Sunday Night Baseball Betting Notes: Brewers-Cubs Rubber Match at Wrigley Field

Sunday Night Baseball Betting Notes: Brewers-Cubs Rubber Match at Wrigley Field article feature image
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David Banks-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia and Cubs third baseman David Bote

  • The Chicago Cubs are -135 favorites over the Milwaukee Brewers with an Over/Under of 7.5 on Sunday Night Baseball.
  • Will the Cubs continue their terrific play at Wrigley Field? Our baseball analysts break it down:

The Cubs and Brewers will meet in Chicago on Sunday night in the rubber match of their three-game series. Only one game separates Chicago and Milwaukee in what should be a hotly-contested NL Central race all season.

Each team has been very good at home to start the year, but are just a combined 17-17 on the road. Can the Brewers buck that trend and leave the north side tied for first in the division?

Let’s take a closer look at tonight’s matchup, starting with a glance at both starters. We will then peek at each respective bullpen in addition to the umpire behind the plate and some noteworthy trends. We will then finish up with a few bets to watch. Let’s get to it.

Betting odds: Milwaukee Brewers at Chicago Cubs

  • Brewers Moneyline: +125
  • Cubs Moneyline: -135
  • Over/Under: 7.5
  • Probable starters: Jhoulys Chacin (3-3, 5.03 ERA) vs. Jon Lester (2-0, 1.41 ERA)
  • First pitch: 7:08 p.m. ET on ESPN

>> All odds as of 1:30 p.m. ET. Download The Action Network App to get real-time MLB odds and track your bets


Scrutinizing the Starters

In a vacuum, with a neutral umpire and neutral weather on a clear day at Wrigley field, I would have this game projected for 9 runs — with 5.3 runs in the first five innings.

The actual totals — 7.5 (full game) and 4 (First 5) — are much lower due to the forecast and the ump behind the dish.

But let’s not forget: both of these pitchers have been below major league average by most metrics. League average xwOBA (a catch-all batting statistic) is .318; Jhoulys Chacin is at .326, Jon Lester is at .337. Jon Lester has a 1.49 ERA but an xFIP (a regressed version of Fielding Independent Pitching) two full runs higher, Meanwhile, Chacin’s ugly 5.03 ERA is an improvement over his 5.95 FIP and 5.66 xFIP.

Chacin’s low strikeout rate (6.64 K/9) and 1.45 strikeout-to-walk ratio are extremely concerning performance metrics. However, that regression is perhaps unsurprising considering he outpitched his 4.03 FIP in 2018 while his whiff rate never surpassed 8%.

Lester’s strikeout rate and walk rates are currently at their best levels since 2004, but an 8.6% whiff rate suggests an unsustainable strikeout rate. He’s getting more called strikes by hitting the zone 51% of time (46% career) but better offensive team’s will feast on his aggressiveness.

Lester’s strand rate (90.3%) is about 20% above league average and due to regress along with his .267 BABIP (.297 career). — Sean Zerillo

Bullpen Barometer

Believe it or not, the Cubs sport a better bullpen ERA this year at 3.87 vs. Milwaukee’s 3.96. Although Chicago has blown six saves in 12 opportunities for a bottom-five MLB save percentage.

I do not expect the Cubs bullpen to keep up its current pace, especially with all of the injuries it have suffered. Yes, the pen has a solid ERA but its 28th ranked K/BB rate screams regression.

It’s hard to replace the production of Brandon Morrow and Pedro Strop (Allen Webster was also just put on the IL) but it does help to have Mike Montgomery back (one of three lefties Joe Maddon can go to). Still, without their top two arms, I expect the Cubs pen to struggle after a terrific stretch following an ugly start.

In regards to the Brewers, the discussion starts with Josh Hader. Despite pitching yesterday, I do think he will pitch tonight if needed. Manager Craig Counsell hasn’t used him a ton over the past week. Hader has some of the nastiest strike out stuff in baseball but he has been bit by the longball a bit this season (especially against teams that have seen him a lot in the past).

Despite already having one more loss than he suffered all of last season, he is still one of the best pitchers in baseball. How Counsell manages his workload will be one of the biggest storylines of the NL Central this summer.

Milwaukee should still produce solid bullpen numbers this season (especially with Jeremy Jeffress now back) but it does sorely miss Cory Knebel. — Stuckey

Betting on Blue

In case you didn’t know, home plate Umpire Andy Fletcher and Cubs pitcher Jon Lester have history.

 

Despite that altercation with Lester, Andy Fletcher is 19-7-2 to the Under when calling Cubs games, per BetLabs. This supports Fletcher’s lifetime mark of 211-183 (+18.78 units) to the Under when he is behind the plate.

Getting Trendy

The forecast calls for 10 mph winds to be blowing in from left field at Wrigley tonight. When the wind has blown in at Wrigley from the outfield at five mph or stronger since 2005, the under has gone 231-173-19 (57%). — John Ewing

In the past 10 years, home teams on Sunday Night Baseball have gone 160-97 (62.3%). A $100 bettor would have returned a profit of $3,420 wagering on these clubs. Favorites in this spot, like the Cubs, have been even more profitable with a 122-56 (68.5%) record. — John Ewing

The Cubs hired Joe Maddon as their manager in 2015 after he spent nine seasons down in Tampa. In the five seasons since that hire, the Cubs have played 13 home games on Sunday Night Baseball and gone an impressive 10-3 (76.9%) on the moneyline, winning by an average of 1.9 runs per game.

In fact, Maddon’s Cubs are the second-most profitable team for bettors at home on Sunday Night Baseball, trailing only the Pirates. Ironically enough, home teams in the NL Central have dominated on Sunday Night Baseball since 2015 with a 24-8 (75%) record, winning by 1.3 runs per game, the most profitable division in that spot over that span. — Evan Abrams

In 2015, Jon Lester joined Joe Maddon in Chicago, coming over from the Athletics in free agency. Since making that move, Lester has been much more profitable at home when pitching at night (7 p.m. ET or later):

The Cubs and Brewers have been under machines when they have faced each other over the past two seasons at Wrigley Field. In 12 meetings in Chicago over that span, the under has gone 11-1. In those 11 unders, the teams have averaged a combined 4.1 runs per game. Each of those 11 didn’t exceed seven total runs.

The sample size is super small but the unders make sense for a multitude of reasons:

  • These two teams are both very solid on the defensive end. They each ranked in the top 10 in Defensive Runs Saved last season and should again this year (although the Cubs have struggled defensively of late)
  • The Brewers and Cubs are obviously very familiar with each other. They simply know how to pitch to each other.
  • They have had solid arms in the pen over that span.
  • With the division race so tight last year (and expected to be just as tight this year), these games mean a little bit more to each manager. As a result, they manage accordingly. For example, maybe Craig Counsell  will use Josh Hader in a spot he wouldn’t against say the Orioles. — Stuckey

Brewers-Cubs Betting Analysis

I generally don’t like to involve the Brewers bullpen in over wagers, so I’ll look to the first half of this game and go over 4 runs. That total that is 53% of the game total (7.5); historically about 55.5% of runs are scored in the first half of games.

The weather and umpire both point to the game going under. The calculus is whether you think that should reduce my projection by a full run for the first half and by 1.5 runs for the game. I consider that to be an over-adjustment. — Sean Zerillo

Milwaukee has handled lefties this year, but Lester held this Brewers lineup to just three earned runs in 11 innings last season. Visiting pitcher Jhoulys Chacin had plenty of success against this Cubs lineup last year. Chacin threw 28.1 innings with a 1.59 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in 2018 against the Cubbies. These two starting pitchers know the opposing rosters well. Throw in an assist from Umpire Andy Fletcher and I like the full game under. — Collin Wilson