Braves vs Cubs Prediction Today | MLB Odds, Picks for Friday, August 4
Photo by Matthew Grimes Jr./Atlanta Braves/Getty Images. Pictured: Max Fried (Braves)
Braves vs. Cubs Odds
-122 / +100
-122 / +100
The Cubbies have now won 12 of their last 15 games, as they make a rapid rise through the crowded NL standings. As we have noted in many of these previews, they were the trendy team to improve in the second half thanks to their impressive run differential in the first half.
That prophecy has been fulfilled in the last few weeks, but this will be a great test for them.
The Braves have simply been scorching hot all season, as they're running away with the NL East and have a four-game lead for the overall best record in baseball.
What's arguably most impressive about Atlanta is the depth to its talent. The Braves own the best offense against right-handed pitching; they're the best offense against left-handed pitching. They have a top-10 ERA from their starters and top-five from the bullpen. They have, by far, the most home runs in baseball, but they also land in the top 10 in stolen bases.
And on Friday, they add another key piece of the puzzle back in the form of Max Fried.
Easily their best pitcher over the past five seasons, Fried has only thrown 26.0 innings over the course of five starts this season. His last start was on May 5 when he was diagnosed with a forearm strain. He was on the shelf for all of May and June and then spent July rehabbing in the minor leagues.
Now he gets to return to the mix against the hottest team in baseball.
Fried will likely be on a pitch limit, as he threw 79 pitches in his final rehab start. No hard number has been set as of writing, but I'd imagine it would be in the 80-to-90 range and may be more determined by the number of up-and-downs.
Either way, the Braves' bullpen should be ready for action, which is fine since Atlanta had the day off Thursday.
Getting plenty of bullpen might be a good thing for Atlanta, as it possesses a consensus top-five bullpen by every metric, topping out as second-best by FIP.
It'll also be able to pick and choose its spots to perfection should it be a close game.
Opposite Fried is Kyle Hendricks, who's turned back the clock a bit in 2023. A long-time flummoxer of opposing batters, he's back to flummoxing in 2023 after a couple off seasons in the wilderness. Hendricks' ERA this season sits at 3.49, with metrics that suggests he's been a bit lucky — but nothing crazy.
Hendricks is also a pitcher who's long been able to "beat his FIP." For his career, his ERA is 3.46 compared to a 3.96 xFIP. That gap is nearly a full run this season, but Hendricks has long been able to post better ERAs than "expected" thanks to his ability to induce soft contact.
In his nine professional seasons tracked at Baseball Savant, he's been in the 10th percentile for lowest exit velocity allowed in six of those and is once again there this season, with an average exit velocity of 85.5 mph that ranks in the top four percent of the league.
Combine that with a walk rate (3.8%) that's in the top two percent of the league and a defense that's in the top half of baseball, and a pitcher whose strikeout rate looks like it belongs in the 1923 can still be effective in 2023.
The Braves, of course, are the team that hits the baseball by far the hardest in baseball, but the good news for Hendricks is that the weather will be on his side, which arguably matters more at Wrigley than any other field in baseball.
The wind will be blowing in, and Ballparkpal has the overall run-scoring environment for Wrigley tied for the lowest in baseball on Friday.
Braves vs. Cubs Betting Pick
When combining two very solid starters, the weather and a well-rested and likely to be used Braves bullpen, I like the under. Bettors can get under 8.5 at +100, but one potential game script I'm looking at in a same-game parlay is a close, low-scoring game.
If bettors can weave a win margin bet into an under same-game parlay, I really like that look given that part of the cap on this under is that the Braves can roll out their best arms if it's a close game.
In the case of a blowout, they may use lesser pitchers, so since I have that outcome correlating, I would combine it for a same-game parlay.
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