Thursday MLB Betting Picks, Predictions: Phillies vs. Marlins, Reds vs. Cubs, Dodgers vs. Diamondbacks (Sept. 10)
Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images. Pictured: Mookie Betts
On the heels of a night that saw a 19-run output by the Brewers come in as the second–best offensive performance by 10 runs, we’ve got a 12-game slate ahead on Thursday, starting with the first of a Tigers-Cardinals doubleheader at 2:15 p.m. ET.
Our experts are waiting a bit later into the early evening and up until tonight’s final start for their favorite spots tonight, though, hitting the following three games.
- Phillies vs. Marlins (6:40 p.m. ET)
- Reds vs. Cubs (8:10 p.m. ET)
- Dodgers vs. Diamondbacks (9:40 p.m. ET)
Note: Odds as of 1 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: Marlins Moneyline (-105) vs. Phillies
- Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]
- First pitch: 6:40 p.m.
I project the Marlins at 59.6% for the full game, and at 60.7% in the first five innings (F5) on Thursday. As a result, I see actionable value on both wagers, up to about -130 and -135, respectively.
Defensively, the two clubs are at opposite ends of the of the spectrum — Miami ranks third in the NL with +12 Defensive Runs Saved, while the Phillies rank 14th (-18), returning negative defensive value at every position except for pitcher and right field.
Both bullpens have struggled — the Phillies rank 22nd with a 4.88 xFIP, while the Marlins rank 29th (5.49) by the same metric.
The Phillies have had the superior offense in 2020, 8% better than league average (108 wRC+) whereas the Marlins are 7% below average (93 wRC+).
But I see a substantial gap between Miami’s starter, Sandy Alcantara (4.43 xFIP, 3.93 xERA), and the Phillies’ Jake Arrieta (4.65 xFIP, 5.53 xERA) especially given their respective batted-ball data over the past two seasons.
Alcantara has made some strides in 2020, while increasing his fastball velocity by a full tick (95.6 mph to 96.7 mph). His first-pitch strike rate (64.3%) and swinging strike rate (12.1%) are both career highs, and he has maintained a high ground-ball rate (48.9%). The strikeout increase indicates that the high-velocity hurler might finally be turning a corner in his age 25 season.
Sandy Alcantara getting Andrew McCutchen on a 97mph sinker + 91mph changeup IN THE SAME SPOT.
— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) July 25, 2020
Arrieta remains on a downward trend in his career trajectory. The 34-year-old is experiencing a decline in strikeout rate and expected ERA (xERA) for the fourth consecutive year, as his hard-hit rate continues to spike — to a career high 39.2%.
The 2015 NL Cy Young winner still has some good starts left in him (six shutout innings vs. the Braves on Aug. 8), but I’ll play the percentages and back Miami as the undervalued team in this pick’em.
Danny Donahue: Reds vs. Cubs Under 7.5 (-118)
- Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now in Illinois!]
- First pitch: 8:15 p.m. ET
This total is low, I get it. But there’s plenty of reason for that. And those reasons also happen to suggest that it might not be low enough.
First, we’ve got another wind-blowing-in-at-Wrigley situation. The forecast is calling for winds of 14 mph blowing straight in from center throughout the game. And historically speaking, that’s been a pretty big edge to the under.
Games at Wrigley in which the wind has been blowing in at 5+ mph have gone 99-64-11 to the under in our database (since 2005). That record has returned 28.6 units for a 16.4% ROI.
The Cubs and Reds, specifically, have also seen a good chunk of their fly balls turn into home runs this season. They rank fifth and sixth, respectively, in the bigs this season in HR/FB%, so this matchup certainly sets up for the wind to have an impact.
The other factor pulling down the expected offensive output is the guy calling balls and strikes. Ron Kulpa will be behind the dish tonight, and his games have hit the under at a 56.9% rate since 2005, pulling in 43.0 units for a 9.4% ROI.
The combination of a wide strike zone and a difficult hitting environment gives me confidence that the total can stay under the low number.
BJ Cunningham: Dodgers Team Total Over 5.5 (-121)
- Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]
- First pitch: 9:40 p.m. ET
Madison Bumgarner has been a disaster so far this season, accumulating a 8.44 ERA and 7.18 xFIP through 21.1 innings, which are the worst marks of any starter in MLB. He’s given up a whopping nine home runs so far this season, which is crazy considering he gave up only 15 home runs in over 200 innings in 2013.
Not even one of his pitches has been effective, as they are each allowing a wOBA over .350. Bumgarner is mainly a fastball-cutter pitcher, which won’t bode well for him on Thursday night as the Dodgers are top-five in MLB against both of those pitches.
The Diamondbacks bullpen has struggled mightily this season, recording a 5.16 ERA. Arizona’s relievers have combined for a 5.07 xFIP, which ranks in the bottom 10 in the entire league. And that’s not to mention the Diamondbacks dealt Archie Bradley and Andrew Chafin — their best relievers — at the trade deadline, so the Dodgers should feast on their depleted bullpen.
The Dodgers lineup has been on fire over the past two weeks, hitting 22 home runs, which has led to a .346 wOBA and 119 wRC+. Los Angeles has done most of its damage against right-handed pitching, but they’ve somewhat struggled versus lefties, as they have a .307 wOBA and 93 wRC+. However, despite their woes, I don’t think they’ll have any trouble against Bumgarner and the D-backs bullpen.
I backed the Dodgers team total yesterday and I’m running it back again today. If books are going to keep putting their team total at 5.5 against severely below-average starters and the worst bullpen in baseball, then I am going to keep playing it.
I have the Dodgers projected for 6.40 runs today, so I think there is some value on their team total over 5.5 runs at -121.