JD’s Pick & Methodology
In recent years there has been no more relevant rivalry to the MLB than that between NL Central foes, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals. The injury-riddled Pirates are looking to fend off a sweep and one would expect manager Clint Hurdle to pull out all of his tricks, in order to salvage an ever-important division game.
Acquired this offseason in a deal that saw the Pirates send second baseman Neil Walker to the New York Mets, Jonathon Niese has recovered quite well after stumbling out of the gates. The crafty left-handed pitcher is coming off a dominating performance at PNC Park, against his former team (the New York Mets). In fact in his past five starts, Niese has accumulated a 3-0 record with an elite 1.74 ERA (Earned Run Average). If Niese can establish control of his fastball, getting the ball inside to right-handed hitters, it will be difficult to imagine the Cardinals getting multiple runs on the board.
Albeit still early in the season, the Cardinals have struggled considerably against left-handed pitching, sporting a paltry: .243 BA (Batting Average), .386 SLG (Slugging Percentage) and .708 OPS (On-Base Plus Slugging). Comparatively the Cardinals have the following slash-line against right-handed pitchers: .276 BA , .481 SLG and .826 OPS.
Mike Leake is by no means a strikeout pitcher, known primarily for his ability to induce weak contact from opposing hitters. In fact amongst eligible MLB starting pitchers, Mike Leake ranks amongst the lowest in “Whiff Rate” or the percentage of swing and misses induced by a pitcher. The Cardinals’ defense is not playing at the elite level that MLB fans have come to expect over the past few years. If the Pirates are able to put the ball in play, with their speed, expect them to be able to pile-up quite a few runs.
Although it is difficult to pick against a Cardinals team, especially in the back-drop of the Pirates’ injury concerns; starting pitching is the single most important element in selecting a winner and ultimately dictates this wager. The line is currently Pittsburgh (-108), meaning a $40 bet would pay-out a profit of $37.04.
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Foreward & Editing By: Thomas L. McLaughlin