Minnesota’s Starting Pitcher Won’t Need Help from Heaven Against Angels

Saturday, May 12, 2018 4:28 PM UTC

Saturday, May. 12, 2018 4:28 PM UTC

The Angels host the Twins for game three of a four-game set at 9:07 ET. The Angels are heavily favored, but are oddsmakers justly accounting for their disadvantage in starting pitching?

Minnesota Twins (16-18) vs Los Angeles Angeles (23-15)

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Free MLB Pick: Minnesota 1HBest Line Offered: at Bookmaker

You might think me crazy for not backing the "better" team. But Minnesota will win the first five innings tonight with its edge in starting pitching.

Kyle Gibson (1-1, 3.49 ERA) carries upside for Minnesota. His career ERA is .35 higher than his career FIP (like ERA, but factors out luck) after five-plus seasons. Over the course of a pitcher’s career, ERA and FIP tend to align—in other words, luck tends to even itself out. So Gibson is statistically due to get lucky.

But he won’t need much luck tonight. He’s been stronger away from home, with a 2.64 road FIP compared to 3.97 at home. Dating to 2015, he produced a 2.10 FIP or better in his two starts in Anaheim. He’s also entering his career-best month—Gibson has a 3.40 career ERA in May.

Gibson’s FIP is down 1.74 from last season. He’s inducing more than three strikeouts per nine innings and allowing fewer homers. He’s improved his slider by killing its vertical movement and giving it more "slide" so that it better eludes the opposing bat. Opponents’ slugging percentage against his slider is down from .436 last season to .111. He’s also done the same thing to his chang-eup which makes it spend less time hanging over the plate and therefore be more difficult for opposing batters to track.

He loves throwing in the bottom and bottom-rigth quadrant of the strike zone. The four spots which he hits most frequently are in this area. In doing so, Gibson avoids danger and induces more ground balls. The Angels’ batting numbers against ground-ball pitchers are unsustainably higher than last year. According to the metric BA-xBA, which calculates where a team’s BA is relative to where it should be, the Angels are one of the most overachieving teams against pitches in the bottom and bottom-right area of the strike zone. So whereas Gibson has statistical upside, the Angels’ batters show downside.

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The comeback kids in the 9th:

Rosie HR
LoMo 2B
Kepler IBB
Garver RBI single to tie
Wilson sac fly for the lead#TwinsWin pic.twitter.com/XqrRe1ZhZR

— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) 12. Mai 2018

Nick Tropeano (1-2, 3.42 ERA) counters for the Angels. Tropeano returns from a 10-day DL stint due to his shoulder and history suggests that he’ll be rusty. He’s yielded an FIP over 5.00 in the last three outings after more than six days of rest. His career opposing BA after so much rest is .292.

For example, in comparing his last start after a longer break with his most recent one before getting injured, Tropeano threw in the heart of the place twice as frequently, there were twice as many spots where he threw more than 10% of the time, and he relied on one pitch over 60% of the time, whereas in his most recent start he didn’t have to rely on one pitch more than 30% of the time.

Minnesota’s lineup possesses plenty of quantity with which to compensate for injured slugger Miguel Sano. Eddie Rosario had four-straight multi-hit games and a nine-game hitting streak entering into the series opener. Last night, he rediscovered his prowess with a solo homer. Max Kepler had hit a homer and two doubles in his past three games before resting last night. Brian Dozier is finally heating-up. He went 4-for-4 with a double and homer in the serious opener and 2-for-4 with a double last night.

The Twins have one of the worst bullpens in terms of FIP despite not throwing many innings, so I don’t dare back them for the full game. But they are good for a first-five play in our MLB Picks.

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