Capper Has Small Bit of Faith Cubs Avoid Sweep at Hands of Dodgers

Mark Lathrop

Wednesday, October 18, 2017 3:57 PM UTC

Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017 3:57 PM UTC

Our MLB handicapper Mark Lathrop takes the opportunity to fade a pitcher once again who is showing signs of trouble or injury. Read on as he breaks down Game 4 of the NLCS and makes his Wednesday MLB pick!

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2017 MLB Record: 221-198-11 (+8.39 units)

Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago Cubs

With their elimination on the line, the Chicago Cubs host the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series Wednesday night. They hope to not get swept by the Dodgers, who won Tuesday in convincing fashion to take a 3-0 series lead. The Cubs weren’t without their scoring chances, though, as they only got outhit 9-8 while losing 6-1 in the column that counts. This continues the struggles of the Cubs offense as they have come up against elite pitching in the playoffs. Chicago is hitting just .174 over its last seven games and has scored an average of 2.6 runs in those.

The Cubs will face Alex Wood in this spot, who hasn’t started a game since Sept. 26. I’ve been down on Wood all year because of his stunning drop in velocity as the season has dragged on. Time off on the DL earlier did nothing to get that velocity back, and it is hard to tell if these 20-plus days off will matter, either. Wood’s troubles are easily seen in his first- and second-half splits as his FIP climbed from 2.04 to 4.76 over that time frame and his K/9 rate dropped from 10.82 to 6.78.

But it is the batted-ball profiles for Wood that really shine in diagnosing his troubles, and they are all going the wrong way. His line-drive rate increased from 15.9% to 23.7% and his ground-ball rate decreased from an elite 63.5% to 44.2% over the second half of the season. All of a sudden, dingers became an issue as his HR/FB% more than tripled from 5.1% to 18.1% in the same timeframe. I’d like to say the Dodgers have momentum, but Wood can’t be trusted in this spot.

Jake Arrieta will try to stop the bleeding for the Cubs, and what he has going for him is a really nice home split. He carries an above average 3.41 FIP, .206 BAA and 1.05 WHIP at home this year, while holding batters to a 7.5% HR/FB rate. It looks like a park factor is at play, because with almost identical batted-ball profiles Arrieta carries a 17.1% HR/FB rate on the road. What I like about Arrieta is that he doesn’t get blown out often, and only three times allowed more than 4 earned runs in a game this year – all road starts at hitters' parks. You’d have to go back to June 11 against Colorado to find a home start for Arrieta that wasn’t a quality one. This could be the 2015 Cy Young winner's final start in a Cubs uniform as he is set for free agency.

In investment terms, this is the paradoxical catching of the falling knife. However, I trust Arrieta more than Wood and I see value with the home team on the ropes in an elimination game at nearly even money. I will back the Cubs tonight as a small play.

Free MLB Pick: Cubs -111Best Line Offered: 5Dimes

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