Are the Miami Marlins actually outperforming the Washington Nationals? The baseball odds don’t think so. But if some of these advanced stats are right, maybe Miami isn’t such a bad bet this Saturday.
Jason's 2015 moneyline record as of Apr. 23: 8-7, plus-0.19 units
Is 2015 the Year of Fading Washington? The Senators have dug themselves a hole in the NL East, and we’ve already profited off their early-season ennui, taking the St. Louis Cardinals (+125 away) in Thursday’s 4-1 win by the visitors. The game went pretty much according to plan; Max Scherzer was good, but so was Michael Wacha, and the Cardinals bullpen took care of the rest. Easy money.
Are we willing to give the Miami Marlins the same support with our baseball picks? They’ve had an awful season thus far, but when we handed out our early-season performance grades for all 30 MLB teams, we couldn’t help but notice that the fine folks at Baseball Reference had given the Marlins a plus-1.2 on their Simple Rating System. That’s a promising stat if we’re going to fade the Nats again this Saturday (4:10 p.m. ET) in Game 2 of their three-game set. Miami’s a +120 home MLB odds underdog as we go to press.
Conveniently enough, Stephen Strasburg (3.05 FIP) is scheduled to start for Washington. Not convenient from a baseball perspective – Strasburg is all kinds of awesome – but when we were breaking down the Scherzer-Wacha matchup, we showed how the Nationals have failed to extract much value from Strasburg over the years. Let’s revisit those numbers:
2012 (2.82 FIP): 19-9, plus-3.50 units
2013 (3.21 FIP): 14-16, minus-8.53 units
2014 (2.94 FIP): 19-15, minus-4.41 units
Strasburg has pitched just fine, even after Tommy John surgery. And as a unit, we can’t blame the Nationals bullpen not cleaning up – they even led the majors last year with a combined 3.05 FIP. Instead, we turn to the batting order, which has been average-to-decent in run production over the last three years. Certainly not worthy of the big chalk the Nats have been carrying around.
Remember that Bryce Harper kid? He shot out of the gate with so much promise in 2012, becoming the youngest position player ever to make the All-Star Game. But things got squirrely after that. Harper still earned NL Rookie of the Year honors, but it’s been diminishing returns ever since. He got hurt a lot, he struck out a lot, and his defense was dodgy.
Let’s not throw Harper under the bus just yet. Plenty of other young players have gone through something of a sophomore slump, and Harper’s early returns in 2015 are promising. His plate discipline is much better, yielding a .420 on-base percentage (huh huh) as we go to press. That’s would be a career-high (huh huh) over the course of a full season. So would his .241 ISO. Maybe things will work out after all.
Fish or Cut Bait
Okay, enough about Washington – let’s turn our attention to the Marlins. Are they really 1.2 runs per game better than league average? Well, credit where credit is due: Miami has played most of its games on the road, including a four-game sweep at the hands of the New York Mets. Who knew they’d be any good this year? Once the Marlins were matched up against lesser opponents in the Philadelphia Phillies, they came to life, outscoring Philadelphia 18-9.
Our preferred MLB pick looks a little shakier with Tom Koehler (6.05 FIP) scheduled to start for Miami. Koehler is 1.31 units in the hole on a team record of 1-2, and he got shelled for seven runs in his last start against the Mets. But that’s a rare outlier among Koehler’s performances since he became a regular starter in 2013. He was a slight money-winner last year at plus-0.99 units with a 3.84 FIP, and that was on a Miami team that went 77-85 (plus-0.02 units). We’ll take our chances with the Marlins as a value pick in this situation.
Free MLB Pick: Take the Marlins at a trusted sportsbook