Seattle starter J.A. Happ is having a very good 2015 campaign, posting a 3.79 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in 73.7 innings of work. The veteran southpaw is also 2-1 with a 1.88 ERA and 1.12 WHIP at home so he clearly enjoying pitching within the friendly confines of Safeco Field. I also like the fact that Happ is 3-1 with a 3.29 ERA and 1.17 WHIP versus division opponents, which suggests that he saves his best for the games that matter the most. Happ’s underlying metrics also support his solid 2015 campaign:
J.A. Happ 2015 Metrics:
3.57 FIP & 3.82 xFIP
3.26 FIP at home & 1.64 BB/9
3.11 FIP in June & 8.22 K/9
Despite being plagued by an unsustainable .320 BABIP, including a .391 BABIP in June, Happ continues to post strong surface statistics. Happ is also supported by a reliable Seattle bullpen that owns a 3.10 ERA and 1.22 WHIP at home (95 strikeouts in 101.9 IP). Today’s game presents a favorable matchup for the lefty as Houston struggles to hit southpaws (.228 batting average and .294 OBP; 3.5 runs per game) and are averaging just 4.4 runs per game against division foes. The foregoing figures certainly justify a Best Bet on the Mariners this afternoon.
Meanwhile, Houston sends Vincent Velasquez to the hill due to an injury-riddled starting rotation. Most observers never thought Velasquez would get a chance in the Majors this season in light of the fact that he had zero experience above A-ball. The 23-year-old posted a 3.74 ERA and 3.96 FIP in High-A Lancaster last year, but performed well in Double-A Corpus Christi where he garnered a 1.37 ERA and 2.13 FIP over five starts (37% K rate).
Velasquez’s success in Double-A should be taken with a grain of salt due to the limited sample size, and one should not forget that the prospect was drafted by the Astros in the second round back in 2010. He missed 2011 with Tommy John surgery and has been limited by groin and lat problems over the last two years. Fangraphs.com published an excellent article about how Velasquez’s accent to the Majors is very similar to other pitchers who struggled to make the transition, most notably Neil Ramirez, David Hernandez and Aaron Heilman.
In short, the author concluded that a “strong, strikeout-heavy performance in Double-A is no guarantee of a successful career.” And, the transition is made more difficult for pitchers who are asked to completely skip over the Triple-A level. From a technical standpoint, Houston is 28-63 versus left-handed starters (2-7 L/9), 2-9 in its last nine road games, 1-5 in its last six games as a road underdog and 16-41 after losing the first two games of a series. Take Seattle as our free Best Bet and invest with confidence.
Sunday’s Best Bet: Seattle Mariners