Zerillo’s Cardinals vs. Cubs Betting Guide: Back Mills or Wacha on Friday at Wrigley Field?

Zerillo’s Cardinals vs. Cubs Betting Guide: Back Mills or Wacha on Friday at Wrigley Field? article feature image

Jeff Curry, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Michael Wacha

Betting Odds: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Chicago Cubs

Probable starters: Michael Wacha (6-7, 4.76 ERA) vs. Alec Mills (1-0, 3.42 ERA)

  • Cardinals odds:  +100
  • Cubs odds: -120
  • Over/Under:  10
  • First pitch: 2:20 p.m. ET

All odds above as of 10 a.m. ET and via PointsBet, where Action Network users get an exclusive 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150).

If the Cubs-Cardinals game on Thursday night was a preview of what’s to come, over the six meetings in their final nine games, you better buckle up.

The Cardinals prevailed 5-4 in extra-innings, but not before the Cubs scored three runs in the ninth inning off of Carlos Martinez (and Andrew Miller) to tie the game at 4-4; sending the game total over 7.5 in the process.

The Cubs are now a game behind the Brewers in both the NL Wild Card and NL Central, and Milwaukee is still three games behind the Cardinals within their division.

The Brewers are 14-4 in September and refuse to go away, even without 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich. Will the Cubs continue to slip further behind them in the standings on Friday?

The Starters

Michael Wacha is the known commodity here, having lost a full two mph on his fastball in the past two seasons. Whether by FIP or xFIP, Wacha is now a below-average pitcher:

After posting a .309 xWOBA in 2017, that mark has hovered near .350 for Wacha over the past two years – and his rate of hard contact allowed has also increased by over five percent.

However, Wacha still owns a good changeup; his only pitch that has returned a positive value:

Meanwhile, this is just the fifth career MLB start for Alec Mills, a 27-year-old whom the Cubs acquired prior to the 2017 season.

He thrives on command, locating his fastball and changeup to set up a curveball or slider

He is a control-and-command pitcher, locating his fastball (9th percentile in velocity) and changeup while mixing in a curveball or slider. His spin rates are average, but Mills’ command makes his arsenal play up.

He generates a lot of swinging strikes (50%) using his changeup

The Bullpens

Since the All-Star Break, the Cubs bullpen ranks seventh in FIP, 10th in xFIP and 14th in K-BB%. By the same metrics, the Cardinals rank second, 23rd and 16th.

What’s with the big disagreement between FIP and xFIP for St. Louis?

xFIP accounts for the expected number of homers a pitcher (or group of pitchers) should have surrendered (based on the number of fly balls allowed and the entire league’s hr/fly-ball ratio), whereas FIP is based on actual home runs allowed.

Since the All-Star break, the Cardinals relief corps has the fourth-highest fly-ball rate, but a league-low HR/FB rate (7.7%).

Both bullpens look a bit overworked coming into Friday.

The Cardinals have used their three best relievers (Martinez, Miller and Giovanny Gallegos) on consecutive days – and each might be fatigued.

Gallegos has actually pitched on three straight days, so he should be out for today. But I could see them turning to Martinez and/or Miller for a third straight day.

As for the Cubs, only Pedro Strop and Duane Underwood Jr. pitched each of the past two days, but Joe Maddon has also used 12 of his 14 relievers over the same period.

Everyone should be available, but the pitchers on both clubs have to be getting worn down.

Umpire and Weather Report

Data per Sports Insights

Trends to Know

The under in Wrigley Field day games is 23-17-5 (57.5%) in 2019, generating a consistent $100 bettor a profit of $498 (11.1% ROI).

The Cubs are 26-19 (64.4%) in those home day games, turning a profit of $401 (8.9% ROI), and winning by an average margin of 1.42 runs. They are 8-6 in road day games.

The Cardinals are 4-11 (26.7%) in road day games this season, but 11-6 at home.

Projected Odds and Betting Approach

I projected the Cubs as a -107 favorite in this game, so I do not see value on either side, and I set the over/under at 10.03, so I don’t see value on the total, either.

Based upon the fatigue and/or unavailability of the Cardinals top three relief pitchers, I might look to play the Cubs live in this game if I can get them at even money or better.

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