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Sat, 05/03/14 - 7:05 PM Bryan Leonard | MLB Money Line
double-dime bet 953 WAS (+106) 5Dimes vs 954 PHI
Results: L, -$200
Analysis: 953 Washington at Philadelphia

The Nationals and Phillies will be back at it on Saturday night with a matchup between Tanner Roark and AJ Burnett. In Roark, the Nationals have a guy that has filled in very well with Doug Fister, posting a 2.76 ERA and a 3.43 FIP to date. Roark has been a rather impressive back of the rotation starter over his first 19 appearances and 10 career starts. He throws a lot of strikes, he has good control, and his fastball has a little bit of sink to it to induce ground balls. What's impressive about Roark this season is that he's getting more swings and misses inside the strike zone, which allows a pitcher to have a greater margin for error and work deeper into games. Only once has Roark failed to finish at least six innings in his five starts this season.

We like Roark and his consistency, but we also see a lot of problem areas for Phillies starter AJ Burnett. A few weeks back, Burnett revealed that he would spend the rest of this season pitching with an inguinal hernia. Over the last three starts, Burnett has shown no ill effects, but PITCHf/x data paints a less optimistic picture. Burnett is pitching at velocities that are the lowest of his career and he is throwing fewer pitches in the strike zone. As a result, his strikeout rate has fallen precipitously, while his walk rate has increased. He has walked well over 10 percent of the batters that he has faced while his strikeout rate has fallen to below league average.

Burnett's advanced metrics also tell of regression on the horizon. He has a 2.15 ERA but a 3.57 FIP, a 3.98 xFIP, and a 4.13 SIERA. His K/BB ratio is just 1.65, even lower than the rates he was posting while struggling with the Yankees. Interestingly, since the injury, Burnett has pretty much abandoned his changeup and is now a two-pitch pitcher with the fastball and curve. The Phillies are a poor defensive team and Burnett's .270 BABIP is not going to be sustainable. It's 21 points lower than his career average and 35 points lower than last year's BABIP with the Pirates, one of the top defensive teams in the National League because of the shifts that they employ.

Between batted ball luck, declining control, an injury, and regression, there's no reason to back Burnett in this start. Roark is a solid pitcher for the Nationals who is getting better in important categories like strikeout rate and he appears undervalued on Saturday going up against a big name like Burnett.

PLAY: WASHINGTON


Pick Made: May 3 2014 4:51AM PST
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