King Felix is as hot as a pitcher can get coming into tonight's matchup at home versus the Boston Red Sox. Our handicapper looks at advanced statistics to assess just how well Felix is pitching this season and gives his MLB Pick.
After two low scoring affairs in a row between these two teams; both ending in 2-1 scores and resulting in a win for each side, the Boston Red Sox and Seattle Mariners meet on Saturday night in Seattle for what looks like more of the same. The main reason for this is, of course, that King Felix is on the mound for the Mariners, which by the way are being favored tonight by the MLB betting odds makers. Going for the Red Sox is the former Detroit Tiger, Rick Porcello, who signed a 4-year $82.5 million dollar extension that will keep him in Boston through 2019. The money line behind King Felix has plenty of chalk, currently sitting at -170 at Pinnacle. The O/U total is understandably low as well at 6.5 runs - let’s not forget that King Felix is sporting a 1.85 ERA and has given up less than 3 earned runs in five starts in a row.
The rest of Felix Hernandez’s statistics in this young season are just as impressive: a 6-0 record, 50/8 K/BB ratio, 88.5% Left on Base rate (that’s insane!), .191 BAA, .084 WHIP, and a .244 BABIP. Felix’s career average BABIP is .294 so you would think he is due for regression in that statistic, but last year he sustained a lower BABIP of .258 for the entire season. Even with lower velocity and a fastball around 92 MPH versus the 97 MPH of his youth, the movement of the King’s pitches seems to have increased. This causes any contact a batter can get on him to be poor. The different hit rates on batted balls tell the story, a 56.2% ground ball rate, 27% fly ball rate, and a career high 21.2% infield fly ball rate. Both of the ground ball and the infield fly ball rates are in the top five of all MLB starting pitchers. So, you’ve got a fastball with sink and a changeup dancing all over the place that hitters swing under – a deadly combination.
At 26 years old, Rick Porcello is already in his 7th season in the majors. A common rule of thumb is that the magic age for peak baseball performance is 27 years old. With this in mind it’s not surprising that Porcello is still adding velocity to some of his pitches, such as his slider this year. It may be the different coaching staff with the Red Sox, but the advanced metrics definitely indicate that Porcello is tinkering with his arsenal. The curveball has an extra two inches of movement, the slider has a few MPH more velocity, and the changeup is rarely featured compared to last year. Although Porcello’s early season ERA is sitting at 4.50, he’s pitched well of late. Really, his numbers would be quite good if not for the Baltimore Orioles, who tagged Porcello for a total of 12 runs in back to back starts in April. Porcello has given up only 4 runs over three starts since facing the Orioles in April.
The MLB Pick: While it is hard to pick against King Felix at any time, I’m going to avoid the money line in this game as the Seattle offense has hit one of its patented cold streaks. Felix could pitch shutout ball through seven innings and get a no decision because of zero run support. It’s happened before and will happen again. With Porcello pitching well coming into this game and having a slightly different look than last year I also feel he can get through the Seattle lineup without much damage. Additionally, the bullpens should be well rested behind solid starts on each side the last two games. Add in heavy Seattle air and it is all pointing one direction. Take under 6.5 runs in this game as one of you Saturday MLB picks.