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The trio of Lindor, Brantley and Ramirez has lead the powerful Tribe offense this season.
Welcome back to the LazyBets Free MLB picks column for Wednesday, June 27th. Our value play on the Phillies in Tuesday’s picks column didn’t pay out, as the Yankees jumped on Arrieta early and Luis Severino dominated in a 6-0 New York victory. Despite the outcome, we still believe that those odds were too good to pass up - we’ll be looking for more big underdog opportunities as the season rolls along.
We’ll be taking a look at a much more even matchup for Wednesday’s pick. Two talented young starters will take the mound as the Cleveland Indians try to avoid the sweep in St. Louis against the Cardinals. Let’s get into it.
Cleveland Indians (Bieber) at St. Louis Cardinals (Flaherty)
Indians pitcher Shane Bieber let us down when we bet on him in his major league debut on May 31st, as he allowed eight hits and four earned runs in a loss against Minnesota. Maybe it was nerves, bad luck, or maybe he just wanted to spite us for using that Justin Bieber photo in our article. Regardless, Bieber has performed much better in his two starts since then, allowing only one run over 12 ⅔ innings and picking up the win in each.
We trusted Bieber in his major league debut in large part because of his control and his ridiculously good strikeout-to-walk ratio in the minors. He’s been able to maintain that control in his first three big league starts, only walking a single batter in each of his appearances. Because of this, Bieber’s projections have only gotten more optimistic about his potential - his projected rest-of-season FIP of 3.89 is a very solid mark, especially for a pitcher in his debut season.
Steamer projects the exact same FIP for Cardinals’ starter Jack Flaherty for the remainder of 2018. The big league sample is a little larger for Flaherty, who made five rough starts in 2017 (6.33 ERA) to make way for a much more productive start to 2018 (2.50 ERA). There's not much more the Cardinals could have asked for out of their 22 year-old starter, and they should be very excited about his potential. However, we aren’t getting carried away too quickly - his BABIP and LOB% have been unsustainably good, so he likely won’t be finishing with such a sparkling ERA (in 2018 at least). He’s also a bit prone to loss of command - his projected BB/9 (3.10) is nearly double Bieber’s (1.57). While most probably believe Flaherty is the superior pitcher to Bieber right now, we believe it’s about as even as it gets.
While the pitching matchup is a dead heat, the offensive matchup is not. The Indians are far and away the more talented offense, which is borne out in the rankings - Cleveland is sitting at 4th in wRC+, while St. Louis is down at 16th (as of Tuesday night). Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez is having an MVP level season (.292/.403/.613), shortstop Francisco Lindor is showing why he’ll probably win that award one day (.292/.368/.549), and outfielder Michael Brantley should be an All-Star again (.313/.362/.507) after two injury plagued seasons. While the Cardinals have some nice hitters in their lineup, it just doesn’t stack up with Cleveland’s star power and overall depth.
This offensive advantage is the reason why Cleveland at even money (+100) looks so appealing to us, given that that the starting pitching matchup is too close to call. We’ll bank on the Tribe and their stars to put up some runs and avoid getting swept in St. Louis on Wednesday.
Good luck everybody - let’s get a win!
Bet the Cubs +102
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