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Series Preview: Rockies at Cubs, June 8 – June 11, 2017

Series Previews

Well, the Chicago Cubs could not complete their second consecutive sweep last night, but they certainly got their homestand off to a good start. Now, they’ll turn their attention to the first-place Colorado Rockies, who’ve actually been one of the very best teams in baseball this season.


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And frankly, I don’t know what’s more surprising, that the Brewers are on top of the Cubs in the NL Central or that the Rockies and D-Backs ahead of the Dodgers in the West. Who says baseball can’t surprise you?

No one says that. Because it always does.

I’d like to point out that, after this series against the Rockies, the Cubs will head to the east coast to play six total against the Mets and Pirates, before traveling all the way across the country to play three against the Padres [Edit: oops, those Padres games are in Chicago – still a lot of back-to-back travel, but at least it’s not quite so far], and then all the way back to play four more against the Marlins. That’s a pretty tough travel schedule with a lot of time changes and no off-days.

Over the offseason, we learned about how damaging excessive time-changes and jet-lag can be on a player’s and a team’s productivity, so hopefully the Cubs battle through this tough stretch and get a much deserved rest at the All-Star break shortly thereafter.


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We’re Going Streaking

The Chicago Cubs (30-28) just took two of three from the surging Marlins after sweeping the Cardinals in three straight. They lost six straight before that, but this little hot stretch has mostly evened them back out. They still have the same number of losses as the first-place Milwaukee Brewers, but remain a full game out of first place.

The Colorado Rockies (38-23) have not slowed down lately. They just wrapped up a two-game sweep of the reigning AL-Pennant wining Cleveland Indians after taking three of four from the Padres. Before that, however, they did lose three of four to the Seattle Mariners, so they are beatable! (I can’t believe I’m saying that about the Colorado Rockies this season.)

Location: Wrigley Field

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Thursday, June 8 at 7:05 CT on CSN-C+, 670 The Score
  • Friday, June 9 at 1:20 CT on CSN-C, 670 The Score
  • Saturday, June 10 at 1:20 CT on ABC-7, 670 The Score
  • Sunday, June 11 at 1:20 CT on WGN, 670 The Score

Expected Starters and Lineups

These lineups are likely to be pretty close to what gets fielded, but you’ll want to check each day’s Lineup or Pre-Gamin’ post for the actual lineup.


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Chicago Cubs

Starters:

  • Jon Lester (3.91 ERA, 3.66 FIP, 3.70 xFIP; 2.73 K/BB)
  • Kyle Hendricks (4.09 ERA, 4.42 FIP, 3.97 xFIP; 2.43 K/BB)
  • Eddie Butler (3.75 ERA, 3.85 FIP, 4.84 xFIP; 1.29 K/BB)
  • Jake Arrieta (4.46 ERA, 3.94 FIP, 3.59 xFIP; 3.80 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

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

Colorado Rockies

Starters:

  • Tyler Chatwood (4.60 ERA, 4.69 FIP, 3.91 xFIP; 1.71 K/BB)
  • German Marquez (4.53 ERA, 3.89 FIP, 4.14 xFIP; 2.93 K/BB)
  • Jeff Hoffman (2.61 ERA, 2.71 FIP, 3.04 xFIP; 13.00 K/BB)*
  • Antonio Senzatela (3.56 ERA, 4.37 FIP, 4.42 xFIP; 2.29 K/BB)

* Three starts, 20.2 IP.

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Charlie Blackmon, CF
  2. D.J. LeMahieu, 2B
  3. Nolan Arenado, 3B
  4. Carlos Gonzalez, RF
  5. Mark Reynolds, 1B
  6. Ian Desmond, LF
  7. Trevor Story, SS
  8. Tony Wolters, C
  9. Pitcher

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Cubs – Pitching

On Saturday, Eddie Butler will be taking the hill for the Cubs after making his second *successful* start since debuting earlier this season. He’s made five starts overall this year, but I’d argue that his most recent game against the Marlins was his best yet, especially because it paired so well with Mike Montgomery.

Hopefully, I don’t have to keep reminding you (I will anyway), but Butler’s success – both in the short and long term – can have a dramatic impact on the Cubs for the rest of this season and the next few offseasons to come. If he can establish himself as a sure-fire starter, a huge vacancy can be filled in the rotation. Not only will the Cubs get solid production, then, but also money can be diverted elsewhere throughout the roster, and perhaps even some prospects can stay put instead of being cashed in on a trade for a starting pitcher.


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He’s not the only lottery ticket arm the Cubs have bet on, of course, but he’s certainly the closest and most promising. Keep it up, my man.

Chicago Cubs – Offense

It might not be much, but Kyle Schwarber’s last 25 plate appearances have been pretty great: .238/.360/.762. He may not be hitting for a lot of average, but he’s got two doubles and three homers during that stretch, while sporting a 12.0% walk rate.

While I fully expect Schwarber’s average to come around, it is immensely pleasing to see him walk and slug like himself. In any case, take a look at his rolling 5-game wOBA from the 2017 season:

That’s … very encouraging.

Colorado Rockies – Pitching

The Rockies’ starting staff has been worth 5.0 fWAR so far this season, which is good for 8th best in MLB. Sunday’s starter, Antonio Senzatela, has been the most valuable starter on the staff (1.0 WAR) by this measure, but he certainly has some troubling peripherals.


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His walk rate may be a fairly solid 7.1%, but he’s hardly striking any batters out (16.1 K%). And while he’s managed to get by anyway, I don’t think that sort of approach will work well against a Cubs lineup that’s been hitting the ball with authority A LOT lately.

By contrast, Jeff Hoffman, Saturday’s starter, may have made three starts this season, but his strikeout rate is up over 30% and his walk rate is below 3%. That’s the sort of combination that will hurt this Cubs lineup disproportionately (because they tend to/prefer to swing for power and take their walks). We’ll see if he can keep it up, but Saturday’s matchup may be the Cubs worst on paper. Hoffman, you may recall, is a former first round pick and tip-top prospect.

Colorado Rockies – Offense

The Rockies’ collective .330 wOBA is fifth best in MLB and is mostly supported by Nolan Arenado (14 HRs), Charlie Blackmon (13 HRs), and Mark Reynolds (16 HRs).

D.J. LeMahieu, on the other hand, has taken a HUGE step back at the plate this season, compared to last:

2016: .348/.416/.495
2017: .277/.346/.357

He’s still hitting for average (though obviously much, much less) and getting on base at a reasonable clip, but his slugging has all but evaporated, and he’s actually been about 25% worse than the average Major League hitter.


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Similarly, Carlos Gonzalez’s 65 wRC+ is 11th worse in baseball among qualified hitters, and is worse than what Jason Heyward put up last year.

So, basically, I refuse to be intimidated by the Colorado Rockies. Let’s go, Cubs. Start another winning streak tonight.


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Michael Cerami

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