MLB schedule today has 2 games
The American League took center stage all alone yesterday, but the National League will have the spotlight on Monday. Both of today’s playoff games come from the Senior Circuit after the Sunday off day to split up the two leagues for TV purposes. What that means is that the Braves and Dodgers enter today having only played one game since October 1.
It has been the talk of social media as well, specifically in the Phillies/Braves series, where Atlanta fans are lamenting the layoff and Philly fans are pointing out how Ranger Suarez had to start Game 1. Getting to set up your rotation is a benefit, but not playing for six days seems like a detriment, as the teams that had byes are now 1-5 through six games in the Division Series.
Last season, both NL teams (ironically, Braves and Dodgers) with a bye lost, while the two AL teams (Astros, Yankees) advanced. The Astros were one out away from losing Game 1 when Yordan Alvarez hit a ball to Mars off of Robbie Ray. They eventually swept the series. The Yankees won in five over Cleveland, who had to get two Cal Quantrill starts in the series.
To the games we go…
VSiN Daily Baseball Bets will be out shortly.
Here are some thoughts on the October 9 card (odds from DraftKings):
(odds as of 9:00 a.m. PT)
The early game of tonight’s twin bill features the Phillies and Braves. Because of the day off Zack Wheeler actually gets to come back on a little bit of extra rest in Game 2. Wheeler was terrific against the Marlins in Game 1 of the Wild Card Round with 6.2 innings of one-run ball. He allowed five hits and struck out eight with no walks.
As I’ve mentioned before, there is a high correlation between pitch velocity and success. There has been a really fascinating discussion from Brent Rooker, losers behind a keyboard, and MLB analysts about the value of velocity and how much harder it is to hit. Rooker pointed out that 97 right down the middle is harder to hit than 92 on the corners and keyboard warriors who have never seen anything over 80 tried to discredit the point. Analysts backed it up with data.
All of this to say that Wheeler, who averaged 96 mph with the fastball this season, reached back for a little more and sat 96.8 mph with the heat in that Marlins start. The Braves, like all teams, have issues with velocity. While they are better than most in that department, the Braves finished the regular season with a .424 SLG against pitches of 96+ mph. Rob Thomson talked about it after the Game 1 win.
That still ranked second in the league behind Seattle, but the Braves slugged .501 as a team overall. Philadelphia’s velo, especially coming out of the bullpen, was a huge weapon in Game 1 and it should be again here with Wheeler. Wheeler has also emerged as a playoff stud with a 2.55 ERA and a 2.59 FIP in seven starts over 42.1 innings and has been a stud in the regular season as well.
This will be the 11th playoff start and 19th playoff appearance for Max Fried, who has a 4.43 ERA with a 3.67 FIP over 61 innings. Fried was very good during the regular season, but he was limited to 14 starts due to injury and will be coming back from a blister in this appearance. Fried’s last MLB start came on September 21 and that was nine days after his previous start, so rust could be a hugely significant factor in this game.
Fried was up around 75 pitches in a sim game last week and reported no blister issues, though the Braves did put a wrap on the finger to help him get up to his target pitch count. The Phillies were sixth in wOBA at .356 and posted a 123 wRC+ against lefties over the final two months of the regular season.
This is a spot where I’m not going to overthink it. I wanted to bet the series price here if the Phillies were down 1-0 and I didn’t get that chance, but I certainly want to back Wheeler. The same lingering questions about the Braves exist that did for Game 1. Some of their relievers knocked off some rust, but they’ve played one game in the last eight days. Say what you will about the benefits of setting up your rotation, but not playing actual games is a detriment. It’s too hard to stay sharp.
I’m on the Phillies today.
Pick: Phillies +136
The Brewers had Zac Gallen on the ropes early in Game 2 of the Wild Card series, but let him off the hook and ultimately lost the game. They still won the 1st 5 innings 2-1, so that bet came through, but Gallen stranded men on the corners after allowing two runs and didn’t give up another run.
That said, Gallen only wound up with four strikeouts over six innings and only nine whiffs in 43 swings. He allowed a lot of hard contact on the fastball and curveball, which have been problems as we’ve gone throughout the season. As I mentioned heading into the playoffs, Gallen allowed a 49.4% Hard Hit% with a 10% Barrel% in the second half. He only allowed four hard-hit balls in his Wild Card start, but three walks and had the low strikeout numbers. He faces a much taller task today against the Dodgers, who have seen a lot of him and are simply a better lineup than Milwaukee.
Gallen was able to get those first postseason start jitters out of the way, a luxury not yet afforded to rookie Bobby Miller, who gets the call here for the Dodgers. Miller has a pretty easy act to follow, after future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw didn’t even last an inning in Arizona’s offensive outburst during Game 1. I had Dodgers -205 and Diamondbacks Under 17.5 Total Runs coming into the series, which look like awful wagers at this point.
The 24-year-old right-hander finished the regular season with a 3.76 ERA, 3.45 xERA, and a 3.51 FIP in 124.1 innings of work. He got a vote of confidence from manager Dave Roberts in September when he said that the kid had secured a rotation spot, which wasn’t really in question, but still had to be a big moment.
Most pitchers experience an uptick in velo in the postseason because they aren’t holding anything back. They aren’t trying to keep their bodies healthy through the regular season anymore. Miller already sits 99.1 mph with the fastball, so we’ll see how much more he can ramp it up. Arizona is one of the best teams in baseball when it comes to strikeout avoidance, so that is the biggest angle to this game in my opinion.
I think a lot of people will look at a pitcher like Gallen, who had a 3.47 ERA, 4.18 xERA, and a 3.27 FIP and think this line is a little too high against a rookie like Miller, but the underlying concerns I’ve had about Gallen keep me from that mindset.
I don’t have a play in this one, though. While Gallen allows a lot of hard contact, the Diamondbacks are a very good defensive team and that has saved him at various points this season. Also, he located well enough in that last start to limit hard contact and I’m confident that Brent Strom and the staff will have a good game-plan here.
We’ll see if the Dodgers can climb back into the series or if another NLDS disappointment starts knocking on the door. The same concerns about the Braves can be said about the Dodgers here, as they’ve played one game in eight days and the bullpen is certainly rusty, along with timing being a factor for hitters. So, that could factor into the equation.