Series Preview: Mets @ Pirates

Series Preview: Mets @ Pirates

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Photo: Keith Allison

New York Mets (19-26) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (22-26)


GAME 1

Jacob deGrom (3-1, 3.56 ERA) vs Chad Kuhl (1-4, 5.85 ERA)

Time: Friday – 7:05

 

The Pirates were originally scheduled to face Zach Wheeler, Tommy Milone, and Matt Harvey. Unfortunately, there was poor weather in New York last night, so the Mets decided to push deGrom back a day to ensure his start would not be shortened. Now instead of missing the Mets ace, they are stuck with facing him in the series opener.

Jacob deGrom was originally a shortstop in college. During his junior year, his coach designated him as the teams starting shortstop, and the teams closer. deGrom eventually made the move to the starting rotation once his team had suffered a multitude of injuries. The decision to turn deGrom into a starting pitcher obviously paid off dividends for deGrom and the Mets.

deGrom features a 5 pitch repertoire, a career ERA south of 3, and a weirdly written last name. His 5 pitch repertoire has allowed him to get 15.3% swinging strikes this year, which is the third most for a starting pitcher in the league. He has absolutely devastating stuff, and it is very unfortunate that the Mets decided to push him back a day to face us. deGrom has a 1.38 FIP against the Pirates over his career. This will be, without a doubt, the Pirates biggest challenge this series.

Chad Kuhl is coming off a solid performance against the Phillies. He allowed just one hit over 5 innings and struckout 5 batters. By xwOBA, he had the 14th most dominant start of any pitcher this year. I obviously still think Kuhl is due for a breakout season, and he showed why last time out.

Even with the Mets best pitcher on the mound, the Pirates are actually early favorites in this one. Maybe Vegas agrees that the Pirates still have a chance at the playoffs?

 

 


GAME 2

Zack Wheeler (3-2, 3.74 ERA) vs Gerrit Cole (2-5, 3.36 ERA)

Time: Saturday – 7:15 (FOX)

 

A Gerrit Cole vs Tommy Milone matchup was poised to be the mismatch of the year. But unfortunately for the Pirates, Tommy Milone was place on the DL with a sprained left knee.

Zack Wheeler missed all of the 2015 season with an elbow injury, and pitched exactly one inning in 2016. Usually coming back from Tommy John surgery, the last thing to fully return for pitchers is their command. He never had great control, but this year he is walking 10.9% of the batters he faces. That is 13th worst for qualified starters. You never know what you are going to get with Wheeler, as in 3 of his 8 starts he’s walked just as many batters as he has struckout. He’s coming off a start in which he walked 5 and struckout 5, and hopefully thats the Wheeler the Pirates will get to face.

Gerrit wasn’t so great last time out, but that’s OK. It was his first time giving up more than 2 runs since April 9th. He can’t be perfect every time out, but hopefully he manages to get things back together in this start. The only Met that has given Cole trouble throughout his career is Jay Bruce. However, Michael Conforto, Neil Walker, Curtis Granderson, Lucas Duda, and Asdrubal Cabrera have all been swinging a hot bat lately. Conforto and Duda really crush right handed pitchers, and well… you already know what Neil Walker brings to the table.

 

 


GAME 3

Matt Harvey (3-3, 5.36 ERA) vs Tyler Glasnow (2-3, 6.69 ERA)

Time: Sunday – 8:00 (ESPN)

 

The Dark Knight will take on the Pirates on Sunday. ESPN will be in town for Sunday Night Baseball, in what could be a high scoring game. Matt Harvey is not even close to being the player he was just a few years ago. Last season, Harvey posted a 4.86 ERA. The three seasons prior to that, he didn’t have an ERA above 3 in a single season. He is walking nearly twice as many batters compared to his career average, and his strikeout rate has also plummeted to a career low. David Freese, Francisco Cervelli, Josh Harrison, Andrew McCutchen, Jordy Mercer, Gregory Polanco, and Chris Stewart have all seen Harvey throughout their careers. However, Harvey is such a different pitcher now, it’s pointless to look at their history.

Tyler Glasnow has now pitched 3 quality starts in his last 5 outings. Though his recent starts have been an improvement, they still haven’t been very pretty. He’s still walking over 11% of the batters he faces, and has a 5.72 FIP over his last 5 starts. I’m not sure the Mets will be Glasnow’s biggest enemy in this one, I think it might be ESPN. I don’t like accusing players of being headcases, but I think Glasnow may be a headcase. I hope he doesn’t let the attention that ESPN brings get to his head.

The Pirates are now just 4 games back in the division. Right now, they have just an 8.8% chance to make the playoffs. But, their offense has picked it up these last couple games, and a series win against the Mets will certainly help their chances of making the playoffs as the Mets are also fighting for a wild card spot.

Series Preview: Pirates @ Braves

Series Preview: Pirates @ Braves

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Photo: Arturo Pardavila III

Pittsburgh Pirates (20-24) @ Atlanta Braves (18-23)


GAME 1

Gerrit Cole (2-4, 2.84 ERA) vs Mike Foltynewicz (2-4, 4.10 ERA)

Time: Monday – 7:35

 

The Braves have a new ballpark this year, and a mediocre team to celebrate it with. Their pitching rotation is about as mediocre as they come. Earlier in the year, the Pirates sweeped the Braves scoring 5 runs, 6 runs, and 6 runs again. This Pirates offense isn’t a powerhouse, so them averaging 5.5 runs against the Braves tells you all you need to know.

Mike Foltynewicz lasted just 3.2 innings in his game against the Pirates earlier this year. There is not much reason to believe he will do much better, given he has a 4+ ERA and a FIP to match.

Gerrit Cole has been on an absolute tear. He has a 1.96 ERA over his last 7 starts and he looks much like his 2015 self. With that said, he does have a career FIP of 3.84 against the Braves, but the Braves are without their best hitter, Freddie Freeman. I expect him to keep the train rolling tonight.

The Pirates are favorites in this one. They are -140 if you’re in Vegas, or 58% if you’re not.

 


GAME 2

Tyler Glasnow (2-3, 7.34 ERA) vs RA Dickey (3-3, 4.13 ERA)

Time: Tuesday – 7:35

 

RA Dickey is the second oldest pitcher in the league. At 42 years old, few can have success in the big leagues. He has managed to find some success with the help of his knuckleball. Watching Felipe Rivero hit 102 is awesome, but few things are more mesmerizing than a good knuckleball. There has been some research on knuckleball pitchers, and there seems to be a hangover effect. Pitchers that come in after knuckleballers have better numbers than if they would come in after a ‘normal’ pitcher.

R.A.-Dickey-knuckle

 

Tyler Glasnow has been incredibly inconsistent. The Braves offense is impatient, which means that they may not be able to lay off Glasnow’s pitches out of the zone. The new Atlanta ballpark is playing like a big hitters park, but Glasnow has been able to limit hard contact. I am optimistic that he will be able to go at least 5 innings in this one.

 


GAME 3

Trevor Williams (2-3, 6.04 ERA) vs Julio Teheran (3-4, 5.47 ERA)

Time: Wednesday– 7:35

 

Julio Teheran is the Braves ace. But, he has a 5.47 ERA, and has struggled quite a bit this year. Last year he walked 5.4% of the batters he faced, this year that has nearly doubled to 10.5%. The Pirates are a very patient team, so hopefully they can take advantage of that in this one.

Trevor Williams last two starts have been much better than his first. He has been unable to miss bats, though. If you don’t miss bats, hitters will find ways to get lucky like they did in his last start. He did give up very weak contact, so as long as he doesn’t give up rockets, his lack of swinging strikes may not be a huge deal.

 


GAME 4

Ivan Nova (4-3, 2.63 ERA) vs Bartolo Colon (2-4, 6.38 ERA)

Time: Thursday – 12:10

 

RA Dickey is the 2nd oldest pitcher in the league. Bartolo Colon is the oldest at 44 years old. He has been surprisingly productive the last few years, but has hit quite a wall this year. Last year he hit one of the most bizarre home runs of all time, and if you haven’t seen it, I recommend clicking that link.

Ivan Nova is as steady as they come. There is no reason to expect anything less than an excellent start from him in this one. In his first start against the Braves, he thew 6 innings of shutout ball.

Series Preview: Phillies @ Pirates

Series Preview: Phillies @ Pirates

Photo: Keith Allison

Philadelphia Phillies (14-24) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (18-23)


GAME 1

Jeremy Hellickson (4-1, 3.71 ERA) vs Trevor Williams (2-2, 6.41 ERA)

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.

 


GAME 2

Vince Velasquez (2-3, 5.63 ERA) vs Ivan Nova (3-3, 2.48 ERA)

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.

 


GAME 3

Aaron Nola (2-0, 4.50 ERA) vs Chad Kuhl (1-4, 6.69 ERA)

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%.

Series Preview: Nationals @ Pirates

Series Preview: Nationals @ Pirates

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Photo: Keith Allison

Washington Nationals (24-13) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (16-22)


GAME 1

Stephen Strasburg (3-1, 3.28 ERA) vs Chad Kuhl (1-3, 5.81 ERA)

Time: Tuesday – 7:05

 

Following two straight wins, the Pirates will have to face the hottest team in baseball. They have the best record in the NL at 24-13, and are 20-10 over their last 30 games. Stephen Strasburg has been a key part of their success. This season, he has the lowest FIP in their rotation at 2.82. You might remember him from his major league debut, the one in which he struckout 14 Pirates over 7 innings while walking 0 batters. Since then, he’s had some issues with his health. He’s undergone Tommy John surgery, and has had issues with his neck and back in the past. Regardless, Strasburg has dominated the Pirates since his debut.

I just wrote about why I think Chad Kuhl is going to breakout. With that said, this one is going to be a challenge for him. The Nationals are first in runs per game, at 6.05. The next highest National League team is 0.72 runs lower! In this game, I will be looking at Kuhl’s command and pitch selection to see if either are the reasons he hasn’t had a better season.

Vegas, predictably, likes the Nationals in this one. They have them at -170, or 63% favorites.


GAME 2

TBD ( ERA) vs Gerrit Cole (1-4, 3.06 ERA)

Time: Wednesday – 7:05

 

The Nationals don’t currently have a pitcher scheduled to start this game, so, I can’t give a rundown of how good he is. NEXT.

Gerrit Cole is healthy again, therefore, he’s an ace again. The team obviously hasn’t supported him, though. He’s getting the 7th least amount of run support in the league, which has helped carry him to having 1 win less than Tony Watson.

A TBD pitcher for the Nationals is a good thing, the Nationals rotation is very good and having to face a pitcher not normally in the rotation bodes well for Gerrit’s run support chances. Gerrit has a 2.85 FIP against the Nat’s over his career.


GAME 3

Tanner Roark (3-1, 3.88 ERA) vs Tyler Glasnow (1-3, 7.98 ERA)

Time: Thursday – 12:35

 

Tanner Roark was drafted in the 25th round in the 2008 draft. Anytime you draft someone in the 25th round and they become a major leaguer, you did a great job. Roark has been more than just a guy, though. Over 619.2 career innings, he has a 3.08 ERA. He is a good pitcher, but one that the Pirates can certainly beat…

… if Tyler Glasnow wasn’t on the mound. Glasnow has obviously had a bumpy year. His ERA is sky high, his FIP and xFIP are better, but still not good. He is now 6th in BB%, behind guys like Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez. He has started to throw more strikes, but he has started to throw them down the middle. Throwing strikes is good, but throwing hittable strikes is not. He obviously has good stuff, and is tough to hit. But anybody can hit a middle-middle fastball. In this game, I’ll say Bryce Harper gets at least 3.5 HR+BB. Would you take the over or under?

This season the Nationals have the best run differential in the league at +56. The Pirates have the fourth worst at -38. With that said, Vegas thinks the Nationals have a 57% chance to win the series. What do you think?

Series Preview: Pirates @ Marlins

Series Preview: Pirates @ Marlins

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Photo: Corn Farmer

Pittsburgh Pirates (9-12) @ Miami Marlins (10-10)


GAME 1

Adam Conley (0-1, 3.00 ERA) vs Jameson Taillon (1-0, 2.13 ERA)

Time: Friday – 7:10

 

The first game of the series has Adam Conley going up against Jameson Taillon. Taillon is coming off the worst start of his season. He started the game going 5 scoreless but could only record one out in the 6th and ended up giving up 4 runs in the inning.

The Pirates outfield gets a lot of praise for being one of the most athletic outfields from around the league. However, the Marlins aren’t far behind. Stanton, Ozuna, and Yelich are all very good, young outfielders.

David Freese remains out of the lineup. Today makes it day 4, if he has to miss tomorrow as well I wouldn’t be surprised if they DL him.

The Marlins are favorites in this game, barely.


GAME 2

Dan Straily (1-1, 3.92 ERA) vs Ivan Nova (2-2, 2.00 ERA)

Time: Saturday – 7:10

 

Game 2 will have former Cincinnati Red Dan Straily taking the mound against Ivan Nova. Straily has posted big time numbers in AAA but so far has struggled in the MLB. Down in AAA he manages to strikeout guys at a high rate, but his stuff hasn’t play nearly as well in the MLB. However, this season he is striking out 29% of hitters. The vast majority of his strikeouts actually came in his last start, where he managed to strikeout 14 batters against the Padres.

Ivan Nova is in a bit of a funk right now. He’s currently on a 1 walk game streak. Pretty pathetic.


GAME 3

Tom Koehler (1-1 5.14 ERA) vs Chad Kuhl (1-2, 6.63 ERA)

Time: Sunday – 1:10

 

Chad Kuhl was pretty bad last time out. The Cubs dominate him, as shown by his .471/.541/.863 slash line against them. I’m very interested in seeing this one, though. There were some signs that Kuhl was becoming quite a good pitcher before his 9 run implosion.

Tom Koehler is not very good. There’s not much else to say other than the Pirates offense could really boost their stats after this one.

Vegas has the series odds at even. I think the Pirates have a good chance at a sweep here, though.

Series Preview: Yankees @ Pirates

Series Preview: Yankees @ Pirates

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Photo: Keith Allison

 

New York Yankees (10-5) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (6-9)


GAME 1

Tyler Glasnow (0-1, 12.15 ERA) vs CC Sabathia (2-0, 1.47 ERA)

Time: Friday – 7:05

 

Tyler Glasnow returns to the mound to face the red hot Yankees. The Yankees are averaging 5.5 runs per game, which is a whole 2 runs more than the Pirates are averaging. Of course, the Yankees have the benefit of using a designated hitter, but in this series they will have to play by the National Leagues rules. The Yankees are 10-5, which is good, but they have one 9 of their last 10. They are one of the hottest teams right now and just swept the Cardinals, who swept us.

This week, I released an article on how Tyler Glasnow’s control problems haven’t been entirely his fault. I think as long as he doesn’t lose a lot of strikes on wrong calls, he could open up some eyes.

CC Sabathia is 36 years old and after a few bad seasons may have a reputation as a bad pitcher. But that isn’t true anymore. He has completely revamped his approach by throwing his sinker and cutter at a much higher rate than before. Righties still hit him better than lefties, and the Pirates will roll out 7 righty hitters in this one.

Vegas has this game at a pick’em with a 8 run total. If Vegas thinks Glasnow will keep it together, he probably will.


GAME 2

Jameson Taillon (1-0, 0.90 ERA) vs Michael Pineda (2-1, 3.44 ERA)

Time: Saturday – 4:05

 

Jameson Taillon continues to impress this season. He also continues to get no run support. A 0.90 ERA in three starts and only one win is not ideal.

Michael Pineda is an interesting case of when advanced statistics don’t always work. Over the last two seasons, his FIP has outperformed his ERA by 1 point. At some point, something has to give. Either Pineda is an outlier when it comes to FIP regressing towards ERA, or there is something missing. Pineda has a tendency to give up a lot of hard contact, so that might be his biggest issue. Either way, Pineda has the stuff to dominate us, but he also has the mentality to lose it at any moment.


GAME 3

Ivan Nova (1-2, 2.25 ERA) vs Jordan Montgomery (1-0, 4.22 ERA)

Time: Sunday – 1:35

 

Ivan Nova has put up good numbers this year, despite giving up a lot of contact. He has limited his walks to a staggering ZERO. The contact hasn’t been a problem thus far, but eventually it will certainly become one. The lack of swings and misses this year will play against him when he gets into trouble.

Jordan Montgomery is the second lefty the Pirates will face this series. His projections have him being a mid 4 ERA pitcher and his scouting report isn’t much more optimistic than that. He excelled at limiting the long ball in the minors, but the Pirates aren’t exactly power hitters so it’s unlikely to effect them much.

Given the matchups this series, I think the Pirates could easily win this series. They need to, they can’t afford to fall far behind the Cubs and the Cardinals.

Series Preview: Pirates @ Cardinals

Series Preview: Pirates @ Cardinals

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Photo: Keith Allison

 

Pittsburgh Pirates (6-6) @ St. Louis Cardinals (3-9)


GAME 1

Lance Lynn (0-1, 5.23 ERA) vs Ivan Nova (1-1, 2.25 ERA)

Time: Monday – 7:05

 

Both teams in this matchup are coming off of a sweeped series. The Pirates were the sweepers and the Cardinals were the sweeped. The Cardinals have the worst record in the NL at the moment, and a series win here could be huge for the Pirates.

Ivan Nova will take the mound against the Cardinals in the opening game. On the surface, Nova’s numbers are very strong. He’s managed to not walk a single batter all season, which is great, but he’s not missing many bats either. He only has gotten 3.4% swinging strikes this season, compared to 9.4% last season. He’ll start getting into trouble if he can’t miss bats.

Lance Lynn missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2015. So far this season his results have been poor, but he has pitched against two very good offenses in Washington and Chicago.

Vegas has the Cardinals as slight favorites in this one. They have the Pirates at 44% chance to win. This game will be televised on ESPN.


GAME 2

Mike Leake (1-1, 0.60 ERA) vs Chad Kuhl (1-0, 2.38 ERA)

Time: Tuesday – 8:15

 

Chad Kuhl has pitched well thus far, especially for being the fourth guy in the rotation. His second game of the season was much more impressive than his 6 walk debut. So far this season he has really crushed right handed hitters, while lefties have a .364 wOBA against him. Being a sinker/slider guy, lefties are something that will likely bother him all year. The Cardinals will likely try and get as many lefties into their lineup as possible.

Mike Leake came to the Cardinals in 2016 and posted a 4.69 ERA. That is not ideal, but he looks like a different pitcher this year. He has thrown his cutter twice as much this year as he did last year, and the results have been good thus far. He’s gone from striking out batters 16.5% of the time, to 24.5% of the time. The increased use of his cutter may have turned him into a stud, or maybe the 29 year old veteran has just had a flukey start.


GAME 3

Michael Wacha (1-1, 3.00 ERA) vs Gerrit Cole (1-1, 5.29 ERA)

Time: Wednesday – 1:45

 

Gerrit Cole had his best start of the season last time out against the powerhouse Chicago Cubs. I wrote that his success hinged on his slider, and his slider was working for him. He got 5 swing and misses on his slider which helped him strike out 20% of the batters he faced. He also has used his changeup more frequently, which could definitely aid him in his struggle against lefties.

Michael Wacha has dominated the Reds lineup, and done poorly against the Yankees. Health has been his issue in the past, but when healthy he is a solid pitcher. He actually performs worse against same handed hitters, so the Pirates right handed heavy lineup could do well.

 

I don’t see this series being a sweep, and I think this game will decide the series winner. This one could be huge confidence booster for Gerrit and the Pirates. If it ends up being a sweep in the Pirates favor, a 3-12 start would be one hell of a hole for the Cardinals to climb out of.