Royals vs Cubs Pick Saturday | MLB Odds, Predictions Today (August 19)
Quinn Harris/Getty Images. Pictured: Justin Steele
Royals vs. Cubs Odds
The Royals held on late to beat the Cubs in the first game of their three-game weekend series after an excellent start from Kansas City lefty Cole Ragans. The Cubs will send their ace Justin Steele to the mound on Saturday to try to even the series, and they are solid home favorites to do just that based on the betting market.
The forecasted weather conditions at Wrigley Field are considerably different on Saturday when compared to Friday. Instead of the wind blowing in from right field at 7-10 mph like Friday, there's a forecasted wind of 10-15 mph straight out to center field. The market has reacted accordingly with a total at 9.5, when yesterday's total closed a full run lower despite worse projected starting pitchers.
The wind is king at Wrigley Field, as it is the most wind-adjusted ballpark in all of Major League Baseball. Brady Singer takes the ball for the Royals on Saturday, and his declining strikeout rate and ground ball rate year over year makes him a major risk in this hitting environment.
Brady Singer posted some really solid underlying numbers in 2022 with a career best in both strikeout rate and walk rate. His command took major strides forward and his K rates outperformed his mediocre underlying Stuff+ projected numbers. He was able to cut the walk rate last year from nine percent in 2021 to five percent in 2022.
Singer has regressed back toward the older numbers in 2023 though, and it's resulted in considerably worse underlying numbers. The Royals righty has dipped below 8.0 K/9 for the first time in his career, he's generating fewer called strikes and his walk rate has risen a couple ticks back to seven percent. Singer also had an effective sinker that was able to generate a solid number of ground balls, but his ground ball rate is at a career low in 2023.
The other issue for Singer: he's allowing more fly balls, but hasn't really been punished yet for it. His HR/FB rate is 10.1%, which is a career best for him. If he regressed toward the 13-15% that he sat at in years past, he'll allow more homers.
The hitting conditions in Wrigley on Saturday make it very dangerous to allow a ton of balls in play and more fly balls than normal. The Cubs have been the league's best offense against right-handed pitching in the last month and that suggests Singer could have a rough afternoon.
Justin Steele doesn't have overpowering stuff either, but he's able to consistently pitch to better numbers than the underlying modeling and data suggests because he has elite seam shifted wake on his fastball. It enables him to overcome average velocity and overall movement profiles. Steele has allowed a .314 wOBA on his fastball and it's even lower on his main secondary offering — the slider.
Steele has refined his command this season, a major necessity for a pitcher who isn't going to strike out a ton of hitters. He's consistently shown a skill over 1.75 major league seasons now that he can effectively suppress home runs with his stuff. As mentioned above with Singer, controlling the long ball is the key to this game on Saturday given how many routine fly balls could leave the yard.
Based on expected ERA alone, Steele projects more than a full run better than Singer. When you factor in Steele's ability to generate weak contact, avoid barrels and outperform even his xMetrics, the gap could be as big as 1.3 runs in their ERA projection.
Royals vs. Cubs
Betting Pick & Prediction
Kansas City used all of its high leverage receivers behind Ragans on Friday to secure that one-run victory. Any of the top arms for the Royals — it's a bottom five bullpen — would be throwing on back to back days in the event this game is close late.
Because of how the Cubs last two games played out, they haven't used their top bullpen arms much at all. There's advantages in starting pitcher, lineup, and bullpen for the Cubs at home on Saturday, and I'm willing to lay up to -190 on them to win this game.