MLB Picks: Pitching Matchup Gives Giants an Good Early Edge

Ty Blach

Tuesday, June 13, 2017 4:47 PM GMT

The Giants and Royals have been two of the most disappointing teams so far this season, especially in terms of offensive production. But things are changing. The Giants put up thirteen runs in their victory against the Twins on Sunday while the Royals put up twenty in their last two victories against the Padres. Both lineups, however, face a stout obstacle, as the Giants and Royals will each send a high-quality pitcher onto the mound.

Introduction

Both lineups have begun progressing to their numbers from last season. The Giants’ OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage; average is .730) was .631 in April but it is already .784 in ten games in June. Giants’ right fielder Hunter Pence is part of the progress as he finally broke out of his post-DL slump. On Sunday he went 3-for-5 with two RBI’s. Giants’ catcher Buster Posey has also been productive. He went 3-for-5 with four RBI’s on Sunday to bring his BA up to .341 on the season. The Royals, meanwhile, have been slugging with impressive power. They have hit eight home runs in their past two games. Royals’ first baseman Eric Hosmer has been particularly effective as he is 4-for-9 with five RBI’s in his past two games to bring his BA up to .314.  Current Royals have only three career at-bats against the Giants’ starter Ty Blach. But the Giants are more familiar with Vargas. Despite being shut down by Vargas amidst their April slump, current batters are producing a very respectable .268 BA and .782 OPS against Vargas. Second baseman Aaron Hill is 4-for-11 with a double and two home runs.

 The Starters

Jason Vargas (8-3 2.18 ERA) will be looking to replicate his performance from last April against the Giants: he gave up four hits and zero runs in seven innings. However, while the Giants have been in much better hitting form in June, the same cannot be said of Vargas, whose FIP (this is like ERA, but factors out lack) was less than 4.90 just once in his last five starts. The reason for his drop in effectivity is his struggle to maintain an adequate velocity. Decrease in velocity was present in every one of his bad starts this season. As he has recently struggled with velocity with higher frequency, he has had more low-quality outings. In his last outing vs Houston, the velocity of his pitches dropped to their lowest points all season: his sinker dropped from an 86.51 mph average in May to 85.97 in June; his curve dropped from 73.10 mph in May to 72.17 mph in June and so on. This velocity drop was reflected in his poor performance: his FIP was only 4.90 FIP. So not only is Vargas a different pitcher in terms of his form and velocity, but this time he will pitch in San Francisco, whereas in April he shut the Giants down in Kansas City. Vargas’ career home FIP is 3.69, but only 4.85 on the road. In 2017 we are already seeing the same: his FIP is 2.87 at home but only 4.01 on the road. Vargas is a left-handed finesse fly ball pitcher. The Giants have been improving against southpaws and finesse pitchers. For example, on Sunday they faced left-handed finesse pitcher Nik Turley and tagged him for four runs in four innings. The key match-up detail, though, is that the Giants are at their best against fly ball pitchers, with a .715 OPS.  The Giants have a history of success against Vargas because they match up well against him. I don’t expect the Giants to put up thirteen runs again. But I do think that their momentum continues at home against a pitcher that they are familiar with and who is struggling to be effective. 

Ty Blach (4-3 3.64 ERA) counters for the Giants. He had a rough outing in Milwaukee’s hitter-friendly ballpark. But he is in much better form than Vargas and is especially effective at home. His FIP on the road is 4.69 but at home it is only 3.38. In three of his last five home starts, his FIP was under 3. He matches up well against the Royals as a finesse ground ball pitcher. The Royals are really missing the loss of Kendrys Morales and Jarrod Dyson from their lineup as both were superb at hitting finesse pitchers and left-handed pitchers. This season, the Royals’ OPS is only .682 against southpaws, .675 against finesse pitchers and .660 against ground ball pitchers. I expect an in-form Blach to pitch well against the Royals.

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The Verdict

The Giants enjoy a lineup in equally strong form as that of the Royals but they also have a starting pitcher who is in vastly better form. In addition, Blach matches up well against the Royals’ lineup and should out-perform Vargas on our MLB picks.

Free MLB Pick: Giants First 5 ML (-112)
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

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