Rockies Have Underdog Value on North Side of Chicago on Monday

Sunday, April 29, 2018 6:16 PM UTC

Sunday, Apr. 29, 2018 6:16 PM UTC

The Cubs commence a three-game home series vs. the Rockies on Monday (7:05 p.m. ET; ESPN). It is rare to want to bet Colorado on the road, but this matchup presents the perfect opportunity.

MLB Monday: Rockies vs. CubsFree MLB Pick: Rockies +170Best Line Offered: BetOnline

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The Rockies show that revenge is an underrated betting angle in baseball. Dating to 2017, after the last six series which the Rockies tied or lost, they won two of the next three against that same opponent.

Jon Lester (2-1, 3.29 ERA) starts for the Cubs. He is struggling to be consistent. In his last four home starts dating to last season, he has alternated between yielding an FIP (like ERA, but factors out luck) more than and then less than 5.00. Lester’s current FIP of 4.79 indicates he is actually pitching poorly. His ERA is low because he has been stranding baserunners at an unsustainable higher rate than his career average and benefiting from a low opposing BABIP (batting average of balls in play) despite inducing less soft contact.

In reality, Lester’s strikeout rate is down from last year and his walk rate is up. He is throwing his fastball at a higher rate partly because he is less comfortable with his breaking stuff. For example, he is achieving less vertical movement or "sink" with his sinker, which opponents are slugging at a much higher rate than last year. His opponents’ slugging percentage against his cutter was .500 or higher in three of his five starts. Because Lester has fewer breaking pitches to throw effectively or consistently, opponents are more apt to sit on his fastball. Lester’s opposing slugging percentage against his fastball is an atrocious .639. The aging Cub is lacking the stuff and command to finish off batters.

Lester matches up poorly against the Rockies particularly as a southpaw. Colorado is hitting .266 against lefties, .45 higher than against righties. Its BA is .11 higher against left-handed starters than right-handed. The Rox’s success against left-handed pitchers is evident in that they have won three of their last four against them. In 60 career at-bats, the Rockies are hitting .283 against Lester with an .850 OPS (on-base plus slugging; average is .720). Look out for Ian Desmond and Charlie Blackmon, who have a combined five doubles in 16 career at-bats against Lester. Last season, Chicago’s Wrigley Field was a home away from home for Colorado's hitters, who batted .271 in four games there.

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Kyle Freeland (1-3, 4.33 ERA) counters for Colorado, an underdog in this game on the MLB odds board. The southpaw is getting an extra day of rest because of his sore heel, with which he still pitched a gem in his last outing. Take into account this extra day of rest. In his last three outings with five days’ rest he has achieved an FIP of less than 2.00. Freeland’s numbers are inflated by two initial outings in which he allowed two home runs each. In his last three starts, he has allowed only one homer overall. Cubs bats have been cold, averaging two runs per game since April 25.

The Cubs are particularly unreliable against left-handed pitching. Their OPS is .70 lower against southpaws and .50 lower against southpaw starters, and they’ve earned two runs against each of their last three opposing southpaw starters. In seven games against left-handed starters, they’ve roughed up only two. One was Milwaukee's Brent Suter, a victim of the Cubs’ very fortunate .421 BABIP. The other was Pittsburgh's Steven Brault, who made one big mistake, allowing a three-run home run to a right-handed batter who actually tends to struggle against southpaws. The Cubs have struggled throughout this season to gain any kind of consistency against left-handed pitching. They have not seen much of Freeland but also have yet to show any kind of promise against him, achieving two singles in 18 career at-bats.

With as many matchup advantages, the Rockies are a juicy road dog in our MLB picks.

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