The Chicago Cubs have guaranteed their spot in the 2016 MLB Postseason, after clinching the division late last week.
The first game of the playoffs (for the Cubs anyway) will come on October 7, two weeks from this Friday … but they still have some baseball to play before then, including the rest of this home stand against the NL Central.
Tuesday night is Social Media Night at Wrigley Field, and I’ll be there, sitting in the bleachers. If you see me, make sure to say hi!
We’re Going Streaking
The Chicago Cubs (94-55) just lost five of their last seven games against the Milwaukee Brewers, but they snuck back-to-back series wins in there against the Cardinals and the Astros, too, so they’ll be just fine. They have 94 wins on the season, with 13 games left to go (six will come at home).
The Cincinnati Reds (63-86) just narrowly avoided a four-game sweep at the hand of the Pirates, escaping with a win on Sunday. They are in last place in the NL Central and have long been mathematically eliminated from the postseason.
Game Times and Broadcasts
- Monday, September 19 at 7:05 CT on CSN-C, 670 The Score
- Tuesday, September 20 at 7:05 CT on CSN-C, 670 The Score
- Wednesday, September 21 at 7:05 CT on WGN, 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.
- Jason Hammel (3.60 ERA, 4.44 FIP, 4.34 xFIP; 2.67 K/BB)
- Jon Lester (2.40 ERA, 3.45 FIP, 3.47 xFIP; 3.73 K/BB)
- John Lackey (3.42 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 3.77 xFIP; 3.53 K/BB)
- Dexter Fowler, CF
- Kris Bryant, 3B/LF
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Ben Zobrist, 2B/LF
- Addison Russell, SS
- Jason Heyward, RF
- Javy Baez, 2B/3B
- Miguel Montero/Willson Contreras, C
Also: Jorge Soler, LF (if he’s healthy)
- Tim Adleman (4.21 ERA, 5.89 FIP, 5.26 xFIP; 1.89 K/BB)
- TBD (0.00 ERA, 0.00 FIP, 0.00 xFIP; 0.00 K/BB)
- Robert Stephenson (4.97 ERA, 6.22 FIP, 5.33 xFIP; 1.91 K/BB)
- Jose Peraza, SS
- Eugenio Suarez, 3B
- Joey Votto, 1B
- Adam Duvall, LF
- Brandon Phillips, 2B
- Scott Schebler, RF
- Tyler Holt, CF
- Tucker Barnhart, C
Hot or Not and Whom to Watch
Chicago Cubs – Pitching
In 2015, Jon Lester had an excellent 2.92 FIP. It wasn’t quite as low as his equally excellent 2014 season (2.80 FIP), but it was sufficiently impressive and good for 13th best in baseball.
In 2016, Lester’s FIP is more than a half a run worse (3.45 FIP) than it was last year and the year before, BUT 1) his 2.40 ERA is lower than ever and 2) that 3.45 FIP is actually good for 12th best in baseball (one spot better than last season). Obviously, from what we’ve actually seen of Lester, we can tell he looks as sharp as ever, so this is just a friendly reminder that stats need to be weighted against the season they were recorded in. What is good for 12th best in baseball this year would have almost missed the top 30 in baseball last season.
Anyway, in his last nine starts (61.2 IP), Lester is 7-0, with a 1.02 ERA, 2.38 FIP, and a 3.03 xFIP. He’s struck batters out at a 27.0% rate, while walking them at just 5.3%.
Chicago Cubs – Offense
Kris Bryant is working on a seven-game hitting streak (what else is new?), but he hasn’t hit a home run since September 9. He needs three more to reach 40 (an arbitrary, but awesome threshold), but just one more to tie Nolan Arenado for most in the National League.
Jason Heyward has recorded two hits in three straight games, including two doubles. It’s not much (relatively speaking, given the 0-25 that preceded it), but it’s a really nice stretch – possibly one of the best we’ve seen all season.
Cincinnati Reds – Pitching
Wednesday’s starter, Robert Stephenson, 23, made his Major League debut early in the season (April 7), but has spent most of his time at Triple-A this year. Through five starts at the Major League level, Stephenson has a 4.97 ERA and 6.22 FIP. Both of his last starts came against the Pirates, and the results were ugly: 8.0 IP, 8 earned runs, 9 hits, 6 walks, 8 strikeouts, 2 homers.
I know the Cubs have already clinched the division, but you would just like to see them beat up on a guy like Stephenson when they can. Oddly, it feels like young, inexperienced, struggling starters have given the Cubs more trouble than the proven, more familiar guys this season.
Cincinnati Reds – Offense
Joey Votto is on pace to record his lowest WAR total since before 2009 this season, but I wouldn’t get excited just yet. Even in his “down” year, he’s slashing .319/.432/.531 with 25 HRs (the advanced defensive metrics are just really low this year). He’s walking 16.5% of the time and striking out just 18.7%. Votto is just such a phenomenal hitter.
Brandon Phillips is working on an eight-game hitting streak of his own. And over that stretch he’s slashed .419/.424/.645, with a 0.0% BB-rate and a 9.1% K-rate, because “Who needs walks?! Ya nerds!”