Cubs to Start Strong vs. Cardinals Behind Pitching Edge

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Rainman M.

Sunday, April 15, 2018 5:25 AM GMT

Sunday, Apr. 15, 2018 5:25 AM GMT

The Cubs host the hated Cardinals tonight (7 ET; ESPN). The postponement of Sunday's Cubs game will impact how bettors should approach this matchup.

MLB Monday: Cardinals vs. CubsFree MLB Pick: Cubs First Five RLBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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Note: Complete First Five odds were not available at press time.

Because yesterday‘s Cubs game was postponed, Tyler Chatwood (0-2 4.91 ERA) will start tonight for Chicago. The acquisition of Chatwood is looking like a poor decision early on. But bettors should remember to be forgiving of players who perform poorly in their first start with their new team. For example, Jhoulys Chacin, Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Yu Darvish all had an ERA of over four in their first start. Chatwood, in his first start, walked six batters. But that doesn‘t mean that his command is weak, only that he had a few jitters. In his next game, his 3.46 FIP (like ERA, factors out luck) is masked by a very fortunate effort from Pittsburgh, half of whose balls in play found a way to be a hit.

Chatwood‘s 4.32 career ERA doesn‘t look promising, either. But keep in mind that he pitched for five seasons in Colorado‘s high-altitude Coors Field. The key for bettors is that, last year, he had a bettor ERA on the road (3.49) than big-name pitchers like Dallas Keuchel and Zack Greinke. And yet nobody hears of poor Chatwood who is helpless up in the clouds. Colorado‘s altitude has a negative effect on a pitch‘s spin rate and movement, both of which are fundamental to Chatwood‘s aim of inducing a soft ground ball. Outside of Colorado, his pitches become tougher to make good contact with.

The former Rockie can overpower hitters with velocity and, despite his early struggles, he is inducing grounders at a 50 percent rate. In both senses he matches up optimally against the Cards, whose OPS (on-base plus slugging, average is .720) is under .600 both against power pitchers and ground ball pitchers.

The Cubs should be thankful that Adam Wainwright (0-2 5.06 ERA) counters for the Cards. Waino is in the rotation only because he is a long-time Cardinals icon and perhaps because he is getting paid so much money because of his awesome past with the team. Jack Flaherty is continuing to throw gems in Triple A and is primed to replace Wainwright, who is a shell of his former self, in the rotation.

As long as Wainwright is still pitching, bettors might as well take advantage. The 36-year-old veteran had offseason surgery to improve issues with velocity that were plaguing him last August. His velocity is back, but unfortunately his lack of command is as well. He continues to average one more walk per nine innings than he did in his career. He is also struggling with the long ball and striking out fewer batters. Fewer strikeouts is just one symptom of his deteriorating stuff. Wainwright is inducing fewer whiffs, fewer swings outside the zone and yet batters are making contact with pitches outside the zone at a 20-percent higher rate than his career average. Like Lester, he is not getting the same kind of vertical and horizontal movement in his pitches as he should. Wainwright, whose FIP is 1.01 higher than it was last year, has yet to show he belongs in the rotation. While the other Cards starters have adjusted after poor starts, he (and Michael Wacha) are still getting hit hard.

Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist look unstoppable, batting nmore than .320 for the Cubs. Addison Russell is 6-for-15 with three doubles in his career against Wainwright.

Both bullpens rank in the better half in terms of ERA, so I want to stick to a "first five" play. The Cubs’ advantage in starting pitching will be decisive in our MLB picks.

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