Although I have no illusions about the Cubs’ likelihood of competing this year, it’s just so early that you’ve gotta take each series with a positive view. Take two of three from the Pirates at Wrigley in this series? The Cubs are then just a game below .500. Remember: hovering around .500 over this first month, given the strength of schedule, would actually be pretty damn impressive.
The Series Preview gives you the rundown on what you need to know for the upcoming series. In that way, it’s kind of a preview. About a series. See how that works?
We’re Going Streaking
The Cubs took the final game of their series against the Phillies, just as they’d done against the Pirates. At least the Phillies one was a blowout. The Cubs are 2-4 on the year, though they could easily have another win or two (including one against the Pirates in extra innings, if, you know, Jose Veras hadn’t dropped the ball).
The Pirates, on the other hand, are 4-2, having won both of their series to start the year. The second came against the Cardinals. That’s right: keep beating each other up.
Game Times and Broadcasts
- Tuesday, April 8 at 7:05 CT on CSN.
- Wednesday, April 9 at 7:05 CT on WGN.
- Thursday, April 10 at 1:20 CT on WGN, MLBN.
Expected Starters and Lineups
These lineups are likely to be pretty close to what actually gets fielded, but you’ll want to check each day’s Pre-Gamin’ post for the actual lineup.
Starters: Edwin Jackson (1.69 ERA, 4.04 FIP), Jason Hammel (1.35 ERA, 2.05 FIP), Travis Wood (4.26 ERA, 3.57 FIP)
Lineup (just an early guess, and it’s obviously a little nuts with the versatility):
- Emilio Bonifacio, CF/2B
- Junior Lake, LF (or Luis Valbuena or Ryan Kalish)
- Starlin Castro, SS
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B (or Justin Ruggiano, when he’s in there)
- Mike Olt, 3B
- Nate Schierholtz, RF
- Welington Castillo, C
- Darwin Barney, 2B
Starters: Charlie Morton (0.00 ERA, 2.10 FIP), Wandy Rodriguez (4.50 ERA, 4.10 FIP), Gerrit Cole (2.57 ERA, 4.96 FIP)
- Starling Marte, LF
- Jose Tabata/Travis Snider, RF
- Andrew McCutchen, CF
- Pedro Alvarez, 3B
- Russell Martin, C
- Neil Walker, 2B
- Travis Ishikawa, 1B
- Jordy Mercer, SS
Hot or Not and Whom to Watch
The first two games of the series feature repeat pitching match-ups from the first series of the year. And although the Cubs miss Francisco Liriano this time around, he’s replaced by stud youngster Gerrit Cole, so not a lot is gained.
Each of Edwin Jackson, Jason Hammel, and Travis Wood started off his year with an effective start, so hopefully that’ll be the case again this time around. It can be tough to face the same team twice in a row, though, so you should keep that in mind when watching Jackson and Hammel.
You know the story with Emilio Bonifacio so far – he has gone full-on Super Emilio 64.
The Cubs obviously had a great showing on Sunday with a stacked-lefty lineup, and I tentatively expect a repeat – of the lineup, if not the success – against Charlie Morton to lead this series off. You don’t love to see Mike Olt and Junior Lake out so often, but it make sense against Morton to get Ryan Kalish and Luis Valbuena in there. Ryan Sweeney, too.
Although the team’s troubles with RISP gets the headline attention, one of the real problems so far for the Cubs: a severe lack of slugging. As a team, they’ve got a mere .078 ISO, which sucks hard. Only the Padres and Royals are lower, and only the Yankees and Rangers are close. The rest of baseball is off in the distance, with a median mark of about .138. Slugging is one of the few things the Cubs’ offense did reasonably well last year (.154 ISO, 6th in baseball), but that was with Alfonso Soriano for half the year.
The Pirates have a number of great offensive stories this year, which is kind of incredible, given how well the Cubs pitched against them. Andrew McCutchen, Travis Ishikawa, Jose Tabata, and Starling Marte all sport wRC+ in excess of 120.
Note: As you’re just now noticing, the Series She-View has been retired for the 2014 season. I know for some of you this will be a disheartening development (and I’d encourage you to take it to the Message Board if you’d like to continue the tradition). It was just time to move on.