Betting odds: Chicago Cubs at Los Angeles Dodgers, 10:10 p.m. ET
- Cubs (Jon Lester): +145
- Dodgers (Ross Stripling): -158
- Over/under: 7.5
Bet to Watch
Tonight’s Cubs-Dodgers game will feature two pitchers up near the top of the ERA leaderboard. They also matched up just last week at Wrigley Field in a game the Cubs won with ease, 4-0. While Lester threw seven shutout innings, he benefited more from luck than anything else. He struck out only one batter and gave up countless line-drive rockets. In fact, the Dodgers had 13 hard-hit balls against Lester, who benefited from conditions (wind), outstanding defense and from a number of “at ’em” balls.
Luck and Lester have gone hand-in-hand this season. While his 9-2 record and 2.10 ERA look superb, his underlying metrics hint at imminent regression — similar to what I recently covered with Jhoulys Chacin.
You rarely see a pitcher with a FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) that sits at almost twice his ERA, but that’s what we have with Lester (4.19 FIP). In fact, his -2.09 ERA-FIP disparity ranks as the highest among qualified pitchers over the past 100 seasons.
You could argue Lester has had one of the luckiest first few months of any starting pitcher in the last century. Regression certainly looms for the southpaw, which could certainly start tonight against a Dodgers lineup that just saw him six days ago and is no longer as helpless against lefties as it has been in recent years.
Lester’s 4.19 FIP fits more with his 2017 4.33 ERA, where he actually struck out more and walked fewer batters than this season. His 7.00 K/9 (18th-lowest among qualified pitchers and the lowest of his career) certainly isn’t a recipe for long-term elite level pitching. This is the same pitcher that we talked about struggling last year because of reduced velocity. Well, his fastball in 2018 has decreased to a career-low 90.8 miles per hour. While I still expect Lester to pitch effectively due to his craftiness, he won’t maintain anywhere close to this level.
Additionally, neither starter will have much room for error, as both bullpens have major issues — especially after no day off yesterday. The Cubs pen has been an utter disaster over the past week, primarily as a result of having its two best arms on the shelf (setup man Carl Edwards Jr. and closer Brandon Morrow). While Cincinnati swept visiting Chicago in a four-game set over the weekend, Cubs relievers had an 11.37 ERA over 12.1 innings. It’s a shorthanded and tired unit that has had to pitch in eight games over the past seven days.
Similarly, the Dodgers pen has worked a ton lately and has a number of critical injuries. At the start of the season, Tony Cingrani and Pedro Baez set up closer Kenley Jansen. Well, both now sit on the DL and Jansen has pitched three times over the past four days. That leaves Josh Fields, Daniel Hudson, Edward Paredes, Yimi Garcia, Erik Goeddel and Scott Alexander (pitched four innings over the past three days) in front of Kenley. Not exactly murderers’ row.
While it might sound crazy to bet on an over in Los Angeles between two starters who have allowed two earned runs or fewer in 19 of 25 combined starts this season, I think tonight presents a good opportunity to do so.
The pick: Over 7.5
Stats via FanGraphs, Baseball Reference and MLB.com
Editor’s note: The opinion on this game is from the individual writer and is based on his research, analysis and perspective. It is independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.