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Winners of Five Straight, Atlanta Looks to Protect First Place in the East

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I find it comical that some fantasy sports sites claim that New York right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka has “resurrected” his career this season.  The 33-year-old is 2-2 with a 4.08 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in six starts this season, including going 0-2 with a 5.75 ERA and 1.59 WHIP on the road, 1-2 with a 4.57 ERA and 1.43 WHIP at night and 0-2 with a 4.38 ERA and 1.46 WHIP over his last three outings.  Matsuzaka owns a pedestrian 49:35 strikeout-to-walk ratio, together with a 4.75 xFIP and 4.63 SIERA, all of which suggest significant regression in the near future.

It has been seven years since Matsuzaka defeated the Braves as a Boston rookie on May 19, 2007, and the veteran hurler is 1-2 with a 9.00 ERA and 2.00 WHIP in three career starts against the Braves.  In five overall appearances against Atlanta, which include two relief stints, Matsuzaka has allowed sixteen earned runs in 19 innings of work. Matsuzaka will also be limited by a scuffling New York offense that is batting just .239 with a .310 on base percentage this season (3.9 runs per game), including hitting .229 with a .305 on base percentage versus division opponents (3.9 runs per game) and .237 with a .305 on base percentage at night (4.0 runs per game).  The Mets also continue to play without David Wright, who is not expected to return until Friday.

Atlanta southpaw Mike Minor has seen his fair share of ups and downs in 2014.  After missing the first month of the season with left shoulder tendinitis, he excelled over five starts between May 13 and June 4 wherein he posted a 1.87 ERA in 33 2/3-innings pitched.  However, since that string of five consecutive quality starts, Minor has gone 0-1 with a 7.36 ERA in 22 innings, including just one quality start and a .364 batting average against.  The other issue plaguing Minor is the long ball has he has yielded 11 home runs this season, but those concerns are tempered by the fact that the Mets are are ranked 25th in the Majors in home runs (61).   In Minor’s last three starts at Turner Field against New York, he has allowed seven earned runs on 15 hits in 19 1/3-innings pitched.

I expect a solid outing from Minor tonight as his underlying metrics suggest significant improvement in the near future.  In fact, Minor boasts a solid  3.47 xFIP and 3.56 SIERA.  Minor’s strikeout rate and walk rate are comparable to his breakout 2013 season, but the high BABIP combined with his high HR/FB rate are essentially the only red marks on his stat sheet.  Indeed, his SIERA is identical to his mark last year.  His pitch velocity has been extremely consistent year-to-year and his command is not far from his 5.6% walk rate of last year.  Let’s also note that Minor owns a 3.13 xFIP at home this season (3.85 xFIP on the road) and finished the month of June with a 3.18 xFIP.

I also like the fact that Minor is supported by a very good Atlanta bullpen that owns a 3.25 ERA and 1.30 WHIP this season, including a 2.89 ERA and 1.22 WHIP at home and a 1.04 ERA and 0.75 WHIP over the last seven games. Technically speaking, New York is a money-burning 25-57 (-22.9 units) versus teams with a winning record and 35-66 (-23.2 units) versus teams that allow less than 4.4 runs per game, whereas the Braves are a profitable 115-69 (+30.6 units) versus division opponents and 25-9 (+13.0 units) following four or more consecutive wins.  Need more convincing?  Here you go:

  • New York is 6-20 in its L/26 games in game 2 of a series;
  • New York is 1-5 in its L/6 games as an underdog;
  • New York is 4-9 in its L/13 road games vs. a team with a winning record;
  • Atlanta is 39-14 in its L/53 games as a favorite of -151 to -200;
  • Atlanta is 82-40 in its L/122 home games with a total between 7 and 8.5 runs;
  • Atlanta is 6-1 in Minor’s L/7 starts as a large favorite;
  • Atlanta is 5-2 in Minor’s L/7 starts during game 2 of a series

Finally, tonight’s home plate umpire, Dale Scott, represents a 58% winning proposition for home teams over the last three seasons.  Take the surging Braves and invest with confidence.

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