Don’t be fooled by New York right-hander Michael Pineda’s 4.37 ERA last season as the 27-year-old actually had a very good campaign. Specifically, Pineda posted a 3.34 FIP, 2.95 xFIP and 3.72 SIERA over 27 starts (160.2 innings) with an 8.74 K/9 and 1.18 BB/9 rate. What makes those results even more impressive is the fact that Pineda was plagued by an unsustainable (and unlikely) .332 BABIP, which is likely to level out to the league average in 2016.
Pineda also owns a career 3.60 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in eight starts against the Blue Jays, including going 1-0 with a 2.79 ERA in three outings last season. American League MVP Josh Donaldson is 0-for-10 against Pineda, while Jose Bautista is just 3-for-19 and Kevin Pillar is 1-for-10 against the talented hurler. Pineda is also supported by a New York bullpen that boasts a league-leading 0.84 ERA and 0.93 WHIP (21.3 IP; 32/5 K/BB), including a 1.80 ERA and 0.80 WHIP on the road (10 IP; 14/2 K/BB).
Pineda now faces a scuffling Toronto lineup that is batting .206 with a .296 on base percentage at home (4.0 runs per game), .213 with a .295 on base percentage versus right-handed starters (3.8 runs per game) and .211 with a .287 on base percentage in its last seven contests (3.7 runs per game).
Meanwhile, the Blue Jays trot out veteran southpaw J.A. Happ, who owns a 5.02 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in nine career starts against New York. Toronto’s bullpen has also struggled in the opening month of the 2016 season, posting a 4.35 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 20 2/3-innings of work.
The main culprit has been Brett Cecil, who has blown two saves and has a 10.13 ERA over four games. ”He’s off right now,” manager John Gibbons said. ”There’s no secret about that.” From a technical standpoint, New York is a profitable 11-5 in Pineda’s last sixteen starts versus American League East foes and 5-2 in his last seven starts against teams with a losing record, whereas the Blue Jays are a money-burning 3-9 in Happ’s last twelve starts, including 1-6 following a loss and 1-4 versus division opponents.
There is no doubt that Happ is coming off the best season of his career, but the peripherals show an entirely different story that reject any suggestion of a late-career resurgence for the left-hander. Happ’s 0.84 HR/9 rate in 2015 was his second-best in the Majors, which speaks volumes about the aging hurler. At plus-money, I like the Yankees behind the better pitcher and bullpen in this American League clash – invest with confidence.
Oskeim Sports’ Free American League Pick: New York Yankees (+122)