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 Thursday.
Despite the current standings of the two participants, we think that the road underdogs hold value Thursday night when Jimmy Nelson and the last place Milwaukee Brewers (24-43, 13-19 away) pay a visit to fellow right-hander Jeremy Guthrie and the first place Kansas City Royals (37-25, 20-111 home) for the second of two games from Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, MO at 8:10 ET in a game televised nationally on FOX Sports 1.
The posted money line at Pinnacle Sports has Milwaukee as a road underdog for this contest at current odds of +133.
Royals Have Taken First Three Games
The Royals are the reigning American League Champions after ending a 29-year-old playoff drought last season, but the oddsmakers were apparently not impressed while setting a posted win total of just 81½ for Kansas City before this season. The Royals are apparently set on proving that last year was not a fluke while seeking their first division title since 1985, as they currently lead the American League Central by 3½ games over the surprising Minnesota Twins.
This is the final game of a four-game home-and-home series, and Kansas City has been the winning MLB pick in all three games so far, further burying the Brewers in last place in the National League Central, already a full 20 games behind the first place St. Louis Cardinals even before the official start of summer! The dismal start for Milwaukee cost former manager Ron Roenicke his job as he was replaced by Craig Counsell last month.
Guthrie is the Weakest Link
Still, this is one game where the Brewers have a real shot at an upset vs. Guthrie. The biggest concern for the Royals before the year was starting pitching after James Shields bolted for the San Diego Padres as a free agent, thrusting the immature Yordano Ventura into the ace role and hurting the depth of the rotation. And Guthrie has been almost without question the weakest link of the rotation thus far.
Guthrie comes off of a couple of seasons where he posted decent mainstream stats, winning a career-high 15 games in 2013 and following that up with 13 wins last year, but he out-performed his peripheral numbers in both of those years and as oftentimes happens, he has regressed to the point where his mainstream stats are more closely lining up with his sabremetric stats this year…and the results have not been pretty!
Guthrie has gotten enough run support to go 4-4, but he sports a ghastly 5.79 ERA and 1.52 WHIP, which is more of what you would expect from a pitcher that combines poor command numbers with a terrible 3.99 strikeouts vs. 2.77 walks per nine innings with a very low groundball rate of 35.7 percent. Add in allowing 1.52 home runs per game and Guthrie is third to last among all qualified starting pitchers with his dreadful 5.51 FIP.
Future is Bright for Nelson
Now, Nelson does not have great numbers on the surface either as he is 3-7 with a 4.60 ERA, although even that high ERA is more than a full run lower than Guthrie’s. But that is besides the point, as Nelson has the raw stuff to be a big winner in the Major Leagues once he learned to harness his control, which currently has him issuing 3.45 walks per game.
The 26-year-old Nelson has had some nice moments this year when he has kept his walks in check, as he may have one of the best power sinkers in the game, a pitch that just might lead to a long, successful career. That sinker has averaged 93.1 MPH this year while unbelievably topping out at 96.4 MPH, which is actually faster than his best regular fastball this year which was 95.7 MPH!
Because of that unique pitch, Nelson combines a nice strikeout rate of 8.04 per nine innings with a groundball rate of 49.8 percent, which is excellent for a strikeout pitcher and is a combination that should win you a lot of games. And remember that this is Nelson’s first ever start vs. the Royals, which should make him doubly tough to hit.
Success with Nelson on Road
Finally, despite his personal record, Nelson has usually been able to pitch well enough to at least give the Brewers a chance to win, and that has manifested itself more on the road where Milwaukee as a team is 5-1 in his last six road starts.
Add this all up and you might be able to disregard the current standings for this game, with Nelson giving Milwaukee good underdog value vs. Kansas City and Guthrie in a nationally televised game on FOX Sports 1 Thursday night.
MLB Pick: Brewers +133