Mariners-Astros MLB Picks: Can McHugh Continue His Streak of Winning Starts in Houston tonight?

Mark Lathrop

Saturday, May 2, 2015 3:07 PM GMT

Houston looks for its ninth win in a row on Saturday night versus the visiting Mariners. Our handicapper analyzes all of the streaks coming into this game while making his MLB Pick.

The Houston Astros look to push their winning streak to nine games Saturday night, the third game against the Seattle Mariners in a four game series in Houston. If Houston can win, it would tie their best 24 game start to a season in 35 years. There were a total of five home runs hit in last night’s game and Houston outblasted the M’s 3-2 in that statistic, which was enough to put them over the top 4-3 for the win. Jose Altuve had another multi-hit game, and if he does so again tonight, he will break the Astros’ record for longest streak of games with more than one hit with ten. The line opened with Houston favored on the money line at -148, but that line has tightened up overnight. The total on the MLB betting odds opened at 7.5, but quickly moved to 8 as the over attracted early bettors.

In my sabermetrics article discussing the Astros, I found that their offense had enough strength to pull a streak like this off, but I was down on their pitching as their 4th and 5th projected starters were replacement level at best. One of those starters has already been sent to AAA, replaced by long reliever Deduno who pitched last night. Tonight’s starter, Collin McHugh, put up an impressive 3.2 WAR in 2014 seemingly out of nowhere. Projection systems figured that McHugh was ready for regression back to his career averages and a 2.3 WAR in 2015. That regression just hasn’t happened, and now McHugh is going for an impressive tenth start in a row that Houston has won, picking up 1 WAR already this year (in line with the likes of Felix Hernandez). The last time McHugh took a losing decision was July 27th of last season!

Since that last July loss, there is a clear delineation that McHugh has shifted his pitch mix and started using his slider more in lieu of his fastball.  

Date

Fastball

Slider

Curveball

Changeup

Before

49.3%

22.6%

22.7%

4.9%

After

33.6%

38.3%

23.2%

4.8%

Pitch statistics courtesy of fangraphs.com

I don’t know what the pitching coach said to McHugh, but it was seemingly “throw your slider more and you’ll turn into Felix Hernandez”. Pure genius! Now it will take more than six months of baseball to see if MLB caliber batters can adjust to his change in pitching. If they can’t, Houston has an all-star caliber pitcher basically making league minimum for the next 5 years – a very hot commodity indeed.

After a shaky start to the season, Seattle starter Taijuan Walker turned it around with a solid outing versus the Astros on April 21st. In that game he struck out 8 in just 5.1 innings, while only giving up one run. His next outing was even better, pitching seven innings of shutout ball at Texas while getting tagged with an unearned run. His fastball was electric, touching 96 with movement, and his changeup off of that pitch was deadly. It was the type of performance that scouts had in mind when projecting the Mariners rotation to be able to put up an 87 win season.

The MLB Pick: I am firmly against the public betting the over and expect these pitchers to continue their streaks of good outings. The winning team would be hard pressed to score 4 runs against either pitcher, which is why I am leaning towards under 8 runs in this game for my Saturday MLB pick.