn’t have a fully developed third pitch. Paddack’s heater had an average exit velocity of 89.3 mph in 2019, with an expected batting average of .212 and an expected slugging percentage of .393.
In 2020, those metrics have increased to 92.3 mph, .328 xBA and .655 xSLG, and Paddack’s changeup is now his only above-average offering. For now, I view Paddack as more of a No. 2 pitcher in a rotation, and he needs to get a better feel for his curveball in order to ascend to ace status.
I project the Mariners at 47% in the first five innings for Friday, and at 47.2% for the full game. I split one unit between the two sides, and I’m comfortable with either wager down to +140.