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diamondbacks logoThe most exciting early season series in baseball: the two worst teams in MLB not based in Houston square off, and each team will at least earn a split, or one of the teams will come out winning three or four games! Only good things can happen, in the aggregate!

The Wednesday, April 23 game is the 100th Anniversary Game at Wrigley Field (see you in the right field bleachers), which should at least make that day’s game fun.

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 sixth straight series (I can pretty much just keep copying and pasting this section, changing only the number) after dropping Sunday’s game to the Reds. The Cubs can, at this point, look good only by contrast to a team like …

The Diamondbacks, man. It’s hard to imagine a worse start to the season than what the Cubs have wrought, but imagine that many pundits had picked the Cubs as a playoff team, and imagine that the Cubs had made a bunch of short-ish term moves to put themselves in a position to win in 2014. And then they lost 16 of their first 21 games. At least the Diamondbacks have won a series.

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Monday, April 21 at 7:05 CT on CSN+.
  • Tuesday, April 22 at 7:05 CT on CSN.
  • Wednesday, April 23 at 1:20 CT on WGN.
  • Thursday, April 24 at 1:20 CT on WGN.

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: Travis Wood (3.00 ERA, 2.52 FIP; 4.75 K/BB), Jason Hammel (3.05 ERA, 4.77 FIP; 3.20 K/BB), Jeff Samardzija (1.29 ERA, 2.83 FIP; 3.14 K/BB), Edwin Jackson (5.40 ERA, 3.40 FIP; 1.46 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

Diamondbacks

Starters: Bronson Arroyo (9.95 ERA, 7.42 FIP; 1.50 K/BB), Brandon McCarthy (7.11 ERA, 5.60 FIP; 2.67 K/BB), Wade Miley (4.35 ERA, 4.27 FIP; 2.08 K/BB), Mike Bolsinger (10.29 ERA, 3.94 FIP; 2.67 K/BB)

Lineup:

  1. Gerardo Para, RF
  2. Aaron Hill, 2B
  3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
  4. Miguel Montero, C
  5. Mark Trumbo, LF (Cody Ross rotates in, too)
  6. Martin Prado, 3B (Eric Chavez rotates in, too)
  7. Chris Owings, SS
  8. A.J. Pollack, CF
  9. Pitcher

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Luis Valbuena isn’t hitting much, and he isn’t hitting for any power, but he’s doing one thing well: he’s walking. A lot. His walk rate is 25.6%, which is obscene. It would be second highest in all of baseball if he had enough plate appearances to qualify.

Anthony Rizzo continues to hit extremely well – .349/.440/.508 on the year. His .385 BABIP will obviously come way down, though it wouldn’t be a surprise (given how much he’s going the other way) to see him improve quite a bit on his previously sub-.300 career mark. He’s not striking out (13.3% K rate) and he’s walking (12.0%). He could stand to have a little more power (.159 ISO is about 20 to 40 points below what you’d expect), but maybe we’re seeing a little sacrifice of power for an overall improvement in approach. As things stand, you’d gladly take this guy, whose numbers look like Joey Votto light.

Besides Rizzo, Emilio Bonifacio is the only Cubs batter whose numbers are above league average.

It’s still early, but Ryan Sweeney’s numbers are almost unimaginably bad: .184/.256/.211, with a .220 wOBA, and a 20.5% strikeout rate (well above his career average). His .233 BABIP ain’t helping things, but a career low 16.7% line drive rate is playing a role in that.

Collectively, part of the problem for the Diamondbacks has been a slightly elevated BABIP against (.313) and a definitely elevated HR/FB against (14.1%). That’s a big part of the reason they’ve got an ugly 5.70 team ERA, but a more average 3.97 team xFIP. (See, I can play the luck card with other teams, too.)

The Diamondbacks’ second best hitter has been Wade Miley (.373 wOBA), and their third base hitter has been Tony Campana (.336 wOBA). I think you now know what you need to know about the Diamondbacks’ offensive struggles so far this year.

Paul Goldschmidt is pretty much the only D-Back doing what you’d expect him to be doing – .313/.370/.518 – and he’s the guy who can really hurt you right now.

I take that back. Mark Trumbo is also doing what you’d expect, but it’s not necessarily a good thing: .208/.265/.481 with shaky outfield defense.

  • Jon

    I can’t help but think the Diamonondbacks might be a tick better if they had Justin Upton, Tyler Skaggs, and Adam Eaton right now.

    • IA_Colin

      They’re trades are not looking good. Especially when Chris Johnson put up a 3 war season lol.

    • BT

      Not to mention the fact Towers traded a top 10 prospect overall for a light hitting shortstop who can’t make the major league team this year. It’s fine if they valued Bauer less than the rest of the planet, but to punt him for Didi Gregorious is embarrassing.

  • ThePope

    It is sad that Mike Olt doesn’t even play enough to get mentioned in the series preview lineup…..

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Eh. That’s not really an Olt thing – it’s just an exercise in futility this year, given that the Cubs have repeated their lineup, I think, once all year.

      • ThePope

        I understand. It just makes me unhappy. Just my opinion, but I’d like to see him play much more often. At least enough to be viewed as the “starting” third baseman.

  • Satch

    The third base controversy should not pit Valbuena against Olt but future considerations at third base. Is Valbuena the future? Not. Is Olt? Who knows? This season should be about finding out about the future. With the minor league depth at third base, playing Olt everyday should be a no-brainer. But, Valbuena is still on the team so Ricky plays the odds. Is playing the odds the right thing at this point for this team? When the odds are tremendously stacked against them what is the point? Ricky Strategy? Gee, look at me I know how to platoon. Which is what he will continue to do and why the FO should maybe package Schierholtz and Valbuena in a trade. Or something, anything.

    • cubbiehawkeye

      I feel like a broken record saying this day in and day out around here but why on earth do people continue to throw out more playing time for Olt and right after start talking about Valbuena getting all the playing time. Yesterday in Olt’s first two plate appearances he made the pitcher throw three times and didn’t get on base…Valbuena drew two walks. Normally I would say well he went against a tough righty in Bailey but this is a pitching era and you have a lot of talented righties out there. I want to see what Olt can do jist as much as the next guy but whenever Valbuena gets mentioned as sitting it’s frustrating….watch/listen to a game for once.

      • ssckelley

        I agree, right now you are still trying to win games so RR should be playing the team that gives them the best chance to win. But as the season progresses and the Cubs fall further and further below .500 then they will get to a point that they should be playing guys like Olt and Lake every day.

      • Funn Dave

        This thread was a broken record from its inception.

      • ThePope

        Thank you for telling me I need to watch/listen to a game. I will try that.

  • half_full_beer_mug

    Tony C is a third base batter? He must be on the roids!

  • http://BN Sacko

    Our luck would be the Diamondbacks play like they should and they take 3 out of 4. If we play like we should DB still wins 3 out of 4. I’m hoping something happens soon with this Valbuena and Barney thing. There is no way they will be Cubs next year. Let’s get it over with and let Watkins get their AB’s before he is let go also.

    • half_full_beer_mug

      That’s funny. No way either of those two are part of “The Plan” so let’s give AB’s to a player that wasn’t good enough to start in front of either of them at any level.

    • ssckelley

      I gotta disagree slightly about Valbuena. As a left handed bat off the bench he makes a nice utility infielder. But I agree with Barney, I would be shocked if he is still on the team after the trade deadline.

      • nate1m

        Except somebody has to want him. Who would that be right now?

        • ssckelley

          A contender needing a gold glove infielder.

    • mjhurdle

      is it time already for the ‘Babe Watkins must start’ party?

  • ibcnu2222

    Come on Cubs!! Don’t let the D-bags get the number one pick.

  • willis

    Tonight’s lineup features Kalish and Sweeney. No Lake, no Olt.

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      Why the hell is he playing Kalish and Sweeny against a lefty?

      • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

        Because Arroyo is a right??

        • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

          *righty

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