Bats Will Be Quiet in Jake Arrieta's Debut with Philly vs. Miami

Saturday, April 7, 2018 8:25 PM UTC

Saturday, Apr. 7, 2018 8:25 PM UTC

Former Cubs starter Jake Arrieta debuts with Philadelphia. The Phillies are heavy chalk hosting the Marlins on Sunday at 1:35 ET. The total is set at 8. 

Miami Marlins vs Philadelphia Phillies

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The weather will be cold in Phllly, with temperatures expected to stay under 50 degrees and to be accompanied by 15 mph winds blowing infield and helping to stop fly balls from turning into home runs. But the weather won't be the coldest thing in Philly. The Marlins are struggling to be productive without their two most talented hitters from last season, NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna, both of whom thrived in terms of batting average, run production and power. They're also missing starters Martin Prado, whose career BA is .291, and J.T. Realmuto, whose career BA is .280, who are still sitting on the DL. The Marlins rank 22nd in runs, having scored only three in their past three games.

Jake Arrieta (0-0, 0.00 ERA) is an unlikely prospect against whom the Marlins can reverse their cold streak. Arrieta is notorious for the velocity drop that his fastball suffered in the first half of last season. This approximate two mph decline elicited tremendous unnecessary criticism because a small velocity drop isn't the end of the world--just ask fellow aces Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner. Arrieta even recovered his velocity somewhat beginning in August. And perhaps this uptick contributed to a 2.28 second-half ERA. So there is nothing wrong with Arrieta.

One victim of Arrieta's last season was Miami. Arrieta faced them as a Cub in June even before the partial revival of his velocity. The pitch that has been crucial for Arrieta especially against Miami has been the sinker, which he has been developing and relying on increasingly over the years. Since 2017, Miami ranks 29th in team BA against the sinker and therefore matches up poorly against Arrieta, whose favorite pitch is the sinker. Miami is also a poor match-up because Arrieta has been working on achieving a lower release point and creating more horizontal movement in his pitches. This made him more effective against right-handed batters last year, whose BA was .59 lower than lefties against him. Miami's top three players in terms of BA are all right-handed hitters.

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Miami's Trevor Richards (0-1 10.38 ERA) endured the baptism of fire in his first career start against Boston. A deeper look suggests that he was actually pretty effective. His FIP, which is like ERA but factors out luck, was 4.37. What made his FIP not good was a two-run homer towards the end of his outing in the fifth inning. Essentially, he retired the first seven batters and some fortunate instances like a swinging bunt that somehow stayed fair allowed Boston to score. Most impressively, he achieved a 10:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio, which is amazing considering that he doesn't even pretend to rely on the velocity of his pitches. He's normally a contact pitcher who excels at keeping the ball low and inducing ground balls. He also possesses a nasty changeup whose spin rotation is very deceiving for opposing batters, who tend to whiff at it. The Phillies are 5-for-22 (.227) with one extra-base hit against ground ball pitchers. This is the first time that they will see Richards and his funky changeup.

The Phillies batters are anyhow cold--not that Richards needs them to be. They rank in the bottom ten in runs, hits and strikeouts.

Philly's pen is atrocious, ranking in the bottom five in terms of ERA and FIP. So I don't want to trust them. But I will back both starting pitchers in our MLB Picks.

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