MLB Picks Today, Best Bets, Odds, Predictions for Saturday, May 11, 2024

Paul Skenes
BRADENTON, FLORIDA - MARCH 14, 2024: Paul Skenes #30 of the Pittsburgh Pirates throws a pitch during the first inning of a spring training Spring Breakout game against the Baltimore Orioles at LECOM Park on March 14, 2024 in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by George Kubas/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

Yesterday was a winning day. It wasn’t much, but profit is profit. That’s two straight, but I’m still waiting to call it a heater, especially after we lost on that over in Atlanta. No system can stop the Braves under train right now. We took the Brewers as one of the biggest plays of the season, and it cashed with ease.

Today, I have one pick. MLB weekends continue the trend from last year; the games are very flukey. I wouldn’t say I’m limiting myself; just going to stick with my absolute favorites on weekends.

Let’s get after it with my favorite bet of the day.

These picks are available on BetMGM. Code “JustBaseball” for a first bet offer up to $1500.

2024 Record: 45-55 (-10.08 U)

Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates @ 4:05 PM EST

Pitching Matchup: Justin Steele vs. Paul Skenes

We are about to bear witness. Welcome to the show, Paul Skenes.

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Before we even talk about the matchup, let’s go over a few profitable systems that point us towards the Pirates in this game.

System 1: “Bad Division Dog After Being Favored”. This system has a 9% ROI over a 1,618 game sample. The system says to back the team that was the favorite in their last game when they are an underdog in a divisional game with a winning percentage under .500. It’s only come up seven times this season so far, and the system is 5-2.

System 2: “Bad Home Dogs Off A Loss.” That system has a 26% ROI over a 400-game sample and is 1-0 this season. It says to back the divisional home underdog after a loss in game one if that underdog’s winning percentage is under 44%. This only works for game two of the series.

It’s nice to see profitable systems backing the Pirates today, but I’m backing them for more reasons, most of which include Paul Skenes.

Paul Skenes is the best pitching prospect I’ve ever seen. We all remember Stephen Strasburg’s debut: he threw seven innings, allowed two runs, and struck out 14. Funny enough, it was against the Pirates, in a game the Nationals won 5-2. Strasburg threw 94 pitches in that game. Skenes will be limited to 80 pitches, but he has a shot at being even more dominant.

Skenes has evolved since leaving LSU. He was mainly a two-pitch guy in college because he could buzz 100 MPH fastballs by college hitters. Since he entered the minor league, he’s introduced a “splinker”. It’s Jhoan Duran-esque, a low-90s splitter that drops off the table. He also has two variations of a slider: a hard slider and more of a sweeper. He also has an excellent changeup.

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By Stuff+, he ranks in the top five, even when you include big-leaguers. You can argue that he has the best stuff of any pitcher on the planet.

We’ve seen the minor-league stats: 27.1 innings, 45 strikeouts, and a 0.99 ERA. As soon as he steps on that mound, I think he’s one of the better pitchers on the planet.

He’s facing a Cubs offense that could have been better against right-handed pitching. Over the last two weeks, they have an 83 wRC+, which places them 22nd in the league during that span. Over the entire season, they have a 96 wRC+, ranking 20th in the league. Both over the whole season, and lately, they are a bottom ten offense.

Justin Steele lines up against the Pirates. He’s an excellent pitcher, but for some reason, he never truly dominates them. He faced them twice last year and allowed eight earned runs in nine innings. He faced them twice in 2022 and allowed eight earned runs in 8.2 innings.

In six total appearances against the Pirates, Justin Steele has a 5.40 ERA. Justin Steele has exceeded 1.5 earned runs in four of his last five games on the road (3.0 earned runs/game average).

The Pirates offense definitely isn’t good, but they are at least better against lefties overall. This season, they have the 12th best wRC+ against lefties at 102. However, over the past two weeks, they have an 84 wRC+ against lefties. Still slightly better than the Cubs against righties, and a better track record this season.

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Pittsburgh also has a bullpen advantage. The Pirates’ bullpen has been better in all facets of the game this season, beating the Cubs in ERA, FIP, xFIP, strikeout, and walk rates. Ben Brown and Adbert Alzolay, two relievers I trust for the Cubs, won’t be available today after 35+ pitches for both of them over the last three games. The Cubs still have some fine arms, but I will keep this bet going into the later innings.

The Pirates bullpen is full-go today: David Bednar, Aroldis Chapman, Colin Holderman, and Luis Ortiz. All four are in great rest spots and should be able to limit damage behind Skenes. The Pirates want this one, so we should see the best arms if the game is close.

The Cubs are a better baseball team than the Pirates. However, the Pirates hold more than one advantage in this game. Skenes outduels Steele, and the Pirates ultimately win the game. If we lose a unit, we can tell our kids we lost on Paul Skenes’ first start. I would never forgive myself for not taking Pirates ML in his debut.

The Pick: Pirates ML (-105) Risk 1.05 Units

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