Pick Cubs To Hold Impressive Momentum Against Invading Pirates

Mark Lathrop

Friday, May 13, 2016 11:09 AM GMT

Our MLB handicapper tries his best to find a reason to fade the Cubs as he makes his Friday matinee MLB Pick! Let's come up with a solid wager on the Pittsburgh vs. Chicago match.

2016 YTD MLB: 16-9-1, +6.84 Units

Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Chicago Cubs
It’s getaway day for me here, as I look forward to a much needed vacation in a tropical location. I’ll be on hiatus for about 10 days on SBR but I leave you in good hands, and as always, appreciate the opportunity to share my insights with our readers on almost a daily basis. Now, on to the Cubbies and Pirates:

In a Friday matinee game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs, Jason Hammel gets the call for the Cubs and Francisco Liriano hits the mound for the Pirates. As I am writing this early to snag a flight in the morning before the game, only initial odds are out, with the home town Cubs favored at -139 at BetOnline. There is no O/U total available as of Thursday afternoon (ya, I’m early!).

Jason Hammel & Francisco Liriano
Jason Hammel has had a great start for the Cubs so far this year and comes into this game with a 4-0 record. You could say he is the Alex Harris of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, if Mr. Harris pitched for the Cubbies. All superlatives and name dropping aside, Hammel is on track for a career year and comes into this game carrying a 1.85 ERA, 28/14 K/BB rate, 1.15 WHIP, and .205 batting average against. His .258 BABIP is a little lower than his career average, and his 3.23 FIP suggests his defense is helping his true value, but the big right-hander is still pitching very well.

Hammel faced the Pirates just two starts ago on May 2nd, and picked up a win after hurling 89 pitches of 2-run ball and giving up 5 hits over 5.0 innings pitched. Only Andrew McCutchen has a serious history of success against Hammel for the Pirates, as he is 10-33 with 3 HR off of him, but has also only walked once in those 33 at bats.

Francisco Liriano brings his 3-1 record into this game on pace to give up the most home runs in a season in his career. One could look solely at his 3.60 ERA and think everything is dandy, but his 4.60 FIP, 83.7% left on base percentage, and sub-career average .270 BABIP tells a different story. Liriano is walking batters at the highest rate since 2005 and allowing balls to be pulled against him at the highest rate in his career. That pull rate is correlated to his HR/FB% of course. I don’t know the exact reason this is happening, but the outlier is that Liriano is generating swinging strikes at the lowest rate in his career. Balls are getting squared up against him and they are leaving the yard.

 

Conclusions
The Cubs are having a historic start to their season thus far in many ways. They are ranked #1 in all of baseball in total offense, but the Pirates are ranked at #3 right behind them. The big difference in these teams has been the pitching of course, where the Cubs are ranked 3rd in the MLB in accrued WAR and the Pirates are ranked 28th just ahead of the Brewers and Reds. The Pirates bullpen has been especially awful this year. The Cubs are also ranked 1st in defensive statistics on the year with the Pirates ranked 17th.

I’ve tried to talk myself into fading the public here, and I still can’t find an angle to do it because even if Hammel struggles a bit the Cubs offense and fielding should bail him out. I say we ride this Cubbie train until it leaves the station, so I’m taking the Cubs -149 at Pinnacle as my get-out-of-town MLB pick.

 

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Free MLB Pick: Chicago Cubs -143
Best Line Offered: at Bookmaker