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Sunday’s Major League Baseball Best Bet: Royals at Cardinals

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St. Louis veteran John Lackey is almost an auto-investment at home where he is 4-1 with a 1.73 ERA and 1.15 WHIP this season. Lackey is also a perfect 3-0 with a 1.63 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in day games this season. And, the right-hander’s overall numbers are generally supported by his underlying metrics: 3.42 FIP, 3.94 xFIP and 3.99 SIERA. More importantly, Lackey’s metrics at Busch Stadium pass with flying colors: 2.29 FIP, 3.32 xFIP, 21.4% K%, 0.22 HR/9.

Lackey is also supported by an outstanding St. Louis bullpen that boasts a 2.02 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 2015, including a 1.99 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in day games and a 0.56 ERA and 0.75 WHIP over the last ten days. I fully anticipate Kansas City’s scuffling lineup, which is averaging 3.5 runs per game in interleague play and 2.6 runs per game over the last ten days, to struggle this afternoon against one of the league’s best home pitchers in Lackey.

Kansas City sends 36-year-old Chris Young to the mound, and the lanky veteran continued to defy metrics by posting a ridiculous 2.25 ERA and 0.94 WHIP this season. This could be the most Chris Young-iest season of all as he also owns a 1.96 ERA and 0.87 WHIP on the road and a 2.47 ERA and 1.07 WHIP covering seven starts.

The risk that comes with Young was evident during the offseason when the 2014 American League Comeback Player of the Year was signed by the Royals to a unique one-year contract with a $0.675Mbase salary, together with $5.325M in incentives. Here’s why Kansas City was spooked by Young:

Chris Young’s 2015 Metrics:

3.64 FIP & 4.99 xFIP
4.86 SIERA
.196 BABIP & 80.7% S% (both laughably lucky & unsustainable)
4.18 FIP & 4.84 xFIP on the road
4.51 FIP & 5.35 xFIP in June
4.76 K/9 & 3.97 BB/9 in June

Young’s career Major League Baseball BABIP is .258, which is nowhere near his current rate of .196 (regression imminent). Also, most teams were not eager to sign an injury-prone pitcher who compiled a 5+ FIP the previous season after missing the entire season prior to that. From a technical standpoint, Kansas City is 8-21 as interleague underdogs of +150 or less and 1-5 in Young’s last six interleague road starts versus teams with a winning record.

Conversely, the Cardinals are 43-12 at home, 39-12 at home versus right-handed starters, 52-19 as favorites, 44-17 in game 3 of a series, 52-22 at home versus .501 or greater opposition and 28-7 after limiting their opponent to two runs or less in the previous game.

With Lackey toeing the rubber, St. Louis is 11-1 as a home favorite and 5-0 at home versus teams with a winning record. Finally, St. Louis is 22-6 in its last 28 home games with umpire Phil Cuzzi behind home plate. Take the Cardinals in this Major League Baseball clash and invest with confidence.

Major League Baseball Best Bet: St. Louis Cardinals (-130)

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