By Dalton Brown
After a raucous trade deadline set the stage for the rest of the season, several teams are already reaping the benefits of their aggressiveness as we head into the season’s final two months. The Giants’ Kris Bryant homered in his first appearance with the team, and played a huge part in their 4-run 9th inning comeback and extra innings win Yesterday in Phoenix. Anthony Rizzo had RBIs in his first 6 games as a Yankee. Javier Baez homered in his first game as a Met, and hit a go-ahead home run en route to a win in Miami on Wednesday. Max Scherzer debuted for the Dodgers in front of the largest baseball crowd since before the pandemic began, posting 10 strikeouts over 7 very strong innings of work against the Astros and exiting to a standing ovation and his first career curtain call.
It remains to be seen which teams’ decisions end up benefiting them down the line, but early returns are positive for the more aggressive teams at this year’s deadline. I’d argue this is an inherently good thing for the game - after all, fans want front offices to feel motivated to chase wins, not just hoard cash. At their core, fans of “small market” teams complaining about other organizations “buying players/wins/championships” would be extremely unlikely to feel there was an issue with the shoe on the other foot. The reality is that we all want our favorite team to chase titles with all of the resources available to them, and not every baseball team is doing that. Perhaps this season’s deadline moves the needle for dormant organizations, if even just a smidge - and to me, any league-wide incentive toward competing more aggressively is a good thing.
With another big weekend of baseball ahead, let’s take a closer look at a couple spots I’m seeing good betting value.
Last week: 1-0
Friday, August 6, 7:20 PM ET
Washington Nationals (Erick Fedde) vs Atlanta Braves (Kyle Muller)
One of the most notorious sellers at this season’s deadline were Mike Rizzo’s Washington Nationals, who traded away a litany of players including franchise icons Max Scherzer and Trea Turner. While Juan Soto obviously remains in Washington as the team’s clear cornerstone as they attempt to retool, it’s a lineup that otherwise lacks the pop is showed at times early this season.
They’ll see Kyle Muller for the first time on Friday night, a highly touted rookie pitcher having a very solid campaign for the Braves. Through 7 appearances (5 starts) since being called up in June, Muller has yet to allow more than 3 runs in any single outing. While he hasn’t pitched deep into games, he’s been a very effective option for Atlanta over the last month and a half in the rotation. He’s only allowed 2 combined runs over his last 3 starts, despite facing three consecutive probable playoff lineups in the Padres, Mets, and Brewers. At 55-54, the Braves still only find themselves 1.5 game out of the division lead - they have plenty to play for despite losing Marcell Ozuna and Ronald Acuna Jr., as evidenced by a flurry of deadline deals that saw them acquire Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler, and Adam Duvall.
With so much on the line and a clear signal sent from the front office that they remain in win-now mode, Atlanta is salivating at the idea of getting to face Erick Fedde on Friday night. Fedde has made 5 career starts against Atlanta, going 0-3 with a 12.86 ERA. He’s allowed 55 baserunners in only 21 innings of work against the Braves, including 7 home runs. Put simply, the Braves are his daddy. This year, he’s faced them twice - those two starts saw him allow 11 runs (10 earned) over 6.2 flaccid innings of work, walking 5 while only striking out 4. The Braves won both games.
The Picks: Braves First 5 Innings -0.5, Braves Full Game -1.5
Saturday, August 7, 8:10 PM ET
Miami Marlins (Jesus Luzardo) @ Colorado Rockies (Austin Gomber)
In an entirely meaningless game to the standings on Saturday, the Marlins find themselves at much higher elevation and much further from the ocean than they are accustomed to in Denver. They’ll send their newest starting pitcher, Jesus Luzardo, to the mound, making his second start as a Marlin after being acquired in a deal that sent Starling Marte to Oakland. Once the A’s top pitching prospect, the trade was lauded as a win for new Marlins GM Kim Ng as a building block for Miami’s future. Luzardo has long been viewed as a future ace, and still has plenty of time to put it together - a change of scenery could end up doing the 23-year old an awful lot of good. He’s made one start for the Fish so far, a relatively pedestrian outing against the Mets that saw him allow 3 runs over 5 innings of work en route to a win.
It’s no secret that pitching at Coors field is a very different animal than pitching in Oakland or Miami, though. Luzardo has thrown 5.2 career innings there over two appearances, and it hasn’t gone well (7.94 ERA, 1.94 WHIP). Colorado has been sneakily a great home team (35-21) this season, and their lineup mostly remains intact despite rumors that they were going to trade away sluggers Trevor Story and CJ Cron at the deadline.
Austin Gomber has pitched relatively well for this season for a pitcher making half his starts at Coors Field, and will get the start Saturday. After a rough April, he’s 7-3 with a 3.16 ERA dating back to May 1 - in Colorado, it doesn’t get much better than that. He’ll face a Marlins lineup that is 26th in baseball with a putrid wRC+ of 77 on the road against left handed pitching, and now has to find a way to score runs without Starling Marte and Adam Duvall, both dealt last week. I like his chances of finding success in the familiar confines of Coors Field a lot better than I do Luzardo’s, and will look to back him on Saturday evening.
The Pick: Rockies First 5 Innings -0.5