Each day LT Profits Sports seeks an overlay side that has a better chance of cashing than its spread, offering long term value. Here is their Side Value Play for Friday.
The current standings and the reputations of the starting pitchers could be misleading Friday night when Jordan Zimmermann and the preseason favorites to win the World Series the Washington Nationals (31-29, 15-17 away) pay a visit to fellow right-hander Mike Fiers and the last place Milwaukee Brewers (23-38, 10-20 home) for the second game of a four-game series from Miller Park in Milwaukee, WI at 8:10 ET in a game available on MASN2.
The posted money line at Pinnacle Sports has Milwaukee as a small home favorite for this contest at current odds of -109.
No Longer in First Place
For all the hype surrounding the Nationals before the season with supposedly the best starting rotation since sliced bread, Washington is just two games over .500 thus far and three losses in four games this week had dropped the Nats to second place in the National League East, one-half game behind the upstart New York Mets. Washington began this week with two losses to the Yankees in the Bronx before salvaging the final game of that series Wednesday.
Then the Nationals were losing MLB picks to the last place Brewers 6-5 in the series opener here last night, blowing an early 5-1 lead. Then again, Milwaukee has been playing much better baseball lately as it comes off of winning back-to-back series for the first time this season and it has now won five of its last seven games overall.
Fiers Better Than His ERA…
Fiers does not appear to have good numbers on the surface for the Brewers as he is just 2-6 with a 4.06 ERA and 1.55 WHIP. However, it is noteworthy that his ERA was at 5.46 before allowing two runs or less in each of his last six starts, and his peripheral numbers certainly point to him being considerably better than his mainstream stats.
For starters, Fiers has great command numbers with an impressive 72 strikeouts in 62 innings vs. only 22 walks, with that strikeout rate of 10.45 per nine innings ranking eighth in the Major League among qualifies starting pitchers. Also, Fires has pitched in terrible luck allowing a bloated .379 BABIP, so his 3.46 FIP is a better indicator of how he has pitched than the lacking mainstream numbers.
Fiers also shined in his only career start vs. the Nationals, tossing 6.1 scoreless innings and allowing only four hits with nine strikeouts vs. three walks.
…and Zimmermann Not as Good as His?
Zimmermann was expected to be one of three Washington “co-aces” this season along with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, but he is 5-3 and while his 3.18 ERA might suggest that he is actually holding up his end of the bargain without getting too much support, a closer inspection indicates that has not been the case as that ERA is better than it should be.
For starters, Zimmermann has a low strikeout rate with only 5.86 per nine innings, and he does not compensate for that by getting a lot of groundballs as he has a weak groundball rate of 39.0 percent. That makes Zimmermann the polar opposite of Fiers from a sabremetric perspective, as he has actually not pitched nearly as well as in his first few years in the Major Leagues as indicated by his pedestrian 4.25 xFIP.
Zimmermann was not sharp in his last start vs. the Chicago Cubs on Sunday, allowing four earned runs on 10 hits plus two walks in just five innings with three strikeouts.
Not Much Success in Cheese-Head Country
Finally, besides being two games below .500 on the road at 15-17, the Nationals have not had much success in Milwaukee in recent years as the win by the Brewers in the series opener last night leaves them at 19-9 in the last 28 head-to-head meetings at Miller Park.
Given the peripheral profiles of the starting pitchers tonight, look for that home success to continue as Milwaukee and Fires get the best of Washington and Zimmermann on Friday.
MLB Pick: Brewers -109