MLB Odds & Picks: Chicago Cubs vs. Cincinnati Reds Preview (Thursday, September 10)
Getty Images. Pictured: Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant
- The Chicago Cubs take on the Cincinnati Reds at 8:15 p.m. ET on Thursday.
- For BJ Cunningham, the pick depends on the price for each team. Michael Arinze will take the Reds if the price is right.
- Check out the full breakdown with updated odds from Cunningham and Arinze below.
Cubs vs. Reds Odds
|Cubs Odds||+105 [Bet Now]|
|Reds Odds||-121 [Bet Now]|
|Over/Under||7 (-124/+102) [Bet Now]|
|First Pitch||Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET|
The Cubs will look to maintain their 2.5-game lead in the NL Central as they send Adbert Alzolay to the mound to take on Sonny Gray and the Reds.
Cincinnati is four games out of the final playoff spot, so it needs to go on a run down the stretch if it wants to make the playoffs.
Michael Arinze and BJ Cunningham share their betting strategies for tonight’s NL Central showdown:
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.
Reds Projected Lineup
Cincinnati has been below average offensively this season, accumulating a .312 wOBA and 90 wRC+. Jesse Winker and Nick Castellanos have led the Reds offensively this season, as they are the only players with a wOBA above .350.
The Reds have also been below average against right handed pitching (.314 wOBA), but they’ll get a chance to improve those numbers against a below average righty like Adbert Alzolay.
Reds Probable Starter
Sonny Gray, RHP
Projected & Actual Stats (via Fangraphs)
Pitch Arsenal (via Baseball Savant)
Sonny Gray has been fantastic so far in 2020. He’s accumulated a 11.91 K/9 rate, which has led to 3.15 xFIP.
Gray probably doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. He has one of the best curveball/slider combinations in the game. So far in 2020, both pitches are generating a whiff rate over 35% and are holding hitters under a .300 wOBA.
If there is one part of his arsenal that is lacking, it’s his fastball. Last season, opponents had a .409 wOBA average when facing his fastball, and Gray generated an underwhelming 17% whiff rate.
However, he’s improved his fastball significantly in 2020, lowering his wOBA against it to .294. Gray should be able to keep his good year going against the Cubs with the wind blowing in at Wrigley.
Cubs Projected Lineup
Chicago has been average offensively this season, checking in with a .317 wOBA and 95 wRC+. Ian Happ and Jason Heyward have been the Cubs’ best hitters this year, as they are the only two with a wOBA over .360.
The Cubs have done most of their damage against right-handed pitching, checking in at a .326 wOBA and 102 wRC+. Even though they’ve crushed righties thus far, they’ll still have a tough matchup against Gray on Tuesday.
Cubs Probable Starter
Adbert Alozlay, RHP
Projected Stats (ZIPS) (via Fangraphs)
Adbert Alzolay spent six years in the minor leagues before getting the call to the majors last season. He was a strikeout machine in AAA last season (12.54 K/9), but his xFIP was all the way up at 5.10 for the season. He’s pitched a total of 21 innings in the big leagues and so far it hasn’t gone very well, as he’s accumulated a 5.23 xFIP
Scouts have raved that if Alzolay can keep his mechanics in sync, his fastball and curveball are plus pitches at the big league level. His changeup has actually been his best pitch so far in his short stint in the big leagues, but scouts have categorized it as average.
Alzolay is an extreme fly ball pitcher (51% fly ball rate in AAA last year), which has been a problem so far in the big leagues, as he’s been tagged for four home runs in his career. He’ll be in luck today though because the wind is blowing straight at 13-plus mph at Wrigley tonight.
The Reds improved their bullpen over the trade deadline, adding Archie Bradley from the Diamondbacks. He will no doubt improve their 5.08 ERA as a group, which ranks in the bottom half of MLB.
The Cubs made a couple moves at the deadline to acquire left-handed relievers, but didn’t significantly improve their bullpen.
Projections and Pick
Based on the current moneyline odds, I don’t think there is any value on this game. If I could find the Reds at -122 or better I would pull the trigger. Conversely, if I could find the Cubs at +150 or better I would bet them.
Scouting Adbert Alzolay
Alzolay has made two appearances this season, including a start in his last outing. He threw 78 pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals and couldn’t make it out of the third inning. His first outing was actually against the Reds, when he came on to throw 20 pitches and work a clean fourth inning.
He’s projected as a starting pitcher at this level so he should be able to handle throwing more pitches in an outing.
However, with this only being his third appearance, I wouldn’t be surprised if fatigue played a factor in tonight’s matchup.
Alzolay has pitched 21 innings in his career and his record is 1-2 with a 5.14 ERA and 1.62 WHIP. Eight of those 21 innings came this season and he’s 0-1 with a 2.08 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. Alzolay’s FIP sits at a very respectable 2.83 in 2020, but with just 8.2 innings of work under his belt it’s hard to put much stock into that number being predictive, especially since the youngster has allowed seven walks in less than 9 innings.
According to his scouting reports, Alzolay’s delivery is not very repeatable, which leads to his ability to locate his pitches. Because he’s only made six appearances in his career, I went back and looked at each box score when he was the starting pitcher and the findings were revealing.
The Cubs have yet to win a game that Alzolay has started in. My theory on this is that Alzolay struggles when he has to go through a lineup for a second time. The more that teams can get a look at the right-hander, the more success they will have against him.
Will Gray Bounce Back?
Sonny Gray is coming off one of the worst starts of his career. He failed to make it out of the first inning and got pulled after allowing six runs and walking three batters in a 16-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Sept. 1.
For one reason or another, the Reds decided to push back his next start four days.
When coming off a loss this season, Gray has allowed just one run over 11.2 innings combined and tonight he’ll face a Cubs that he’s 4-2 against with a 2.38 ERA.
One of those losses came in 2016 when he was a member of the Oakland A’s but since he’s been with Cincinnati, the Reds are 5-1 against the Cubs with Gray on the mound. He should feel confident in facing a Cubs lineup that is hitting just .103 against him with a .166 wOBA and .214 SLG.
I can only look to the visiting team in this matchup. The Reds should get a long look at Alzolay tonight and I think that will be problematic for the young right-hander, especially since Chicago’s bullpen has struggled to a 4.56 ERA and an 18.7 HR/FB ratio this season.
My model is showing value on the Reds up to -151. BetRivers is trading Cincinnati at -139 and I’m inclined to lock up that value and back the Reds to make it two-in-a-row against the Cubbies tonight.
The Bet: Reds moneyline at -151 or better