MLB Pick: Underdog Value Play Monday

LT Profits Sports Group

Monday, June 9, 2014 4:00 AM UTC

Monday, Jun. 9, 2014 4:00 AM UTC

Each day LT Profits Sports seeks an MLB overlay that has a better chance of cashing than its odds, offering long term value. Here is their Underdog Value Play for Monday.

The last place team in the National League Central may actually hold a bit of value Monday night when Edwin Jackson and those Chicago Cubs (25-35, 10-21 away) pay a visit to fellow right-hander Charlie Morton and the Pittsburgh Pirates (29-33, 17-15 home) in the first game of a four-game series from PNC Park in Pittsburgh, PA at 7:05 ET in a game available on ROOT.

The posted money line at Pinnacle Sports has Chicago as a decided underdog for this contest at current odds of +138.

The Cubs may be in last place, but at least they no longer own the worst record in baseball like they did for a while, as after burning money for much of the early season the Cubs are improving and had a five-game winning streak snapped in a 4-3 loss to the Miami Marlins Sunday. In fact Chicago does not even own the worst record in the National League any more with the Philadelphia Phillies one-half game worse at 25-36.

The Pirates became relevant again for the first time in a long time last year, not only making the playoffs for the first time since 1992 but even posting their first winning year since then! However, with that accomplishment in the rear view mirror, Pittsburgh now finds itself closer to these last place Cubs (three games ahead) than to the first place Milwaukee Brewers (eight games back) while in fourth place in the NL Central in a disappointing start.

Jackson has some mediocre numbers on the surface as he is 4-5 with a 4.59 ERA and 1.46 WHIP overall. However, he has actually allowed three earned runs or less in five of his last six starts and he certainly has a good enough ratio of 65 strikeouts vs. 29 walks for the season in 68.2 innings, and he has allowed only five home runs in 12 starts resulting in a much prettier 3.53 FIP, which is more than a full run lower than his ERA suggesting positive regression coming.

Jackson has fared reasonably will vs. the Pirates over the years going 6-2 with a 3.63 ERA in 12 career starts against them and this time he has the support of a hot bullpen. Yes, that pen cost Jake Arrieta a win yesterday after he tossed six scoreless innings by allowing two runs in the seventh inning a two more in the eighth, but that performance notwithstanding the Cubs have a 3.29 bullpen ERA with a collective 1.01 WHIP in the last 10 games.

That leaves the Cubs fifth in the National League with a 3.28 ERA overall this season, and from a sabremetric viewpoint that Chicago contingent is an identical fifth in the NL with a 1.4 WAR.

The Pirates have had to make some changes in the starting rotation due to Gerrit Cole, who was supposed to start tonight’s game, being placed on the Disabled List with shoulder soreness. Thus, Pittsburgh inserted Jeff Locke into the rotation to start on Sunday and gave Sunday’s original starter Morton an extra day of rest to start tonight.

Therefore Morton is pitching with a full week of rest since recording just his second win of the year vs. the San Diego Padres last Monday, when he allowed two earned runs on three hits with a season-high nine strikeouts in just five innings. He was pulled early because all of those strikeouts as well as three walks made Morton run his pitch count all the way up to 98 in those five frames, thus marking the third straight start that he has failed to go six innings.

Morton is still just 2-7 for the year, although his 3.31 ERA could suggest that he has been pitching in bad luck. However, that is not really the case at all as Morton has actually pitched in good luck while getting away with allowing a .279 BABIP. He also has an ordinary ratio of 54 strikeouts vs. 29 walks in 73.1 innings, helping lead to a 4.03 FIP that suggests some negative regression in that surprising ERA is on the horizon.

In other words, this is a rare case where the 2-7 record actually paints a better picture of the year Morton is having than the ERA, and that appears to give good value to the Chicago Cubs at a nice underdog price in Pittsburgh on Monday.


MLB Pick: Cubs +138

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