Two Strong Pitchers Duel in Indians-Orioles Series Opener

Rainman M.

Friday, April 20, 2018 11:57 AM UTC

Friday, Apr. 20, 2018 11:57 AM UTC

Baltimore opens up a four-game series hosting Cleveland on Friday at 7:05 p.m. ET. The Orioles have had a disastrous start to the season. Is there any source of excitement left in Baltimore?

Cleveland Indians (9-7, 5-11 O/U) at Baltimore Orioles (5-13, 8-10 O/U)Free MLB Pick: First Five 'Under'Best Line Offered: BetPhoenix

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It is easy to want to bet the 'over' here because both lineups are batting nearly .300 against each respective starting pitcher. But MLB bettors need to consider when those statistics were accrued and the degree to which each pitcher has recently developed himself.

Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer (1-1, 2.25 ERA) is not the same pitcher as the one with a career 4.30 ERA. His ERA in the second half of last season was 3.01 whereas it was 5.24 in the first half. Bauer has faced the Orioles once since transforming. In that start, he achieved a 2.84 ERA in 6.1 innings pitched. Compare this performance to when he got shelled in his previous start against Baltimore in 2016, giving up five runs in four innings. In the 2016 catastrophe, he threw his slider 2% of the time. In the 2017 matchup, the reborn Bauer threw his slider 16% of the time. Bauer's change in pitch selection is important because he is throwing his best pitches most frequently. In the 2017 game, Baltimore did not hit his slider a single time.

This year, Bauer his throwing his slider 20% of the time with perpetually lethal results: Opponents are hitting .087. Because they have to brace for the slider, they are less able to prey upon his other pitches. Bauer's most frequent pitch is the fastball, and the opposing BA against his fastball is down over .100 from last year, and he induces more whiffs with it. There is a 12 mph difference between his fastball and slider. So his emphasis on the slider enhances the perceived velocity of his fastball, which makes it difficult for batters to catch up with it. Mechanically, Bauer is dropping the vertical release point of his pitches, which has made his pitches extra difficult to track for right-handed hitters. This year, righties are batting .189 against him, which is important because all of Baltimore's top hitters, except for the slumping Chris Davis, are right-handed.

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Baltimore's Dylan Bundy (0-2 1.40 ERA) is extra reliable when fresh, meaning with extra rest and in April. In his career, his April ERA is 1.60. Bundy is dangerous because of the quality of his stuff. This year, he is getting more batters to chase pitches outside the zone and fewer of them are making contact. His stronger numbers this year aren't just an April thing, though, but represent a continuation of his improved success with the slider last year. His July ERA last year was 8.41 while he was having trouble locating his slider, throwing it in the middle quadrant of the strike zone 17% of the time. In August, he did so only 11% of the time while throwing it more frequently. He could more consistently hit the lowest part of the strike zone. When he got rocked by Cleveland in June 2017, he was not the same pitcher that he was in August. This year, he is continuing to be strong with his slider, throwing it over 25% of the time and inducing an awesome 35% whiff rate with it.

Bundy is winless because he has gotten an average of 1.70 runs in his four starts. Lack of run support is a consistent theme for Bundy in our MLB picks: the 'under' is 1-6 in his last seven starts with a total set between 7 and 8.5. Overall, the 'under' is 8-1-1 in the teams' last 10 meetings and 5-1 in Baltimore home games. Baltimore's bullpen is bottom-ranked and must scare bettors from the full game 'under.'

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