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MLB National League Wild Card Matchup Preview 10/02/2018

Colorado Rockies @ Chicago Cubs

It is that time of the year that all baseball fans long for. Project October. The World Series is arguably the most up for grabs of Championships out of all professional sports. It has often been said that in sports, anything can happen. In the MLB Postseason, anything can really happen, and there would be no particular surprise with any team that ends up winning it all from here onward. 

It starts today. Usually, we have two (or at least one) teams that are grateful to be in this position today while the majority of the league’s Winter starts right now. Unlike previous Wild Card games however, the 2018 National League Single Elimination Wild Card game will feature two disgruntled teams that missed out on division title opportunities yesterday afternoon. 

After losing their respective division tiebreakers, the Colorado Rockies and Chicago Cubs will square off in baseball’s second oldest venue, in a do or die situation which will end with only one team moving forward. Let’s break down the factors in today’s matchup:

Technical Matchup:

Today’s melee will showcase the following Starting Pitching matchup: Kyle Freeland vs Jon Lester.

Logically both teams have gone with their best options, and neither one of these two slingers are slouches. Quite frankly, both of these pitchers are very alike in many aspects despite arguably being two men of different eras. Let’s begin with the obvious. Both of these pitchers are Lefties, and both rely significantly on their cutter pitch rhythm as the key to their success. Freeland and Lester both rely on the cutter pitch at least 20% of the time, which is substantially higher than the average frequency of the pitch usage among starting pitchers. Next, both of them have pitched their best and most consistently in the final month of the season. In Lester’s last 8 Regular Season starts, he did not give up more than 3 ER in any of his starts. Even more impressively, you will be hard pressed to find Freeland’s last outing that did not result in a quality start. His last sub par start was on August 1st. The late season emergence of both of these guys, is likely the reason why it came down to the announcement of these two pitchers in a single elimination game. 

While offensive statistics are dependent on many variables, considering the fact that these two teams play in arguably the two most influentially unique home ballparks in the majors, it is safe to say that both clubs have their share of slugging weapons. 

In terms of defense, both clubs have their share of prominent defenders. Most notable of Gold Glove potential are: Rockies 3rd Baseman Nolan Arenado, and Cubs Shortstop Javier Baez.

The bullpens will be deployed liberally as usual in such cases of single game eliminations.

In a normal middle of season game, it would be a little more important to dissect the X’s and O’s, and lay the statistical factors on the table. However, in a single game elimination, a lot of the outcome will be dictated by emotion.

 

WHO HAS THE EDGE? 

Situation: 

In rarity, tonight’s game will be played at Wrigley Field under very normal climate conditions.  While usually known for strong impacting winds and unpredictable midwestern weather, north side Chicago is now seeing temperatures in the low 60s with very light wind this evening, and an air density index around 66. The playing field may be the same for both teams in the aspect of stadium conditions, however the journeys to today have not been equal. 

The Chicago Cubs have been in the Central Time Zone for two weeks, and a large chunk of it has taken place in Chicago (including a series with their southside counterpart Chicago White Sox). In terms of biological clocks, travel, and other time zone adjustments, the Cubs are unaffected by this factor. They have been at home for quite some time. The same cannot be said for the Colorado Rockies, who will be entering and playing in their third time zone in as many days. The Rockies started Sunday with their season finale at home in Denver against the Washington Nationals, and then shifted a time zone westward to face the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West Tiebreaker yesterday. The clock did not stop after yesterday’s disappointing 5-2 loss, as they found themselves immediately on a 4 hour plane ride into Chicago, which is a two hour eastward time zone difference. Scientific sports research has worked to explain the immediate eastward travel jetlag through time zones, and the decrease in power and focus has been apparent in many case studies throughout the years. 

Based on the situation of travel, the Chicago Cubs definitely have the edge in this one.

 

Experience:

Experience is not everything. In terms of breaking it down however, this would be a no brainer. The Chicago Cubs have a significant advantage in coaching, as they have one of the highest profile managers in baseball. Joe Maddon has been a highly reputed and sought after skipper over the past decade or so, and also has a 2016 World Series Ring with these Cubs to back it up.

On top of that, the pitching matchup itself features Cubs veteran Ace Jon Lester, who has 3 Championships, against and up and coming relatively inexperienced sophomore in Rockies Kyle Freeland. 

The Cubs have been to the dance, and have been one of the MLB Juggernauts over the past half decade. The Rockies, well they are just getting back into the mix of things in October. 

For the purpose of evaluating experience, the nod goes to the Chicago Cubs. Hand down.

 

Motivation:

Is this even a question? Both teams are likely equally as disappointed in yesterday’s losses, and both teams need today’s game equally as bad. The motivation should be the same. Some may argue that the Cubs not winning the division may be more of a personal disappointment to the club, coming from a position of expectations. Whereas Colorado came into their tiebreaker in LA as a unanimously perceived underdog. However, both teams are in it for the same goal and intentions this evening. Only time will tell which squad is the more “motivated”.

 

Verdict? 

The line opened in the high -120s in favor of the Chicago Cubs, and has seen natural movement furthermore in their favor, as it sits in the mid -130s for the Chicago moneyline now. Clearly, Vegas expects this to be a close game even with the incorporated home field advantage to the Cubs. The total setting sits at 7.5, and this is because of the stable weather conditions and the expectation of both pitchers to be sharp. 

Normally for high emotion games like today, I like to throw the stats and trends out of the equation. Even the travel situation may be overpowered by unknown motivational and emotional factors. However, because both teams are coming into tonight’s game with the same rebound approach and a common goal, I’m going to assume that this one plays out more naturally than what we can expect in the American League Wild Card game tomorrow. 

While there is still okay value, I would recommend a small play on the Chicago Cubs moneyline tonight based on their advantages in this matchup. As a bettor however, please do not take the Wild Card games as seriously as the teams do. This should be a fun filled action play for the thrill of it, so grab your popcorn, and enjoy one of the most exciting events in baseball this evening!

Good Luck!

Razor.

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