LAS VEGAS -- With the 2016 World Series shifting back to Wrigley Field in Chicago for Game 3, the weather forecast for Friday night on the North Side has sent sports bettors clamoring for their stadium wind direction charts.
The current forecast is calling for partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the mid-60's when the Chicago Cubs host the Cleveland Indians in the first of a trio of games in Chicago. But when it comes to Wrigley Field weather, there's only one factor that gamblers care about: the wind. The famed Chicago wind is expected to blow out to center field at 20 miles per hour (sustained) with gusts reaching as high as 40 miles per hour.
While this news may be enough to tickle your Over urges, baseball bettors need to wait on this wager. The standard practice for Wrigley Field totals is for the Over/Under to remain off the board until late in the morning (ET) on game day. But since it's the World Series, books started leaking totals to the betting public Thursday afternoon, with CG Technology in Las Vegas opened the Over/Under at 7 runs while offshore markets played with a total between 7.5 and 8 runs.
Now that the sides and total are on the board at the sportsbook, baseball bettors can crunch the numbers and find out which team has the advantage for Game 3.
The Cubs are big favorites to take a 2-1 lead in the series with their moneyline odds ranging from -185 to -225 (depending on which sportsbook you use) with the buyback on the Indians ranging from +155 to +185.
When it comes to predicting baseball games played in windy conditions, the most important tool to the sports bettor is ground ball-to-fly ball ratio. With wind conditions like the ones bettors are expected to see at Wrigley Friday night, you should be looking at which team hits more fly balls and which pitcher allows less fly balls. This, of course, will mean more or less home runs.
Chicago starter Kyle Hendricks has been dynamite in 2016. He led the majors with a 2.13 ERA and also carried a 0.98 WHIP throughout the regular season. Cleveland pitcher Josh Tomlin had some very nice stretches for the Tribe, but his overall numbers were not great, posting a 4.40 ERA and a WHIP of 1.19.
While there appears to already be a wide separation in the two starting pitchers based on regular pitching stats, that gap grows even larger when you dig into the numbers that will be impacted by a mighty wind blowing out in a small stadium.
Taking line drives out of the equation and focusing strictly on true fly balls, Hendricks was almost 50/50 this season - allowing 0.99 ground balls for every fly ball (260:263) but Tomlin proved to be much more reliant on the ball in the air with 0.81 ground balls for every fly ball (262:322).
More fly balls generally results in more home runs, right? Well, when you look at home runs allowed by each pitcher in relevant situations the comparable numbers are eye-popping. In his 16 road starts this season (regular season and playoffs), Tomlin has allowed 18 home runs to opposing hitters. In 17 starts at Wrigley Field by Hendricks in 2016, he has only allowed opposing hitters to go deep five times.
The Cubs generally hit more home runs than the Indians (211 to 198 in 2016) but thus far in the 2016 postseason, the Cubs' GB:FB rate is a staggering 0.59 ground balls for every fly ball. Fans of the team will complain that they've been popping up too often, but that will become very advantageous with Friday's expected weather conditions.
So, just to review: we have a very stiff wind blowing out, a fly-ball pitcher who is prone to giving up home runs starting for the Indians, a sinker-ball pitcher who rarely gives up home runs starting for the Cubs, a team who generally relies more on "small ball" to score runs in the Indians, and a team that loves to hit the ball in the air and thrives off home runs in the Cubs.
Good luck and enjoy the World Series - Wrigley style.
Editor's note: This story was written by Rob Hansen of Covers.com.