MLB Pick Influenced by Strong Offense in Pirates vs. Tigers

Mark Lathrop

Monday, April 11, 2016 12:09 PM GMT

Our handicapper analyzes the first game of this home-and-home interleague series between the Tigers and Pirates. Read on as he gives the best MLB betting angle in this Monday afternoon tilt.

Two teams that have come out to hot starts meet on Monday afternoon, as the Pittsburgh Pirates (4-2) travel to the Detroit Tigers (3-1) in an interleague matchup at Comerica Field. Both starters recorded no-decisions in their first outing, and Justin Verlander for Detroit and Jon Niese for the Pirates look to get in the win column.

Detroit is just a slight favorite at BetOnline on the moneyline at -114, and the run line of -1.5 backing Detroit pays a rich +177 at Heritage. The O/U total can be found at two numbers, 8.5 at Heritage and 9 at Bookmaker.

Season Start Overview
After spending 10 years with the New York Mets organization, Jon Niese had an underwhelming start with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Although Niese recorded 7 strikeouts, he allowed 5 runs (4 earned) on 5 hits in 5 innings pitched. The good news is that he only walked one batter. Walks are not much of an issue for Niese as he is an extreme ‘pitch-to-contact’ type pitcher.

Last season’s 91.9% contact rate for Niese’s pitches in the strike zone was one of the highest in the league. That means that the seven strikeouts that Niese recorded against the Cardinals are likely an anomaly, and we shouldn’t expect that performance to repeat itself in the future.

 

Verlander And The Tigers
For Justin Verlander, getting back to form after an injury plagued 2015 campaign is tops on Detroit’s to-do list. But at age 33, we shouldn’t expect him to return to the dominance he exhibited in his 2010 and 2011 campaigns. Although he did pitch very well down the stretch in 2014, Verlander’s velocity still is in decline, and he averaged just 91.4 MPH on his fastball in his first start in 2016.

This drop in velocity requires Verlander to rely much more on location and not high heat, so he is more apt to get lit up from time to time or get bit by the walk bug. In his first start in 2016, Verlander struck out 5 batters, gave up 1 HR and 3 hits, walked two, in route to allowing 3 earned runs over 6 innings pitched.

 

Pirates vs. Tigers
The Pirates have won on the back of some decent offense in their first week, with all eight of their starting hitters hitting .250 or more. Detroit is even better, and although they don’t have the depth of success that the Pirates have at the plate, they do have five players hitting over .313 over their first 4 games. For both teams, it is the top of the lineup that is hitting best – the usual suspects such as Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, J.D. Martinez, and Andrew McCutchen.

 

Weather Issues
A big story this last week, and every year it seems like, is the weather in Detroit. It postponed Sunday’s game against the New York Yankees, so the Tigers should be well rested for this game. Why the MLB doesn’t schedule every opening week in the south or in domes is beyond me at this point. Although it will be a little chilly on Monday, the weather does not look to be a factor in this game.

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Final Analysis
Pittsburgh’s offense was clicking to start the season, before stagnating over the weekend in Cincinnati. The Tigers' offense never stopped hitting, and have put up 4 or more runs in each of their games. Their lineup should feast on the strike-throwing style of Jon Niese, so I expect them to put up 4 or more runs tomorrow as well.

That leaves the wildcard being Justin Verlander, who I still wouldn’t trust at the moment. I’m taking the offenses and over 8.5 runs in this game at Heritage as my Monday MLB pick.

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Free MLB Pick: 'Over' 8.5 (-115)
Best Line Offered: at Heritage