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Toronto Surging, Welcomes Equally Hot Tampa Bay to Rogers Centre

Only two years removed from Tommy John surgery, Toronto right-hander Drew Hutchison has shown elite skills in 2014.  After missing most of  the 2013 season, Hutchison arrived in Spring Training with renewed focus and quickly earned a spot in Toronto’s starting rotation after posting an impressive 1.80 ERA.  Hutchison has carried that success over into the regular season where he is 3-3 with a 3.45 ERA and 1.18 WHIP, including going 2-1 with a 3.08 ERA and 1.36 WHIP versus division opponents, 2-1 with a 2.68 ERA and 1.04 WHIP at night and 2-1 with a 1.89 ERA and 1.00 WHIP over his last three outings.

Hutchison owns an excellent 59-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 60 innings this season, and his 11% swinging strike rate demonstrates his solid command and control.  The 23-year-old  has increased his velocity from 91 mph in 2012 to 92 mph this season, but he can also reach 95 mph range if/when necessary. Here is why I am even more bullish on Hutchison this season – his Skill-Interactive ERA (SIERA) is 3.45, while his xFIP is 3.56.  In other words, he is the real deal and should be invested on with confidence.

Hutchison should improve upon his overall numbers against an anemic Tampa Bay lineup that is batting just .246 with a .317 on base percentage this season (3.9 runs per game), including hitting .224 with a .293 on base percentage on the road (3.1 runs per game) and .227 with a .288 on base percentage over the last seven contests (3.4 runs per game).  Meanwhile, Tampa Bay southpaw Erik Bedard is a prime regression candidate despite his surprising 2.63 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 2014.  Sabermetrics, which in simple terms is the empirical analysis of baseball by using statistics that measure in-game activity, paints an entirely different picture of the 35-year-old left-hander.

Specifically, Bedard’s SIERA is 4.78, while his xFIP is 4.77.  In short, Bedard is moments away from imploding on the mound, and I believe the regression begins tonight at Rogers Centre.  Bedard will now have to contend with Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Lawrie – Toronto’s No. 3, 4 and 5 hitters- who have a combined 34 home runs in 548 at-bats.  The Blue Jays are 11-6 (+5.0 units) versus left-handed starters this season against whom they are averaging 5.2 runs per game, while also averaging 5.2 runs per game at home.  Bedard’s pedestrian 7% swinging strike rate, together with his poor 33% ground ball rate, set the stage for what could be one of Toronto’s biggest offensive displays in 2014.

From a technical standpoint, Tampa Bay is a money-burning 13-32 (-17.1 units) as road underdogs over the last two seasons, including 3-17 (-13.0 units) as road underdogs of +175 or less.  Let’s also note that Tampa Bay starter Erik Bedard is 4-21 (-15.5 units) in games with a total between 8.5 and 10 runs.  In contrast, Toronto is a profitable 17-7 (+11.1 units) in the month of May, 14-5 (+10.6 units) after winning seven of its last eight games, 8-2 in its last ten games as a favorite and 16-5 in its last 21 games overall.  Here are some additional short-term trends favoring Toronto:

  • Blue Jays are 6-0 L/6 games vs. left-handed starters
  • Blue Jays are 6-1 L/7 games vs. teams with a losing record;
  • Blue Jays are 4-0 in Hutchison’s L/4 starts in game 1 of a series

Take Toronto to win its seventh consecutive game and invest with confidence.

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