Today's Free Picks for
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Posted at 1:30 PM EST and are subject to change.
Oakland +185 over Boston
7:10 PM EST. Nick Pivetta (RHP - BOS) started the season off by throwing near disasters in his first three starts. Since then, he has completely turned it around. Over his last five starts, he has put up a 36/9 K/BB covering 33 innings. Right-handed batters have been held to a .192 BA and .567 OPS against him this season. Is it legit? The underlying metrics point to mixed expectations in 2022. Pivetta has limited the hit-rate in 2022 to 27%, over five percentage points better than his career average. Typically, Pivetta allowed a high rate of home runs, evidenced by a career 1.5 HR/9 and a 16% HR/F. However, in 2022, Pivetta boasts a 1.1 HR/9 and 11% HR/F. These numbers may regress closer to Pivetta's career norms, but they aren't extreme outliers.
Pivetta has typically finished with a higher actual ERA than his xERA throughout his career, evidenced by Pivetta's ERA of 5.09 versus an xERA of 4.02. Pivetta profiles as a stuff over control and command pitcher with a career swing & miss rate of 11.3%, plus three different pitches with a career swing & miss rate in double-digits. Interestingly, only Pivetta's slider has a double-digit swing & miss rate in 2022. Pivetta's breaking pitches remain the highlight of his arsenal. Most notably, the slider has elicited a career-best 17.7% swing & miss rate due to hitters chasing pitches out of the zone. He’s good but with five very strong starts in a row, he’s not this good and he’s never been consistently good. In other words, a blowup or two is coming his way and with this price being so high, we’ll gamble that Oakland can do something.
Over here at Sportswagers, we’re always rooting for big underdogs so let’s get behind this starting pitcher at a big price. Jared Koenig's (LHP - OAK) long, improbable journey to the majors belies an aged profile that offers intriguing potential that might otherwise get overlooked.
Drafted in the 35th round in 2014 but left unsigned as a financial consequence for Chicago's massive $6.58 million signing bonus to Carlos Rodón, Koenig would remain undrafted through the next two drafts and end up in independent ball for the next four years. He'd shuttle through five different leagues, including a stop in the Australian Baseball League where he was finally noticed by an Oakland scout, signing In January 2020 and reporting to minor league spring training in early March. Everyone knows what happened shortly thereafter, and for someone like Koenig, who had persevered through five years of struggling to get noticed, the timing was difficult. Yet, he used that time to get decidedly better.
Koenig's fastball had always been his bread-and-butter. It's arguably a plus offering that he varies the velocity on over 9 mph, all the way down to 84 mph, which often gets misidentified as his change-up, which also operates around this velocity band but has a decidedly different movement. Koenig's curveball is considered his second-best offering, but his newly developed cutter also looks like a swing-and-miss offering, giving him multiple options in a starting role. However, it is Koenig's pitchability that really makes the profile play up, as hitters find Koenig extremely difficult to square despite lacking premium velocity. Oakland's 2021 Double-A Pitcher of the Year is off to an even better start in 2022, pushing his K% to 29.5% while dropping his BB% to 7.2%. Under the hood, Koenig's skills look modest, with a 43.4% groundball rate and 12.0% swing and miss rate for Triple-A Midland, but what really stands out is his .203 oppBA on a 27.6% hit-rate, further showing the difficulty hitters have with connecting. Koenig has enough present stuff and pitchability to project as a back-end starter at the highest level despite making his MLB debut as a 28-year-old.
In his first start against red-hot Atlanta, Koenig struggled in his debut (4 ER, 3 K, and 2 BB in 4 IP). One should never put emphasis on a pitcher’s MLB debut because it’s highly emotional and exhilarating. This kid has overpaid his dues and now that his first start is over and done with, perhaps we’ll see something much, much better. It's a gamble we’re willing to take.
Oakland +185 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 3.70)