Cubs SP Jon Lester will look to continue his postseason success
Welcome back to the LazyBets Free MLB Picks column for Tuesday, October 2nd. After a strong regular season (91-75 overall), we’re ready to bet some playoff baseball.
With the intensity ratcheted up to a whole new level in October, you can feel the tension even when sitting at home on your couch. That makes it even more exciting to have a little money on the line - and even more sweet when you win. We’ll be here to help you do just that, as we’ll be bringing you free analysis and our best bets all October long.
First up, we’ll be taking a look at the National League Wild Card game between the Chicago Cubs and the Colorado Rockies. Both clubs ended up in this game after losing their one game division playoff games on Monday - Chicago lost 3-1 to the Brewers to give Milwaukee the NL Central title, and Colorado fell 5-2 as the Dodgers claimed the NL West. Both clubs will look to rebound on Tuesday and continue their quest for the World Series title.
Colorado Rockies (Freeland) at Chicago Cubs (Lester)
Before we get into the NL Wild Card matchup, we’d like to say two things to our loyal readers that have been with us all season long. First off - you’re welcome. Our picks were pretty solid this season, and you had to pay the whopping total of $0 to read them. We hope you all profited like we did this season.
Secondly - sorry about fading Kyle Freeland so often. While we did have a solid year, Freeland did everything he could to sabotage it - we bet against the Rockies lefty nine times for a record of 2-7, including an 0-5 streak to close the year.
Our logic was sound - Freeland got quite lucky to achieve his sparkling 17-7 record with a 2.85 ERA. His left-on-base percentage (LOB%) was 4th highest amongst qualified starters, and his HR/FB was 5th lowest. While Freeland may have influenced those stats a bit by inducing a higher-than-average rate of ground balls and weak contact, finishing that well in those luck-based stats is beyond pitcher’s control.
Two things a pitcher has much more control over - strikeouts and walks - aren’t a strength of Freeland’s. His K/BB% ratio was well below average for the season, and no one with a worse percentage finished with a better ERA. While we can admit that Freeland is a better pitcher than we previously thought, we still believe that he’s been overrated by the oddsmakers, and it's no different on Tuesday.
Jon Lester actually had a similar 2018 to Freeland’s - a little good fortune in the LOB% department (80.3%) led to a better ERA (3.32) than he probably deserved. His strikeout rate plummeted down to levels it hadn’t been since 2012, and his walk rate jumped to its highest mark since 2011.
Just looking at this year’s stats, you’d be hard-pressed to determine which lefty is the better overall pitcher. However, Lester has a long track record of success - he’s had 5 seasons with a higher WAR than Freeland’s career-year in 2018. Also, while Tuesday will mark Freeland’s first career playoff start, it will be Lester’s 22nd. He has a ridiculous 2.55 ERA in the postseason for his career, so it stands to reason that Lester will be the more comfortable pitcher in a one-game playoff scenario.
While the Cubs have had the far superior offense this season, it’s actually much closer when looking at each club’s performance against lefties, as both Lester and Freeland are. The Cubs improve from 12 overall to 10th in wRC+ against southpaws, but the Rockies improve from a dismal 25th in baseball to 12th against the lefties.
That is a concern for Cubs bettors here, but it’s important to note that Colorado’s success against lefties as a team has been mostly the result of two hitters - Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story - absolutely dominating against left-handers in 2018. Neither guy projects to hit nearly as well going forward, and if Lester can avoid getting beaten by those two, he should be able to maneuver through the rest of the mediocre Rockies order.
The Cubs could have also finished with a higher offensive rating if their resident lefty killer, Kris Bryant, hadn’t missed about ⅓ of the season. He and righty Javier Baez will be the ones to watch against Freeland, but the Cubbies boast much more depth in their lineup than Colorado does. We give them a fairly large advantage at the plate on Tuesday.
Cubs Rockies Final Thoughts
With Lester’s playoff experience and Freeland’s lack thereof, we think that Tuesday’s moneyline is way off, especially considering the Cubs’ offensive advantage. Kyle Freeland and the Rockies have had a Cinderella season, but we believe that the glass slipper will fall off in Wrigley on Tuesday night.
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Best of luck out there, and we’ll see you right back here soon for some more playoff baseball action. Let’s get a win!
Bet the Cubs -133
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