Monday’s Major League Baseball Preview: Athletics at Twins

May 4, 2015


Oakland is a money-burning 6-20 as a road underdog, 7-21 versus teams with a winning record and 4-23 following a win (1-9 this season), whereas the Twins are a perfect 6-0 in their last six games versus teams with a losing record. And, speaking of the Twins, is there a hotter team in baseball right now? Minnesota is coming off a four-game sweep over the White Sox in which the Twins compiled 31 runs, including plating 12 in the series opener against Chris Sale.

My initial concern was with the health of Minnesota starter Phil Hughes, who left his last start after five innings due to tightness in his left hip. However, reports from Minnesota indicate that Hughes is healthy after throwing his normal between-starts bullpen session on Friday. “Yep, I aired it out, tried not to think about it, and I’m good to go,” Minnesota manager Paul Monitor quoted Hughes as telling him. While the 28-year-old is 0-4 with a 4.55 ERA and 1.23 WHIP this season, he is known for getting off to a slow start before hitting his stride in May.

Indeed, Hughes was 3-0 with a 1.62 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 33.1 innings pitched last May as compared to posting a 5.14 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in April. Those results from last May were also supported by underlying metrics: 2.08 FIP and 3.51 xFIP (24/0 K/BB). Hughes should receive plenty of run support from his teammates, who are batting .331 with a .364 on base percentage over the last seven games (6.4 runs per game). Hughes is also supported by an effective Minnesota bullpen that owns a 3.13 ERA and 1.10 WHIP at home, a 2.48 ERA and 1.04 WHIP at night and a 2.52 ERA and 1.12 WHIP over the last seven games.

Jesse Hahn toes the rubber for Oakland, and the former San Diego hurler is 1-1 with a 2.86 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 2015. However, those stellar results are not supported by the following metrics: 3.69 FIP, 4.01 xFIP and 3.95 SIERA. While I am certainly bullish on Hahn in a general sense, the right-hander struggled in the second half of 2014. Specifically, the 25-year-old posted a 4.17 FIP and 4.44 xFIP.

What is most surprising is the fact that Hahn is hindered by an imploding Oakland bullpen that owns a 4.89 ERA and 1.37 WHIP this season, including a 5.45 ERA and 1.47 WHIP on the road, a 5.04 ERA and 1.42 WHIP at night and a 6.14 ERA and 1.59 WHIP over the last seven games.

The other red flag involving Hahn is his plummeting swinging strike rate, which has dropped significantly this year. In 2014, Hahn boasted a 22.9% K%. Through four starts this season, he owns a career-low 12.6% k%. Hahn is also the beneficiary of a .235 BABIP, which is likely to regress in the near future. Based on the underlying metrics and positive variance, I believe Jesse Hahn is a perfect “sell high” candidate for those in fantasy leagues.

Minnesota would have been my highest rated baseball selection to date, but one troubling trend tampered my enthusiasm. The Athletics have won eight of their last nine trips to Target Field, averaging 8.2 runs per game in that span. Regardless of that statistic, I really like the Twins tonight and recommend a solid 2 Star investment in this Major League Baseball matchup.

Major League Baseball Bett Bet: Minnesota Twins (-108)