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Rockies-Giants Betting Notes: Time to Buy Jon Gray?

Jun 28, 2018 7:12 AM EDT

Betting odds: Colorado Rockies at San Francisco Giants, 3:45 p.m. ET

  • Rockies (Jon Gray): -109
  • Giants (Chris Stratton): -101
  • Over/under: 8

Bet to Watch

In a recent Cubs-Dodgers preview, I wrote about Jon Lester having the largest negative ERA-FIP differential of any single season since 1918 — implying extremely fortunate results.

Well, Rockies starter Jon Gray sits on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. If the season ended today, he’d have the largest positive ERA-FIP differential, suggesting he’s been extremely unlucky in 2018 thus far.

To put it another way: Gray has the third-worst ERA (5.52) among all qualified pitchers, but the sixth-best xFIP (Expected Fielding Independent Pitching; a more accurate measure of performance) at 2.82 — trailing only Chris Sale, Patrick Corbin, Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Corey Kluber. Not bad company.

What has caused this discrepancy? He’s had a number of starts with one bad inning, and he’s had horrendous luck on balls in play. His astronomically high .379 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) leads all qualified starters. Now, you expect Coors Field starts to inflate that BABIP, but not that high.

For reference, no qualified pitcher has finished a season with a BABIP of higher than .355 since Kevin Millwood in 2008 with the Rangers. That was .355. Gray’s at .379!

Gray’s 63.8% strand rate also ranks as the second-lowest among qualified pitchers, trailing only Jason Hammel’s 63.4%. Gray finished last season with a much more reasonable 74.8% strand rate.

I certainly expect positive regression for Gray, as all indicators project. He still has the velocity, as he’s averaged 96.0 mph on his four-seamer this season — right at his career average. His 11.45 K/9 (eighth-best in MLB) and 2.76 BB/9 are also strong indicators of good things to come. In fact, his 4.15 K/BB ranks in the top 20 among all qualifiers.

He’s also trending in the right direction, having allowed only a single run over seven innings in his previous start at Coors against Miami — when he struck out 12 and walked none. Over his past three starts, Gray has struck out 31, while only walking five.

The Rockies will also at least have a very fresh bullpen, as they used only three total relievers during the first two games of the series — after a day off Monday.

The Giants will counter with Stratton, whom I don’t mind going against. His 6.93 K/9 (16th-worst, min. 80.0 innings) leaves a lot to be desired, and he really struggles with his secondary pitches. Batters just make good contact against Stratton, as illustrated by his league-worst 10.6% soft-contact percentage. He also owns the seventh-highest hard-hit rate at 42.3% (min. 80.0 innings).

I will definitely continue to target Gray over his next few starts, as I anticipate getting a discount based on his unlucky season-to-date results — and have no hesitation doing so against a very average opposing pitcher. And don’t forget that Colorado has 23 road wins this season — tied with Arizona for the most in the National League.

The pick: Rockies -109


Stats via FanGraphs, Baseball Reference and MLB.com

Editor’s note: The opinion on this game is from the individual writer and is based on his research, analysis and perspective. It is independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.

Credit:

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Jon Gray

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@Stuckey2

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