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Cincinnati-Reds-Mr-RedThe Cubs head home licking their wounds/tail between legs/whatever animal metaphor works for you. They were swept in humbling fashion in a New York doubleheader, and they were frustrated in St. Louis with another series loss. It just isn’t going to get any easier, in terms of the schedule.

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 lost their fifth straight series to start the year, and have fallen to 4-10. They’ve lost four in a row, and the season somehow feels like it’s slipping away … in mid-freaking April.

The Reds, on the other hand, have won two in a row, and three of five, after a rough start to the year. At 6-9, the Reds are technically just a game and a half better than the Cubs, though.

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Friday, April 18 at 1:20 CT on WGN, MLBN.
  • Saturday, April 19 at 1:20 CT on CSN.
  • Sunday, April 20 at 1:20 CT on WCIU.

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: Jeff Samardzija (1.29 ERA, 3.10 FIP; 3.00 K/BB), Edwin Jackson (6.19 ERA, 3.74 FIP; 1.27 K/BB), Carlos Villanueva (11.57 ERA, 4.87 FIP; 6.00 K/BB)

Lineup:

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

Reds

Starters: Alfredo Simon (1.20 ERA, 3.18 FIP; 5.00 K/BB), Tony Cingrani (2.60 ERA, 3.05 FIP; 2.22 K/BB), Homer Bailey (8.16 ERA, 7.17 FIP; 3.40 K/BB)

Lineup:

  1. Billy Hamilton, CF
  2. Joey Votto, 1B
  3. Brandon Phillips, 2B
  4. Todd Frazier, 3B
  5. Chris Heisey, LF
  6. Jay Bruce, RF
  7. Devin Mesoraco/Brayan Pena, C
  8. Zack Cosart, SS
  9. Pitcher

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Pop quiz: second highest wOBA on the Cubs right now. Tick, tock, tick, tock. Did you guess Junior Lake? I bet you didn’t, but it’s him, at a lofty .357. (Anthony Rizzo is on top at .402, and he just keeps hitting.)

On Lake, we’ll just ignore the fact that, to sustain that wOBA, he’s currently sporting a .381 BABIP (against a mere .263 BA, which means, you guessed it, his strikeout rate is through the roof – 36.6%).

The Cubs’ outfield picture continues to look grim outside of Lake. None of Nate Schierholtz, Ryan Sweeney, Ryan Kalish, or Justin Ruggiano has an OPS above .573 (that’s Schierholtz). And those struggles come despite being heavily platooned into favorable matchups.

No one wants to hear it, but Emilio Bonifacio is as cold now as he was hot to start the year. He has just one hit and one walk in his last five games (23 plate appearances).

Hey. How about Edwin Jackson’s FIP? (ducks)

I call shenanigans on FanGraphs’ defensive value metric for Starlin Castro so far this year, which has him in the negatives, and has his UZR/150 waaaay in the negatives. Castro has been very good defensively this year, showing good range, good decisions, and his typically good arm. Maybe the defensive metrics are suffering from small sample size issues. Dude has been good. End of story.

The Reds have a mix of regulars doing serious damage, and regulars doing very little.

Chris Heisey has always looked like a guy who could hit if he was given regular starts, and he’s doing so this year: .310/.333/.483.

On the other side of the outfield, Jay Bruce – a key component in the lineup – is hitting just .152/.333/.348. In center field, the story is worse, and it’s the embodiment of the cliche: you can’t steal first. Speedster Billy Hamilton is hitting just .170/.220/.234 on the year, though that’s partly depressed by a .222 BABIP that absolutely has to climb, because it seems like just about any groundball is going to be a hit for him.

It’s been a rough start for Homer Bailey since he got PAID, but the Cubs are frequently good at shaking guys out of such slumps.

Joey Votto is doing Joey Votto things, with a .455 wOBA, and the Reds have finally wised up and realized he’s just about the most perfect number two hitter in all of baseball.

  • Edwin

    I thought the Cubs play at 1:20 today?

    • CubFan Paul

      Tomorrow too

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Typo.

  • JakeMac

    Isn’t today’s game a 1:20 start?

    • JakeMac

      Should have refreshed before posting. Beat to the punch.

  • jh03

    “I call shenanigans on FanGraphs’ defensive value metric for Starlin Castro so far this year, which has him in the negatives, and has his UZR/150 waaaay in the negatives. Castro has been very good defensively this year, showing good range, good decisions, and his typically good arm. Maybe the defensive metrics are suffering from small sample size issues. Dude has been good. End of story.”

    Agreed 100%.

  • Spoda17

    Yeah, day games today and tomorrow

  • Cheese Chad

    No Mike Olt this series?

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      Who says?

  • Spriggs

    Other animal metaphors that apply: “whipped puppies”, “stinking like pigs”.

    And a couple that don’t apply: “proud as peacocks”, “soaring like eagles”.

  • waffle

    a run (or even 2) would be nice.

  • Medicos

    I’m on my way to the Friendly Confines right now. I sure hope the game isn’t at 6:05 CT?????

    • cub4life

      the Cubs page says 1:20 CT.

  • hellerg

    I have never seen anything like Ricky’s lineups. All left handed hitters against right handed pitchers and vise versa. It is only mid-April and already I am looking forward to the fall. This team goes 64-98. However, I am not sure what saves them from 100 losses, maybe when Ricky decides to quit playing Valbuena and Bonifacio everyday. Clearly, these two are not the future.

    • cubzfan23

      I have to agree. I am so sick of not seeing Olt in the line up. Hope something changes soon, so tired of these games. Future players or possible players should get the most playing time. Cubs FO and manager are not making much sense here.

      • http://bleachernation.com woody

        As I pointed out earlier as of today Olt and Valbuena are both hitting .207. However Valbuena has an OBP of .361 compared to a .258 for Olt. If these are the numbers Olt is putting up against lefties then what is the justification of playing him against righties? Renteria’s job is to put his team in the best position he can to win on a given day. I would say that untill Olt begins to produce better number in the platoon he should not be played every day.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          At this point, the sample sizes are way too small to mean anything. Olt has reached base 8 times in 31 PAs; Valbuena 13 times in 36 PAs. Olt’s “true” OBP (not allowing for variation in the quality of opposing pitching) is somewhere from 0.155 to 0.375; Valbuena’s is somewhere from 0.255 to 0.475. To get to the point where we would reject that these frequencies are significantly different, we need 4.8X as many PAs from both players.

          (For context, Olt has basically had a less-than-stellar week of PAs.)

    • Jon

      “….no one gives it to you. You have to take it.”
      -Frank Costello

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  • Blackhawks1963

    4-10…among the worst offenses in baseball…a questionable bullpen. If the Cubs play at a .400 clip for the season that gets them to 65 wins, 97 losses.

    Bottom line, the Cubs need to figure out a way to beat some teams to avoid the 100 loss mark. The Reds are in a downward spiral on several fronts, so might as well seize upon opportunity for some wins this weekend.

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