The Chicago Cubs just finished up a series win against the St. Louis Cardinals (yay!), but because the series ended with a loss (boo!), it doesn’t taste quite as sweet.
Still, a series win is a series win, and the Cubs were able to pull it off without either of Jon Lester or Jake Arrieta.
Now, they’ll play in three straight series (Reds, Brewers, Braves) against teams that don’t fully expect to compete for the entirety of the season. Take advantage.
We’re Going Streaking
The Cubs are 11-4 on the season, which is just a half game behind the Nationals for the best record in baseball. They’re coming off a series win against the rival Cardinals, but a series loss before that against the Rockies.
The Reds have done the exact opposite, losing a series against the Cardinals, while taking two of three from the Rockies. They moved to 8-7 on the season and have gotten off to a better start than I bet many would have guessed. [Brett: It won’t last.]
Game Times and Broadcasts
- Thursday, April 21 at 6:10 CT on CSN+
- Friday, April 22 at 6:10 CT on WGN
- Saturday, April 23 at 6:10 CT on CSN
- Sunday, April 24 at 12:10 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.
- Jake Arrieta (1.23 ERA, 2.68 FIP; 10.00 K/BB)
- Jon Lester (2.21 ERA, 3.05 FIP; 4.75 K/BB)
- John Lackey (3.66 ERA, 2.90 FIP; 4.40 K/BB)
- Jason Hammel (1.00 ERA, 2.71 FIP; 2.14 K/BB)
- Dexter Fowler, CF
- Jason Heyward, RF
- Ben Zobrist, 2B
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Kris Bryant, 3B
- Miguel Montero, C
- Jorge Soler, LF
- Addison Russell, SS
- Brandon Finnegan (2.04 ERA, 4.41 FIP; 1.60 K/BB)
- Jon Moscot (4.76 ERA, 7.99 FIP; 2.00 K/BB)
- Dan Straily (2.70 ERA, 4.02 FIP; 2.00 K/BB)
- Alfredo Simon (12.15 ERA, 7.40 FIP; 1.80 K/BB)
- Zack Cozart, SS
- Eugenio Suarez, 3B
- Joey Votto, 1B
- Brandon Phillips, 2B
- Devin Mesoraco, C
- Jay Bruce, RF
- Adam Duvall, LF
- Billy Hamilton, CF
Hot or Not and Whom to Watch
Over his past five games, Kris Bryant is about as “Not,” as it gets. He’s Slashing .200/.200/.200 with a 0% walk rate and a 25.0% strikeout rate. More specifically, he’s four for his last twenty and all four hits were singles. Worse yet, those singles were all weakly hit grounders or bloopers with well below average exit velocities. Sometimes, you just can’t square the ball up, but I’m not concerned. Bryant has reportedly been working on flattening out his swing plane, so perhaps the results are lagging behind the adjustments.
Also adjusting is Jorge Soler. Over his past five games (15 plate appearances), he’s slashing .154/.267/.385 with a 33.3% strikeout rate. Although, if you take a step back to April 13th, (the first game after the off day), Soler has a 20.8% walk rate and is slashing a much more impressive .278/.417/.444 (.377 wOBA), so maybe he’ll be just fine, too. These are all small samples.
Ben Zobrist has a negative wRC+ (-5 wRC+ to be exact), because since April 13, he’s slashed .080/.200/.120. He is still taking his walks (13.3%), but he just hasn’t seemed himself at the plate. Not to be outdone, Jason Heyward also has a -5 wRC+, after slashing .107/.194/.143 over that same stretch. However, if you were watching the Cardinals series at all, you might be inclined to say that Heyward is actually on right now. In fact, I will say it: Jason Heyward is locked in at the plate. He crushed roughly 5-6 line drives directly into Cardinals gloves this week, but if he keeps making that kind of contact all season long, he’ll be absolutely fine at the plate.
Earlier in the week, I wrote about Jon Lester and John Lackey’s great last starts. For Lester (7.1IP, 1ER, 4H, 2BB, 10K), it was just one in a long stretch of awesomeness. For Lackey (7IP, 0ER, 4H, 1BB, 11K), it was a nice rebound from a couple of tough starts (plus he induced a staggering 22 whiffs). And, I’d say that Jake Arrieta is still hot, but well, you already know that. All three pitchers will go in this series, so the Cubs should be nicely set up for success.
The Reds’ biggest threat, Joey Votto, has been ice cold since the start of the series against the Cubs, as well (.188/.270/.313). Although, as expected, he is still taking his walks (10.8%) and keeping the strikeouts under control (21.6%). Still, he is one of the most productive, dangerous hitters in baseball, and I would hesitate to bet against him.
In his last five games, Jay Bruce is slugging .619 with two home runs, a double and six hits overall. Although, he hasn’t taken a single walk in that stretch and has struck out nearly 24% of the time.
Scalding hot is none other than Brandon Phillips. In his last five games (21 plate appearance), Phillips has slashed .450/.476/.700 with a triple, three doubles and nine hits overall. He may not be taking too many walks (4.8%), but he has not been striking out, either (9.5%). HIs .500 BABIP may be a contributing factor, but sometimes – when you’re crushing the ball – the BABIP is rightfully high.
The Cubs are scheduled to face Alfredo Simon in game four of this series, after forcing him out of his last start before completing a single inning. In 2016 so far, Simon has pitched just 6.2 innings across two starts and a relief appearance, while maintaining a 12.15 ERA (7.40 FIP). Although he does have a nice 48.0% ground ball rate, it’s no surprise that Simon couldn’t overcome his .435 BABIP and a 49.4% strand rate of the early season.