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Author: Mike Vitanza
Marlins vs. Cubs Game 1 Odds
|Marlins Odds||+140 [Bet Now]|
|Cubs Odds||-165 [Bet Now]|
|Over/Under||TBD [Bet Now]|
|First Pitch||2:08 p.m. ET|
The Chicago Cubs (34-26) enter the National League Wild Card round of Major League Baseball’s postseason as a No. 3 seed. They face the Miami Marlins (31-29), a team that they did not face at all during the regular season.
The Cubs did not finish the way they would have hoped, going 4-6 down the stretch of their last ten games. The offense struggled overall, averaging just 3.4 runs per game during that time. Their bats did wake up toward the very end, though, scoring ten runs in two of their last three games against the Chicago White Sox.
The Marlins are baseball’s biggest surprise of 2020. In their first winning season since 2009, the Marlins played well enough to earn the sixth seed in the National League playoffs. They finished the season 5-5, including winning two of their last three against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
Advanced Stats Glossary
FIP or Fielding Independent Pitching measures what a pitcher’s ERA would look like if the pitcher experienced league-average defense and luck. xFIP is a regressed version of FIP that adjusts or “normalizes’ the home run component based on park factors.
wRC+ or Weighted Runs Created Plus takes the statistic Runs Created and adjusts that number to account for critical external factors — like ballpark or era. It’s adjusted, so a wRC+ of 100 is league average, and 150 would be 50 percent above league average.
wOBA or Weighted On-Base Average is a catch-all hitting metric with more predictive value than on-base percentage. An average MLB hitter can be expected to post a .320 wOBA. xwOBA is a regressed version of wOBA that accounts for variables like park factors.
BaseRuns is a formula designed to estimate how many runs a team would be expected to score (or allow) given their underlying offensive (or defensive) performance. In other words, BaseRuns is a context-neutral run estimator used to evaluate teams. Major League average for an individual batter per game is 0.50 BaseRuns and a for a pitcher its 0.52 BaseRuns per inning.
Sandy Alcantara will make the first postseason start of his career on Wednesday afternoon. Alcantara’s season numbers were solid (3.72 FIP, 8.4 K/9), but he punctuated his season with three strong starts in which he pitched a combined 19.1 innings and allowed just four earned runs while striking out 18 batters.
This matchup isn’t as difficult as it looks at first glance. The Cubs were just average against right-handed pitching this season, hitting to a .318 wOBA and .185 ISO overall. Their 25.9% strikeout rate was also among the worst in baseball against righties.
They struggled specifically down the stretch and have been a much different offense than we’re used to seeing.
Kyle Hendricks was his typical, reliable self for the Cubs in 2020. His 3.55 FIP, 1.1 HR/9 and 7.1 K/9 were all in line with his career averages. The biggest difference between Hendricks in 2020 versus previous seasons was a heavier reliance on his curveball. This year, he increased usage of the pitch from 10% to 17%, while reducing his fastball usage from 62% to 55%. The result was a substantial reduction in hard-contact rate from 33.8% to 28.6%.
The Marlins, on the other hand, were one of the worst teams in baseball against right-handed pitching, collectively hitting to a .298 wOBA on the season (fifth worst in all of baseball). Their .120 ISO was also dead-last against righties.
The Cubs offense has been struggling mightily, and Alcantara is coming off a string of three great starts. He’s hot at exactly the right time and takes on an underperforming Chicago offense.
The Marlins, meanwhile, were terrible in the regular season against right-handed pitching and do not match up well against Hendricks. That means this game will likely come down to the bullpen, and that’s where the Cubs have the advantage.
The Marlins bullpen was the second-worst in all of baseball with a 5.65 FIP on the season. Their 4.6 BB/9 and 1.64 HR/9 were also extremely high. The Cubs bullpen wasn’t elite, but with a 4.45 FIP they were markedly better than their opponent.
This game should be close, but the numbers point to the Cubs taking Game 1. At the current odds, however, the line is a bit too high at -165. If this works its way down to the -150 range, I’m firing a half unit on the Cubs. Otherwise, I’m staying away.
The PICK: Cubs Moneyline (only up to -150)
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Author: Mike Vitanza