Point Blank: Yankees vs Mariners Top The Boards for Thursday Night

PB sportsbetting articles

David Malinsky

Thursday, July 20, 2017 3:04 PM GMT

Thursday, Jul. 20, 2017 3:04 PM GMT

A Game of Thrones in Seattle (on an abdication from the past, and a possible coronation in the near future)… 

Point Blank – July 20, 2017 

No, if you are expecting commentary on a current media phenomenon you won’t find it here, but it does provide a good way to dress up breaking down two prominent pitchers on the Thursday MLB odds board.

The current perceptions of the betting markets on each of the two starters in Yankees/Mariners this evening may be a step or two off, presenting us with an abdication from a throne from one side, and if not yet a coronation, at least a visible path of ascension from the other. So let’s get to it. 

Item: A little Richard II to begin the day 

If there is an opening connection to Game of Thrones, why not a little Shakespeare to also blend it in, and the memorable phrasing from Richard II – “For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground, and tell sad stories of the death of kings”, from one of the greatest speeches from the canon of The Bard (for the full version, it is near the end of Richard II, Act 3, Scene 2). 

For our purposes, there is a lot from that to work from, and as I will note often on this page, there is as much Shakespeare as there is Euclid in winning at the betting windows; understanding the various arts of human behavior playing such a key role in the numbers that the sporting scoreboards produce. This is not about the death of a person, but rather the death of a particular status, which with one performer is unfolding before our eyes. 

Felix Hernandez is no longer “King Felix”, and in fact may not rate as any kind of royalty at all right now. But at 5-3/4.20 the markets are not being shown anything earth-shattering at the base level; hence why he has been favored in nine of his 10 starts, with an average lay price of -134 for the full season (Seattle has gone 5-5 in those games). I believe both the W/L tally and the ERA are kind. 

Let’s start with FIP, and show where the Hernandez career arc is trending -  

Hernandez FIP 

Career  3.33 

2016     4.63 

2017     5.17 

His combined two-season mark is 4.75; of the 95 pitchers that have worked at least 200 innings across that span he rates #81. The problem is easy enough to see – hitters are making rather good contact against him. 

To get a proper count, let’s build out a table of pitchers that have worked at least 50 innings or more this season, which brings the 55.2 of Hernandez into play. There are 162 such candidates, and from that list he is #152 in LD% at 24.6, and #160 in HR/FB% at #160. And it isn’t as though his time on the DL refreshed him or lead to a turn in fortunes – in six starts since then he has not had a single game below a 16.0 PPI. 

Hernandez may still be about as savvy as anyone in the sport when he takes the mound, but prior to 2016 it had been 10 straight campaigns of 190 innings or more, the last eight of those topping 200. There is a physical toll that comes with that, and we don’t have to rely on the baseball outcomes to see that, we can look at the raw elements that set the stage. 

In 2009, when Hernandez was 23 years old, he had his most productive season, going 19-5/2.49. That season he threw his fastball 63.1 percent of the time, averaging 95.1 mph. This season? How about 45.9 percent fastballs at 91.3. There is a master’s understanding of the craft inside of his mind, and plenty of guile to attack hitters with. There just isn’t nearly as much stuff. 

There is another reason why I bring that 2009 season into play, and it concerns where we go next… 

Item: It is already time to be liking Luis Severino 

OK, quick quiz – while first promising to not look it up, name the five leading 2017 starters in FIP, of those that have worked at least 100 innings. Your list will start well – Sale, Kershaw and Scherzer are lay-ups. You might even get Corey Kluber. But not many will have Severino pegged. His pitches been that dynamic, yet all the while a 5-4/3.40 bottom line of baseball outcomes hasn’t set off many fireworks. Hence some opportunity in the marketplace. 

In order to survive in the Major Leagues a pitcher absolutely must have at least one of three prime attributes – the kind of stuff that can generate strikeouts; good control to limit walks; and the ability to induce ground balls. When someone is strong in two of the categories they can be good, and when strong in all three there is the potential for greatness. That is what makes Severino interesting. 

Let’s start with velocity because these standings show us why we should –  

2017 Fastball MPH 

1. Severino    97.6 

2. Martinez   96.9 

3. Cole            96.7 

 

Obviously that is a nice tool to begin with, and yes it does correlate to strikeouts, Severino with an upper-tier 10.3 K/9. What can make him truly special is that in addition to that he has command of the strike zone, with a 2.3 BB/9, and is also getting batters to hit ground balls at a 51.5 percent rate when here is contact. When a pitcher averages over 10.0 K/9 and over 10.0 in GB% he has special stuff, and the only other starters maintaining that in 2017 are Alex Wood (11-0/1.56) and Lance McCullers (7-2/3.26).  

To really set an intriguing perspective, let’s go back to that brilliant 2009 of Hernandez, and compare King Felix at 23, to the current Severino, who also happens to be 23 -  

Hernandez    Severino 

FIP         3.09      3.09 

MPH      95.1      97.6 

K/9         8.2       10.3 

BB/9      2.7         2.3 

GB%      53.4      51.5 

SWS%    9.0       12.1 

Now doesn’t it get interesting? Yet Severino does not bring nearly that reputation, largely because of a dismal 2016 at the MLB level, one in which I do not believe the Yankees handled him properly.  

In 2015 Severino was a dynamic 7-0/2.89 at AAA, then more than held his own with the Yankees, going 5-3/2.89 over all late-season starts. But 2016 brought a disastrous 0-6/7.46 opening, which led to a demotion back to AAA, where Severino found his confidence again in an 8-1/3.49 showing. That sort of roller coaster can happen when a guy is only 22 years old. But when called back up there were struggles to find consistency again, the Yankees not helping his rhythm by using him 11 times out of the bullpen, and the bottom line for the season was a 3-8/5.83 muddled mess. Yet for as bad as that looks, xFIP read a 4.04 and SIERA 4.06, which showed the value of some of those key peripherals. 

Do the betting markets see a budding Hernandez in Severino? That buzz isn’t there; they instead see some flashes of potential from a guy still only sporting a 13-15/3.97 career mark. But when I see how good Severino has been in those key case categories, including the rare command of the strike zone for his age and velocity level, he has me searching for Play-On settings. Tonight brings one, with #967 NY Yankees (10:10 Eastern) a fit at -115 or less, though there has been some company in the early Thursday trading. 

Note that is isn’t just the current state of Severino vs. Hernandez that brings a value fit at Safeco, but the way the bullpens lay out – the Yankees have their key cogs all rested and ready for the latter stages, while Edwin Diaz has worked five times over the last six days, throwing 84 pitches, and may not be available for the Mariners (at best carrying a fatigue rating if he does take the mound), while key set-up men Nick Vincent (also off of a five-in-six), and Marc Rzepczynski (off of a back-to-back) carry fatigue ratings. With Hernandez unlikely to go beyond six innings at this stage, the battle of the bullpens may bring a significant edge to the Yankees. 

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