Phillies a Lively 'First 5' Bet Against Mets, Harvey

harvey

Rainman M.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018 1:29 PM UTC

Tuesday, Apr. 3, 2018 1:29 PM UTC

The series opener between Philadelphia and New York was postponed, but the same pitchers will start tonight at 7:10 ET. Will Matt Harvey return to his former self and justify a wager on the Mets?

MLB Tuesday: Phillies (1-2) vs. Mets (2-1)Free MLB Pick: Phillies First 5 MLBest Line Offered: 5Dimes

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Mets starter Matt Harvey (0-0, 0.00 ERA) has been a shell of his former self since 2016. He has dealt with major injuries, including Tommy John injury and thoracic outlet syndrome, both of which required major surgery. Physically and mentally, he has been far removed from the Harvey of 2012 through 2015, who threw a sub-three ERA in each of those seasons. Harvey has had a strong spring training, but it's difficult to derive optimism toward a pitcher's regular season from his preseason performance. In 2016, for instance, experts were raving over how he looked in spring training, but he finished the regular season with a 4.86 ERA.

In 2017, Harvey declined as a pitcher in just about every imaginable way. His velocity declined a couple mph, he struggled with command, and he allowed absurd home run and walk rates. Harvey was inducing fewer whiffs, throwing fewer first-pitch strikes and inducing batters less frequently to chase pitches out of the zone. His stuff was not where it was, nor was his confidence. In order to regain his former self, Harvey has been making changes to his mechanics. He is in a desperate flux and does not seem like a pitcher that bettors should trust.

The Phillies' lineup didn't exactly light up the scoreboard in its last series in Atlanta. But despite the reputation of New York's Citi Field as a pitcher's park, the Phils have enjoyed more success there. Last year, their OPS (on-base plus slugging) was .52 higher in Citi Field than in Atlanta. Last season, they faced Harvey twice and achieved six runs in 9.2 innings. Second baseman Cesar Hernandez has been the most dangerous, producing a .364 BA in 11 at-bats against Harvey. This season, he is enjoying a .308 BA so far.

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Ben Lively (0-0, 0.00 ERA) starts for Philly. His weakness is throwing glove-side, which has destroyed his numbers against left-handed batters, who love when a pitch that is meant to work them inside stays out over the middle of the plate. However, Lively has gotten away with this weakness against New York, whose left-handed batters struggle against the curveball and sinker, which are easily Lively's two favorite breaking pitches against left-handed batters. Since 2017, Mets left-handed batters rank 23rd in BA against the curve and sinker in 464 combined at-bats against those pitches. The Mets haven't been productive against Lively. In 46 career at-bats against him, Mets batters have produced three RBIs and one home run. Last season, Lively's ERA was just less than 3.00 in two starts, totaling 12.1 innings, against the Mets.

Lively, a rising prospect in his second year, does a lot well. Most notably, he has good command of his fastball, which is his most frequent pitch, and doesn't walk a lot of batters. He is also great at inducing fly balls, doing so at a 38.2-percent rate last year. Last year, the Mets were at their worst against fly ball pitchers with an OPS .98 lower against them than against ground ball pitchers.

The Phillies have strong dog value on our MLB odds board, led by a rising pitcher with a successful history against his opponent's lineup. The Mets aren't reliable chalk with Harvey, who has been struck with injuries that have knocked out some of the MLB's finest in recent years, such as former all-star pitchers Josh Beckett and Chris Carpenter. The Phillies' bullpen has struggled and makes me want to stick to a "First 5" play in our MLB picks.


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