It’s been since last Thursday that I last made a free MLB pick as I spent the long weekend camping with my family, but my most recent pick hit at +110 odds as my hot start to the 2020 MLB season continues.
I backed Shane Bieber against a lethal Twins lineup, and a Francisco Lindor two-run homer was all he needed in support as Bieber was filthy once again and the Indians took that one by a 2-0 count over their AL Central rivals.
After a few days off let’s get back in the swing of things on a busy day in Major League Baseball!
Season Record: 9-4
Now let’s take a look at this free MLB pick featuring the Cubs vs. Royals from Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City!
Cubs vs. Royals Betting Odds
- Cubs (-195)
- Royals (+179)
- Cubs -1.5 (-133)
- Royals +1.5 (+113)
- Over 9 (-105)
- Under 9 (-115)
Cubs vs. Royals MLB Pick Breakdown
Pitching Matchup: Darvish (CHC – 1-1, 2.70 ERA/1.20 FIP) vs. Bubic (0-1, 4.50 ERA/7.00 FIP)
The Cubs will look to clinch the series win tonight behind Yu Darvish after taking the first two of this four-game set from the Royals. If he’s anything like he was in his second start of the season against the Pirates, their chances of doing so are quite high.
After Darvish began his 2020 season by allowing three runs in four innings against the Brewers, he looked more like his 2019 second-half self in his second turn, shutting out the Pirates over six innings while punching out seven.
Last season, Darvish struggled in the season’s first half before dominating to the tune of a 0.77 ERA and 16.86 K/BB ratio in the season’s second half, and his numbers through two starts this season are an extension of that stretch.
Darvish enters this one sporting a 2.70 ERA, but also a 1.20 FIP, 2.08 xFIP and a 10.80 K/9 clip versus a minuscule 0.90 BB/9 rate. His command was impeccable during last year’s downright filthy home stretch and it looks as if it has returned for the 2020 campaign.
He’s yet to allow a homer in his 10 innings of work after struggling to a 1.66 HR/9 clip a season ago, although positive regression from his career-worst 22.8% HR/FB rate was expected given his 13.8% career mark.
In five career starts against the Royals, Darvish owns a 2.34 ERA while posting a 3.20 mark across three starts and 19.2 frames at Kauffman Stadium. Finally, current Royals hitters have hit just .250 with a .700 OPS against Darvish in a combined 34 plate appearances.
It hasn’t taken long for left-hander Kris Bubic to get to the big leagues after being drafted in 2018. The Royals surprisingly purchased the 22-year-old’s contract to make a spot start against the White Sox on Friday, and he battled nerves in that one, hitting two batters while allowing three runs (two earned) over four innings with three hits – including a homer – and a walk against him.
The talent is there, but there surprising call up comes after he made the jump from High-A ball all the way to the big leagues. Bubic posted a 2.23 ERA in 149 innings across three minor-league stops in 2018, so we know the skill level is high, but it’s extremely rare to see a player skip the Double-A and Triple-A levels all together.
Bubic’s promotion is the result of absences of Brad Keller and Jake Junis, so we’ll have to see if he sticks around after tonight’s start or is sent back down to the team’s alternate training site.
The Cubs have scored seven runs over the first two games of this series, but their offense has been among the league’s best this season – something I anticipated taking place prior to the campaign.
Entering tonight’s action, the Cubs rank third with a .347 wOBA and .217 ISO on the season while their 3.1 fWAR so far from their offense ranks second behind only their crosstown rival White Sox.
With a lineup capable of getting on base and hitting for power, it’s not surprising in the least.
Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have been able to set the table at the top of the lineup while the hard-hitting trio of Javier Baez, Willson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber have done their part. The club has also received signifiant contributions from the likes of Ian Happ and David Bote, if their front five wasn’t good enough already.
They haven’t hit for as much power against lefties, but still own a quality .340 wOBA against them to go along with a 117 wRC+.
There’s a clear mismatch in offenses in this series as the Royals have scored just four runs across the first two games of this series and have put forth one of the worst offenses in baseball to this point.
Indeed, their .291 team wOBA ranks them 26th in the league while their .149 ISO checks in at 21st. They’ve hit 12 homers on the season, but six of those came in one game last week against the Tigers. Aside from that effort, the Royals have homered just six times across their other 11 games.
One season after ranking second with 117 stolen bases in 2019, the Royals have just five steals this season as their power/speed combination is again once of the worst in baseball.
Aside from the pesky Whit Merrifield atop the lineup and Jorge Soler behind him, the Royals haven’t received much from the bottom seven bats of their lineup to this point in the young season.
The Cubs are off to a 9-2 start this season – a minor miracle considering the production they’ve received from their bullpen to this point.
Entering this one tonight, the Cubs rank last in bullpen ERA (7.64), FIP (7.33), walks per nine innings (6.27), home runs per nine innings (2.73) and fWAR (-0.7). In other words, no other bullpen in baseball has been worse, and it’s not even close. Their bullpen has cost them 0.7 wins so far and they’re still an NL Central-leading 9-2.
I mentioned in my offseason prediction that I expected a big rebound from Craig Kimbrel, but he owns a cool 33.40 ERA/26.40 FIP in his 1.2 innings of work, yielding six earned runs in that time on four walks, four hits, two homers and a hit-by-pitch.
Newcomer Jeremy Jeffress has been the saving grace with five clean innings so far, but eight of the 12 relievers the Cubs have used this season have an ERA of 7.36 or above.
Needless to say, it hasn’t been pretty, but there’s only one way to go here, right?
Give the early-season bullpen advantage to the Royals in this one as Kansas City ranks 10th with a 3.49 ERA on the season, however it would appear they’re in for some regression moving forward given the sketchy peripherals.
Despite the quality surface ERA, the Royals’ bullpen ranks 21st with a 4.74 FIP and 4.49 xFIP, 22nd with an 8.58 K/9, 19th with a 4.13 BB/9, 21st with a 1.43 HR/9 and tied for 24th with a -0.3 fWAR.
They pitched three innings of scoreless baseball in last night’s 5-4 loss and two innings of one-run ball the night before, but it looks as if we should expect to see more run-scoring damage of this Royals’ bullpen moving forward.
There’s two clear advantages for the Cubs in this one, both of which have the ability to hide what has been a scary-bad Cubs bullpen this season.
If Darvish can get deep into this game and cross the six-inning mark, it provides a smaller bridge to the back end of the bullpen, although we don’t know who will be available in that regard this evening.
Second is that Cubs offense that’s been dynamite so far this season. Of course, the more run support this bullpen gets, the better.
I would be more concerned with the bullpen disadvantage for the Cubs here if they were up against a lights-out bullpen themselves, however I don’t believe we’ll see this Royals bullpen sporting a sub-4.00 ERA much longer. There’s very few reliable arms in that group and nearly all peripheral numbers look scary moving forward.
I don’t see this offense as a big enough threat to Darvish, not in a pitcher’s park to be sure.
I’ll go ahead and make my first run line play of the season and take Darvish and this Cubs offense to lead their team to victory by at least two runs in this one tonight.