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MLB Betting Picks & Predictions: Rays vs. Phillies, Cubs vs. White Sox (Saturday, Sept. 26)

MLB Betting Picks & Predictions: Rays vs. Phillies, Cubs vs. White Sox (Saturday, Sept. 26) article feature image

Julio Aguilar/Getty Images. Pictured: Brett Phillips

  • Just because most eyes are on college football today doesn't mean there isn't value to be had elsewhere.
  • Our staff has made two MLB betting picks on Saturday's slate, hitting Rays vs. Phillies and Cubs vs. White Sox.
  • Check out how their projections compare with the current odds available, and why that's led to two picks on the moneyline.

Another fall Saturday means baseball has some pretty tough competition in the sports betting world. That doesn’t mean it should be tossed off your radar however, at least if you’re interested in finding value.

Our experts have found two lines that are offering some based on their projections. Here are the bets to make for Rays vs. Phillies and White Sox vs. Cubs.

Note: Odds as of 12 p.m. ET.

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.

Sean Zerillo: Rays Moneyline (-104) vs. Phillies

With a win on Saturday night, the Tampa Bay Rays would clinch the No. 1 seed throughout the American League playoffs — and while that doesn’t mean nearly as much as it would have in years past (without true home field advantage), it would still be a meaningful achievement for an organization that is making just its sixth playoff appearance in 22 seasons.

The Rays are currently on pace for a 105-win season over the course of 162 games — which would have easily eclipsed their club record of 96 wins. However, their pythagorean record (35-23) and run differential (+54, second in the AL) show that they haven’t separated themselves from the pack nearly as much as the Dodgers have (41-17 actual and pythagorean record, +130 run differential).

The Rays do have a well-rounded squad, however, ranking 10th offensively with a 110 wRC+, 3rd in pitching with a 3.95 xFIP, and sixth defensively with 23 defensive runs saved (DRS).

The Phillies can match them offensively (110 wRC+), but their 7.17 bullpen ERA is the worst in baseball, and their bullpen FIP (5.86, 29th) generally agrees with that assessment, even though their xFIP (4.67, 19th) is a bit more optimistic.

Games lost after leading by 3+ runs, NL East:

Phillies 8
Braves 1
Marlins 1
Mets 2
Nationals 4

So Phillies 8, all other NL East teams combined 8

— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) September 26, 2020

Furthermore, the Phillies rank amongst the worst defensive teams in baseball with -31 DRS — regressing towards their 2018 form (-118, 30th) after an above-average 2019 season (+51, 9th).

Currently one game behind the Giants for the final Wild Card spot in the NL with two games left to play, Philadelphia will turn to its two best arms in Zack Wheeler (3.79 xFIP) and Aaron Nola (2.75 xFIP) to try and close that gap this weekend.

While I make Wheeler a slight favorite (51.3%) against an assortment of Rays arms over the first five innings on Saturday, the Phillies’ full-game odds drop nearly 10% over the final four frames due to a 1.4 run gap in projected bullpen quality between these two clubs.

As a result, I showed Tampa Bay as a 58% favorite over the course of nine innings, and I would bet the Rays to clinch the No. 1 seed on Saturday up to -125 (implied 55.5%), a 3.5% gap relative to my projection.

BJ Cunningham: White Sox Team Total Over 4.5 runs (-118)

Jon Lester started out the season great, but all that has all come crashing down. He now has a xFIP of 5.00, which is the highest of his mark since his rookie season in 2006.

It’s no secret that Lester is starting to fall off a cliff as he gets into his late 30s. He’s posted an xFIP over 4.00 in each of his previous two seasons and this year it’s gotten real bad. His fastball has been getting shelled to the tune of a .414 wOBA, which is bad news since the White Sox are one of best fastball hitting teams.

The White Sox offense has been outstanding this season, accumulating a .335 wOBA and 114 wRC+. They’ve been the second best team against left-handed pitching this year, with an outstanding .376 wOBA and 142 wRC+. Tim Anderson and Jose Abreu have led Chicago offensively, as they both have a wOBA above .400.

The key to Chicago’s offensive success has been its versatility against nearly every pitch type. They rank inside the top-five of Major League Baseball against fastballs, sinkers and curveballs, which are three of Lester’s main pitches.

The last time Lester faced this White Sox lineup it was a complete disaster. The Sox tagged him for eight runs, including four home runs, in only 3.2 innings.

I have the White Sox projected for 5.64 runs against Lester, so I think there is plenty of value on their team total over 4.5 runs at -118.

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