MLB Odds, Picks & Predictions for Phillies vs. Pirates
Pictured: Zack Wheeler. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Phillies vs. Pirates Odds
The Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates face off in a Friday night battle for Pennsylvania bragging rights.
The starting pitching matchup pits Zack Wheeler against Mitch Keller, two pitchers trending in different directions. Wheeler is lingering around the Cy Young race, while Keller had his moment in the sun a few months back but has struggled recently. Those struggles may continue Friday, so let's dig into Phillies vs. Pirates and make a betting prediction.
Wheeler has posted ERAs of 2.92, 2.78 and 2.82 over the past three seasons. He's been about as consistent a pitcher as you'll find in baseball, which is why the start of this season was so notable. After a month, his ERA was near-5.00, and it was still above 4.00 at the All-Star break. However, Wheeler has lowered his ERA his past two starts, and there's reason to believe that trend will continue.
Wheeler's FIP (2.88) basically matches his ERA (2.82) and FIP (2.80) over the three seasons prior to this one. Most notably, he's had bad luck stranding runners. His left-on-base rate (68.8%) ranks in the bottom 10 among qualified pitchers. That 2.88 FIP ranks second among all qualified pitchers this season, and thanks in part to his ability to go deep in games, no pitcher has amassed more fWAR than Wheeler this season.
The Phillies have also improved defensively. Bryce Harper being able to play first base has allowed Kyle Schwarber to move from the outfield into the DH role. While part of Wheeler's ERA-FIP gap can be explained by bad luck, it also doesn't help that he has the 20th-ranked defense behind him. The Phillies aren't going to turn into the 1970 Orioles, but every little bit on the margins helps, especially before the books potentially adjust.
Keller's ERA is in the same ballpark as Wheeler's but has been skewed by his fast start. In his first 10 starts, Keller possessed a 2.44 ERA and a 2.68 FIP. In the 11 starts since, those numbers have jumped notably to a 5.51 ERA and a 4.88 FIP. Yes, that's an arbitrary date comparison, but what's important is that Keller lost about a mile per hour on his fastball right around that time. That may not seem like much — and it doesn't explain the entire drop in production — but it's certainly worth noting.
The home runs are the other big difference. In his first 10 starts (62.3 IP), Keller allowed just five homers. In his past 11 starts (65.0 IP), he's allowed more than twice as many (11). Again, that could be — and likely is — partially due to luck. However, it's also true that the ball starts leaving the yard more as the season progresses and temperatures start to rise. That, combined with a lowered strikeout rate, has all spelled disaster for Keller.
The Pirates offense burst out of the gate with a 114 wRC+ in the first month of the season. Since the start of May, they are quite literally the worst offense in baseball, with a wRC+ of just 80.
Phillies vs. Pirates Betting Pick
There are a few ways I'll be looking to bet this game. The Phillies full-game moneyline is my favorite bet, but I also like the first five innings moneyline. Wheeler goes deep into games and the Phillies have a bullpen edge, which is why the full-game moneyline is my favorite play.
I also like the Pirates team total under. I love the first five innings team total under and like the full-game team total under, since I want to target the Wheeler portion of the game as much as possible.