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pittsburgh-piratesAlthough 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.

Cubs

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):

  1. Emilio Bonifacio, CF/2B
  2. Junior Lake, LF (or Luis Valbuena or Ryan Kalish)
  3. Starlin Castro, SS
  4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B (or Justin Ruggiano, when he’s in there)
  5. Mike Olt, 3B
  6. Nate Schierholtz, RF
  7. Welington Castillo, C
  8. Darwin Barney, 2B
  9. Pitcher

Pirates

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)

Lineup:

  1. Starling Marte, LF
  2. Jose Tabata/Travis Snider, RF
  3. Andrew McCutchen, CF
  4. Pedro Alvarez, 3B
  5. Russell Martin, C
  6. Neil Walker, 2B
  7. Travis Ishikawa, 1B
  8. Jordy Mercer, SS
  9. Pitcher

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.

  • JulioZuleta

    I know people overstate the importance of batting orders, but having Justin Ruggiano as a 3 hitter makes me nauseous.

    • JulioZuleta

      Not that he is in those lineups, but he has been….basically I’m just bored at work.

  • Patrick W.

    Just a little note: is it time to retire the retirement speech for the she-view?

    • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

      Maybe we should retire the talk of retiring the retirement?

      • Patrick W.

        Maybe you should retire. BOOM

  • Edwin

    Last season also had Donnie Murphay with a .275 ISO, Scott Hairston with a .263 ISO, Cody Ransom with a .247 ISO, and Nate S with a career high .219 ISO. Also Navarro with a .192 ISO and Brian Bogusevic with a .189 ISO. Valbuena had close to a career high ISO with .160. Ryan Sweeney had .182, well above his career norm. Alberto Gonzalez chipped in with a .174 ISO, Travis Wood had a .159 ISO, Scott Feldman had a .147 ISO, David DeJesus had a .151 ISO.

    The ISO was really good last season, but looking at 2013, 14 of the top 15 leaders in ISO for the Cubs last season are either gone, or due for some type of regression down.

    • Funn Dave

      Eek. Way to bum me out, Edwin!

      • Edwin

        I was surprised myself. I mean, most of those guys only made up 100 or less PA, but still, add it all together, and that’s a much bigger dent to ISO than I would have thought.

        • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

          You also had some surprises in there.

          Really, last year’s team was a crappy April away from having a half-way decent team record at the deadline.

          • C. Steadman

            Thank you Marmol for the #4 pick in this draft and the $$ that comes with that slot.

  • CubFanBob

    Win the series Cubbies !!!

  • waittilthisyear

    brett, i’ve never considered you a man of such modest ambition…SWEEP THE BUCCOS!

  • blars82

    I know that all of the platoons make sense, but I’m really looking forward to watching all of the young guys play everyday. I guess I’ll have to wait until a couple of guys are traded in July. It’s a versatile lineup, so I guess I just need patience. I just don’t get excited seeing Barney or Ruggiano or Schierholtz or Sweeney in the lineup. I guess the Cubs are trying to win, not make me excited (that’s what she said?)

  • MightyBear

    Brett, since the she view has been retired, you could replace it with something else. Maybe series history fact ie the Cubs and Pirates have played each other x times with the Cubs winning x. Or something else. Any other suggestions BN’ers?

    • C. Steadman

      I like the alltime record thing, except when the series preview is of a series against that red Missouri team…I was thinking a segment of “These next three days in Chicago Cubs History”(April 8-10)…could get redundant after one season but for 2014 it’d be fun. Example: April 9 1989 Andre Dawson hit his 300th HR in a 2-4 Cubs loss @ NYM

      • C. Steadman

        maybe add in next three days in the opponents history as well…April 9 2001 The Pirates play their first game at PNC Park…just some thoughts

  • arta

    the line up is brutal, no matter who they use.

  • Steve Ontiveros’ Mustache

    Brett:

    I am happy to see the W-L taken out from the pitchers stats, and equally pleased to see the she-view retired. It was time.

    I would like to make a suggestion: the handedness of the opposing pitchers would be helpful in the season preview. To see at a glance how many lefties and how many righties are coming up would be a great add to the series preview.

  • Required

    Question. Any chance we get Archer back in a package for Shark? With Moore possibly out the Rays will have to do something. Archer and who else?

    • Edwin

      Trading Archer for Shark doesn’t really gain the Rays that much. Shark might be better, but it’s not a huge upgrade, and it certainly doesn’t make up for losing Moore. Plus, Archer just signed a very team friendly contract, so the Rays would be paying more and giving up years of control for a nice young pitching asset.

      • Required

        Thanks. I read that last week and forgot. Do they have any stud pitching prospects in the system?

        • Edwin

          They have more quality over quantity at the moment.

          http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/2014-top-10-prospects-tampa-bay-rays/#more-144203

          If the Cubs want to trade shark for pitching prospects that could be ready by 2015, the Rays have plenty of options. Most of their pitching prospects get the 2/3 label, which probably means closer to 3/4 potential.

          If the goal is to flip Shark for an “impact” SP, which is going to be tough since teams cling pretty tightly to possible impact pitching prospects, I don’t think the Rays are as good a fit.

    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

      They just locked up Archer to an extremely team friendly deal, there is almost zero chance they move him for Shark

  • Blackhawks1963

    Cubs have one of the worst outfield mixes in baseball. We all knew this was going to be the case. 5 guys who are each, at their best, 4th or 5th outfielder types on a good team. And why people got initially excited about the 31 year Ruggiano is beyond me. Sweeney is another guy that a lot of Cub fans got excited about last season, but really he is nothing more than a much traveled outfielder whose career has been punctuated by demotions to Triple A.

    Ricky has a very tough task each game, and that’s coming up with a lineup card. I feel his pain. Especially when Bonafacio crashes back down to earth. We better hope that Lake can hit major league pitching and that Schierholz doesn’t crap out. And that Kalish can contribute something.

    Personally, I’m rooting for Szczur to press the issue and compete for a big league roster spot by June. He’s nothing magical in his own right, but I’d like to see what he can do.

    • brickhouse

      Why root for Szczur when all he projects to be is another 4th or 5th OF to compete with the rest of the 4th and 5th of’s already on the roster.

  • NorthSideIrish

    My new favorite picture from one of my favorite Twitter feeds…

    Baseball’s Best Fans ‏@BestFansStLouis 16m
    HOLY CRAP! #HERO RT “@WildKingdumb Shout out to @BestFansStLouis and the “*Best Fans In Baseball” pic.twitter.com/YyWFqltelO”

    [img]https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Bktjyo4CYAAM2hP.jpg[/img]

  • another JP

    It’s way to early to get worked up over stats. The weather has had plenty to do with why players aren’t hitting for power, so I expect better slugging by May. And by using guys like Bonafacio, Kalish, and Baker the ISO #s are going to decrease a bit. When Baez and Bryant make it to Chicago and Olt starts playing more that should change in a hurry.

  • C. Steadman

    Jen-Ho Tseng debuts tonight! I’m excited…I need to head over to Geneva to either see him or Skulina pitch some night when it warms up.

  • mjhurdle

    So you don’t like the “4th-5th” OFs on our roster, but you can’t wait for Szczur, who has a projection of a 4th OF, to come up?

    • Jon

      Szczur plays the game the “right” way

      • smackafilieyo

        What’s the wrong way? Haha…What makes szczur so special?

        • ssckelley

          Playing the outfield like a ballerina.

  • Ballgame17

    I don’t care if the Pirates have a 10-time Cy Young award winner on the hill, Kalish needs to be in there. I understand matchups and percentages, but there has to be a human element for managers as well. Sometimes you forget the stats and go with your gut instinct or who’s hot. Kalish is a better/younger version of Schierholtz. Schierholtz just doesn’t appeal to me at all and doesn’t fit the long-term plan. He has trade value because of his minimal salary and being a left-handed bat, but get what you can and make Kalish the starting RF. I’ve liked him since his first AB in Spring. Looks good all around…

    • Blackhawks1963

      “…Kalish is a better/younger version of Schierholtz…”

      In your opinion that is. Kalish is a 27 year old nobody who has yet to prove a lick at the major league level. Schierholz is far and away the best outfielder the Cubs have right now in their less than inspiring mix of five.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        I’m not commenting on the substance of the discussion, but I would note: Kalish just turned 26, not 27.

      • college_of_coaches

        Also, Kalish is clearly not a nobody to this front office. They drafted and developed him when they were running the Red Sox.

    • ssckelley

      Other than both being white and bat left handed I see very little similarities between Kalish and Schierholtz.

      But I do think the Cubs may have wasted their opportunity to trade him. I thought he should have been gone last July 31st.

      • waittilthisyear

        scierholtz looks like jason statham. sort of. if you squint. and want to see it

  • farmerjon

    Hey Brett , just a thought, for those of us who(m?) are new to some of the advanced metrics, perhaps a parenthetical reference as to what league average would be for comparison could be helpful …Although I love descriptors like “suck hard”, I find myself wondering ‘compared to what?’ . Thanks for all you do sirď

  • FFP

    “Although I have no illusions about the Cubs’…this year.”
    Shhhhh–
    (I do.)

  • Edwin

    Utley is out against the Brewers today due to the Flu. Some teams have all the luck.

    • DarthHater

      I’m sure Ryan Braun could give him something to treat that.

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