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Series Preview: Yankees at Cubs, May 5 – May 7, 2017 – Here Comes Starlin and Judge

Series Previews

Starlin Castro is finally returning to Wrigley Field!

Brett wrote about the Cubs’ former shortstop/second baseman’s return to Wrigley Field earlier today, and I really enjoyed what he had to say. Starlin Castro was such a defining character in what was then a “new” chapter in my Cubs fandom, and I really (really) thought he’d be on the field when it all finally happened.


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So if you’re going to the game today, make sure you give him the warm welcome he deserves. Because, don’t forget, there was a time when watching the Cubs was really just waiting eight batters for Castro to be up again.

Speaking of going to the game, one-half of the Bleacher Nation crew (Brett and Luis) will be out at the Friendly Confines today, so if you see them, say hi. Brett, I presume, will be taking his usual spot in the right field bleachers. I, on the other hand, will be at home where it’s warm and the Diet Coke flows like the rivers of ancient Babylon (I like Diet Coke [Brett: UGH. Coke Zero for life]) and where I can write up the inevitable Kyle Schwarber monster blast for your enjoyment.

How about a freakin’ sweep already?

We’re Going Streaking

After dropping the first game of the series, the Chicago Cubs (16-12) took three straight at Wrigley Field from the Phillies for their seventh series win of the year (just two loses). They are still in first place of the NL Central, and have the third best record in the National League.

The New York Yankees (17-9) have gotten off to very nice start, especially when you consider that they were technically a “selling” team last season. They just took two out of three in Toronto, and are looking for the same here in Chicago.

Location: Wrigley Field

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Friday, May 5 at 1:20 CT on CSN-C, MLBN 670 The Score
  • Saturday, May 6 at 6:15 CT on FOX, 670 The Score
  • Sunday, May 7 at 7:05 CT on ESPN, 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 Lineup or Pre-Gamin’ post for the actual lineup.

Chicago Cubs

Starters:

  • Kyle Hendricks (4.18 ERA, 5.08 FIP, 4.29 xFIP; 1.83 K/BB)
  • Brett Anderson (6.23 ERA, 4.52 FIP, 4.39 xFIP; 1.25 K/BB)
  • Jon Lester (3.67, 4.06 FIP, 4.09 xFIP; 2.21 K/BB)

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Approximate Lineup:

  1. Kyle Schwarber, LF
  2. Kris Bryant, 3B
  3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  4. Ben Zobrist, 2B
  5. Addison Russell, SS
  6. Jason Heyward, RF
  7. Willson Contreras, C
  8. Pitcher
  9. Albert Almora/Jon Jay, CF

Javy Baez will work in, as well.

New York Yankees

Starters:

  • Michael Pineda (3.14 ERA, 3.15 FIP, 2.27 xFIP; 9.25 K/BB)
  • Jordan Montgomery (4.15 ERA, 3.64 FIP, 4.35 xFIP; 2.30 K/BB)
  • Luis Severino (3.86 ERA, 3.78 FIP, 2.86 xFIP; 6.00 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Brett Gardner, LF
  2. Aaron Hicks, CF
  3. Chase Headley, 3B
  4. Starlin Castro, 2B,
  5. Aaron Judge, RF
  6. Chris Carter, 1B
  7. Ronald Torreyes, SS
  8. Kyle Higashioka, C
  9. Pitcher

*Jacoby Ellsbury (CF), Gary Sanchez (C), Austine Romine (C), Greg Bird (1B), have each dealt with injuries of late, but could theoretically get into the series this weekend (well Bird cannot, as he was just recently placed on the 10-day DL).

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Cubs – Pitching

Let’s talk about the bullpen, shall we?

Chicago Cubs relievers sport the fifth best ERA in all of baseball (2.67), and single best mark in the National League. However, by FIP, their 3.78 is only 12th best in baseball and only fifth best in the National League. By both accounts they’re above average, but there’s a pretty big disparity. Let’s (briefly) investigate.

The Cubs bullpen features an excellent 26.6% strikeout rate. That is eighth best in baseball, and well above average overall. Their 11.1% walk rate, however, is really quite bad. The biggest offenders, so far, have been Pedro Strop (20.5% BB-rate), Mike Montgomery (15.1%), and recently-optioned Justin Grimm (14.6%). Each has found some ways to work around it, but those are wholly unsustainable figured over the course of a season.


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As for the ridiculous Cubs closer, well:


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Chicago Cubs – Offense

Kris Bryant is good at baseball.

After his first three games of the year (remember when he went 0-14?), he’s slashing .321/.417/.563 with a 157 wRC+, a 13.6% walk rate, and an 21.2% strikeout rate. Except, psyche, those are his full season numbers. I could have clipped out the slow start to the season and made the numbers look slightly better, but when I realized how good they looked on their own, I decided to leave them in full.


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Kris Bryant may be one of the best hitters the Cubs have ever had. Period.

Another guy with a similar (2017 season) story, is Cubs’ catcher Miguel Montero. If you’d like, you can clip out his 0-12 to start the season, but even with it he’s been a beast:

The entire Cubs lineup isn’t hitting this well, but there’s definitely enough offense to go around.

New York Yankees – Pitching

Can you believe that CC Sabathia has been on the Yankees for (going on) nine full seasons? It seems like just yesterday he was traded to the Brewers and was pitching complete games every start of the second half. Things haven’t gone quite his way this season (5.45 ERA, 16.9% K-rate, 10.1% BB-rate), but the Cubs won’t likely see him on the mound of Wrigley this weekend anyway …

Interestingly, two of the starters the Cubs will see, Michael Pineda and Luis Severino, have the 11th and 12th highest HR/FB ratios in the league. Neither has allowed a particularly large amount of hard contact (or number of fly balls, for that matter) – compared to the league or even their own previous stats. So, I’d expect that number to decrease … but hopefully not until Monday.


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Aroldis Chapman is still pretty good: 0.87 ERA, 1.11 FIP, 2.23 xFIP. He’ll be receiving a World Series ring today.


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New York Yankees – Offense

Alright, you knew this first part was gonna be all about Starlin, baby – because he’s off to a blistering start and I heart him.

Through his first 26 games of the season, Castro is slashing .362/.402/.543 with a 17.0% strikeout rate and a ***drum roll please*** 6.3% walk rate (the highest of his career). With some of that added patience, his .181 ISO is also the highest mark of his career, and he’s already been worth 0.9 WAR. Castro’s 166 wRC+ is 14th best in baseball and second only to Jose Ramirez at second base (and he has moved back to third base recently).

I’ve said these words before, but I never meant it as much as I do now: I’d be genuinely thrilled if he went on to have an absolutely MONSTER career … starting Monday, that is.

Alright, you know this second part was gonna be all about Aaron Judge, because, well he’s hitting the ball really, really hard. The 32nd overall pick in the 2013 draft, Judge has been hitting the ball harder than Giancarlo Stanton this year. He holds not only the hardest hit ball of the season so far (119.4 MPH), but also the fourth highest average exit velocity (95.6 MPH). His 13 homers lead the Majors and his 237 wRC+ is second only to Ryan Zimmerman  in all of MLB.

I’ve said these words before, but I never meant it as much as I do now: I really don’t care if he does well for the rest of his career … ESPECIALLY this weekend.


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Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @Michael_Cerami.