Back Angels to give Phillies Hell Tonight

Los Angeles Angels

Rainman M.

Thursday, August 3, 2017 3:43 PM GMT

Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017 3:43 PM GMT


The Phillies had won 5 consecutive home games before beginning their series in Los Angeles. The Angels have won 4 out of their last 5 and will look to make it 5 of 6 by sweeping the Phillies.

For the Angels, Andrelton Simmons has been hot, batting 5-for-13 with 3 RBIs and a stolen base in his past 3 games to push his season BA to .303. The same can be said for Albert Pujols, who is 7-for-13 with 3 home runs and 9 RBIs in his past 3, and Mike Trout, who is 5-for-10 with 2 RBIs and 3 walks in his past 3. The Phillies have only scored 1 run in 2 games so far against the Angels despite the productivity from Cesar Hernandez as their leadoff batter. Hernandez is 6-for-12 with 2 stolen bases in his past 3 games. Neither team’s lineup has seen much of the opposing team’s starting pitcher.  The Phillies, who are one of the MLB’s worst road teams with a 16-38 road record, will look to avoid the sweep tonight.

Jerad Eickhoff (2-7 4.56 ERA) starts for Philadelphia. Eickhoff is having a down season: his ERA is up from 3.65 last season to 4.56 this season. The problem has been mostly with his command. He is struggling to develop consistent mechanics with which to deliver and locate the ball well. He is walking almost twice as many batters as last season.because he is struggling to throw strikes. Opposing batters are starting ahead of the count more frequently and are therefore able to be more selective in deciding which pitches to swing at. They are swinging less at Eickhoff’s pitches out of the zone and waiting until, probably with a hitter’s count, Eickhoff serves them a hittable pitch in the strike zone. Eickhoff is becoming a somewhat different pitcher in order to help his command. Normally, Eickhoff is a balanced pitcher who relies on a mixture of four-seam fastball, sinker, slider and curve. But in July he has relied more exclusively on his fastball and curve.  Prior to July, Eickhoff relied on his fastball with just approximately 40% frequency to get ahead of the count because he could utilize his other 3 pitches to get ahead of the count. But this month, his first pitch in at-bats has been the fastball with about 65% frequency. Eickhoff is having trouble throwing strikes so he is increasing the rate at which he throws the easiest pitch for him to command. His reliance on the fastball comes at the cost of his other breaking pitches, but not his curveball. The curve is Eickhoff’s most dangerous weapon with 2 strikes. His curve complements his fastball by introducing an effective change of pace with an average of 14 mph less velocity. It features 12-6 movement and late horizontal movement that makes it difficult for opposing batters to catch up with and track. Eickhoff can become lethal when he is commanding his curveball, as evident in his 5 shutout innings vs the Padres. But he also tends to struggle against teams like Miami and Boston, who have good numbers against the curve.   His 3.27 July ERA may seem to indicate that he is improving. But in July he also had the benefit of having 3 out of his 4 starts in that month be at home, where his ERA is 3.83 compared to 5.36 on the road, and he has also started against Atlanta, Milwaukee, and San Diego, who each rank in the bottom 10 against the curveball.  Eickhoff will look to bring his ERA down on the road against a lineup that is in good form, normally hits well at home, and is about average to above-average against the curveball.

Parker Bridwell (5-1 2.83 ERA) counters for the Angels. Bridwell is transforming from a reliever with Baltimore into a reliable starter in Los Angeles, where he has had only one bad start, on June 30th vs the Mariners. Bridwell lacked his characteristic sharpness and command that day. He frequently started from behind in the count and opposing batters took advantage of the more hittable pitches that he delivered. Normally, Bridwell is able to rely on a variety of pitches with which to get ahead of the count—particularly the sinker to left-handed batters and the four-seam fastball to right-handed batters.  However, his stuff is effective enough that he can rely primarily on a single pitch and shut down opposing lineups. For instance, in his last start in Toronto he threw the four-seam at a season-high 40% rate but allowed only 1 run in 7.1 innings. The key for Bridwell this season has been to command his off-speed pitches. While he is doing a better job of throwing strikes, this isn’t saying much, considering his previous issues with command. The key for Bridwell has been to miss the plate more nearly than before. Bridwell is a contact pitcher who succeeds especially with pitches out of the zone.  Batters swing at only 29% of Bridwell’s pitches out of the zone but make contact with them 60% of the time. When batters do see a pitch land within the strike zone, they are likewise swinging less often but making contact at a higher rate. Bridwell is able to effectively command his stuff in order to deceive them with his pitches’ movement, such that they believe that they are getting something hittable, but instead only make weak contact.  When his stuff and location are not sharp, like vs Seattle, he therefore ends up behind in the count and finds himself limited in that he becomes forced to pitch more aggressively within the strike zone just to avoid walking so many batters.  Bridwell has a variety of tools at his disposal with which to keep hitters off balance. His fastball averages 92-93 mph. His changeup, which averages about 7-10 mph less velocity, complements his fastball by creating an effective change of pace and eluding batters with unexpected cut action. Oddly enough, his usage of the pitch is declining. But he also has a sinker, slider and cutter with which to create variety in movement and velocity. Bridwell has often not been dominating, but just surviving. He is leaving baserunners on at an 89.9% rate, meaning that he is bending but not breaking.  With men on base his WHIP drops from 1.29 with the bases empty to 1.02. Bridwell is clutch, but such a high left-on-base rate in unheard of in the long term. He’ll look to dominate, or at least survive against, a slumping Phillies lineup.

The Verdict

I do not trust Eickhoff on the road or against a lineup that is in good form and is capable of hitting the curveball. Even though Bridwell is maintaining an impossible left-on-base rate, Eickhoff concerns me more because throughout July he regressed into a pitcher who has been unable to rely on the variety of his pitching arsenal.  Plus, the Phillies already leave the 8th-highest amount of runners in scoring position per game on the road—3.65— and are currently in poor form. On our MLB Picks, I expect the Angels to sweep the Phillies behind a pitcher who is more himself—who is utilizing his variety of pitches—and a lineup that is hitting well, especially at home. Moreover, the Phillies’ bullpen is sorely missing their stud Pat Neshek and has given up 5 runs so far vs the Angels.

Free MLB Pick: Angels RL 1h
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

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