All the Ingredients Are There for an 'Under' Between Giants and Dodgers

Rainman M.

Saturday, April 28, 2018 8:56 PM UTC

Saturday, Apr. 28, 2018 8:56 PM UTC

The Giants host the rival Dodgers Sunday at 5:05 ET to conclude a four-game series. Both teams know each other well, but neither lineup can figure out the opposing starting pitcher.

Los Angeles Dodgers vs San Francisco GiantsFree MLB Pick: First Five 'Under'Best Line Offered: *No First Half Lines Posted At Press Time*

Too many bettors make the mistake of looking at a pitcher's ERA and immediately drawing a conclusion as to his form. LA's starting pitcher Kenta Maeda (2-1, 3.10 ERA) is a strong example of why this is a mistake.

Poor fortune has victimized Maeda. His opponents are managing a ridiculous .434 BABIP, meaning that an unsustainably high proportion of batted balls are finding their way to become a hit. For instance, the rate at which Maeda is allowing in-field hits is more than twice as high as his career average. His FIP (like ERA, but factors out luck) is an excellent 1.80. His stuff has been fantastic, producing more than four strikeouts per nine innings than last year. He is throwing in the zone more frequently but hitters are less able to make contact with his pitches. Maeda is inducing them to swing at pitches outside the zone and they are swinging-and-missing at more of his pitches. Maeda's command likewise indicates improvement and he is allowing one fewer home run per nine innings than last season.

He owes his 13.72 K/9 rate partly to his strong performance against the Giants on March 31st, in which he struck out ten batters in five shutout innings.

Maeda worked hard to improve his pitching arsenal. He elevated his slider's whiff rate by 20% from last year by killing its vertical movement. Vertical movement can hurt a slider because it makes the pitch easier for hitters to track. In turn, he gave his slider greater horizontal movement so that it "slides" more. Maeda also changed the look of his cutter, which has less vertical movement and more horizontal movement or more "cut." Opponents' slugging percentage against his slider is down .116 from last season. Overall, Maeda's pitch velocity is stronger as well.

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Ty Blach (1-3, 4.31 ERA) counters for the Giants. The southpaw has faced the Dodgers many times throughout last season. He only did poorly against them late in the season when the Dodgers finally learned to hit left-handed pitchers. We are seeing the same trend. Last season, Blach allowed only five runs in his first 19 innings pitched against the Dodgers. This season, Blach has allowed one run in 11 innings pitched against them.

The Dodgers are averaging less than three runs in their last three games against left-handed pitchers. Their struggles against southpaws have been consistent. On the season, they're hitting .211 against southpaw starters and .229 against southpaws overall. One could even say that their batting numbers against left-handed pitchers are inflated because they got to face a left-handed Padre reliever who was making his first start of the season and they absolutely shelled him because it is extremely tough for a pitcher to transition out of the bullpen.

Active LA batters are hitting .219 against Blach with only one home run in 114 at-bats. Two of their top hitters are left-handed batters and match-up poorly with Blach, against whom lefties are hitting only .200. Cody Bellinger, for example, is hitting .156 against lefties and has never managed an extra-base hit in 12 at-bats against Blach. Corey Seager, another lefty, is hitting .235 against southpaws and .222 in 18 carer at-bats vs Blach. Seager, like the relatively dangerous hitter Matt Kemp, is battling injury.

These teams are playing a doubleheader today (Saturday) so both bullpens are apt to get used up. Neither starter likes to pitch deep into games so I am sticking to a 'First Five' play in our MLB Picks.

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