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Posted at 2:00 PM EST.
7:10 PM EST. Velocity, strikeouts, first-pitch strikes, and swinging strikes were all in meltdown mode for Matt Harvey (RHP) last season over his 93 innings. Imploding control and more shoulder problems made it safe to say that Harvey’s return from thoracic outlet syndrome did not go well. At a time when his career should be at its peak, his future is now an open question but Matt Harvey showed some flashes of his old self this spring (16 K in his final 13 IP), despite posting mediocre results overall. Are we worried? Yes, but we’ll live with whatever Harvey delivers because his stock is so low and because this is a straight fade on the opposition and its starter.
One could just as easily play the Mets here -115 because that’s a bargain too but we like to go for the kill. Before we discuss pitchers, it’s worth noting that Philadelphia opened the year 1-2 in Atlanta and were lucky to get that one win after rallying late to overcome a four-run deficit. The Phillies pitching staff was tagged for 27 runs in the three games while their rookie manager, Kabe Gapler, is already under fire. To say Gapler was in panic mode opening weekend would be an understatement. Dude went through 21 pitchers in 28 innings, including utility man Pedro Florimon, who on Saturday became the first position player in history to pitch in March. Only the Marlins have used more pitchers this season. The Marlins have used 22 pitchers in 45 innings compared to Kapler's 21 in 28 and a bunch of those pitching changes and moves are already under scrutiny. Think about that for a second and put yourself in Gapler’s shoes. For sure he reads the reports and knows what the baseball media is saying. Now he’s in a no-win situation because he will not want to go to his pen early again for fear of the same thing happening. Therefore, he’ll either leave his starter in too long or not long enough. There are no right decisions for Gapler over the next few games and to complicate matters even more, Gapler has to deal with a weak #4 starter.
On the surface, Ben Lively (RHP) seemed to have a pretty solid rookie season in 2017, sporting a 4.26 ERA over 15 starts but the underlying skills tell us it’s all smoke and mirrors. Lively got some ERA help from a slightly low hit rate and hr/f—his full-season xERA was nearly a full run higher. In addition, his above average control rate wasn't supported by his first-pitch strike rate, which was below average and the disparity grew even worse in the second half with his control improving despite a decline in his first-pitch strike rate. That means his second half "improvements" in xERA and overall skills should be viewed skeptically. Among pitchers with at least 75 IP in 2017, only two had a lower K-rate than Lively. Recent injuries to Jerad Eickhoff and Mark Leiter have opened up a rotation spot for Lively, but of all the starting pitching options at the Phillies disposal, his skills make him the least likely to stick and the most likely to get blown up.
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N.Y. METS -1½ +167 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 3.34)