Photo: Keith Allison
Philadelphia Phillies (14-24) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (18-23)
Time: Friday – 7:05
The Phillies are quite possibly the coldest team in baseball. They are 2-8 over their last 10 games, and 5-15 over their last 20. The Pirates are coming off a series win against the hottest team in baseball, so anything less than a series win against the Phillies would be a huge disappointment.
Jeremy Hellickson is a fascinating pitcher. A boring pitcher, but a fascinating one. He has managed to beat his FIP by 0.47 points over his 1000+ IP career. This year, he has a 3.71 ERA that mimics his ERA from last year, but this year he has a terrible 5.65 FIP compared to just a 3.98 FIP last season. He doesn’t strike out batters. In fact, no starting pitcher strikes out less than him. He has only managed to strike out 10% of the batters he’s faced. He is nothing special, and the Pirates should destroy him.
The Pirates should destroy Hellickson. But the Phillies could destroy Williams. His last start against the Diamondbacks was a massive step up compared to his previous start against the Dodgers in which he only lasted 3 innings. Hopefully the Pirates get bad Williams and not bad Williams.
The Pirates are slight favorites in this one at -125, or 56%. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pirates are favored in every game this series.
Time: Saturday – 4:05
In 2015, the Phillies had a shutdown closer named Ken Giles. Before the 2016 season started, they traded Ken Giles to the Astros for 5 prospects in a controversial deal. Closers are typically seen as valuable-but-not-really-that-valuable. The Astros are atypical in that they think Ken Giles is very valuable. So valuable, they decided to trade former Pirates 1st round pick Mark Appel, Brett Oberholtzer, Harold Arauz, Thomas Eshelman, and Vince Velasquez for him.
Vince Velasquez has a 5+ ERA and a 5+ FIP. He strikes out a ton of batters, and the Pirates rarely strike out. Velasquez looked much better last season than he has so far this year, and I expect the Pirates to utilize their patience to their advantage in this one.
Ivan Nova has walked or hit 4 batters in his last 12.1 IP. Before that, it took him 54.1 innings to walk or hit 4 batters. That is still elite, but it shows that lately he has lost some of his control. The Phillies swing at pitches in the zone 64.5% of the time, which is more aggressive than most teams. As long as Nova has command of his pitches, he could throw a CGSO. If he leaves pitches out over the plate, the Phillies won’t hesitate to swing.
Time: Sunday – 1:35
Aaron Nola’s 2016 was feast or famine. He had 7 starts in which he gave up 1 run or less, and he had 8 starts in which he gave up 4 runs or more. His last start came on April 20th, and his velocity was down 1.5 mph. He was then placed on the DL, and he is scheduled to make his first start back against the Pirates. Hopefully the Pirates can take advantage of a rusty Nola.
The first start after my Chad Kuhl breakout prediction didn’t go so well. The Nationals are incredible, and one start is just one start, so I’m not concerned. He hit 100 against the Nationals, but had no command. The stuff is clearly good enough, but hitters crush pitches that miss their spots. He missed his spot plenty last time out. The Nationals are more unforgiving than the Phillies are, so Kuhl has much more room for error. I like Kuhl in this one to bounce back.
The Pirates are favored to win the series at -150, or 60%.