Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, August 11, 2015 at 7:00 AM
With all due respect to the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Kansas City Royals…it seems pretty clear that the St. Louis Cardinals (71-40) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (47-22 their last 69 games) are the best teams in baseball right now. The Dodgers just got swept in Pittsburgh! That limits their ability to make a case (though their front-end starting pitching will make them a force in October). Kansas City is in the superior league…which earns them respect from us. Still…they’re only 22 games over. 500 for the season while Pittsburgh is 25 games over .500 their past 69 games.
Whatever your personal Power Ratings, it’s very clear that the Pirates and Cardinals are on the very short list of World Championship hopefuls this season. Let’s see what the numbers say about what should be an electric three-game series that begins Tuesday night by the arch…
Pittsburgh: 4.22 runs per game, .320 on-base, .391 slugging
St. Louis: 3.96 runs per game, .320 on-base, .389 slugging
Wait a second…how are the Pirates scoring almost 0.3 runs per game more on virtually identical on-base and slugging percentages? That’s probably due to luck with men on base (either good luck for the Bucs or bad luck for the Redbirds). Going forward, these are likely to be relatively even offenses on the scoreboard. Not quite superpowers…but plenty in front of quality pitching staffs and defenses. No edge for the series…unless you want to trust the Bucs to keep producing with guys on base.
Jeff Locke: 4.31 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 7.0 K-Rate, 5.7 IP-per-Start
Carlos Martinez: 2.57 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 9.1 K-Rate, 5.9 IP-per-Start
The Pirates are so hot lately that they just won Locke’s last three outings even though he didn’t make it to six innings in any of them…nor throw 90 pitches. Imagine how easy winning will be when he starts throwing good games again! Very poor stats on the mound for Locke in the context of what Pittsburgh pitchers are doing this year in front of that defense. Martinez is also having trouble throwing quality starts over the past few weeks, but is also getting run support. Unless Martinez is dealing with a tired arm…he has the edge based on those numbers.
Gerrit Cole: 2.39 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 9.0 K-Rate, 6.5 IP-per-Start
Michael Wacha: 2.92 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 7.6 K-Rate, 6.3 IP-per-Start
Cole still has a shot at 20 wins with a 14-5 record. For now, you have to assume the Pirates are going to keep running roughshod over most opponents. Cole’s been overshadowed in the headlines by Dodgers pitchers. Handicappers know how great he’s been. Of course, Wacha’s thinking about 20 wins too…given his 13-4 record while throwing for a juggernaut. Great pitching matchup in ESPN’s Wednesday night telecast. You have to think about the Under given those stats and the quality of the bullpens.
Francisco Liriano: 3.13 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 10.0 K-Rate, 6.2 IP-per-Start
Lance Lynn: 2.76 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 9.6 K-Rate, 6.1 IP-per-Start
Liriano just had a couple of shaky starts vs. the Dodgers and Twins that knocked his ERA back up over 3.00. Amazing he’s only 7-6 this year with decent stats on a great team. The Pirates are 8-1 in his last nine games, scoring 54 runs in the victories. And, he still isn’t racking up wins for himself! Lynn has been solid as a rock all season…though 6.1 IP per start is a bit low for a guy with such impressive ERA and K-Rate numbers. You’re not really an ace until you’re at least up to 6.5 IP per start. Doesn’t matter so much on this team because of the bullpen. Interesting handicapping challenge because Liriano has the better WHIP, but Lynn the better ERA.
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We’ve decided to just do two baseball reports this week because of football demand. Our next report will preview the AFC East to get you ready for that much anticipated game between the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers Thursday night. Here’s what’s on top over the next several days…
Wed-Thursday: AFC East Preview to get you ready for New England hosting Green Bay
Friday: NFC West Preview to get you ready for Seattle hosting Denver
Saturday: AFC South preview to get you ready for Houston hosting S. Francisco
Sunday: NFC East preview to get you ready for Philadelphia hosting Indianapolis
Monday: MLB Series Preview…SF Giants at St. Louis Cardinals
Tuesday: MLB Series Preview…NY Mets at Baltimore Orioles
Followed by: AFC North, AFC West, and NFC South to wrap up NFL divisional previews
As always, we’ve tied in our eight divisional previews to the first eight days of NFLX action. Baseball will continue on Mondays and Tuesdays through the month…and then whenever it fits in September given the addition of college football to the mix.
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