L.A. Dodgers @ San Francisco
San Francisco +135 over L.A. Dodgers

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Posted at 3:30 PM EST and are subject to change.

San Francisco +135 over L.A. Dodgers

10:15 PM EST. Usually, we don’t get involved in Dodgers games because they win so often and they’re overpriced almost daily but this is one we cannot refuse.

Jakob Junis (RHP - SF) was an afterthought heading into 2022 after posting a 5.36 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in 240 IP from 2019-21. Though it’s only been 35 IP, he has opened some eyes with a 2.51 ERA and 1.01 WHIP thus far in 2022. A revamped pitch mix and some good fortune is what’s behind the improved performance. Heightened focus on getting ahead in the count and pounding the strike zone has resulted in a career-best bb% (6% xBB%) for Junis. His swing and miss rate is merely MLB average for starting pitchers, but it hints at a touch of upside (22% xK%). His current groundball rate would be the best of his career, and it’s a positive development, particularly considering his history of HR issues (lifetime: 1.6 HR/9).

Junis has essentially narrowed his pitch mix to a slider (54% usage; 13% swing & miss rate; 47% grounders), sinker (34% usage; 54% grounders), and a change-up (11% usage; 12% swing & miss rate) in 2022. We don’t know how it’ll play out today but this wager is not about backing Junis. You see, Walker Buehler’s (RHP - LAD) fastball ain’t right.

We’re around the one-year mark in which Major League Baseball announced they would actually enforce the ban on foreign substances, which means that pitchers have had about a year to figure out how to adapt. We saw that the emphasis on enforcement worked initially, with pitchers’ spin rates falling precipitously, but it wasn’t long before many returned to their previous baselines. It figures that most pitchers found a way to get some of the foreign substances back on the ball, but that’s certainly not the case for everyone. There’s no concrete evidence that Walker Buehler has indulged in foreign substance use in the past, but the way that the timing has worked out, there’s not evidence that he’s been one of the most afflicted pitchers as it pertains to losing spin on his fastball.

The facts are that Buehler had elite spin on his fastball, then MLB started policing foreign substance use more intentionally, and then he became more ordinary by spin rate. Now that Buehler’s had a more vulnerable fastball for about a year, it’s probably worth considering what it might mean for him to never get his old fastball back. Despite having one of the straighter fastballs in MLB, Buehler has always had good fastball shape because it had plus ride that creates a flat vertical approach angle. Part of the reason that he was able to create such good ride on his fastball is because of his elite raw spin rate, which we know has taken a hit. With that loss in spin has come a loss in fastball ride.

We’re not going to go into all the mathematics of spin rates but just know that Buehler is a fastball pitcher. His fastball has been very bad. Across the board, it’s regressed, with its significant dropoff in swinging-strike being most notable. What he now lacks in called strikes and whiffs have turned into more balls in play, which usually isn’t ideal, but especially so when you consider its .493 expected weight on-base percentage on contact – it’s been an uncharacteristically horrid pitch, and he’s struggled because of it.

It’s clear that he needs to get his fastball back. Without it, he’ll probably never be quite the same. The easiest way to get it back would, obviously, be to regain some of the spin he’s lost, but there are other things presently wrong with his fastball, things that have been getting worse over the years. The reasoning is, perhaps, due to a loss of some athleticism. Walker Buehler isn’t far removed from having one of the best fastballs in MLB. Then, he lost velocity, perhaps due to his mechanics, and then he lost spin around the time of foreign substance enforcement. The result is a greatly diminished fastball, one that remains to be seen if he’ll find again. Of course, Buehler and the Dodgers can win here but Buehler is still priced like an elite starter and it’s time to try and take advantage.

Our Pick

San Francisco +135 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.70)