We got a taste of MLB action last night with a rain-shortened affair between the Yankees and Nationals before the Giants and Dodgers played to a tight 1-1 game for a while until the Dodgers teed off late on the Giants’ bullpen.
Today, however, we get nearly a full dose of MLB action with 14 games going down beginning at 4:10 p.m. ET.
With that comes plenty of betting options on the board, but let’s take a look at a Central Division clash featuring the Brewers vs. Cubs from Wrigley Field in Chicago!
Brewers vs. Cubs Betting Odds
- Brewers (-103)
- Cubs (-107)
- Brewers +1.5 (-205)
- Cubs -1.5 (+175)
- Over 8.5 (-120)
- Under 8.5 (+100)
Brewers vs. Cubs MLB Pick Breakdowns
Pitching Matchup: Woodruff (MIL) vs. Hendricks (CHC)
We get a pair of first-time Opening Day starters in this one, beginning with Woodruff who now resides as the ace on what would appear to be a questionable Brewers rotation.
For his part, Woodruff is coming off a season in which he pitched to a 3.62 ERA, but also a 3.01 FIP and 3.36 xFIP with a big-time 10.58 K/9 across 22 starts and 121.2 innings.
Although his season was limited due to injuries, Woodruff earned an All-Star nod a season ago, his first such honor in the big leagues, although he was named the Brewers’ minor league pitcher of the year in 2016.
Armed with a hard fastball that hit an average of 96.7 mph last season as well as a sinker that hit 96.3, Woodruff will be leaned upon heavily to help lead this Brewers team back into the postseason.
That said, he hasn’t had much luck with the Cubs, posting a 7.23 ERA against them in four starts and six appearances spanning 18.2 innings.
Although he’s about as consistent as you’ll see, the Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks will take the Opening Day ball for the first time in his career on Friday night in a place he loves to call home.
Hendricks was his usual self in 2019, turning in a 3.46 ERA/3.61 FIP while once again displaying elite control in the form of a 1.63 BB/9 across 30 starts and 177 frames.
Only Hyun-Jin Ryu, Mike Leake, Zack Greinke and Miles Mikolas fared better in the BB/9 department than Hendricks did a season ago.
I mean, the guy has been spectacular in his career, working to a 3.14 ERA/3.53 FIP with a 2.03 BB/9 clip across 162 career starts and 163 appearances. It simply doesn’t get much more consistent than that.
Furthermore, Hendricks did nothing but deal at home last season, posting a dominant 2.04 ERA/2.87 FIP with a minuscule 1.26 BB/9 clip in 14 starts.
That pretty much following a career-long trend for the righty as he owns a career 2.61 ERA at Wrigley Field while he’s spun a 3.15 ERA against the Brewers for his career with a huge sample of 23 starts and 128.2 innings against his division rival.
The Brewers swung the bat well a season ago, ranking 12th in baseball with a .324 wOBA while also ranking in the league’s top 10 in the power department with a .192 ISO.
That said, a couple of those power bats now reside elsewhere as both Mike Moustakas and Eric Thames – two righty killers – are now with the Reds and Nationals, respectively.
Of course, the club still has Christian Yelich at its disposal, but making up for the lost power could very well be a problem and it wouldn’t be shocking to see this Brewers offense take a step back this season.
Despite constant rumors about a possible superstar heading out of Chicago this offseason, the Cubs will return much of the same offense that ranked eighth with a .330 wOBA last season and fifth with an even .200 ISO.
Rookie manager David Ross stated in sprint training that Kris Bryant and his massive OBP ways would be his new leadoff hitter while he should be followed by Anthony Rizzo and some combination of Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber and Willson Contreras.
Additionally, the universal DH could give Ian Happ some more reps in the lineup while the Cubs’ dynamic defensive duo in Albert Almora Jr. and Jason Heyward can remain in the outfield on a full-time basis.
As far as offenses go, that is one of the more dangerous front-five batters in the game and Happ is no slouch himself at the plate. I would anticipate the Cubs pushing for a top-five offense once again this season.
While the offense and rotation have taken some hits, the Brewers will certainly look to their bullpen as the strong point of their roster makeup.
Few in baseball are as good as Josh Hader and he’s set to close out games for this club while former closer Corey Knebel is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery.
Last season, the Brewers bullpen ranked 18th with a 4.40 ERA, but also 13th with a 4.31 FIP and 10th with a 4.1 fWAR. It’s a better group than it was on the surface and the return of Knebel should bolster that unit for 2020.
While the Brewers ‘pen was mostly strong in 2019, the Cubs’ unit was the team’s weak point to be sure.
They brought in future Hall of Fame closer Craig Kimbrel mid-season, but Kimbrel’s struggles were immense and he finished the season sporting a 6.53 ERA/8.00 FIP with a massive 5.23 BB/9 clip in his 23 outings and 20.2 innings of work.
Kimbrel should be much improved with full training under his belt and let’s not forget the dude is the owner of a career 2.08 ERA/2.19 FIP with an enormous 14.61 K/9 clip.
The club also added former Brewers closer Jeremy Jeffress on a minor league pact in the offseason, and he brings plenty of upside to the table while certainly being erratic at times as well.
That said, two of the team’s best relievers last season – Steve Cishek and Brandon Kintzler – are now elsewhere, as is Pedro Strop.
So, while the Cubs’ bullpen ranked eighth with a 3.98 ERA in 2019, they also ranked 16th with a 4.54 FIP and 20th with a 1.3 fWAR.
Preseason predictions are often crumpled up and thrown into the trash once we get a notable sample under our belts, but I believe these two clubs are headed in opposite directions in 2020.
To me, the Brewers lost a ton of thump in their lineup while Woodruff seems like the only reliable arm in that rotation. While he’s on the mound tonight, he’s struggled mightily against the Cubs in the past.
A less-than-stellar-looking Brewers offense should struggle with the quiet, yet effective pitching of Hendricks.
As noted, Hendricks dominates at Wrigley, he’s fared well against the Brewers and he gives his club an opportunity to win nearly every single time he gets the ball.
I see a notable offensive and starting pitching advantage here with the Cubs, and while the Brewers’ bullpen would appear to be superior, that aspect of baseball is perhaps the most volatile on a year-to-year basis than any other in the sport.
As a result, give me the north siders to come out and win the opener against their division rivals.