Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 12:45 PM EST.
Toronto -1½ +130 over TAMPA BAY
1:10 PM EST. Robbie Ray (LHP - TOR) has been outstanding since the beginning of June with a 2.86 ERA, 1.13 WHIP in 46 IP. His underlying skills were just as good: 37% K%, 6% BB%, 31% K-BB%, 39% groundballs, 3.44 xERA. Dude is generating tons of whiffs (15.4% swing & miss) and he is consistently throwing the ball over the plate. That’s the skinny on Robbie Ray but this wager is more about fading Tampa’s starter again.
We faded Rich Hill (LHP - TB) last game and lost when the Rays rallied from being down 8-5 late to win it 9-8. Hill did not make it out of the 4th inning.
Here is what we wrote five days ago and we’re sticking with it today:
Rich Hill has defied time and logic for a long time, only emerging as an elite starter at the age of 35 in 2015 with the Red Sox and posting an ERA of 3.03 since then. Hill has utilized a simple formula for his dominance, paring a low-velocity but high-spin fastball with a super-high-spin curveball that he can manipulate arm angles, speed, and movement on to effectively turn it into multiple pitches. He has a cutter, slow loopy “slider” that is a variant of his curveball, change-up, and sinker, but the four-seamer and curveball still make up 84.9% of his offerings in 2021 to date. Hill has seen spin rate drops on both his curveball and fastball since June 3, with statistically significant drops in his starts on June 23 and June 29. Despite what one may intuitively expect given that Hill’s curveball is his bread and butter, the drop in RPMs on the fastball is more concerning than the curveball.
Focusing on the two starts from June 23 on, when we start to see the stark RPM drops, Hill went from having 2770 average RPMs on his curveball to 2525 RPMs, which is a two standard deviation drop if we are using the 115 RPM standard deviation rule of thumb. Despite this statistically significant drop in RPMs, however, Hill has only seen an increase in OBA allowed on the pitch to .303 from the .219 OBA it allowed before June 23. In other words, the pitch has gone from being elite to merely good over this small sample, but has still been an effective pitch. We believe that this is because of Hill’s ability to locate and manipulate the pitch, as he has been able to slow the pitch slightly down and let gravity do the work to prevent a major decrease in vertical movement. When thinking about pitch movement, it is important to remember that while spin is a big component, gravity is also a major factor. Slower pitches have more time to be affected by gravity, so they drop more.
While Hill’s curveball is very adaptable, his four-seam fastball is not, as the pitch does not work down in the zone. The evidence for this is pretty clear if you look at Hill's whiff percentage on fastballs by part of the strike zone so far in 2021. Hill obviously knows this and has one main plan for his four-seamer to allow it to tunnel off his curveball: throw it middle-up. Because Hill wants to throw his four-seamer up in the zone, and at 41 years old it only averages 88.5 mph, any drops in spin rate or velocity is going to majorly impact its effectiveness. In the two starts we have referenced, Hill has gone from his prior average of 2363 RPMs in starts before June 23 to 2179 RPMs in the two starts after. We have the predictable script of loss in effectiveness play out in dramatic fashion, as the pitch has gone from allowing a bad, but manageable .351 OBA before June 23 to a horrendous .615 OBA in his last two starts.
These are very bad signs for Hill, and while the sample is still small, we have empirical reasons to believe that these drops in spin rate may be permanent. If Hill no longer has a working four-seamer, the rest of his arsenal does not work, as he essentially becomes a one-pitch pitcher and the tunnelling of his fastball-curveball combination loses effectiveness. This looks like a situation to sell and that’s precisely what we’re doing, as he and the Rays are outrageously priced.
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Toronto -1½ +130 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.60)