After playing back-to-back tough teams in the Nationals and Diamondbacks, the Cubs are getting a three-game breather against one of the league’s worst in 2017: The San Francisco Giants.
However, although the schedule is supposed to get easier starting today, the Cubs are playing the Diamondbacks for another three games in their home ball park starting Friday, before finally returning home for a comfortable four games against the Reds. Hopefully, the Cub s can string together some more wins and head into September with a bit of a first-place cushion.
Oh, and with their trip out west, be prepared for a couple of late-night games this week.
We’re Going Streaking
After winning five straight series to begin the second half of the season, the Chicago Cubs (58-52) have dropped two in a row to the Diamondbacks and Nationals. They now have just a 0.5 game lead over the Brewers in the NL Central and just 3.5 games of space between themselves and the third-place Cardinals.
The San Francisco Giants (44-69) have one of the worst records in baseball and are a laughable 36.0 games back of the first-place Dodgers in the NL West. They have won two in a row against the Diamondbacks, though, and still have some star power on that team.
Game Times and Broadcasts
Location: Wrigley Field
- Monday, August 7 at 9:08 CT on WGN, ESPN, 670 The Score
- Tuesday, August 8 at 9:15 CT on CSN-C, 670 The Score
- Wednesday, August 9 at 2:45 CT on CSN-C, 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.
- Jake Arrieta (3.88 ERA, 4.11 FIP, 4.02 xFIP; 2.95 K/BB)
- Jose Quintana (4.42 ERA, 4.03 FIP, 3.91 xFIP; 3.04 K/BB)
- Kyle Hendricks (3.81 ERA, 4.30 FIP, 3.97 xFIP; 2.78 K/BB)
- Jon Jay, CF
- Kris Bryant, 3B
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Willson Contreras, C
- Kyle Schwarber, LF
- Ben Zobrist, 2B
- Jason Heyward, RF
- Javy Baez, SS
*Ian Happ will work in as well, but with Jon Jay stealing more starts in center, he’ll have to split time at second base and, sometimes, in the corner outfield.
San Francisco Giants
- Matt Moore (5.80 ERA, 4.73 FIP, 5.16 xFIP; 2.12 K/BB)
- Ty Blach (4.24 ERA, 3.89 FIP, 4.75 xFIP; 2.31 K/BB)
- Madison Bumgarner (2.88 ERA, 3.23 FIP, 3.95 xFIP; 5.09 K/BB)
- Denard Span, CF
- Joe Panik, 2B
- Brandon Belt, 1B
- Buster Posey, C
- Hunter Pence, RF
- Brandon Crawford, SS
- Gorkys Hernandez, RF
- Ryder Jones, 3B
Hot or Not and Whom to Watch
Chicago Cubs – Pitching
Each of the Cubs starting pitchers this series has an interesting storyline heading into the week.
I wrote about tonight’s starter, Jake Arrieta, before his last start, pointing out that he’s among the league leaders in both soft and hard contact this season. Given how much of an impact we know contact management can provide, it’s not a surprise to see him continue to succeed. Indeed, in his six starts since July 2, Arrieta has just a 2.08 ERA. The peripherals, as we’ve discussed, are a fair bit behind that, but the focus on soft contact may explain much of that seeming disparity away.
Tuesday’s starter, Jose Quintana, on the other hand, had been getting great results, but was allowing way too much hard contact and not getting nearly enough ground balls. Of course, it all caught up with him in his last start, where he allowed three home runs and six earned runs against the D-backs.
And finally, Wednesday’s starter, Kyle Hendricks, will be trying to make his fourth straight successful start since returning from the disabled list without much velocity whatsoever. He’s done well for himself so far (taking a 5-hit, 3-run effort through 7.0 full innings against the Nationals last time), but will his luck keep up without any reasonable velocity?
Chicago Cubs – Offense
I want to talk about Willson Contreras here, so I will.
He’s the hottest hitter in baseball:
Willson Contreras' 202 wRC+ in the second half is second only to Chris Taylor (203 wRC+) in all of MLB.
His .782 SLG is the BEST. pic.twitter.com/d5gdzGEwqP
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) August 7, 2017
Contreras has – essentially – the highest overall offensive production in the second half of the season and is tied for the most homers (with Giancarlo Stanton) during that stretch. It’s not outlandish, then, to call him the hottest hitter in baseball.
And given the defensive value of his position, his 1.6 total WAR in the second half is also second best in all of baseball.
And as for the full season, Contreras 3.2 WAR is 27th best in baseball … tied with Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.
San Francisco Giants – Pitching
After missing most of the season on the disabled list, Madison Bumgarner is back with the Giants and has made 5 starts since the All-Star break. In three of those five starts, Bumgarner has lasted a full 7.0 innings, though he’s pitched into the seventh in four out of five tries.
His 2.78 ERA during that stretch is seemingly formidable, though he sports a 3.76 FIP. It’s a small sample, but Bumgarner has been lucky with his sequencing (84.5% strand rate) since returning from the disabled list, and is fortunate that he’s carrying just a 10.0% HR/FB ratio (given his elevated 43.5% fly ball rate, a spike in his HR/FB ratio could be particularly damaging).
My advice to the Cubs? Get the ball in the air and see if that HR/FB ratio starts to regress to the league average.
San Francisco Giants – Offense
If it weren’t for Buster Posey, Willson Contreras would be something close to the unanimous best catcher in baseball.
As it is, Posey is having a very Posey-like season: .324/.414/.481 (138 wRC+) 3.9 WAR. And in the second half alone, Posey’s walk rate has ballooned to 17.8%, which, combined with his high average, is giving him a ridiculous .444 OBP.
For the most part, though, the Giants’ only offense is coming from their start catcher and Brandon Belt (126 wRC+). The next best contributor is a just-slightly-better-than-average Gorkys Hernandez, and that’s about it.
Overall, the Giants offense has been the single worst in baseball this season, so hopefully the Cubs can take advantage.