MLB Picks: Top Value On McCullers & Rangers Against Astros

Friday, May 20, 2016 2:00 PM GMT

Prior to my analysis of a winning selection on the Texas Rangers as our “MLB Dog of the Day”, I thought a bit of perspective might be in order for the first 25% of the season.

Has a new batch of baseballs been put into play in recent days? It sure would appear to be the case based on the increased scoring of late following a low scoring April. One might expect that bump in scoring to continue as the batting OPS is now .729 (equal between leagues). That is a significant jump over previous seasons. 

There are other changes to the regular patterns of a normal MLB season. Following play on Thursday, May 19th, home teams are just 294-289 (50.4%). 50% of the MLB teams have winning records on the road. On Thursday, home teams went 5-6 while favorites went 9-2. One statistic from Thursday’s action that stayed true to the YTD form was that 9/11 games were decided by 2 or more runs. That fits the pattern that has now seen more than 72% of MLB games decided by 2 or more runs this season. 

The main reason for this increase is that 211 of 301 (70%) of games won by the home team were by 2 or more runs. That is 4% higher than the 7 year average of 66%. That is certainly puzzling in light of the fact that home teams have won just 50% of the games. As always, I will keep an eye on all these trends in an effort to determine how they impact MLB results. Now onto our “Dog of the Day” with the Texas Rangers!

This season, I have periodically written about the fact that the Astros #10 batting OPS of .739 and #15 bullpen OPS of .684 clearly belies the 16-24 start of Houston this season. A near 90 win season was predicted for the Astros after they had improved dramatically in each of the previous 4 seasons. If you are looking for blame, consider a starting rotation that has performed well below expectations. As these proven arms round into form, or are replaced by younger more proficient ones, I do expect the Astros record to gradually reach the .500 mark.

One of the contributors who can help with that improvement is tonight’s starter McCullers. He was outstanding from this mound last season where in 11 home starts, he went 4-1 with a 1.95 ERA. It is out of respect for that record that I limit the rating on this play. But considering McCullers 1st start (he was on the DL the first 6 weeks with a sore shoulder) and his history, a strong performance from this mound is far from a given. In 4 2/3 IP of his first start, he allowed 5 runs on 7 hits in an 8-7 loss to Boston. He pitched twice last year against Texas working only a total of 7 innings allowing 9 runs on 12 hits, losing both.

Far prefer the series dominator as dog with the more proven starter. The Rangers have won 11/13 against the Astros including all 3 this season. Lewis has been going deep into games, a positive sign considering the Rangers 29th ranked bullpen has a .869 OPS. Lewis has yet to lose this year with a 2-0 record and 3.12 ERA, the lowest it has been since after his 2nd start.

With a strong history that looks conspicuously like the Rangers dominance of the Astros, we find that in his last 12 starts Lewis is 9-1 vs. the Astros with a 2.71 ERA. He has won his last 8 decisions against them. The line on this game has jumped from Houston -30 to -150 on MLB odds providing plenty of value for this series dominator with superior starter as underdog, so we'll take the Rangers as our MLB pick.

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Free MLB Pick:  Rangers +132
Best Line Offered:  at YouWager