Sunday Night Baseball Betting Notes: Hendricks, Cubs Look to Keep Rolling in D.C.
David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks
Betting odds: Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals
- Cubs odds: -133
- Nats odds: +123
- Over/Under: 10
- Probable starters: Kyle Hendricks (3-4, 2.86 ERA) vs. Jeremy Hellickson (2-2, 6.00 ERA)
- First pitch: 7:05 p.m. ET on ESPN
Some started to panic on the North Side after the Cubs stumbled out of the gates to a 2-7 start, losing their first three series to start the year. (You gotta love overreactions in April.) The Cubbies have bounced back, winning 24 of their next 34 games and now own a 1.5 game lead on the Brewers in the NL Central.
Until their last series in Cincinnati, Chicago had won 10 straight series. On the contrary, the Nationals had lost seven straight series before taking one over the free-falling Mets last week.
Can the Cubs take the rubber match in D.C. to avoid losing their second straight set? Or will the Nationals make it two straight as they look to build any kind of momentum on the Beltway?
Our MLB crew will take a closer look at the matchup from a betting perspective, focusing on the starters, bullpen and the man behind the plate. We will also touch on a few noteworthy trends and close with a few rapid fire betting looks for tonight.
>> All odds as of 11:30 a.m. ET. Download The Action Network App to get real-time MLB odds and track your bets
Scouting the Starters
Jeremy Hellickson had decent results over 19 starts for the Nationals in 2018 (3.45 ERA, 4.22 FIP) despite striking out less than 6.5 batters per nine innings. He hasn’t been able to replicate that success so far in 2019, pitching to a 6.00 ERA with a 5.80 FIP over seven starts.
His strikeout-to-walk ratio has plummeted from 3.25 in 2018 to 1.71 in 2019. The culprits are a first-pitch strike rate that has regressed by 6% to his career norm and a zone-rate that has regressed by 3.5% to back within 0.5% of his career norm.
At a time when pitchers are generating more whiffs than ever, Hellickson is generating fewer. His swinging strike rate is down from 8.3% over the past two seasons (9.6% career), to just 6% in 2019.
On cursory review, it would appear that Hellickson’s velocity is also down a tick across the board. But it’s more than that. He’s throwing fewer four-seam fastballs and curveballs at the expense of additional two-seamers and cutters. That could mostly explain the decline in the swinging strike rate, and perhaps the decline in average velocity, too.
Kyle Hendricks is essentially the same pitcher that he has been for four years now (sinker, changeup, four-seam fastball, and occasional curveball) but currently sports his best FIP (3.11, career 3.49) and walk rate (4.4%, 6th amongst qualified starters) of his career.
Hendricks is starting to gain a reputation as a slow starter (career 4.29 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 3.09 K/BB) in March and April before rebounding in May (2.51 ERA, 0.939 WHIP, 4.10 K/BB). What’s strange is that he has also struggled in June (4.67 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 2.42 K/BB) before finishing with respective ERA’s of 2.48, 2.70, and 2.49 in July, August and September/October.
These are relatively small samples (about 20-28 starts in any month), but Hendricks is on a roll over his last three starts since the turn of the calendar month: 25 innings pitched, 0.36 ERA, 10.96 pitches per inning, 12 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 17 K, one complete game shutout). — Sean Zerillo