Well, that was certainly not the start I was looking for last night. Steven Wright, who has historically baffled Orioles’ hitters with his knuckleball, served up some batting practice for the O’s last night. Wright was touched up for four home runs and eight earned runs all in 1.1 innings of work. Wright’s knuckleball simply wasn’t knuckling and some powerful Orioles’ bats took dead aim at the green monster in left field and teed off on the veteran. Picks like this are going to happen throughout such a long MLB season, and it just so happens it took place immediately on my first pick of the season. I’ll shake that off and move forward with tonight’s Free MLB pick.
Season Record: 0-1 Units: -1 unit
Tampa Bay Rays vs. New York Yankees
MY PICK: RAYS (+126) *Risking 1 unit to win 1.26 units*
With my second pick of the season I will take aim at another AL East matchup, this time between the New York Yankees and the visiting Tampa Bay Rays. We will see a couple of right-handers toe the rubber tonight at Yankee Stadium as the Rays will send Matt Andriese to the hill while the Yankees counter with youngster Luis Severino. While both of these pitchers were touched up in their first starts of the season, I believe it is Severino who will be on the wrong end of things once again tonight.
In his brief MLB career, Severino has had all kinds of trouble keeping the ball in the yard, especially in the hitter-friendly confines of Yankee Stadium. Severino has surrendered 1.67 HR/9 to left-handed hitters at home, and interestingly that number has shot up to an unsightly 2.25 against right-handed hitters. This means that Severino actually has reverse splits, which is even worse at Yankee Stadium. It certainly appears that the left-handed hitters hit very well against him and have found the short porch in right at a nice clip, but right-handed bats have crushed his offerings and taken him deep to left field even more. He has allowed home runs on 20% of the fly-balls induced to lefties while righties have found the seats on 24.1% of the fly-balls they have hit against him at Yankee Stadium. Interestingly, Severino’s ground ball percentage in his career approaches 50%, however he is clearly very prone to the long ball, which is not a good thing in a home ball park like this. Compounding matters is the fact that this Rays offense hit 216 home runs last season which was the fourth-most in the American League and the sixth-most in all of baseball. Considering their home park of Tropicana Field not friendly to the home run ball, it’s not a surprise to see that the Rays hit the fourth-most home runs in all of baseball on the road last season.
Andriese was touched up for four earned runs in just four innings in his season debut, however he will take on a depleted Yankees offense tonight. The Yanks were already without breakout star Gary Sanchez, and now they will likely miss Brett Garner for tonight’s game after he was involved in a nasty collision in yesterday’s contest. Andriese crafted a solid 3.42 FIP and 3.80 xFIP against right-handed hitters last season, giving him a serious edge on Severino in that department. He struck out hitters on both sides of the plate over 20% of the time last season and kept the ball on the ground over 50% of the time against right-handers on the road. His home run numbers against are nowhere near as gaudy as Severino’s, giving him the advantage here in almost every category I have seen.
The Yankees offense is looking very thin and Severino appears to have serious long ball issues at home, which doesn’t look good against one of the league’s best in terms of hitting the ball over the fence. Give me the Rays tonight as road underdogs in New York.