Nationals in Classic Letdown Spot vs Diamondbacks

Rainman M.

Friday, April 27, 2018 12:08 PM UTC

Friday, Apr. 27, 2018 12:08 PM UTC

Washington commences a three-game series tonight against Arizona at 7:05 ET. The Nationals are heavy favorites to win at home, but a couple of key trends explain why they are not the right play.

Arizona Diamondbacks (17-7) at Washington Nationals (11-14)Free MLB Pick: Arizona RLBest Line Offered: BetPhoenix

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Arizona comes rolling into tonight's game with 11 wins in its last 14 games. Six of those wins came on the road. One could say that the Nationals are also entering with a bang after blasting San Francisco 15-2. It might be intuitive to bet on the Nats after they looked so great Wednesday and because they finally get to return home after a long road trip. But consider the following two trends: dating to 2017, in the first home game directly ensuing a series played on the road, the Nats' run-line record is 0-7. Second, also dating to 2017, after a double-digit victory the Nats' RL is 1-6, with the one run line hitting against the lowly Reds. Of those seven games, the Nats lost four of them.

If you don't like the heavy RL chalk, Arizona +1 (instead of +1 1/2) is playable at certain sportsbooks. You could reduce the amount of money to be risked in order to compensate for that chalk. Or, you could play Arizona ML at + odds, which is a high-value play. Arizona is worth an investment not just because of the aforementioned trends.

Diamondbacks starter Zack Godley (3-1 3.09 ERA) is either enjoying a career year or a typically strong start to the season. He is at his best in April and May. His career FIP (like ERA, but factors out luck) in March/April is 3.15. Godley is inducing fewer swings but a higher rate of contact, meaning that batters are foolishly thinking that they are getting a hittable pitch. He is forcing soft contact at a seven percent higher rate than his career average and keeping the ball on the ground at a rate five percent above his career average.

The key for Godley is his curveball. Batters are hitting .175 against it and missing the pitch with their bats 18% of the time. Like his two-seam fastball, it shows downwards movement which helps him achieve ground balls. He releases both pitches from identical vertical points, which makes batters unsure which pitch is approaching them until it's too late.

The D'backs are averaging 5.9 runs in their last six games. Right fielder David Peralta is 4-for-11 in his last three games. Paul Goldschmidt is coming off a 3-for-5 performance and will try to achieve consecutive multi-hit games for the second time this week. Both hitters lead Arizona in batting average and bat well over .300 in their respective careers against Washington starter Stephen Strasburg.

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Strasburg (2-2 2.97 ERA) seems like he's doing well, but is not. His FIP, 4.27, is worse than it was in any season. His strikeout rate is down and he is allowing a higher rate of home runs. His main problem is his fastball. Before this season, his fastball usage exceeded 50% in 19 of his past 20 months. This season, it rests below 50%. Opponents are slugging over .600 against it, whereas they had never done so over .460 in in any season. He is struggling to command his fastball. This struggle is manifested in the variance in his vertical release point. In the five games he has pitched this year, this variance amounts to .43, compared to .30 over the course of five games to conclude last season when he was his usual dominant self. He is not comfortable throwing his favorite pitch and is consequently unreliable.

The Nats' bullpen constitutes another major disadvantage. It is ranked sixth-to-last in ERA, while Arizona's leads the MLB and will help secure a winning wager in our MLB picks.

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