So here’s the deal, folks.
The Cubs (and the Taylors!) magic number has dropped down to just 1 today, meaning that they can clinch any game now – even the one against the Brewers tonight!
… but I’m headed to Wrigley Field on Saturday, so if they wanted to go ahead and drop two in a row (while the Cardinals do the opposite), well I wouldn’t complain about it.
I’ll also be at the games/in the bleachers on both Tuesday (Social Media Night) and Wednesday (Big Ten Night) night next week, so if you see me, say hi!
We’re Going Streaking
Since losing a series against the Brewers, the Chicago Cubs (93-52) have won back-to-back series against the Cardinals and the Astros. Their record stands strong at 93-52, and they have six more wins than the next best team in baseball.
Since winning that series against the Cubs, the Milwaukee Brewers (65-81) lost back-to-back series against the Cardinals and the Reds. They have been eliminated from playoff contention, but can still play spoiler (well, probably not for the Cubs – for them, they can play only delayer).
Game Times and Broadcasts
- Thursday, September 15 at 7:05 CT on CSN-C, 670 The Score
- Friday, September 16 at 1:20 CT on CSN-C, MLBN, 670 The Score
- Saturday, September 17 at 3:05 CT on WGN, 670 The Score
- Sunday, September 18 at 1:20 CT on ABC-7, 670 The Score
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.
- Mike Montgomery (2.74 ERA, 3.78 FIP, 3.65 xFIP; 2.44 K/BB)
- John Lackey (3.35 ERA, 3.72 FIP, 3.75 xFIP; 3.51 K/BB)
- Jake Arrieta (2.91 ERA, 3.48 FIP, 3.69 xFIP; 2.48 K/BB)
- Kyle Hendricks (2.03 ERA, 3.37 FIP, 3.69 xFIP; 3.53 K/BB)
- Dexter Fowler, CF
- Kris Bryant, LF/3B
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Ben Zobrist, 2B/LF
- Addison Russell, SS
- Jason Heyward, RF
- Javy Baez, 3B/2B
- Willson Contreras, C
Also, Jorge Soler, LF/RF
- Jimmy Nelson (4.42 ERA, 5.03 FIP, 4.88 xFIP; 1.60 K/BB)
- Chase Anderson (4.53 ERA, 5.06 FIP, 4.74 xFIP; 2.32 K/BB)
- Zach Davies (3.87 ERA, 3.83 FIP, 4.01 xFIP; 3.43 K/BB)
- Wily Peralta (5.42 ERA, 5.08 FIP, 4.37 xFIP; 2.05 K/BB)
- Jonathan Villar, 3B
- Orlando Arcia, SS
- Ryan Braun, LF
- Scooter Gennett, 2B
- Chris Carter, 1B
- Hernan Perez, RF
- Kirk Nieuwenhuis, CF
- Martin Maldonado, C
Hot or Not and Whom to Watch
Chicago Cubs – Pitching
You may have seen Sunday’s starter, Kyle Hendricks, in the news a bit lately, and that’s partly because HE ALMOST THREW A FREAKIN’ NO-HITTER. Alas, he came up just three outs short of history, but continues to be utterly dominant here in 2016.
As of Thursday morning, his ERA stands at just 2.03, which means he’ll have a few more shots at getting it under two before the season is over. Then again, if you cut off just his first two starts of the season, it already is (1.91 ERA)! In addition to holding the league-leading ERA, Hendricks FIP has now dropped down to just 3.37 for the season – 11th best in all of baseball and eighth best in the National League. In other words, he’s no longer just getting great results, the peripheral statistics increasingly back up his performance (we already knew this to be true given his batted ball data, but now his FIP has caught up, too).
Jake Arrieta, on the other hand, has had a rough go of it. In 65.0 second half innings, Arrieta has a (completely serviceable, but not Cy Young worthy) 3.32 ERA. However, thanks to a sub-20.0% strikeout rate and a greater than 10% walk rate, his FIP stands a bit tall at 4.29. Opponents are still only hitting .163 off Arrieta during that stretch (thanks to an excellent batted ball profile, and the Cubs’ defense), but a 1.92 K/BB ratio is not going to cut it at the top of the rotation. A nice, prolonged hot stretch into the playoffs would be welcomed.
Chicago Cubs – Offense
Willson Contreras is rocking a pretty mean 0-16 (with 5 strikeouts) streak, but I think he’ll break that shortly upon returning to Wrigley Field. Plus, in his ten games prior to the slump, he slashed .289/.325/.526 with three doubles, two homers, and just a 15.0% strikeout rate.
Jason Heyward just snapped an 0-25 of his own, with a two-hit, one-walk game against the Cardinals on Wednesday. It’s unlikely that Heyward will magically fix his offensive woes during this season, so be sure to savor the games he does well in and start hoping they magically align with the postseason.
Milwaukee Brewers – Pitching
Since I’ll be at Saturday’s contest, let’s take a look at Saturday’s starter, Zach Davies. Davies, 23, may have made his debut in 2015, but 2016 is his first full professional season … and isn’t going half bad. Through 26 starts (153.1 IP), Davies has collected a 3.87 ERA (3.83 FIP – 19th best in NL) despite a 19.9% strikeout rate. His ability to keep the walks down (5.8%) and induce soft contact (20.4% – 12th in NL) have been the primary reasons for his success.
Milwaukee Brewers – Offense
Given that he was almost traded to the Dodgers (in exchange for Yasiel Puig) at the end of August (and is likely to be traded in the offseason) let’s take a look at our old friend, Ryan Braun. In his age 32 season, Braun is hitting better than he has in quite some time: .306/.371/.537, 27 HRs; 8.9% walk rate, 17.0% strikeout rate. He’s been worth just 3.2 WAR this year, but that would be a good bit higher if the defensive metrics liked him a bit more (like they used to). His 134 wRC+ for the season is 21st in all of baseball.
Nobody else on the Brewers appears in the top 50 (the Cubs have four players in the top 50 by wRC+, for comparison).