The stars aligned a particular way on Saturday where the MLB odds from sportsbooks yielded a number of contests with starting pitchers with gray hair on their temples.
While none of the six pitchers today throw with the same velocity as five years ago, they all know how to pitch and learned the value of guile to go along with talent. Though none of the hurlers is eligible for a seniors discount at Denny's, if offered a free bowl of soup they would probably take it. Here is what to look from each of veteran pitcher against the betting odds.
Blue Jays vs. Royals: Buehrle vs. Young
Kansas City has won six straight and tries to make seven in a row at Kauffman Stadium and will utilize 36-year old Chris Young (7-4, 2.89 ERA) to try and extend both streaks. After starting 3-0 with a 0.54 ERA in initial home starts, Young has done an about-face and is 0-3 with a 7.71 ERA in his last four home outings. Though he stands 6'10, Young has never possessed an over-powering fastball and was always more of the cerebral type, which is what you would expect from somebody who went to Princeton. No longer much of a strikeout pitcher, the Dallas native keeps the ball down and does not walk hitters which is why his WHIP is 1.01.
Baseball scouts don't even bother using a radar gun with Mark Buehrle (9-5, 3.38), what's the point when your fastball tops out around 83-84 MPH. But this 36-year knows how to effectively use all facets of the strike zone and mixes his slow fastball by using cutters and has this big looping off-speed curve that keeps hitter way off balance. Because of his lack of swift pitches, for years baseball handicappers and those placing MLB picks have looked for decline from this left-hander and just when it looks like he might be, Buehrle fools everyone and is now 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA in his last eight starts.
In the first game of the day, the money line has been jumping around, first Kansas City was a small favorite and now Toronto is. While we are big Buehrle fans, Toronto is 4-12 versus an AL starting pitcher whose ERA is 3.20 or better this season and the Royals are rolling.
Slight Advantage - Young and Kansas City
Cardinals vs. Pirates: Lackey vs. Burnett
On FOX tonight, one of the regional matchups is Game 3 between St. Louis and Pittsburgh. This confrontation is huge because the winner has a chance to take the series 3-1 tomorrow. John Lackey (7-5, 3.09) might be 36 but he can still hit 93-94 MPH on the radar gun with his sinking fastball and slider. The Cardinals are +107 underdogs (+111 at Wagerweb when this article was being assembled) and part of the reason might be Lackey's lack of success on the road with his 4.60 ERA and the Redbirds only 3-5 in those contests.
Cue the Frank Sinatra record for A.J. Burnett (7-3, 1.99), who has announced this is his final season at 38 and is going out in style - My Way. This has been a dream season for Burnett whose ERA is basically half of his career numbers (3.95) and though the season is just half over, his earned average has brought up a name from Pittsburgh lore in Bob Veale, who posted a 1.90 ERA 47 years ago. Burnett has NL-best 1.28 home ERA, yielding two runs or less in all eight outings at PNC Park and since 2013 and has permitted two runs or fewer in six of eight starts versus St. Louis, with a 3-1 record, 1.34 ERA in five starts in the Steel City.
Advantage - Burnett and Pittsburgh
Padres vs. Rangers: Shields vs. Lewis
The 'baby' of today's bunch is 33-year old James Shields (7-3, 3.88), but don't fooled by his youthfulness as few have toiled like he his has with 1,467 innings pitched since 2009. This is third overall with only Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez tossing more. You begin to wonder if all pitches are catching up to Shields as his ERA and WHIP are at their highest point since 2010 and he's already allowed 17 home runs.
In this interleague game with Texas, Shields is 5-1 with a 1.18 ERA in his last eight starts against the Rangers and he will be dueling with Colby Lewis (8-4, 4.83). The 35-year old Lewis has battled shoulder and arm miseries throughout his career, but got off to a brilliant start in 2015, having a 2.40 ERA on May 11th. However, since it has more than doubled as he's conceded 78 hits in only 59 1/3 innings, nine of which have flown over the fence.
For sports picks, Texas is a -120 favorite and both teams have been frigid, as the Padres have dumped six in a row and the Rangers ended their five-game losing streak last night. With Texas 2-11 at home with an on-base percentage of .300 or worse over their last 10 games, the Friars get the call.
Slight Advantage - Shields and San Diego