I’m talking Early Only slate this morning, as the late slate only has four games. It does feature the Yankees vs. Andrew Cashner and the Brewers vs. Jon Lester, so there will be blood. But I’ll be out of town anyway, so it’s a great slate to miss.
The early slate has a more enjoyable six games to choose from, though my initial take is that pitching is slim. Let’s see what awaits us, eh?
Elite Pitcher: David Price ($9,400) vs. Tampa Bays Rays
Price made this column on March 30, the second day of the young season. He faced the Rays that time, too, but at Tropicana Field. The park shift isn’t all bad, as Fenway does play better for runs scored in general—but hitting home runs out is generally problematic, just like Tropicana. Lefty bats get the same raw deal, but right-handed hitters get a slight boost. Now, who is dying to roster C.J. Cron, Wilson Ramos, Matt Duffy, and Adeiny Hechavarria? Don’t even talk to me about the ghost of Carlos Gomez...
Now that we’ve established the lack of right-handed threats for Tampa, let’s discuss Price’s performance against lefty hitters. Last season’s sample was small (only 16.2 IP vs. LHB) but Price limited them to a .203/.271/.222 slash, with a 13:4 K/BB ratio. Over his career, left-handed bats have made less hard contact, more soft contact, hit more ground balls, less fly balls, and less line drives. Price has allowed 0.57 HR/9 and has only walked 4.8% of lefty hitters. So yeah...it’s a great matchup. Denard Span, Kevin Kiermaier, and Brad Miller are the best threats Tampa can offer. That would be bad all by itself, but add in the LvL advantage and Fenway’s ability to kill lefty power, and Price is looking pretty darn good if you decide to pay up today.
Mid-Range Pitcher: Kyle Gibson ($6,900) vs. Seattle Mariners
Gibson had a shiny second half last year, as his numbers increased across the board. Most notably, his strikeouts increased to 8.22 K/9 (up from 5.64 K/9) and his walks decreased to 2.58 BB/9 (down from 4.20 BB/9). Gibson threw more four-seamers than two-seamers in the second half of last year, and that new approach with his fastball paid dividends—especially in the area of HR/9. So, less sinkers and more high fastballs. If you weren’t paying attention, Gibson was throwing a no-hitter through six innings against Baltimore in his first turn this year, posting a line of 6.0 IP, 5 BB, 6 SO, 1 W, 1 QS, and 46 FDP. Today’s opponent has league average marks in wOBA (.307) and ISO (.152) so far, but rank 22nd in walk rate (7.9%) which should help Gibson’s primary weakness. I’ll take a shot on him, and pair him with the red-hot, lefty-bashing Brian Dozier.
Value Pitcher: LHP Martin Perez ($5,700) @ Oakland Athletics
Don’t run away screaming, okay? It’s early, but the Athletics have been atrocious against southpaws. A 29.5% strikeout rate, below average 6.6% walk rate, and pitiful .109 ISO are testament to that fact. They shouldn’t be this bad—in fact, I like Oakland’s offense more than most—but Khris Davis is a reverse splits guy (better against RHP) and Matt Joyce is one of the best power guys in the game against RHP, but a non-factor against southpaws. Matt Olson and Matt Chapman both seem better suited to right-handed pitching too, at least according to the small sample sizes.
Stephen Piscotty (.201 ISO, .375 wOBA) and Marcus Semien (.192 ISO, .340 wOBA) should help the numbers against southpaws eventually, but for now I’m taking a dart on Perez. Perez worked up to 87 pitches in a Triple-A game on March 30th, striking out 10 and walking a pair. What Perez does well is keep the ball on the ground—54.7% ground ball rate to LHB, 50.3% to RHB. He also limits the fly balls (below 23.2% to LHB and 28.2% to RHB). He doesn’t strike right-handed guys out, as the 12.1% K-rate to RHB shows. Against lefty bats, that rate jumps to 21.2%, which is tolerable.
Look, I never said the value pitcher was without fleas, okay? The career slash that Perez has allowed to RHB is a little sketch (.289/.352/.443). However, given that Oakland’s power guys perform worse against lefty pitchers and are off to a freezing cold start against lefties, I’ll take a shot. Especially on the road in a spacious park.
That’s it for me today. I’m on the road to ride some rides with my five-year-olds. Good luck out there!