You may notice that it is Monday morning and I am writing about the Tuesday starting pitcher report cards. The majority of amateurs start their mornings by wondering, who their play might be on the Monday card, but in my 20-years of handicapping sports, it is imperative to work ahead of the curve. It is not intended to just get favorable lines, but rather to identify significant wagering opportunities.
The Phillies and Mets resume their NL East rivalry Tuesday with a short two-game set. The Phillies Cole Hamels will be competing against the Mets Jon Niese. The NL East is going according to preseason projections with the pitching strength of the Atlanta Braves leading the division with a 17-7 record and a 3 1/2 game lead over the NY Mets. The Mets, third place Washington, and fourth place Philadelphia are all within one game of each other and the Marlins are hanging in there at 6 1/2 games back of the Braves.
The Mets are the surprise of the Division so far, but I do feel that their weakness will be exposed over the marathon 162-game season. The Mets though do rank fourth in my simulated power rankings based on overall team play so it may be a bit early for me to give up the Mets solid start. We will learn a lot about them during the next week playing these two games against Philadelphia and then taking off to Colorado.
In the Tuesday matchup, Hamels will be making his second start of the season. In his first start he was very good and was held to just 86 pitches although he stated in post-game interviews that he felt strong and could have easily gone above the 100 pitch count. He will be given a much longer leash in this game. In his first start against the Dodgers he allowed 2 ER on 6 hits walking one and striking out five batters in 6 innings of work.
Hamels has not faired well against the Mets over the past three season posting a 5-5 record with a 5.06 ERA in 13 starts spanning 80 innings of work. However, many of these games were day games where Hamels has not had his best stuff throughout his career. Over the last 3 seasons he has been brutal against right-handed batters allowing a 0.228 BA. This is very unusual, but very meaningful. Normally, LH pitchers excel against LH batters and conversely can struggle against RH batters.
The reason this occurs is that a LH pitcher rarely, if ever, will throw a breaking pitch to a RH batter as the movement of the pitch goes directly into the strength of the hitter. When a LH pitcher is facing a LH batter, those same pitches move away from the LH batter to a low-and-away location making it very difficult for the ball be batted into play.
Hamels has one of the best changeups in the Majors and he sues this pitch in any count against RH batters. He is one of the few starters that can throw a chance for strike one and has the confidence to even throw it in 3-2 fastball count situations. That changeup will be a major factor in Hamels completing 7+ innings against the Mets.
The Phillies have a suspect bullpen, but it has improved over the last few weeks. Papelbon now has 8 saves with just one blown save opportunity and has the fast ball riding in at 93-95 MPH, which is augmented by his splitter and cutters. So, Hamels goes 7+ innings of work, one relief man comes in to pitch the eighth inning and then it is Papelbon time to close the deal in the ninth.