The 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.
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)
- Emilio Bonifacio, CF/2B
- Luis Valbuena, 3B (or Justin Ruggiano)
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Nate Schierholtz, RF
- Starlin Castro, SS
- Junior Lake, LF (or Ryan Sweeney)
- Welington Castillo, C
- Darwin Barney, 2B (or Ryan Kalish)
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)
- Gerardo Para, RF
- Aaron Hill, 2B
- Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
- Miguel Montero, C
- Mark Trumbo, LF (Cody Ross rotates in, too)
- Martin Prado, 3B (Eric Chavez rotates in, too)
- Chris Owings, SS
- A.J. Pollack, CF
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.