MLB Odds, Pick & Betting Preview for Cubs vs. Pirates: Fade Chicago’s Bats Against Mitch Keller (Saturday, April 10)

MLB Odds, Pick & Betting Preview for Cubs vs. Pirates: Fade Chicago’s Bats Against Mitch Keller (Saturday, April 10) article feature image
  • The Cubs won the series opener against Pittsburgh on Thursday 4-2/
  • Pittsburgh has won just won game so far this season, but prized prospect Mitch Keller is on the mound today.
  • Kenny Ducey is expecting another low-scoring game between the teams.

Cubs vs. Pirates Odds

Cubs Odds -158
Pirates Odds +134
Over/Under 8.5 (-112 / -108)
Time 6:35 p.m. ET
TV MLBTV
Odds as of Saturday morning and via FanDuel.

After taking the opener of this three-game set between NL Central division rivals way back on Thursday, the Chicago Cubs will look to secure a series win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday and improve to 5-3 in the process.

Standing in their way will be Mitch Keller, who has yet to have much success in his short three-year career in the bigs, though he’s still just 25 years old. Chicago counters with the consistent Zach Davies, who’s coming off a strong 2020 and delivered the Cubs a win in his opening start. Will he bring yet another? Let’s see if we can figure out the answer by digging into the numbers.

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Chicago Cubs

Runs haven’t been easy to come by in the early going for the Cubs, who have scored just 3.29 per game, which ranks 23rd in the bigs. A combination of losing some big bats over the past couple years and the decline of Anthony Rizzo has made a once-formidable lineup now quite easy to navigate. There’s also the fact that they’ve been relying on too many whiff-happy players for years, but I won’t get into a whole rant about that.

Following up on a 2020 season which saw them post just a 92 wRC+, the Cubs have begun this year with a brutal mark of 73, the fourth-worst in baseball. They’ve also made contact on just 71.3% of their swings, which ranks 26th, but unlike years past they are lacking quality contact to make up for it, and aren’t drawing walks, either.

So, this offense is hard to trust, but what about Zach Davies? All he’s done since regressing a bit in 2018 with the Brewers is post two rock-steady seasons, with an ERA+ of 125 in 2019 and a stellar 150 ERA+ in 2020. He hasn’t struck out many hitters, and back-to-back seasons with an expected ERA north of 5.00 would tell you he’s been a little fortunate. Then again, the only year he actually ranked in the top 9% in barrel rate was his down season in 2018.

Davies doesn’t make any sense, and he seems to have a knack for stranding runners and pitching his way out of trouble. He didn’t seem to run into any in his first outing of the year, though, allowing just five hard-hit balls on 16 put in play against these same Pirates. Perhaps all the good fortune will catch up with Davies eventually, but it doesn’t appear the Pittsburgh and its lackluster bats seem to bother Davies much.


Pittsburgh Pirates

So, what about those bats? Well, let me be nice and try to find some positives. The Pirates are 17th in on-base percentage, 20th in wRC+, and 14th in contact rate. In these categories, they’re actually not terrible! They’ve managed to find a way to bother opposing pitchers enough to have a shot to win some games, and nearly took the series-opener against Jake Arrieta and the Cubs, getting 10 runners on base against the veteran through six innings but failing to convert with runners in scoring position.

The problem for Pittsburgh is that it ranks dead last in hard-hit rate, and doesn’t have any real boppers in the lineup. Josh Bell is gone, and Gregory Polanco was never much of a power guy. The biggest threat to go deep is Colin Moran, which just about says it all.

Mitch Keller will get the ball for the Buccos, a 2014 second-round pick who is still young at 25 years of age. He’s been much more effective against righties than lefties in his short time in the majors, yielding a .795 OPS in 167 plate appearances to right-handers versus .946 the other way around.

That’s good, considering the Cubs’ best hitters are all right-handed (Anthony Rizzo has been very bad to start the year). Just 38.2% of the batted balls he’s allowed have been hit over 95 MPH, which isn’t too bad, though it’s slightly worse than league average.

Cubs vs. Pirates Pick

If you couldn’t tell by now, I’m not high on the Cubs’ bats. I also don’t think they’re in a very good spot here, considering the splits that Keller has against righties. Ian Happ scares me from the left side, but after that Keller shouldn’t be too bothered as long as his splits hold up.

On the other side, I’m a big Davies believer, particularly against a weak lineup for the Pirates. I think this game should go under for a second straight time in the series.

Pick: Under 8.5 (-108)

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