Cubs vs. Reds Odds & Picks: How to Bet Thursday’s Field of Dreams Game (Aug. 11)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images. Pictured: Signage for the Field of Dreams Game in Dyersville, Iowa.
- The Cubs and Reds head to Iowa for the second-ever Field of Dreams game on Thursday.
- Neither of these teams are headed to the postseason, but it should still be an entertaining game with Nick Lodolo and Drew Smyly slated to start.
- Sean Zerillo dives into the matchup and offers up his best bet below.
Cubs vs. Reds Odds
|Over/Under||9 (-115 / -105)|
|Time||7:15 p.m. ET|
On Thursday evening, the baseball world will descend upon Dyersville, Iowa, as the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds play the second-ever regular-season game at the Field of Dreams.
Unlike the Yankees and White Sox — who played the inaugural game at the park last August — neither the Cubs nor the Reds are near playoff contention this season.
Per FanGraphs, the NL Central rivals are expected to finish with 69.9 and 66.1 wins at the end of the year, well short of their preseason win totals (74.5 for Chicago and 73.5 for Cincinnati).
Moreover, both organizations traded away key personnel at the MLB trade deadline. The Reds dealt Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle, Brandon Drury, Tommy Pham and Tyler Naquin, while the Cubs moved David Robertson, Scott Effross and Mychal Givens from their underrated bullpen.
As a result, while we’ll look at season-long data points from both teams, you must contextualize those statistics within the construct of the current rosters.
Starting Pitching Matchup
Despite posting an inferior ERA to this point in the season, I view Nick Lodolo as the superior starting pitcher to Drew Smyly. This factors into my Model Weighted ERA (4.21 for Lodolo, 4.57 for Smyly).
Lodolo has only made nine starts at the MLB level. Still, the young southpaw’s projection systems are highly optimistic (projected FIP range 3.60-4.07), while the veteran Smyly (4.13-4.58) rates far closer to league average.
Despite stranding 80% of baserunners (league average 72.3%), a .383 BABIP (league average .289) has hindered Lodolo’s success.
Chicago tweaked Smyly’s pitch mix this season, swapping his four-seamer (career 47.9% usage) for a sinker, while also increasing his cutter usage. While he’s pitching to his career averages in 2022 (4.17 ERA, 4.12 xFIP), that still represents a marked improvement over last year (5.09 xERA, 4.4 xFIP).
Depending on the site, there are some pitch classification issues surrounding Lodolo, with some classifying his fastball as a four-seamer and his breaker as a curveball. In contrast, others represent those pitches as a sinker and slider.
Regardless of classification, scouts put a 70-grade (plus-pitch) on Lodolo’s breaking ball and the pitch has performed up to expectations. Opposing batters have posted a .123 xBA, a .253 xSLG and a 46% whiff rate against Lodolo’s breaking ball.
Nick Lodolo, Expelliarmus Breaking Ball. 🪄 pic.twitter.com/0EZqFKrOYp
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 31, 2022
Smyly has posted fairly drastic splits vs. lefties and righties throughout his career (3.52 xFIP vs. lefties, 4.35 vs. righties), which has carried over this season, despite the altered pitch mix.
In limited action this year, Lodolo has a higher wOBA vs. righties (.372 vs. .313 against lefties), yet his xFIP is higher against lefties (4.32 xFIP vs. lefties, 3.63 vs. righties). As a result, his split data remains inconclusive.
The Cubs had an extremely underrated bullpen for the majority of this season. However, they traded away three of their best arms before the deadline, significantly downgrading their projections.
And in the week since the deadline, Chicago’s bullpen has struggled, posting a 19:16 strikeout to walk ratio in 23 1/3 innings.
I project the Cubs’ bullpen for a 4.36 Model Weighted ERA, opposed to their sub-4 projection from a week ago. Losing Robertson (2.81 xERA), Effross (2.43 xERA) and Givens (3.77 xERA) in the same afternoon has a significant cluster effect.
Conversely, the Reds have had one of the worst group of relievers for the entire season. Aside from Alexis Diaz (3.34 xERA) — Edwin’s brother — there aren’t many competent options to turn to in close/late situations.
These filthy pitches are brought to you by Alexis Díaz. pic.twitter.com/H7tfWJfPzQ
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) August 7, 2022
Still, I project the Reds’ bullpen for a 4.47 Model Weighted ERA — a reasonably insignificant differential relative to the Cubs bullpen — and I wouldn’t give either team a massive advantage in the late stages of a close contest.
It’s also worth noting that the Cubs turned to a trio of relievers — Brandon Hughes, Michael Rucker, and Rowan Wick — to close out their win on Wednesday. All three made their third appearance in six days and their second in three days. A relief appearance on Thursday — for any of those arms — would mark their third appearance in five days, which could cause fatigue and ineffectiveness.
Lineups and Fielding
While the Reds have the superior starting pitcher, the Cubs unquestionably have the better offense.
On the season, Chicago ranks 19th in wRC+ (97), while Cincinnati ranks 27th (88) — and that includes production from the likes of Drury (126), Naquin (114), and Pham (94).
Interestingly, the two teams have the same rankings per expected wOBA, or xwOBA, too — 19th and 27th, respectively.
The Reds have the superior splits against lefties (97 wrC+, 19th) compared to the Cubs (92 wRC+, 23rd). While Drury (155 wrC+) and Pham (123) were two of their better right-handed bats, Kyle Farmer (161 wRC+ vs. lefties) has owned southpaw pitching for the entirety of his career and should be handled with care.
That said, I project the Reds lineup for a 94 wRC+ against lefties, compared to a 111 wrC+ for the Cubs, a 17% gap between these two offenses.
While both teams have some quality defensive players, they each rate well below average on the season.
Chicago ranks 24th in Defensive Runs Saved (-9), while the Reds rank 27th (-21). The teams are closer in Outs Above Average — ranking 26th and 27th, at -16 (Cincinnati) and -18 (Chicago) on the leaderboard.
I modeled Thursday’s lineups closer to league average with a negligible difference in their defensive projections.
The dimensions for the Field of Dreams (335 feet down the lines, 380 to the gaps, 400 to dead center) roughly align with the median distances for ballparks around MLB (330 to the corners, 405 to center).
As a result, I would expect a run-scoring environment that is just around league average before accounting for wind, weather and the umpire.
Wind will be the critical factor in assessing the total for this matchup. With miles of flat cornfields stretching in any direction, even small gusts of wind could dramatically affect the baseball’s flight.
Interestingly, the total opened at 9.5 for the 2021 Field of Dreams Game — a matchup between Andrew Heaney and Lance Lynn — and the two teams hit eight combined home runs in a dramatic, 9-8 contest.
Wednesday’s total opened at 8.5 and has been bet up to 9 — implying a Park Factor of roughly 105, which is 5% higher than league average and comparable to the home parks for the Atlanta Braves or Washington Nationals.
In a league-average scoring environment, I would set this total closer to 8.5. And given the park’s dimensions, I’m inclined to put my number there.
Still, after watching eight baseballs land in the corn last August — and seeing disparate results in baseball flight for National TV games earlier this season — one cannot underestimate MLB’s ability to swap in a livelier set of baseballs for a marquee, national TV game; particularly without Statcast data for nerds (me) to pour over, looking for evidence of juiced baseballs.
As a result, I will keep my park factor at 105 — in line with the current total — by providing a five percent cushion — for a park with otherwise average dimensions — for potential shenanigans with the baseballs.
I will update this section and the projection below if we get information that would impact the total (strong wind or a polarizing umpire) closer to game time.
Projections and Picks
While the Reds have the starting pitching advantage, the Cubs have the far superior offense and I project them as favorites in both halves of Thursday’s Field of Dreams Game:
I don’t show value concerning the total in either half, compared to the listed totals of 4.5 and 9. I would consider betting an Under 9.5 at -108 or better. Still, I’m skeptical of the baseballs that may get deployed in such a marquee event.
Concerning the moneylines, I would look to bet the Cubs down to -102 (50.5% implied) for the first five innings (F5) and -103 (50.7% implied) for the full game, with either bet representing an edge of roughly 2% or more compared to my projection.
Pick: Cubs F5 (+102, 0.5u) at Fanduel) / Cubs (+100, 0.5u at Fanduel)
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