The Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs figure to be fighting for a playoff spot, and potentially the division title this year as they prepare to square off Friday in Wrigley Field on their Opening Day.
This truncated 2020 MLB season makes every game worth more — especially so when it comes to divisional matchups. Between the reigning champion St. Louis and a potentially frisky Reds club, the National League Central is shaping up to be exciting.
As for this particular duel in the Windy City, check out abe Insights' odds listings, wager analysis and betting preview for Brewers-Cubs so you can get off the on the proper gambling foot to start the weekend.
Date: Friday, July 24
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Brewers 50%; Cubs 51%
Spread: MIL +1.5 (-185); CHC -1.5 (+180)
Moneyline: MIL +100; CHC -105
While there's a fair amount of continuity with the Cubs' lineup from last season, the same can't be said for the Brew Crew. Gone are three All-Stars in catcher Yasmani Grandal, infielder Mike Moustakas and relief pitcher Drew Pomeranz.
One experience component working in Milwaukee's favor, though, is the presence of Craig Counsell in the dugout. The 2017 Manager of the Year has guided the Brewers to two straight playoff berths. Counsell's counterpart, David Ross, is a first-time skipper.
As for injuries, the big absence of note is on Chicago's side. Lower back stiffness will keep Kris Bryant out of action in the opener. David Bote is going to fill in for him on the hot corner.
-40.5 vs. 15.0: These numbers measure the Brewers and Cubs respective 2019 weighted Runs Above Average totals, excluding their top contributors. Here, Milwaukee is sans Yelich (61.0, first in MLB); Chicago is without Bryant (32.6, 26th in MLB).
1.63 vs. 2.22: This second set of digits shows walks allowed per nine innings last season for starting pitchers Kyle Hendricks and Brandon Woodruff, with the Cubs getting the edge there.
4.1 vs. 1.3: A season ago, the Brewers relievers ranked in the top 10 in WAR, while Chicago was 20th. It'll be interesting to see what happens if the starting dealers don't go deep, particularly with Milwaukee losing a strong specialist in Pomeranz.
There's no question Chicago underachieved last year at 84 wins, which triggered the decision to move to Ross from Joe Maddon. Perhaps the former's familiarity with the organization and experience with this core of players will trigger a bounce-back campaign.
It's a high-pressure gig to be in charge of any MLB club. Ross has a particularly tough task to manage a 60-game season, yet he does have the advantage of being a player on the Cubs' last two championship teams. Ross went with Hendricks as the starting pitcher Friday, rather than longtime ace Jon Lester, further signaling the times are changing.
Two-time reigning NL batting champion Christian Yelich will lead the charge for the visitors against Hendricks. After fracturing his kneecap late in 2019 and missing the wild-card loss to eventual World Series champion Washington, Yelich seems eager to get back in action with his teammates.
"I think everybody is prepared to play," Yelich said, per MLB.com's Adam McCalvy. "Nobody said they feel unprepared or they're not ready to go. I think we're all fine, we’re all ready to go and we're excited for the first real one."
It's on Yelich to provide an offensive spark to help his starting pitcher Woodruff, who's a solid 16-6 in his young career but has been bailed out by run support, evident in his 3.87 ERA. The Cubs indubitably have more pop at the plate, with a formidable heart of the order even without Bryant in Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber.
The oddsmakers are really suggesting this game is a tossup, and there are compelling arguments to be made on both sides. Action should definitely favor the Cubs -1.5 spread, as they boast a more dynamic batting order and superior starting pitching.
Since there's only a marginal difference between betting the moneyline on either side, even in this bizarre situation where no fans are present, fortunes should favor the home team and Chicago's best odds (-105) are a bargain bettors are bound to pounce on.
When it comes to total runs, the Cubs should be able to hold up their end of the bargain, but the Brewers are so Yelich-dependent that they may have a hard time pushing the Over. Thus, expect a greater handle on the Under 8.5.
Note: Odds current as of 3:45 p.m. ET on Friday, July 24.
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