Thursday’s contest between the Rays and the Toronto Blue Jays in Tampa Bay is an oddity. You have two Cy Young Award winners – the Blue Jays’ R.A. Dickey (who won it in the National League with the New York Mets in 2012) and the Rays’ David Price – pitching against each other, with both struggling mightily. Dickey has a 5.36 ERA and Price sports a 6.25 ERA. Normally, with ERAs like that, you’d reflexively say, “advantage: hitters”. But looking at track records in this one, I expect both starters to have bounce-back performances.
Price’s difficulties are in part his own doing (his home runs allowed rates are up) but in truth, they are mainly reflective of poor fortune. While he’s striking out batters and walking them at about the same pace as last season, he’s having tremendously bad luck when players do put the ball in play. Hitters’ cumulative batting average in those situations is .351. Analysts generally believe an average that high is a sign of batters’ luck as, across the league, hitters usually register an average closer to .300 in those situations. Against a Blue Jays line up that is third-worst in the AL in runs scored, Price should have lady luck sway in his direction.
Dickey’s woes are a bit more complicated. He’s walking too many hitters and leaving his knuckleball too high in the strike zone (something he avoided expertly last year). But as a knuckleballer, things can turn very quickly. He recently had an MRI on his neck, which revealed no major physical problems, so there should be no fear that injury is causing his poor performance. The reason I see success for Dickey in this one is the contest’s location: the knuckleball flutters best in a controlled environment and Tampa’s domed Tropicana Field is one such locale. When Dickey pitched there last year, he threw a complete game one-hitter and struck out 12. I’m banking on him doing well in this one. As a result, bet on the total score being under 7.0 runs at 2.00.
The Colorado Rockies have been a surprise package in 2013, but will come unstuck when they face the New York Yankees at home. Both starting pitchers are lefties and while that would appear to favour Colorado (their splits are better than the Yankees' against left-handers), the quality of the left-handers varies greatly in this contest.
The Rockies may be early contenders for the NL West title, but somebody forgot to tell Colorado starter Jeff Francis. He has been one of the Rockies' few weak links - his 7.27 ERA is atrocious. Moreover, he will not take too much solace throwing at Coors Field, where he has a 6.98 ERA this season in four starts. Despite health concerns, Yankees ace CC Sabathia has been his normal solid self – he’s 4-3 with a 3.31 ERA. Look for the Yankees (on at 1.72) to pull out a win in what will otherwise be tough series for them.