Free Pick: (967) SEATTLE MARINERS -118

I knew as soon as I saw the opener on this game that the number wouldn’t hold. It’s pretty easy for me to identify games where the statheads are going to line up on the same side, and early movement on these games is close to inevitable. So the Mariners are now laying a few pennies, and I would not be surprised to see this get bumped a little higher as we get closer to game time.

It’s a funny thing about luck. Those of us who are into the metrics don’t have a tough time isolating pitchers who are getting fortunate or vice versa, and where regressions or progressions to the norm are inevitable. The difficulty is determining when this is going to take place, and that’s guesswork. I learned my lesson the hard way on this with a couple of pitchers last year and the year before. This season, I made up my mind to at least try and wait for the worm to turn before getting involved.

Chris Tillman fits as one of those pitchers whose profile screamed regression, but if you were trying to beat this guy on that factor, you kissed a load of cash goodbye all of last season and a good portion of this campaign as well. Despite really run of the mill data, Tillman just kept on winning. But things have finally started to swing the other way. Tillman is now not winning, and it can even be argued that he’s gotten a little unlucky in a few recent starts. But the bottom line is that it’s no longer a futile endeavor to try and get the best of Tillman.

Hisashi Iwakuma has a substantial advantage here on the pitching data. It’s really not especially close. But just betting a game on the starting pitching is not a good road to travel.  Ignoring other meaningful data is not a good path to success. In this game, I see some other variables that indicate the Mariners.

No doubt the Orioles have the better offense, but I don’t think it’s a huge gap. I’ll submit the Mariners are right now the best team they’ve been in years. They just upgraded center field with the addition of Austin Jackson. Kendrys Morales has been struggling with the stick, but he had two hits last night, including a critical single in the eighth inning, and that could be a buy signal. They’ve upgraded offensively at shortstop with Chris Taylor taking the job away from Brad Miller. Maybe most importantly, it’s starting to look as though Dustin Ackley has arrived. He’s flourishing in the two-hole right now and that’s a very big deal as it means more RBI opportunities for Robinson Cano.

Seattle is now in position where if they can hang tough for seven innings and then turn games into bullpen battles, they’re going to generally have an advantage. I think this team is a bit underrated right now and after winning with them last night, I’m prepared to fire right back on the Mariners here.

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Today I've got my first 3* in over a week, backing a baseball favorite I expect to dominate. In addition to this top-rated NO-MERCY selection, I've got a best bet on the NFL preseason kick-off - available now on my homepage