Strong Pitching Advantage Gives Giants Betting Edge vs Angels

Saturday, April 21, 2018 7:10 PM UTC

Saturday, Apr. 21, 2018 7:10 PM UTC

The Angels close a three-game series hosting the Giants at 4:07 ET. The Giants can work their way closer to .500 with the help of their starting pitching.

San Francisco Giants vs Los Angeles Angels

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Free MLB Pick: San Francisco 1H RLBest Line Offered: at Heritage

San Francisco's Johnny Cueto (1-0, 0.45 ERA) is enjoying a strong rebound year. In 2017, he had suffered with blisters and his performance was affected by plaguing injury. His ERA was 4.52 and he was walking over three batters per game.

This year's Cueto is healthy and reliable again. He is looking more like his usual self. The rate at which he is inducing ground balls and the percentage of his pitches that are landing in the strike zone are both closer to his respective career average. The former improvement tends to signify comfort with mechanics. Cueto's walk rate is below a walk per nine innings, he has yet to allow a home run and his FIP (like ERA, factors out luck) is down 2.50 from last year.

The interesting aspect of Cueto's renaissance is that his location isn't any more difficult than it was last year. In fact, he is throwing his pitches at a higher rate in the middle quadrants of the strike zone, where batters typically look to achieve the most damage. The difference is that, this year, he is getting away with doing so. Last year, against pitches in four of the nine middle quadrants of the zone, hitters were slugging over .700. This year, they are not slugging over .700 is any quadrant. Cueto is walking fewer hitters because he has regained confidence in his stuff. He doesn't have to be afraid of throwing strikes so he is aggressively attacking hitters. They are still making contact, but barely. The opposing soft contact percentage is up 12 from last year. One example of an improved pitch is his slider. He has eliminated some of its vertical movement in order to better disguise it and make it harder for opponents to track.

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Rookie Jaime Barria (1-0, 1.80) counters for the Angels. The 21 year-old already made his MLB debut-- on April 11th in Texas. Barria had a very fortunate performance, which is masked by his ERA. His FIP of 6.94 shows that he actually pitched very poorly. The opponent's BABIP was an incredible .000 over five innings. This stat means that every ball that they put into play somehow found its way to become an out. The one hit that he allowed, a home run, happened to be a solo shot. The most concerning number is that he walked three batters.

Not wanting to trust Barria because of his high walk rate may seem hasty because of the small sample size. But this apparent hastiness works both ways. On the one hand, he could improve that walk rate drastically with just one good performance. On the other hand, he is still sorely inexperienced at the Major League level. I say that Barria needs to prove that he is a worthy member of a starting rotation and that he can command his pitches before he is trusted with betting money.

There could hardly be a stronger difference between both starters: Barria is young, inexperienced and unproven. Conversely, Cueto is a proven veteran showing strong form.

Watch out for Giants infielders Joe Panik and Brandon Belt. Panik leads the Giants with a .273 BA and Belt is third with .255. Their hitting numbers are incessantly deflated by playing in a very pitcher-friendly ballpark. But both are left-handed batters and slug in their career much better against right-handed pitchers. So they match up well against Barria and will help the Giants win the first five innings in our MLB Picks.

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