Indians vs. Pirates Odds & Pick: Dare To Fade Shane Bieber?

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Ron Vesely/Getty Images. Pictured: Shane Bieber.

Indians vs. Pirates Betting Odds

Indians Odds -245 [Bet Now]
Pirates Odds +205 [Bet Now]
Over/Under 7.5 (-105/-117) [Bet Now]
First Pitch 7:05 p.m. ET

Odds as of Wednesday at 11 p.m. ET 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.


The Cleveland Indians send their ace Shane Bieber to the mound on Thursday as they go for a sweep of the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates. Bieber will try and follow up on Adam Civale’s outstanding complete-game performance on Wednesday. A win for Cleveland would pull them into a tie with the Minnesota Twins for first place in the AL Central, so winning with their ace on the mound as huge favorites is an opportunity they cannot afford to waste.


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.

BaseRuns is a formula designed to estimate how many runs a team would be expected to score (or allow) given their underlying offensive (or defensive) performance. In other words, BaseRuns is a context-neutral run estimator used to evaluate teams. Major League average for an individual batter per game is 0.50 BaseRuns and a for a pitcher its 0.52 BaseRuns per inning. 


Indians Projected Lineup

The Indians have been awful so far this season. They’re 28th in MLB in terms of wOBA (.286) and wRC+ (76). Their main issue has been the bottom of their lineup. Their 1 through 5 hitters are hitting .255 with 16 home runs, which isn’t terrible. However, their bottom four hitters are hitting .082 with only 10 extra base hits in 264 plate appearances. Cleveland has improved over the past week with .326 wOBA, but the bottom of their lineup has to improve if this team is going to make the playoffs.

Indians Projected Starter

Shane Bieber, RHP

Projected & Actual Stats (via Fangraphs)

Pitch Arsenal (via Baseball Savant)

Bieber has been the best pitcher in baseball so far in 2020. He leads all qualified starting pitchers with a 1.65 xFIP and a 14.02 K/9 rate. The reason he’s been so good is because he’s made a commitment to throwing his off speed pitches more often. In 2019, he threw his fastball 45.7% of the time, whereas in 2020, he’s down to  throwing it only 33.9% of the time. His fastball is a little above average — it has average velocity — but he’s been on point with his location. His fastball is producing a 22.2% whiff rate this year, compared to only a 13.7% whiff rate in 2019. Bieber’s curveball and slider has been incredible so far this season. He’s only allowed five hits on 197 pitches, which translates to a .083 batting average against those two pitches. The Pirates have struggled against every single pitch type this season, so Bieber has a great matchup here.

Pirates Projected Lineup

The Pirates have been the worst offense in baseball so far in 2020. They have a .270 wOBA and 68 wRC+ with little hope of things getting better. Outside of Colin Moran and Erik Gonzalez, nobody has a wOBA above .300. It’s hard to imagine their offense having any sort of output against the best starting pitcher in baseball.

Pirates Projected Starter

Trevor Williams, RHP

Projected & Actual Stats (via Fangraphs)

Pitch Arsenal (via Baseball Savant)

Williams hasn’t been great so far this season, posting a 5.01 xFIP through his first four starts. He’s mainly a fastball pitcher, holding hitters at bay so far (.274 wOBA against). His slider has been his biggest issue, as he’s given up a .437 wOBA against it. Williams wasn’t effective with any of his pitches last season, which led to a xFIP of 5.25. But the Indians have been terrible offensively so far this season, so Williams has a good opportunity to put together a quality start.

Indians-Pirates Bullpens

The Indians’ bullpen has been really good to this point in the season. They have the fifth best pen in the league in terms of xFIP (3.88). After Civale’s brilliant performance on Wednesday, Cleveland’s bullpen should have everyone available. The Pirates’ bullpen was projected to be in the bottom half of MLB, and those projections have turned out to be true, as they are ranked 22nd in MLB in terms of xFIP (4.64).

Indians-Pirates Projections and Pick

At the time of writing, I don’t see any value on either side or the total based on my projections. Ideally, I would jump in on the Indians at -194 or better.

Conversely, if I could find the Pirates at +260 or better, I would pivot to their side. If the odds on either team or the total shifts, you can follow me on the Action Network app to see if I end up making a play on this game.

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