Tuesday’s Free Baseball Best Bet: Minnesota at Toronto

Aug 4, 2015

toronto blue jays

To say that I am not a believer in Minnesota right-hander Phil Hughes would be an understatement as the 29-year-old hurler owns a pedestrian 4.11 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 2015, including going 2-4 with a 4.08 ERA and 1.37 WHIP on the road. Equally important is the fact that Hughes’ underlying metrics don’t offer much optimism going forward:

Phil Hughes’ 2015 Metrics:

  • 4.59 FIP & 4.18 xFIP
  • 4.31 SIERA (5.31 K/9)
  • 4.58 FIP on the road (1.73 HR/9)
  • 4.48 FIP in June (despite .275 BABIP & 80.7% LOB%)
  • 4.80 FIP in July (4.75 K/9; 1.78 HR/9 & 89.3% LOB%)

While amateur sports bettors will be unduly influenced by headlines stating that Hughes carries a nine-start unbeaten streak into this game and has gone 6-0 with a 3.20 ERA during that span, professional investors are astute at finding the red flags that exist just below the surface.

For example, Hughes takes the mound with a 5.31 K/9 rate, which is significantly worse than last year’s strikeout rate of 7.98. Hughes has already given up 25 home runs this season after yielding just 16 long balls in all of last year (1.66 HR/9 vs. 0.69 HR/9 last year). Hughes has also been lucky with an 80.2% LOB%, including an unsustainable 89.3% LOB% in July.

The underwhelming right-hander now faces an explosive Toronto lineup that is averaging 5.5 runs per game at home and is batting .288 with a .359 on base percentage over the last seven games. Hughes is also hampered by an imploding Minnesota bullpen that owns a 5.56 ERA and 1.32 WHIP over the last seven games. Minnesota relievers have also struggled on foreign soil where the owns a sub-par 4.14 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 137 innings of work.

Toronto right-hander Marco Estrada is 8-6 with a 3.53 ERA and 1.14 WHIP this season, including going 4-3 with a 3.51 ERA and 1.02 WHIP at home and 2-1 with a 3.57 ERA and 0.96 WHIP over his last three starts. Prior to his last 2 outings, Estrada was in excellent form, posting a 1.67 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP in six starts (37 2/3 innings).

The perennial soft-tosser is coming off a very good July wherein he garnered a 3.38 ERA and 2.98 FIP (0.31 HR/9). Estrada has also demonstrated better control (1.53 BB/9) and a lower home run rate (0.51 HR/9) in the second half of the season. I also like the fact that Estrada is supported by a very good Toronto bullpen that owns a 3.14 ERA and 1.06 WHIP at home (161/33 K/BB in 160.7 IP).

Look for Estrada to return to solid form against an anemic Minnesota offense that is batting just .223 with a .278 on base percentage on the road (3.5 runs per game) and .243 with a .292 on base percentage versus right-handed starters (3.7 runs per game).

From a technical standpoint, the Twins are a money-burning 16-35 on the road versus .501 or greater opposition, 9-24 on artificial turf and 0-7 in their last seven games as underdogs. Minnesota is also 2-8 in its last ten overall and 3-7 in Hughes’ last ten road starts.

In contrast, Toronto is a profitable 23-9 as large home favorites, 40-17 at home versus teams with a winning record and 8-3 in Estrada’s last eleven outings overall, including 6-1 versus .501 or greater foes and 4-1 at home. Finally, Minnesota is a woeful 8-22 in its last 30 trips to Toronto and 16-40 overall in this series.  Take Toronto as our free Best Bet and invest with confidence.

Tuesday’s Free Baseball Best Bet: Toronto Blue Jays