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.
Just because the game does not have any playoff implications, it does not mean that there is no value to be found Monday night when right-hander Alfredo Simon and the Cincinnati Reds (71-79, 31-44 away) pay a visit to southpaw Travis Wood and the Chicago Cubs (65-84, 35-36 home) in the first game of a three-game series from Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL at 8:05 ET in a game available on CSN-Chicago.
The posted money line at Pinnacle Sports has Chicago as a small home underdog for this contest at current odds of +104.
Neither Team Going Anywhere
The Reds were one of three National League Central teams to make the playoffs last season and they appeared to have a chance at a return trip to the post-season this year, but they did not hit a lick after suffering key injuries to their best offensive players and they now find themselves closer to the last place Cubs (4½ games ahead) than they do to the final wild card spot (8½ games back) with just 12 games remaining.
The Cubs were expected MLB picks to finish in last place this year, so their standing is hardly a surprise. They did become a bit more competitive though after they started bringing up their better prospects from the minors, and while Chicago has lost eight of its last nine games, the Cubs are actually now a commendable one game under .500 here at home at 35-36.
Regression Since All-Star Game
Simon looked like he was on his way to a career year in the first half of the season as he stood at 12-3 with a 2.70 ERA, a 1.05 WHIP and a .219 batting average allowed, and he was rewarded by being named an All-Star for the first time in his career at the age of 33. However, his mainstream numbers were running considerably ahead of his sabremetric numbers, and those numbers have predictably converged and he has regressed since the All-Star break.
In fact Simon is a woeful 2-7 in 11 second-half starts with a 4.96 ERA, 1.51 WHIP and a .289 batting average allowed, and the fact that he is now also at a career high 178.1 innings pitched has helped fuel that regression even more. And unfortunately there is still room for more regression with Simon still standing at 14-10 with a 3.48 ERA overall.
That is because Simon does not have great command numbers with just 5.90 strikeouts vs.2.97 walks per nine innings, he has benefitted from a low .263 BABIP and he has just a 4.38 FIP and 4.02 xFIP, figures that are still running well behind his ERA.
Dominated Reds Last Time
The southpaw Wood had been in good form for the Cubs before getting lit up for seven runs and nine hits while lasting just 1.2 innings vs. the Pittsburgh Pirates in his last start last Sunday. That was vs. a team fighting for a wild card spot though (and successfully until now), and he is facing no such rival here.
Wood had allowed three earned runs or less in five of his last six starts prior to that debacle, and that stretch included a stellar performance vs. these Reds when he allowed only two hits in six scoreless innings during a 3-0 shutout victory at Cincinnati on August 26th.
Remember that Wood came up through the Cincinnati organization and broke into the majors with the Reds, and he has performed well in his nine career starts vs. his old team despite his deceptive 2-5 record against them as he has a 3.30 ERA and 1.106 WHIP while holding his former teammates to a .231 batting average over 57.1 innings with 47 strikeouts vs. just 12 walks.
Hoping To Avoid Cellar
Finally, the Cubs are highly unlikely to avoid the cellar, but any slim chance of doing so begins with taking care of business against Cincinnati head-to-head, and the Reds just might accommodate them considering their dreadful 7-24 record in their last 31 road games.
Look for the Cubs to draw first blood in this series and to rather amazingly pull to .500 at Wrigley Field this year with a win on Monday.
MLB Pick: Cubs +104