Well here we are: the final regular season series of the year.
The Cubs have long since clinched the NL Central and have had their eyes permanently fixed on that elusive World Series trophy for a while, but they have three games to play in Cincinnati first.
Following this series, there will be four dreadfully long days without a Cubs game, but then, the most anticipated postseason in recent memory will begin. [Brett: Since at least last year!]
Strap yourselves in and keep all limbs inside the car, because this is going to be a roller coaster ride of emotions over the next few weeks.
We’re Going Streaking
The Chicago Cubs (101-57) just, uh, won? split? a four-game set against the Pirates in Pittsburgh. Although they took the first two games and lost the third, the fourth and final game ended in a tie … seriously. With no impending playoff implications, the game need not be finished and it wasn’t. The Cubs have gone 7-3-ish in their last ten games.
The Cincinnati Reds (67-92) may have been eliminated from the postseason a long time ago, but they have continued to impact the potential participants ever since. Most recently, they split a four-game set with the Cardinals (although last night’s loss was questionable at best), keeping them just outside of the Wild Card, looking in. There will be no playoff implications in this one, though, so let’s just have some safe, healthy fun.
Game Times and Broadcasts
- Friday, September 29 at 6:10 CT on CSN-C, 670 The Score
- Saturday, October 1 at 3:10 CT on CSN-C, 670 The Score
- Sunday, October 2 at 2:10 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.
- Jake Buchanan at Triple-A: (4.34 ERA, 3.79 FIP; 2.76 K/BB)
- Jon Lester (2.28 ERA, 3.35 FIP, 3.44 xFIP; 3.90 K/BB)
- Kyle Hendricks (1.99 ERA, 3.22 FIP, 3.56 xFIP; 3.86 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 and Chris Coghlan, LF
- Josh Smith (4.77 ERA, 5.23 FIP, 4.78 xFIP; 1.88 K/BB)
- Tim Adleman (3.90 ERA, 5.50 FIP, 5.08 xFIP; 2.39 K/BB)
- Robert Stephenson (6.27 ERA, 6.69 FIP, 5.37 xFIP; 1.93 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
Well, well, well: Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester each get one final shot at making their case for the 2016 NL Cy Young. Lester has a (very good) shot at exceeding the 200 IP threshold and Hendricks has a shot at finishing the season as the only pitcher with an ERA under 2.00. But let’s see how they’ve looked lately … oh, amazing? Yeah, I guess I knew that:
Since the All-Star Break:
- Hendricks: 13 starts (86.1 IP); 1.36 ERA (2.97 FIP); 24.7% K-rate, 4.9% BB-rate
- Lester: 13 starts (87.0 IP); 1.34 ERA (2.59 FIP); 25.2% K-rate, 6.4% BB-rate
Chicago Cubs – Offense
When Jason Heyward began his most recent hot streak (which is still going, by the way), I had a little fun pointing out his daily improvements on Twitter after every game. While I was aware that 1) the sample size was especially small, 2) he had gone on similar hot stretches before, and 3) guys that slump hard tend to get more attention when they’re actually on, I think the negative, “it’s meaningless” reactions to those stats were entirely off-base.
First of all, you can simultaneously believe that a player will not keep up whatever streak/pace he’s on, while acknowledging that he is currently doing a thing. They’re not mutually exclusive. Same goes for the “he’s had hot stretches in the past”; yeah, well … he’s having another one now. If you believe he’s capable of going on hot streaks (which is an undeniable fact, as you just admitted he’s done it before), then you can understand the disproportionate value of one of those hot-streaks bleeding over into the postseason (to which we are perilously close). Heyward has had an extremely frustrating year at the plate – nothing can change that – but a hot October is meaningful, and it can very well start in September.
Jason Heyward (last 50 PAs): .293/.400/.439; 16.0% walk rate, 10.0% strikeout rate
Cincinnati Reds – Pitching
Sunday’s starter, Robert Stephenson, has struggled mightily through his last four starts dating back to September 10. During that stretch, he’s lasted just 15.1 IP, while allowing 17 earned runs on 22 hits, 5 homers, and 9 walks.
With some luck, however, Kris Bryant (39 homers) can hit a couple of long-balls (the Reds love giving up home runs) and surpass Nolan Arenado (40 homers) with the most home runs in the National League.
Cincinnati Reds – Offense
The Cincinnati Reds don’t quite rank among the top offensive performing teams in 2016, but there is one area in which they’ve been especially proficient: stolen bases. Their 134 steals this season is second only to the Milwaukee Brewers (175), and led by an enormous 58 SBs from Billy Hamilton (second most in MLB).
But here’s the thing, Hamilton has only been on base 141 times this season (107 hits + 36 walks + 1 HBP – 3 home runs = 141). And if you exclude his three triples, he’s only been in a base-stealing situations 138 times … and still managed to steal 58 bases. That means that he steals a base successfully in 42% of all reasonable base-stealing opportunities. That is just insane. With Lester on the mound this weekend, he might eventually take the lead over Jonathan Villar … that is, if he can get on base.