Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 2:00 PM EST. Odds subject to change.
Arizona +137 over Texas
8:03 PM EST. Nathan Eovaldi (RHP - TEX) was already considered a disciple of the Jack Morris school of Gritty Pitchers Who Win Big Games entering this postseason, and his legend has only grown this October. The big righty has made four starts this postseason, and he’s won them all while pitching into the seventh inning in three of them. The worst of his four outings was a six-inning, three-run quality start back in Game 2 of the ALCS, a game that will be remembered for his Houdini escape act of a bases loaded, nobody out situation in the fifth inning to keep the Astros at bay. He’s been genuinely dominant, too—he’s struck out 28 batters against just four walks and two homers in 26 innings this postseason, with opponents batting .217/.252/.289 against him. His velocity is back into the 95-97 mph range, his splitter’s been nasty, and his cutter and curveball have proven useful when he’s needed them.
Eovaldi is a fairly unique frontline starter. His fastball has heavy arm-side run, he lacks a nasty swing-and-miss breaking ball, and he often works more east-west than north-south, locating his heater and short cutter to both sides of the plate. He tends to feature a heavier dose of cutters against lefties in order to keep them from diving over the plate to hit his splitter, and throws his loopy, upper-70’s curveball to both hands as a change of pace. But what really makes this equation work is his exceptional split-finger fastball. Eovaldi’s best pitch comes in at 87-89 mph and does everything for him: it draws whiffs, it keeps the ball on the ground, and it’s chased very often, especially when batters are ahead in the count. Over the past three seasons, that splitter has created a chase rate close to 50% when Eovaldi finds himself behind in the count, allowing him to even up disadvantages and get himself back into the count at will.
Arizona was slightly better than average against splitters in 2023 (.263 wOBA), and he’ll have a few crucial matchups in that lineup against this specific pitch. Christian Walker (.047 wOBA) and Geraldo Perdomo (.211 wOBA) struggled against them, but Corbin Carroll, Ketel Marte, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., three of the D’Backs’ best hitters, handled splitters well. Arizona is not a particularly pull-happy team, and except for Evan Longoria, none of their regulars strike out a lot. Eovaldi still holds the advantage here, of course: he’s the pitcher, and he’s been on a roll this October but his matchup against the Diamondbacks is not of the “ace pitcher goes up against scrappy, helpless lineup” variety in the slightest.
Zac Gallen’s (RHP - ARI) postseason has been far more uneven. After an excellent regular season that should land him in the top five of Cy Young voting for the second year in a row, the Diamondbacks ace has been shaky in October; 13 runs in 22.1 innings can hardly be considered frontline production. Even the outings in which he prevented damage, the starts against the Brewers and Dodgers, were filled with baserunners and involved a lot of pitching out of the stretch. He lost both starts against Philadelphia in the NLCS, being handily outdueled by Zack Wheeler in Games 1 and 5, and coughing up five homers in 11 innings—he had as many strikeouts as home runs allowed. His command, his most important attribute, wasn’t as sharp as usual against the Phillies, and fatigue might be a real factor at this point in the season—Gallen will enter the World Series with 38 starts and 238 innings under his belt when combining regular and postseason play, both figures leading all of baseball. If Arizona does well, it’s all but a given that Gallen will reach the 40-start and 240-inning thresholds, a massive workload for 2023 standards.
Unfortunately for him, it doesn’t get any easier in the Fall Classic. The Rangers lineup is not only good, it’s also healthy, deep and (mostly) firing on all cylinders. Gallen has the tools to get them out, however. The good version of him has excellent command of everything he throws and weapons for all kinds of hitters: a good changeup, a great power curveball and a cutter/slider he manipulates to give it more or less depth depending on what he wants. The Diamondbacks ace is also very unique as far as his delivery goes: he stands on the third base side of the rubber, then strides and fires crossbody. This unique mechanical look creates a fairly outlier release point and approach angle on all his pitches, which enables him to pitch lefties in on their hands and create tough looks for righties on breaking stuff away from them. Paired with that superb command we talked about, Gallen can be really tough to hit when he’s on his game.
As far as the bullpens go, it should be considered a sizable miracle that the Rangers got to the World Series with a bullpen this shallow in the year 2023. It was a source of great pain throughout the regular season, and while it was very good in the first two rounds (albeit propped up by excellent starting pitching), it showed its true colors in the NLCS. If we count Andrew Heaney as part of the bullpen (and we should), Rangers relievers allowed 19 runs in 30 innings against Houston; virtually no one was good. Closer José Leclerc had a nightmare series, the depth relievers and most of the bulk guys got picked apart. Even Aroldis Chapman, who allowed just one run in 3.2 innings, looked somewhat shaky doing so. Righty Josh Sborz was the lone bright spot, pitching six crucial high-leverage innings and allowing all of two hits and one run. It was not a good showing, and it’s a dark cloud looming over Texas as the Rangers get ready for Game 1.
Entering the NLCS, we all thought Arizona needed to get excellent outings out of Gallen and Merrill Kelly to stand a snowball’s chance in hell. What happened instead, because baseball is such a wonderful sport, was that their two aces went 1-3 and allowed 14 runs in 21.2 innings, and the Diamondbacks won the series anyway because most of their bullpen pitched brilliantly when it mattered. Not only do the Snakes have more bullpen momentum, they also have a comparable if not superior back end, as well as better depth and versatility. The last two matter less in a Game 1, with everyone well rested, but the D’Backs have far better medium-and low-leverage options in general.
If you’re an opposing pitcher, this Rangers lineup is the stuff nightmares are made out of. Partly due to the Braves’ historical power-hitting shenanigans, their own late-summer collapse, and a string of injuries, Texas flew a bit under the radar as an offense in 2023, but this group is healthy now, and they go deep: Their only two below average everyday hitters by DRC+ were Evan Carter, who OPS’d 1.058 in the regular season and has a .308/.449/.538 slash line this postseason (even if he did slow down against Houston), and Leody Taveras, who’s hitting well recently and is an overqualified number nine hitter. This team hits for power, average, draws walks and has a good variety of hitters. They’re coming off smacking the life out of the vaunted Astros pitching staff in the final two games of the series, and have all the momentum in the world heading into Game 1 but that also makes them overvalued.
Texas has a deep, dangerous lineup, the kind that doesn’t need all its cogs to work together at all times in order to win games. They have far more home run power than Arizona, which also has great market appeal. The Rangers are leagues behind in terms of baserunning, but when you mash like they do that doesn’t tend to matter. This is Texas’ true advantage in this series: the depth of their lineup can win them games even when things don’t go right. Arizona depends on its great hitters to carry the load for a lineup with a few weak spots, but the Rangers really don’t have any.
The Diamondbacks do have the high-end hitters to hold their own against the Rangers; Christian Walker, NLCS MVP Ketel Marte, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., veteran Tommy Pham and rookie star Corbin Carroll are a very good top five. But the back end of the order looks far more manageable, and some of their key hitters are coming off a poor NLCS—Pham and Walker went a combined 4-for-42 with two extra-base hits. This played a major role in why they got outscored 21-30 in the NLCS, of course, but the slate is wiped clean now. Carroll was just 3-for-23 in the first six games of that series before busting out of his slump with a three-hit, two-steal, two-RBI Game 7 in which he scored two crucial runs. If he can carry that momentum into Texas, the D’Backs should be in good shape.
This is a great World Series that nobody will watch because nobody gives a f**k but we’re going to roll with the underdog in just about every game if the value is there and we’ll put that to the test here.
Arizona +135 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.70)