Yankees at Marlins MLB Pick August 21
The New York Yankees are the owners of the second-best record in baseball, but their 78-46 mark is only good for second place in their own division, and it’s not particularly close. The Boston Red Sox are still 9 games up on the Yanks, which means there’s a very real chance that baseball’s second-best team winds up playing in a one-game playoff at the end of the year to determine their fate. Baseball can be cruel like that.
The Yankees have been in good form of late, as they’re fresh off a 3-game sweep of the lowly Toronto Blue Jays. Tonight the team will make the rare trip south to Miami to take on the Marlins, and there is no shortage of connections here. First of all, this will be Giancarlo Stanton’s first trip back to South Beach since being traded to New York last winter. Stanton spent the first 8 years of his big league career with the Marlins, so this will presumably be an emotional trip for him.
Of course, the Marlins are also managed by Don Mattingly, who spent his entire 14-year big league career in pinstripes. Mattingly won the American League MVP with the team in 1985, and he served as a coach for a few years after the conclusion of his playing career. Last but not least, Yankees legend Derek Jeter was a part of a group that purchased the Marlins this past offseason.
Pablo Lopez will take the ball for the Fish in the opener against Masahiro Tanaka for New York.
Lopez, a right-handed rookie, has had his fair share of ups and downs over the course of his first major league stint. The 22-year-old has gone 2-3 with a 4.79 ERA in 8 games since being promoted. He has a league average 19.6 percent strikeout rate and he has managed hard contact pretty well (33.3 percent). Walks haven’t been a major issue for Lopez, and he has kept the ball on the ground at a solid 52.1 percent clip thus far.
His 3.99 SIERA and 3.90 xFIP show that there has been quite a bit of back luck involved in that 4.79 ERA. That said, Lopez has also allowed 8 home runs across those 8 starts. We know the Yankees have plenty of power in the lineup, but it’s also worth noting that they’re getting a massive park downgrade going from Yankee Stadium into Marlins Park. This season, the Marlins’ home stadium has been the third-worst park in the majors in terms of home runs. Only the Oakland Coliseum and Citi Field in New York have been worse. The spacious ballpark certainly helps mitigate the home run risk against Lopez. It will also help that the Yankees are losing a DH going into the National League, instead adding a pitcher to the lineup.
As for Tanaka, he’s been largely excellent since returning from a hamstring injury. The right-hander struggled against the Rangers a couple of starts ago, but if we exclude that outing he has allowed 3 earned runs or fewer in every start since June 2. That time span includes a lengthy stint on the disabled list, but it’s impressive nevertheless.
Tanaka has a 4.03 ERA on the year, but his 3.57 SIERA paints a more accurate picture of just how good he’s been. The veteran has a respectable 25.3 percent strikeout rate, a low 6.3 percent walk rate and a decent ground ball rate nearing 47 percent. The hard contact he’s allowed (37.6 percent) is a bit higher than he’d like, and he’s another guy with a home run problem. Tanaka has always been a guy that will serve up some long balls, and 2018 has been no different. He has already been taken deep 22 times across his 20 starts already.
Again, though, the risk of serving up a bunch of dingers in this ballpark is slim, especially if you’re a Yankees pitcher. The Marlins have traded Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, Justin Bour and others within the past year, leaving their lineup looking largely unimpressive and weak. Miami ranks 29th out of the league’s 30 teams in wOBA (.293) and tied for 29th in wRC+ (83). The Marlins have also hit 103 homers as a team, which is the second-fewest in the league ahead of only the Tigers. The Yankees, on the other hand, lead baseball by a huge margin with 202 jacks thus far.
This is going to be a pretty watered-down Yankees lineup facing Lopez. Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez have been missing for weeks, while Didi Gregorius was just placed on the disabled list today with a heel problem. Stanton, Gleyber Torres and Aaron Hicks are still decent hitters, but this isn’t looking like a great run-scoring spot for either team today. Lopez is a talented young pitcher, while Tanaka has been as good as anyone in the big leagues for the last few weeks.
The implied total here of 7 1/2 isn’t high to begin with, but I think it is a tad too high for this one. I think we get a pitcher’s duel here, which has me liking the value in taking the under. Going under on any game involving the explosive Yankees’ offense feels risky, but this isn’t the Yankees at full strength. Give me the under on 7 1/2 tonight.
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