The Mets are rolling. Sitting with the NL’s best record and a comfortable lead in the NL East.
However, they’re running into a freight truck. Sandy Alcantara is having his breakout season, currently the heavy betting favorite to win NL Cy Young.
The Mets have Taijuan Walker on the mound for the first of this three-game set.
Who has the edge?
Let’s dive into the starting lineups, betting odds, and my prediction for the game.
New York Mets vs Miami Marlins Odds
The lowly Marlins should not be favored against the NL’s best team.
That’s how good Alcantara is. The Marlins are 9-5 in Alcantara starts for what it’s worth, and Sandy has posted a personal record of 7-2.
The total seems about right at 7.5, considering how good Alcantara is and Walker’s 2.88 ERA. The wind is projected to be blowing cross-field from right to left at about 11mph, possibly helping right-handed hitters.
We need to investigate this game further to find the value.
New York Mets Starting Lineup
CF B. Nimmo L
RF S. Marte R
SS F. Lindor S
1B P. Alonso R
DH J.McNeil L
3B E. Escobar S
LF M. Canha R
2B L. Guillorme L
C J. McCann R
New York Mets vs Sandy Alcantara
We really have a starting pitcher averaging over seven innings per game in the year 2022.
Sandy has pitched a whopping 99 ⅓ innings over 14 starts good for just over seven innings per game. That easily leads the league and he already has two complete games under his belt. He’s now pitched eight straight games of at least seven innings – the longest such streak since Jacob deGrom in 2019 – going at least eight innings in five of those games.
Plus, Alcantara has done it all with an ERA of 1.72 while leading the league in hits per nine innings allowed (6.1).
Image credit: Codify Baseball
He’s never been a big-time strikeout guy, but he ranks above the 90th percentile of qualified pitchers in avg. exit velocity allowed and barrel rate. His ability to combine the soft contact with a career-high 53.7% ground-ball rate has led him to new heights.
He uses these soft-contact ground balls to work through innings quickly, allowing him to pitch deep into games. But he also gets better as the game goes along, pacing himself until the later innings. You’ll see him start games with a 94mph-96mph fastball but then start hitting triple-digits in the sixth or seventh inning.
Check out this wicked fastball-changeup combination late in a game against the Phillies.
Sandy Alcántara casually flipping 101mph Fastballs and 94mph Changeups. pic.twitter.com/EzhBnkzidN
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 14, 2022
How do you beat that?
All-in-all, Sandy leads the NL in pitching fWAR and trails only Kevin Gausman for the MLB lead. He’s the best pitcher in baseball.
While the Mets’ offense is rolling, ranking top-10 in wRC+ over the last 30 days and fourth on the season, I worry about their production today. The Mets don’t hit the ball hard, ranking among the bottom-10 MLB teams in barrel rate, hard-hit rate, and avg. exit velocity.
Instead, the Mets put the ball in play. They strike out at the fifth-lowest rate in the league and punish poor defenses like the Rockies, Phillies, and Nationals.
But the Marlins are top-10 in Outs Above Average this season. So, how will this soft-contact lineup generate runs against the best soft-contact pitcher in the league with a top-10 defense behind him?
They’ll need a big showing from Pete Alonso, who is the only Mets hitter slugging above .500. Alonso is just 4-for-21 lifetime with six strikeouts against Alcantara, but he has generated a .542 xSLG.
They’ll also have to get to the Marlins’ bullpen, which has the third-worst reliever ERA over the last 30 days (6.27).
Miami Marlins Starting Lineup
3B J. Berti R
2B J. Chisholm L
LF J. Soler R
DH G. Cooper R
1B J. Aguilar R
RF A. Garcia R
CF J. Sanchez L
SS M. Rojas R
C J. Stallings R
Miami Marlins vs Taijuan Walker
Walker is putting together an impressive season, posting a 2.88 ERA and a 3.17 FIP through 11 starts. Given the Mets’ top-two rotation guys are still injured (Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer), Walker has been an important top-half rotation pitcher.
But I worry about Walker going forward.
Walker pairs those numbers with a 3.81 xERA and a 3.95 xFIP. His BABIP (.278) and HR/FB rate (5.2%) are suspiciously low, and could easily cause future negative regression issues for him.
Plus, Walker’s batted ball profile isn’t elite by any means. He ranks among the bottom 25% of qualified pitchers in avg. exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and barrel rate allowed. His four-seam fastball is getting crushed (.491 xSLG, +2 Run Value) and his secondary pitches have been just league-average.
Walker has adjusted by throwing a splitter more, which has produced a -8 Run Value ahs his second-most used pitch this season, keeping the opponent’s SLG under .200.
Image credit: Baseball Savant
The Marlins struggle to score often, especially in Alcantara starts, but this lineup is starting to put things together. They rank 12th in wRC+ this season (104) with a top-15 OPS (.712). They’re striking out much less than they did last season and getting important contributions from secondary guys like Miguel Rojas.
You know about Jazz Chisholm jr. and his 137 OPS+, but I’d like to draw attention to Garrett Cooper.
Cooper has spent 32 games at 1B this season and 26 at DH. He ranks among the top-10 players in fWAR at both positions (1.6) and has put together a team-high 139 OPS+. His bat-to-ball skills have looked as good as any in baseball, as his .313 average is now fifth in the National League.
And over his last 20 games, Coop is slashing .395/.437/.605 for a 1.042 OPS with 12 multi-hit games.
New York Mets vs Miami Marlins Picks & Prediction
My pick: Marlins F5 ML (-140 or better)
We have no choice but to back Alcantara here. He’s too talented, has been too dominant lately, and has a great matchup against this Mets lineup.
Moreover, we need to avoid the bullpen matchup. The Mets have one of the more talented bullpens in the league, and the Marlins are a mess back there with one of the worst game managers in baseball in Don Mattingly.
The Marlins lineup is not completely pathetic, and could maybe finally garner some run support for their Cy Young candidate in a huge series against the NL’s top team.
The full-game ML has opened at Marlins -115, and I expect the F5 ML to be skewed more towards the Marlins. But I believe in Sandy so much that I’m willing to pay good juice to back him.