Yu Don't Want to Bet the Cubs in Milwaukee Today

yu darvish

Rainman M.

Saturday, April 7, 2018 1:46 PM UTC

Saturday, Apr. 7, 2018 1:46 PM UTC

Milwaukee (5-3) hosts Chicago (3-4) at 4:05 ET on FS1. The early betting public is jumping on the Cubs. Should you follow the bandwagon?

Chicago Cubs (3-4) vs Milwaukee Brewers (5-3)

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Free MLB Pick: Brewers First 5 MLBest Line Offered: at 5Dimes

Yu Darvish (0-0, 10.38 ERA) is not a pitcher worth laying chalk on. He looked out of sorts in his first Cub game, in which he allowed five runs in 4.1 innings. He didn't have the confidence to throw more than 33% of his first pitches for a strike. He lacked the stuff to get batters to chase pitches out of the zone. His command was poor as he walked too many batters. A bad first start isn't necessarily predictive of the next start. But with Darvish I think this is a sign of more to come.

The Dodgers are the last team to have bought into the hype surrounding Darvish after he was bounced from Texas last year. After Darvish was shelled in the World Series, they let him go. His major problem is tipping pitches. A pitcher needs to surprise hitters--either with his velocity or otherwise. With Darvish, Houston batters were able to easily tell by looking at how he held or gripped the ball which pitch to expect and, as a result, Darvish only managed 10 outs in two WS starts. Tipping pitches has been a repeated habit of Darvish and, if he can't avoid doing that in the most important games of his career, when can we trust him not to? The Cubs seem to think that they can fix Darvish. But that remains to be seen.

Darvish hasn't seen much of Milwaukee. His last outing was a loss last year as a Dodger in LA's pitcher-friendly park, where he allowed three runs in five innings. He's in the first year of a new big contract and the pressure is on to live up to expectations.

Milwaukee's Zach Davies (0-1, 9.53 ERA) is an underrated starting pitcher. He had a tough first outing against the Cardinals. But by looking at his FIP, which is like ERA but factors out luck, we can tell that he actually pitched pretty well. Since last season, Davies has figured things out. In the second half of 2017 his ERA was 2.87 compared to 4.90 in the first half.

The key to Davies' improvement has been to vary his sequencing. His two-seam fastball and changeup work the same side of the plate by having a very similar degree of horizontal movement. When he was struggling, he was throwing these two pitches more frequently and was therefore being more predictable in terms of pitch selection and location. Batters could more easily track where his pitches would land. But Davies made himself less predictable by throwing his curveball and cutter more frequently. The horizontal movement of the latter two pitches brings them to a different degree in the opposite side of the plate. By throwing them more frequently, Davies is making his pitches harder to track. As somebody who throws below-average velocity, pitch sequencing is crucial. In other words, the developing youngster is like a junior version of Arizona ace Zack Greinke.

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During their long road trip, the Cubs' hitting has been very inconsistent, producing ten runs in one game, then none the next, and so on. I would rather trust a pitcher like Davies who has consistently been much better since the end of last season. Two important hitters are listed as 'questionable' today: Anthony Rizzo for CHC and Christian Yelich for the Brewers. What's important for me is that the Brewers won't have their closer Corey Knebel for 4-6 weeks due to injury. He's a huge part of their bullpen, so I want to stick to a First 5 play in our MLB Picks.

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