Series Preview: Pirates at Cubs, April 14 – April 16, 2017

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Series Preview: Pirates at Cubs, April 14 – April 16, 2017

Series Previews

Three up, three down.

The Chicago Cubs have won their first three series of the season, taking each to their final game for the decision.

With their World Series celebrations in the past, they’ll turn their attention to winning the next one. Up next, a focus on the NL Central with a three-game set against the Pirates at Wrigley Field.

Luis will be at the game once again, so if you happen to see him at the park, say hi! The weather is supposed to warm up around game-time today, so if you’re heading to Wrigley, that should be a nice bonus.

Immediately following this three-game set with the Pirates, the Cubs will take on the Brewers once again. Following an off-day Thursday, they’ll get two more NL Central teams in the Reds and Pirates (again), before shipping off to Boston for three against the Red Sox.

Who’s ready for three straight days of afternoon baseball?!

We’re Going Streaking

As I mentioned, the Chicago Cubs (6-3) have won the first three series of the year. You do that all season long and you will be very happy with the results. You would be OK with a projected 108-win season, right?. But who knows, maybe they’ll sneak a sweep in sometime soon.

The Pittsburgh Pirates’ record (3-6) is trending the other way from the Cubs. They lost their first series against the Red Sox, swept the Braves, and then, most recently, were swept by the FIRST PLACE CINCINNATI REDS. Which, OK. Sure. They’ve now lost four in a row. Here’s to making that seven.

Location: Wrigley Field

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Friday, April 14 at 1:20 CT on WGN, MLBN, 670 The Score
  • Saturday, April 15 at 1:20 CT on CSN-C, 670 The Score
  • Sunday, April 16 at 1:20 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 Lineup or Pre-Gamin’ post for the actual lineup.

Chicago Cubs

Starters (2016 Stats):

  • Kyle Hendricks (2.13 ERA, 3.20 FIP, 3.59 xFIP; 3.86 K/BB)
  • Jake Arrieta (3.10 ERA, 3.52 FIP, 3.68 xFIP; 2.50 K/BB)
  • Jon Lester (2.44 ERA, 3.41 FIP, 3.47 xFIP; 3.79 K/BB)

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 obviously work in, as well.)

Pittsburgh Pirates

Starters (2016 Stats):

  • Gerrit Cole (3.88 ERA, 3.33 FIP, 4.02 xFIP; 2.00 K/BB)
  • Tyler Glasnow (4.24 ERA, 4.26 FIP, 4.57 xFIP; 1.85 K/BB)*
  • Jameson Taillon (3.38 ERA, 3.71 FIP, 3.43 FIP; 5.00 K/BB)

*23.1 IP in 2016

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Jordy Mercer, SS
  2. Starling Marte, CF
  3. Andrew McCutchen, RF
  4. David Freese, 3B
  5. Gregory Polanco, LF
  6. Francisco Cervelli, C
  7. Josh Bell, 1B
  8. Josh Harrison, 2B
  9. Pitcher

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Cubs – Pitching

This weekend, the Chicago Cubs are sending their three best starters to the mound, in Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, and Jon Lester. We discussed Arrieta recently, and the narrative hasn’t changed: his velocity is down, but the results are looking good (both what we can see with our eyes and the stats).

But he’s not the only one – the entire Cubs rotation seems to be firing on all cylinders.

Cubs’ starters have accounted for 1.5 fWAR through the first nine games of the season which is second only to the Nationals (1.7 fWAR) in all of baseball. In fact, their 2.39 ERA leads the entire league by HALF a RUN! With that said, anyone watching the game yesterday knows that the Cubs defense has already had a huge impact on that:

Even still, their FIP (which stands for Fielding Independent Pitching) is second best in baseball at 2.78 FIP. The Cubs have been very successful over the past two seasons and their starting pitcher has been a huge part of that.

Chicago Cubs – Offense

Unlike the Cubs pitching staff, however, the Cubs offense isn’t quite at the top of its class. Collectively, they’ve been worth just 1.0 WAR this season, which is only 18th best in baseball. They are still taking their walks (10.7% – 5th best in MLB), naturally, so that has helped, but they are still not hitting for much power (their .117 ISO is 6th worst in baseball). It’s still early, though.

The Cubs’ leadoff hitter, Kyle Schwarber, continues to get on base at a fantastic clip (.381 OBP) despite a very low batting average (.212). And because he’s still hitting the ball hard (.455) too, he’s the team’s top offensive contributor.

But don’t forget that Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell have just started heating up – both hit their first home runs yesterday.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Pitching

The Pirates’ starters have been middle-of-the-road so far, but the Cubs are getting their three young guns in Gerrit Cole, Tyler Glasnow, and Jameson Taillon. Cole goes later today, so we’ll discuss him in the Pre-Gamin’ shortly.

Glasnow is still just 23 years old, but hasn’t quite broken out the way the Pirates’ have hoped just yet. A former top prospect, Glasnow made his Major League debut last season, and let’s just say I regretted picking him up in my fantasy league. His first start this year was even worse: 1.2 IP, 4H, 5ER, 5BB, 1K. If he comes into Wrigley with that troubling of command issues, I cannot see him succeeding or lasting much longer than he did in his first start.

With that said, Thursday’s match-up promises to be a good one:

Taillon, 25, is the Pirates’ other top pitching prospect to debut last season, and his first year went much better (3.38 ERA over 18 starts). He’ll face the veteran, Jon Lester, on Sunday in what is shaping up to be the conclusion of an awesome weekend of baseball.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Offense

Pittsburgh’s position players are one of just two teams (along with the Blue Jays) to be worth negative WAR at this point in the season. They’ve scored just 28 runs so far this year (27th in baseball), although they have been mighty tough to strike out (19.4% – Top 5 in MLB).

Out of their nine qualified hitters, just one – David Freese – has been above average or worth more than 0.0 WAR up to this point. With that said, he has been killing it: .381/.552/.667 with a 27.6% walk rate and just a 10.3% strikeout rate. That’s about as good as someone can reasonably hit.

Andrew McCutchen just hit his first home run of the season yesterday (and it cleared the Green Monster at Fenway!), but he’s hitting just .250/.308/.361 on the year.

So … What The Heck Happened Last Series?

The Cubs raised the World Series Banner after a ridiculously long (and wet) rain delay on Monday, capping things off with a walk-off Anthony Rizzo hit. Each of their three series this year have started with a walk-off (two loses, one win), so here’s the trend continuing … but in the Cubs’ favor once again.

After an off day on Tuesday, they were shutout for the first time this season, although they’ve now scored 2 or fewer runs three times this season.

Yesterday, however, was the Cubs first pitching shutout of the season, and it was a team effort as Carl Edwards Jr. (who’s just been placed on the bereavement list), Koji Uehara, and Wade Davis combined for four scoreless innings of relief.

On the fun side of things, Anthony Rizzo hit his first home run, Addison Russell hit his longest ever home run at Wrigley Field (it made it onto the Waveland!), Kyle Schwarber made a circus catch, and Albert Almora made a pair of fantastic defensive plays in the field.

If this series is anything like the last, it’s going to be a fun weekend.


Author: Michael Cerami

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