The Astros are one of the biggest surprises of 2015, posting a 23-13 record through the first 36 games. And, I expect that success to continue Saturday afternoon behind right-hander Scott Feldman, whose peripheral statistics are much worse than his underlying metrics. Feldman is 2-4 with a 5.22 ERA and 1.35 WHIP this season, including going 1-3 with a 5.85 ERA and 1.51 WHIP at home and 0-3 with a 6.65 ERA and 1.66 WHIP at night.
While those numbers are certainly alarming for Houston investors, Feldman has thrown quality starts in two of his last three outings, including a seven inning performance at Los Angeles wherein he allowed three runs on six hits (5/1 K/BB). More importantly, Feldman’s underlying metrics provide optimism going forward:
Scott Feldman’s 2015 Metrics:
4.43 FIP & 3.66 xFIP
1.52 BB/9 (best in MLB career)
52.2% GB% (best since 2011)
Feldman has also pitched well in the month of May as evidenced by his 3.65 FIP and 3.33 xFIP. The 32-year-old veteran has also allowed just four runs in his last 16.3 innings pitched against the Blue Jays, including a complete game performance last season (9 IP; 8 H; 1 ER).
I also like the fact that Feldman is supported by an outstanding Houston bullpen that owns a 2.07 ERA and 0.82 WHIP this season, including a 1.93 ERA and 0.74 WHIP at home and a 1.83 ERA and 0.91 WHIP over the last seven games. Houston’s bullpen owns an incredible 121/23 K/BB ratio in 113.0 innings of work.
Meanwhile, Marco Estrada toes the rubber for Toronto, and the right-hander continues to struggle to keep the ball in the park. Indeed, Estrada’s 1.56 HR/9 from 2012 to 2015 is the second highest among qualified starters in that span. The 31-year-old’s diminishing velocity last season (9.3 K/9 in 2012 to a 7.6 K/9 last season) also attributed to a disturbing 13.2% HR/FB rate. Through 20.3 innings of work in 2015, Estrada owns a 1.77 HR/9 rate.
Estrada’s gopheritis is bad news against a Houston squad that is is second in the Majors with 51 home runs. Overall, Estrada is 0-2 with a 6.51 ERA and 1.55 WHIP in two starts this season. In his lone start at Minute Maid Park, Estrada yielded 4 earned runs on seven hits in just four innings of work. Toronto’s bullpen also continues to struggle with a 4.66 ERA on the road and a 4.35 ERA at night.
From a technical standpoint, Toronto is a money-burning 17-36 as a road underdog, 7-21 on the road versus teams with a winning home record and 3-9 in its last twelve games versus American League West opposition. In contrast, the Astros are a profitable 12-4 versus right-handed starters, 12-5 as favorites and 19-7 in their last 26 games overall.
With Houston standing at 7-2 in the last nine meetings at home in this series, including cashing five straight at Minute Maid Park, take the Astros as my free Best Bet and invest with confidence.
Saturday’s Best Bet: Houston Astros (-116)