MLB Regular Season
Matchup: Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee Brewers
Date/Time: July 30, 8:10 p.m. ET
Pitching Matchup: Jake Arrieta (11-6, 2.61) vs. Jimmy Nelson (8-9, 3.97)
MLB Betting Odds From BetDSI Sportsbook
Moneyline: Chicago -130
There’s a little bit of recency bias in Thursday’s series opening line between the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers. Is there enough of it? That remains to be seen. Jake Arrieta will take the mound for the Cubs against Jimmy Nelson for the Brewers. The Brewers are playing a lot better and the Cubs still have lofty expectations because of the name recognition on their roster. These two NL Central rivals open up a four-game series at Miller Park on Thursday night.
The Brewers were 25-46 after their loss on June 21. Nobody really noticed, except for the oddsmakers, when the Brewers won 17 out of 23 to get within 10 games of .500. Speaking of things that nobody has really noticed, the Cubs, entering play on Wednesday, were 29th in wOBA over the last 30 days and their 70 wRC+ was the worst in all of baseball in that span. That’s not what anybody expected when the Cubs called up their prized prospects. Everybody figured that the Cubs would be in the market for pitching at the trade deadline, but it’s hitting that they are interested in acquiring.
Part of the reason that the Cubs don’t need any pitching is because Jake Arrieta proved that last season was not a fluke. Arrieta has been as good or better in some respects this season for the Cubs. After coming over from the Orioles in 2013 and getting the green light to throw his cutter, the Cubs right-hander has posted a 25-13 record in 54 starts with a 2.73 ERA and a 2.80 FIP. He posted a 20-25 record and a 5.46 ERA for the Orioles in 358 innings. Arrieta finished in the top 10 in Cy Young voting last season and could do the same again this season.
Arrieta has a 2.61 ERA with a 2.60 FIP and a 2.68 xFIP this season, so there are no big outliers to discuss for him. His ground ball rate has increased a little bit this season to coincide with a small improvement in walk rate. Most of his stats are nearly identical to last season and this is the type of consistency that teams with young lineups need from pitching staffs. In 20 starts, Arrieta has gone at least six innings in 17 of them and has not allowed more than four earned runs in a start yet this season.
Jimmy Nelson seems like he could be a quality innings eater for the Brewers in his career. He has a sturdy frame at 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds and has pretty good velocity. Nelson sits in the 93-94 range with his fastball and has relied heavily on a slider this season that has helped him generate a higher swinging strike rate and a higher chase rate than last season. Nelson’s performance this season won’t move the needle, with a 3.97 ERA, 4.09 FIP, and a 3.93 xFIP, but the Brewers are desperate for pitching and he’s a pretty decent one.
Nelson does have some control and command concerns, especially against lefties. Lefties are batting a robust .299/.376/.490 off of him this season. Righties are only batting .209/.287/.311. We often see this with starters that lack a third pitch and that’s Nelson’s biggest shortcoming right now. His curveball is a work in progress and it needs to progress quickly because of his shaky fastball command. Nelson has had some really terrible starts mixed in with some pretty good ones, so consistency remains his biggest hurdle.
MLB Prediction: Chicago Cubs
Jake Arrieta and the rest of the Cubs pitchers haven’t gotten a whole lot of offensive support lately, but the Cubs are facing Nelson for the third time and that should give them a better idea of his arsenal. The Brewers are pretty right-handed heavy offensively and Arrieta has a 72/12 K/BB ratio against righties on the season with a .271 wOBA against. Surprisingly, he has some minor reverse splits this season, but he’s been pretty good almost every time out.