Thursday MLB Odds, Preview, Prediction for Indians vs. Tigers: Betting Value on Cleveland & Shane Bieber (May 27)

Thursday MLB Odds, Preview, Prediction for Indians vs. Tigers: Betting Value on Cleveland & Shane Bieber (May 27) article feature image
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Jason Miller/Getty Images. Pictured: Shane Bieber.

  • Shane Bieber will take the mound for the Cleveland Indians as they look to down Matthew Boyd and the Detroit Tigers once again.
  • The Tigers have struggled in every facet of the game this season, but the Tribe haven't exactly been on fire at the plate.
  • Check out Kevin Davis' full betting guide for the game, including a pick, prediction, and updated betting odds.

Indians vs. Tigers Odds

Indians Odds -165
Tigers Odds +135
Over/Under 7 (-120 / +100)
Time 1:10 p.m. ET
TV MLB.TV
Odds as of Thursday morning via BetMGM.

The AL Central is a weird division.

Every team but the Tigers have a plausible path to winning the division. Even the Twins, who are on a 7-3 run over their last 10 games, have a decent shot.

This week, the Indians and Tigers have battled on the field, and Thursday’s game is the fourth and final one of the series. With last year’s AL Cy Young winner taking the mound, it’s heavily favored to down Detroit once again.

That’s because the Tribe are relying on starting pitcher Shane Bieber, who’s one of the best pitchers in baseball. Opposing Bieber is Matthew Boyd, who has strung together a decent season in his own right.

The question for Thursday’s matchup is whether or not the Indians deserve to be heavy favorites.

Cleveland Needs Bieber to Pitch Well

Part of the rationale for making Cleveland a heavy favorite is not just that it’s opposing the Tigers, but that it’s relying on Bieber. As the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, Bieber needs little introduction. In 2020, Bieber posted an 8-1 record to go with a 1.63 ERA.

This year, Bieber’s performance has fallen off, but he’s still one of the league’s elite pitchers. After 10 starts, Bieber has a 4-3 record with a 3.32 ERA. However, Bieber holds an xFIP of 2.72 and a WAR of 1.7, which means that even though he has not played as well this season, he’s still one of the best pitchers.

Most impressively, Bieber averages almost 6 2/3 innings per start, and he continues to have a high strikeout rate.

A sign that Bieber should allow fewer runs over the course of the season is that opposing hitters have an unsustainably high .354 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) against him. With Bieber’s high strikeout rate limiting the number of balls in play and his BABIP likely to decrease, Bieber should be the type of pitcher to throw for six innings a night while allowing only one-to-two earned runs.

Backing up Bieber is an Indians lineup that has not done well this season.

The Tribe’s lineup is averaging only 4.04 runs per game, which is .31 lower than the average MLB team. While Cleveland appears to be only slightly below average offensively, its lineup collectively owns a wRC+ of 85, which is the sixth-worst in the league. Even though the Indians score 4.04 runs per game,  they should be averaging 3.78 runs per game based on how they have played.

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Tigers’ Lineup Continues Poor Play

Even though Boyd has a 2-5 record, the betting markets respect him as he has a 3.08 ERA and is averaging almost six innings per start. However, Boyd also has an xFIP of 4.72 and an abysmally low strikeout rate of 7.18 strikeouts per nine innings. Over the course of a full season, Boyd should allow about three earned runs in a typical six-inning start.

While Boyd being an innings eater is a strength, the Tigers will likely have to rely on their bullpen for at least a third of the game. Detroit’s bullpen owns an ERA of 5.75, which is the highest in the league, to go along with a FIP of 5.12, also the highest in the league.

In addition to a weak bullpen backing Boyd up, he also has the misfortune of being backed up by the Tigers’ lineup.

Detroit‘s lineup averages only 3.62 runs per game, which is the lowest in the American League. Outside of Robbie Grossman, there is not a single above-average offensive player in the Tigers’ lineup — a major reason the Tigers have a -62 run differential for the second-worst mark in the league.

Indians-Tigers Pick

The Indians should win Thursday’s game, and that’s why they are heavy favorites. However, they must go against one of Detroit’s few strong starting pitchers with a weak lineup.

On the other side, the Tigers’ lineup should be no match for Bieber’s strength. Even though the -1.5 run line looks attractive, my model doesn’t like it based on Cleveland’s offensive struggles.

I see the -165 moneyline as the best bet, and I would bet it up to -180.

Pick: Indians ML -165 (Play to -180).

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