Double Play: End is Near for Struggling Mets Pitcher Vargas

Mark Lathrop

Tuesday, May 8, 2018 11:29 AM UTC

Tuesday, May. 8, 2018 11:29 AM UTC

Our MLB handicapper, Mark Lathrop, looks at two pitching matchups that have value on Tuesday evening. One because of bad pitching, and one because of good.

2018 MLB Record: 51-34-4, +16.93 (1 pending)

New York Mets (18-15 SU) @ Cincinnati Reds (8-27 SU)Free MLB Pick: Reds F5 RLBest Line Offered: 5Dimes

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We may be witnessing the end of a career with Jason Vargas and the Mets, as his terrible second half of last season with Kansas City has carried over into his first two starts in 2018. Most of his problem has been getting hit hard, and his hard-hit rates have steadily climbed since last July – from a 27.7% rate at that point in the season to a 38.2% rate now. As a result, his HR/FB% have climbed in step with the increase in hard contact, from a super-low 5% to his current rate of 20.7%. One of the things I’ve noticed that is the velocity between Vargas’s fastball and his change-up has compressed to about a 7 mph difference. That would be a reason that he is getting squared up more often than not.

Luis Castillo will have some positive regression to do to earn the -142 moneyline he is currently getting pitching for a team that is 8-27 SU. That could be in store, as his 4.00 xFIP is much lower than his 7.01 ERA, and that indicates some bad luck. My issue with Castillo and this matchup is that if he isn’t topping out above 96 mph, the Mets have some good hitters of the fastball. Their performance against Homer Bailey on Monday aside, though, the Mets have been cold over the last 2 weeks – ranked 26th in overall offense over the last 14 days coming into Monday night with a .219 batting average. With the Reds ranked 4th in overall offense in the last two weeks and a .268 average, I’ll let my concerns with the Mets fastball prowess slide for now. I’ll fade Vargas here and use a first 5 inning run line to back Castillo and the Reds as one of my Tuesday MLB Picks.

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Six hits in nine innings. Nice. @GeorgeSpringer pic.twitter.com/4HGOwuS7cs

— Houston Astros (@astros) May 8, 2018
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Houston Astros (13-21 O/U) @ Oakland Athletics (17-15 O/U)Free MLB Pick: Under 8Best Line Offered: BetPhoenix

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Two of the better pitchers in the American League get to face some of the colder offenses lately in Oakland’s Sean Manaea and Houston’s Lance McCullers Jr. Manaea is coming off of a loss in which I faded him against the Seattle Mariners, but he has much better numbers against the components of this right-handed heavy Houston lineup. He has a stellar 1.27 BB/9 rate and a 3.38 FIP on the season over 49.2 innings pitched. He’s faced the Astros this season and put up seven innings of shutout baseball in an 8-1 win just two weeks ago. There are only 3 Astros with OBP’s over .400 against lefties on the Astros roster, and two of those players are catchers.

Oakland will face the right-handed McCullers Jr., who will be glad that the Athletics are averaging 3.0 runs per game and a .208 average against righties in their last seven games coming into Monday night. McCullers has a 3.03 FIP on the season over 41 innings pitched and a nifty 10.76 K/9 rate. The A’s strikeout at a 24.4% clip, so expect Lance to be able to keep up that rate on Tuesday night. Like Manaea, McCullers pitched seven shutout innings against the A’s just about two weeks ago. I’ll hold to the trends here and take Under 8 in this game as one of my Tuesday MLB Picks.

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