Padres’ Starter Is Your Best Friend in Finale vs Cardinals

Rainman M.

Saturday, May 12, 2018 6:43 PM UTC

Saturday, May. 12, 2018 6:43 PM UTC

The Padres close a four-game series vs the Cardinals on Sunday at 4:10 ET. The Padres are a horrible team, but they have a terrific advantage in starting pitching which justifies two plays on this game.

St. Louis Cardinals vs San Diego Padres

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Free MLB Pick: Padres 1H & 1H 'Under'Best Line Offered: at BetOnline

Veteran starter Adam Wainwright (1-2, 3.45 ERA) returns from another DL stint. Manager Mike Matheny is staying loyal to this franchise icon and thereby enhancing his reputation as someone who places too much trust in veterans. Dating to last season, his FIP (like ERA, but factors out luck) has been higher than 4.50 in four consecutive starts.

Waino has been a shell of his former self. A tall man at 6“7, he traditionally uses his height to pitch from a higher vertical release point with downwards momentum. In 2018, he has lost drastic height from his vertical release points. Another struggle is with endurance. In 2016, his last healthy full season, his average fastball velocity remained above 90 mph in every inning. This year, his fastball averages less than 90 mph in the third and fourth innings. Moreover, his sinker is losing "sink." In 2016, he managed until the ninth inning before his sink lost as much average vertical movement as it does this year in the third and fourth innings. Moreover, the vertical movement of his change-up is fluctuating wildly. He isn’t comfortable enough to repeatedly deliver his pitches let alone maintain their typical quality. So he’s struggling with command, walking more than two batters per nine innings above his career average. When he isn’t walking batters, he’s allowing more homers. Because he is struggling to locate his pitches, he tends to throw them in the same spot, making him more predictable. In 2016, there were only two spots which he hit more than 6% of the time. This season, there are five such spots.

San Diego’s Clayton Richard (1-5, 5.72 ERA) is worth backing at home, where his career FIP is 1.08 lower than on the road. Richard’s sinker and slider combo makes him a perfect fit for San Diego’s climate. Against the Mets and Nats, he allowed a combined two runs in the first five innings. Against the Rockies and Brewers his FIP was under 3.00. When he faced the Cards last September, he shut them out through six innings. Except against local rival San Francisco, Richard is a confident commodity through five innings at home.

Richard matches up well with St. Louis as a left-handed ground ball pitcher. The Cards are batting under .210 against both kinds of pitchers. The Cards rely disproportionately on power. They rank 20th in runs scored but 12th in homers, which makes them ill-suited for San Diego’s pitcher-friendly ballpark. In five home starts, Richard has only allowed a homer at home to San Fran.

The southpaw is at his best against left-handed batters, but yields a respectable 3.80 FIP against right-handed batters. He’s enjoyed success against St. Louis’ top right-handed hitters. Tommy Pham, Jose Martinez, Paul DeJong and Marcell Ozuna, the regular hitters who lead the team in BA, are combined 3-for-22 with one double against Richard. The Cards rank 24th in BA against the sinker and slider thrown in Richard’s preferred bottom two rows in the strike zone and dead-last (.083 BA) against the same from left-handed pitchers.

The former reliever is reliable through five innings at home. He is more reliable than Wainwright, who is in many aspects a mess and is not worth laying chalk with. Despite the latter’s struggles, he’s adequately avoided too much damage. Plus, the Padres are, as usual, struggling to produce runs and their lineup’s current legacy is San Diego’s 1H ML record of 0-5 in Richard’s five home starts. But the Padres face an easier test in Wainwright. Freddy Galvis, for instance, is 5-for-13 with two doubles and a homer against Waino. He’ll help Richard over the hump through five innings in our MLB Picks.

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