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Welcome back to our MLB Free Picks column. Yesterday’s pick was a loser thanks to the Nationals’ Mark Reynolds, who hit two homers in his season debut against his former team in a 6-4 Nats win. Jeremy Hellickson also continued to surprise, only allowing three hits and one walk through another 5 solid innings. We’re still not buying it - Hellickson has joined the Brewers’ Chase Anderson as guys we’re looking to fade as the year goes on.
Let’s get into today’s pick, which features some familiar faces if you’ve been following along with our picks this year.
Chicago Cubs (Quintana) -162 vs. Atlanta Braves (Teheran)
Even though teams are about 40 games into their schedules, we’re still in the early goings of the baseball season. During this time, certain teams and players are still performing way above or below their expected marks, usually due to small sample sizes and luck. We love placing bets on those that are underperforming against those that are overperforming, because we trust that things will average out during the long baseball season, while others may be deceived by the early season numbers. We’ve got a classic example of this kind of bet today, where the underperforming Jose Quintana and the Cubs face off against the surprising Atlanta Braves and Julio Teheran.
Jose Quintana has been much closer to average than anyone expected since joining the Cubs last season. Quintana had posted sub-4 ERAs every year prior to last season for the White Sox, but has been above 4 in the last two, including a 4.42 ERA thus far in 2018. His main problem has been his control - he’s walked four batters in an appearance three times already this season. However, like we mentioned in the previous paragraph, things generally average over the course of a season - Quintana hasn’t had major control problems in the past, so he should be able to get his walks in check. If he can, he should be able to provide upper-echelon production for the Cubs, which is what they expected when they traded multiple top-level prospects for him.
Julio Teheran has had extended bouts of control problems, as his 3.44 BB/9 rate last year would suggest. It’s been even worse this year (3.77 BB/9), but Teheran has managed to escape trouble and post a solid 3.14 ERA through his first 8 starts this year. His ability to escape trouble this year isn’t a new, intrinsic skill that Teheran learned over the offseason - he’s just getting lucky. His batting average on balls-in-play (BABIP) currently sits at .241 and his left-on-base percentage (LOB%) is at 84.5%. Both of those numbers are sure to head in the wrong direction for Teheran, and will only be exacerbated by his increased walk rate. Teheran’s ERA appears to be a ticking time bomb, and we want to be there to profit when it explodes.
The Braves’ offense also appears to be due for some regression - I don’t think anyone could have seen them ranking #1 in wRC+ over the first quarter of the season. Freddie Freeman is a great hitter and may continue mashing, but guys like Ozzie Albies, Nick Markakis and rookie phenom Ronald Acuna seem destined to slow down as the Braves move down the offensive ranks.
We loved the Cubs to win the division at the start of the year, and despite currently sitting in 4th place they’re only one game back of the lead. We like their chances of getting closer today as they should be able to take advantage of the overperforming Teheran, and we hope we get the ace version of Quintana. We’re grabbing Chicago -162 and you should too - don’t let the early season stats dissuade you.
Bet the Cubs -162
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