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Friday MLB Picks: How To Bet The Pirates vs. Cardinals Pitcher’s Duel

Friday MLB Picks: How To Bet The Pirates vs. Cardinals Pitcher’s Duel article feature image

Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images. PIctured: Jack Flaherty

  • BJ Cunningham breaks down his MLB betting preview featuring odds, picks and predictions for Friday's game between the Pirates and Cardinals.

Pirates vs. Cardinals Odds & Picks

Pirates Odds +180 [BET NOW]
Cardinals Odds -210 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 8 (-117/-105)
First Pitch 8:15 p.m. ET on Friday

Odds as of early Friday morning and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.

NL Central rivals meet on opening day as Joe Musgrove and the Pirates face off Jack Flaherty and the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.

The Pirates have the lowest payroll coming into the season and are in rebuilding mode for 2020. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have World Series aspirations after losing in the NLCS to the Nationals a year ago. If they are going to get there, it’ll have to be behind their bonafide number one starter Jack Flaherty.

Let’s run through the projected lineups and probable starters for both teams, then dig into how I’m betting the game.

Learn more about BaseRuns and how I use it to build my projections in a deep dive of my model.

Advanced Stats Glossary

FIP or Fielding Independent Pitching measures what a pitcher’s ERA would look like if the pitcher experienced league-average defense and luck. xFIP  is a regressed version of FIP that adjusts or “normalizes’ the home run component based on park factors.

wRC+ or Weighted Runs Created Plus takes the statistic Runs Created and adjusts that number to account for critical external factors — like ballpark or era. It’s adjusted, so a wRC+ of 100 is league average, and 150 would be 50 percent above league average.

wOBA or Weighted On-Base Average is a catch-all hitting metric with more predictive value than on-base percentage. An average MLB hitter can be expected to post a .320 wOBA. xwOBA is a regressed version of wOBA that accounts for variables like park factors.

Pirates Projected Lineup

The Pirates offense, for lack of a better word, stinks.

Outside of Josh Bell, Pittsburgh has no fire power in its lineup. Trading away Starling Marte in the offseason was a huge blow and the Pirates didn’t make any moves to replace him. I don’t expect them to have any success against Flaherty on Friday night.

Pirates Probable Starter

Joe Musgrove, RHP

Projected Stats (ZIPS) (via Fangraphs)

Pitch Arsenal (via Baseball Savant)

Musgrove is a slightly above-average starter. He predominantly uses his fastball and slider, then has a handful of secondary pitches that he doesn’t use very often. His fastball isn’t great — with below-average velocity, he allowed a .371 wOBA average in 2019 and generated only a 15% whiff rate.

Musgrove excels with his slider — and it’s filthy. Not only did he allow a .204 wOBA when throwing it in 2019, he generated a 39.3% whiff rate.

The Cardinals ranked in the top-10 against fastballs last season, but were near the bottom of the league when facing sliders. If Musgrove wants to be effective, he’ll have to throw his slider a lot on Friday night.

Joe Musgrove, Filthy 84mph Slider…and Sword. ⚔️

— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 21, 2019

Cardinals Projected Lineup

The biggest loss for the Cardinals this offseason was, without a doubt, Marcell Ozuna (now with the Braves).

The Cardinals aren’t very loaded in the power department, either. Outside of Paul Goldschmidt, they don’t have another consistent home run threat.

St. Louis is in a transition mode of sorts, with main stays like Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina and Kolten Wong getting up there in age while younger guys like Paul DeJong, Tommy Edman and Tyler O’Neill are being introduced to the lineup.

If the Cardinals are going to challenge for the World Series, they’ll have to drastically outplay their offensive projections.

Cardinals Probable Starter

Jack Flaherty, RHP

Projected Stats (ZIPS) (via Fangraphs)

Pitch Arsenal (via Baseball Savant)

If you don’t know the name Jack Flaherty yet, then it’s time learn it.

Flaherty is a top-five starter according to my model. He led Major League Baseball in batting average against in 2019, and he could do it again this year. He has a main four-pitch arsenal, then a changeup that he rarely throws. All four of his pitches are fantastic, but his slider and curveball are especially lethal — both garnered higher than a 40% whiff rate last season.

As you can see, it’s almost untouchable.

Jack Flaherty, 2019 Highlights.

— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) November 24, 2019

Pirates-Cardinals Bullpens

The Pirates’ bullpen is filled with a bunch of average-to-below-average guys

The Cardinals are in a similar position. Andrew Miller and Giovanny Gallegos are bonafide front-end bullpen guys who any team would be lucky to have. After those two, it’s a bunch of middle-of-the-road to below-average guys in middle relief.

Pirates-Cardinals Projections & Pick

I think this will be a pitcher’s duel, so I’m going with an alternate total of Under 7.5 to get better odds.

Pick: Under 7.5 (+112)

[Bet now at DraftKings. CO, NJ, PA, IN and WV only.]

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