There are only three games on the MLB card for Monday night. We were only supposed to have two, but the Marlins and Red Sox have a makeup game at Fenway Park. One of the other games, Royals vs. Angels, features the MLB debut of Jackson Kowar. So, with less uncertainty in the third game, that will be the one we focus on.
The Chicago Cubs just swept the San Diego Padres at Wrigley Field, so let’s see what they can do at Petco Park as the Cubs and Padres kick off a weekday series with this Monday night matchup with a 10:10 p.m. ET first pitch. Adbert Alzolay and Ryan Weathers are the listed starters and the Padres are a growing favorite now up into the -130 range at Bovada Sportsbook with a total of 7.5.
The Cubs were able to salvage Sunday’s series finale against the Giants to avoid a sweep, but it was not a good look over the first three games. The Cubs are a pretty big regression candidate on the pitching side right now, as they rank second in baseball in LOB%, a metric at FanGraphs to describe the percentage of runners stranded on the bases. Their bullpen also ranks in the top five, which has been able to cover up what is the true talent level of that unit.
That’s not to say that the Cubs are a bad team. They rank above average offensively and have three key impending free agents in Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Anthony Rizzo that are looking to get big pay days at the end of the season. Studies have shown that impending FA are likelier to overshoot their career numbers with an increased level of focus.
So, the offense isn’t the concern or the worry here. The offense is good enough to be a borderline top-10 group, but the sustainability of Chicago’s pitching is what is under the microscope. It was huge for the Cubs to get another decent effort out of Kyle Hendricks on Sunday, as he tries to dig out of a big hole he put himself in earlier this season.
Adbert Alzolay has been a huge part of what the Cubs have done this season. The 26-year-old Alzolay has a 3.62 ERA with a 3.93 FIP in his 54.2 innings of work. The long ball has been his Achilles heel with nine of those over 10 starts. Otherwise, he’s running a 58/11 K/BB ratio, has only allowed 39 hits in his 54.2 innings, and has a strong 12% SwStr%.
Alzolay has allowed a good amount of hard contact with a Hard Hit% of 40.4% that makes the sustainability of a .227 BABIP a point of contention in this start and a lot of his starts going forward.
San Diego Padres
If we want to talk about sustainability questions, though, then Ryan Weathers is pretty much at the forefront of that discussion. Weathers has a 2.06 ERA, which is excellent, but when you dig a little bit deeper, you start to question how long it can last. Weathers has a 5.28 xERA with a 4.31 FIP and a 4.47 xFIP. He’s got a .210 BABIP against and a 93.9% LOB%. For frame of reference, the league average LOB% is 72.2%. So, Weathers is dramatically overachieving in that department and it is an important one because runners stranded on base are runners that do not score.
Weathers did allow four runs on seven hits, including a couple of homers, in his most recent start against the Cubs. The 21-year-old has a 46.4% Hard Hit% against, too, so that would be a really big concern regarding his .210 BABIP. There are a lot of signs pointing in a negative direction for him.
The Padres offense continues to disappoint, despite a ridiculous amount of talent. San Diego is 16th in wOBA now at .305. Contact quality really hasn’t been an issue, but a poor set of results have led to a .279 BABIP. The Padres have walked over 10% of the time, but haven’t really been able to parlay that into much offensive success.
The Padres are underachieving based on their wOBA-xwOBA numbers, which is a measure of actual wOBA and Expected wOBA, which incorporates a lot of contact quality metrics, but they are only -.010 in that department. That is surprising because the Padres are last in batting average on batted balls of 95+ mph at .451, but second in raw number of them. They’ve made a lot of hard contact, but haven’t had nearly enough to show for it.
Cubs vs. Padres Free Pick
The total moving up on this game makes a lot of sense and over 7.5 will be the pick here. Alzolay and Weathers are both in line for a bit of negative regression. The Padres make a lot of hard contact, but haven’t had enough to show for it. The Cubs are a laggard in their results on high-velocity contact as well. We should see some runs tonight.
Pick: Over 7.5