Will the real Kevin Gausman please stand up? The embattled Baltimore hurler pitched seven shutout innings against the Rays yesterday, in what has to be his best start of the season. In other words, I ate all the chalk on Sunday. But I said I would be okay if that happened, so I will not complain.
Many will flock to Coors (CIN at COL) and to the Boston Red Sox for their hitters today. However, I will be looking at a different team with arguably as much upside as any of those three. But first, the pitching. Let’s hop to it.
Target: Carlos Rodon ($7,700) at Oakland Athletics
I was initially looking at the other side of this matchup in Jharel Cotton, but Cotton gives up a lot of hard contact and fly balls to right-handed hitters, which the White Sox have in ample supply. Granted, Oakland Coliseum should help with that, but Cotton also doesn’t have the strikeout upside of Rodon...and it’s the almighty strikeout that we like in the fake game.
Rodon’s issue is walks. He has a career walk rate of 10.4% to right-handed hitters, which is well above average (average is somewhere around 8 percent). Against left-handed hitters his 7.6% rate is much more tolerable given his strikeout upside. Which brings me to my next point...
Rodon’s K-rate against LHH is a shiny 26% for his career, compared to a solid 22.1% K-rate to RHH. For his career, Rodon only allows hard contact 23.4% of the time to lefty bats, and they ground out 51.6% of the time. Rodon also doesn’t allow home runs to lefties, as his HR/FB rate of 3.7% against them is minuscule.
It is right-handed hitters we fear against Rodon, as they make hard contact 29.5% of the time and have a higher fly ball rate (33.5% compared to 28.7%) and a higher HR/FB rate (14%). The good news (for Rodon) is that Ryon Healy left Sunday’s game with upper back spasms and is day-to-day. Healy is one third of the scary trio of bats in Oakland’s order, and another one of those bats happens to be left-handed (Yonder Alonso). That leaves Khris Davis, who is a reverse-spits hitter (better against right-handed pitching) over the course of his career. In fact, Davis has floundered against southpaws this year. He is hitting a mere .189/.313/.321 with a .132 ISO and 73 wRC+ against left-handed pitching. He also has a gigantic 32.8% K-rate against southpaws this season (similar to his 31.7% rate to RHP). Anyway, there are many reasons why the heart of the Oakland order could be a massive letdown today. I’ll take a shot at Rodon.
Stack Against: Rick Porcello ($8,400) with Texas Rangers
Cy Porcello isn’t walking through that door anytime soon. Porcello basically throws a sinker (44% career) and a four-seam fastball (21.1%). He has alternated between a changeup (12%) and a curve (9.9%) as a third pitch, but this season he is throwing the curve a little more than the sinker. Still, overall we are looking at a guy that is reliant on the sinker to succeed. The good news for Texas is that opponents are hitting a whopping .390 on Porcello’s sinker in 2017...which is awesome. After that, it’s .264 on his four-seamer and .298 on his curveball.
“Vegas” also thinks this game will be high-scoring, for what it’s worth. The 10.5 run total is second only to Coors (12). The Rangers are implied at 5.13, while their opponent (Boston) is at 5.37...that, coupled with the explosion of Mookie Betts yesterday (and the fact that we have a Coors game) leads me to believe that we can get the Rangers at good ownership against Porcello. It’s always a guessing game, but it sounds logical...right?
The next obvious question is...who in the Rangers lineup can hit a sinker? Right away I’m going to tell you “not Joey Gallo.” Gallo has as .189 average on sinkers this season and a .204 career average against them. However, he does unload on four-seam fastballs, with a .270 average this season and eight of his home runs coming on that pitch. So if he sits on the fastball...
As you can imagine, the top part of the order is pretty solid against both pitches. Choo, Andrus, and Beltre are all solid against both. Mazara, Odor, and Gomez are all good against the sinker but dip against the fastball (that seems odd to me, but I’m just sharing the numbers).
Jonathan Lucroy is at .297 for his career against the sinker and .292 against the four-seamer. His opponent for playing time, Robinson Chirinos, is only batting .100 against the sinker this year but is murdering four-seamers with a .317 batting average.
Mike Napoli is at .308 for his career against sinkers, but only .228 vs four-seamers. Still, he makes for a sharper play at first base given the popularity of Joey Gallo and Gallo’s ineptitude against the sinker.
I’m trying something new today, as you guys can tell. I only looked at batting average, as time did not allow me to get into isolated power and whatnot. Still, this enough information to make me think that the Rangers stack could challenge for top scoring of the night, even with a game in Coors. We shall see.
Oh—I neglected to mention that the Athletics only walk 7.4% of the time against southpaws...only five teams in the MLB have a lower walk rate. I know you can make numbers do anything you want, but I sure do like Rodon’s chances tonight.
Who are you playing today, ladies and gents? To Coors or not to Coors? Share below if you are so inclined. Peace!