Series Preview: Angels at Cubs, August 9 - August 10, 2016

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Series Preview: Angels at Cubs, August 9 – August 10, 2016

Chicago Cubs

angels rally monkey

After a brief three game series (sweep) in Oakland – sandwiched between two off days – the Chicago Cubs will now begin a ten game homestand at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs will kick off things off with two games against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, before taking on each of the Cardinals and Brewers for four.

And while the Cardinals series is a regularly scheduled four-game set, the Brewers series will begin with a double header – making up for the game missed on April 27.

The last time the Cubs met with the Angels was for another two-game set, right at the beginning of the season. The Cubs took both.

We’re Going Streaking

The Chicago Cubs (69-41) are a season-high 28 games above .500, which is good for a .627 winning percentage – extrapolated over 162 games, that’s 101-102 wins. They’ve also won seven of their eight series after the All-Star break (dropping both at U.S. Cellular [Brett: bah, I count that as a series split, because I want to]), including sweeps in each of their last two. They’re riding a seven game winning streak and have lost just once in their past ten tries.

The Los Angeles Angeles (49-62) have lost four games in a row, most recently being swept by the Mariners in Seattle. They are 4-6 in their last ten, 16.0 games out of first, in fourth place of the AL West.

Game Times and Broadcasts

  • Tuesday, August 9 at 7:05 CT on WGN, 670 The Score
  • Wednesday, August 10 at 7:05 CT on CSN-C+, 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.

Chicago Cubs


  • John Lackey (3.70 ERA, 3.77 FIP, 3.74 xFIP; 3.54 K/BB)
  • Jason Hammel (3.07 ERA, 4.27 FIP, 4.25 xFIP; 2.70 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Dexter Fowler, CF
  2. Kris Bryant, 3B (or LF)
  3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  4. Ben Zobrist, LF (or 2B)
  5. Willson Contreras, C
  6. Jason Heyward, RF
  7. Javy Baez, 2B (OR 3B)
  8. Addison Russell, SS
  9. Pitcher

Jorge Soler? I’m sure he’ll get into the action in left or right field, but it’s not quite clear how it’ll work just yet. With the weekend series in an American League ballpark, we didn’t get many clues.

Los Angeles Angels


  • Jered Weaver (5.11 ERA, 5.42 FIP, 5.72 xFIP; 1.94 K/BB)
  • Ricky Nolasco (5.23 ERA, 4.47 FIP, 4.45 xFIP; 3.34 K/BB)

Approximate Lineup:

  1. Yunel Escobar, 3B
  2. Kole Calhoun, RF
  3. Mike Trout, CF
  4. Albert Pujols, 1B
  5. Andrelton Simmons, SS
  6. Ji-Man Choi, LF
  7. Jeff Bandy, C
  8. Johnny Giovatella, 2B
  9. Pitcher

Hot or Not and Whom to Watch

Chicago Cubs – Pitching

Carl Edwards Jr. has a 1.50 ERA (1.91 FIP, 2.11 xFIP) in his 17 appearances (18.0 innings pitched) so far this season. More impressively, his strikeout rate is up in that ultra-elite “Aroldis Chapman” level at 39.1%, while his walk rate is in that totally normal, perfectly fine range at 7.8%. But that’s the stuff you already knew. So try this on for size:

  • Edwards hasn’t allowed a hit in his last six innings
  • He has only allowed 4 hits in his past 16.1 innings
  • He has a 45.5% strikeout rate and a 0.96 ERA in his last 9.1 IP
  • He has a 66.7% ground ball rate over the same stretch

In just about every way, using any end points you want, Carl Edwards Jr. has been a dominant (as in actually dominant) reliever for the Cubs. With Justin Grimm slowly coming around (though optioned), and Aroldis Chapman in the fold, too, it seems that Theo Epstein’s three-fold prediction of bullpen improvement coming from within the bullpen, within the organization, and outside of the organization has come true.

Jason Hammel takes the ball in game 2 of this series and he too has been looking much, much better lately. In his past five starts – dating all the way back to July 7 – Hammel has allowed just 6 earned runs (1.86 ERA) on 19 hits (.186 AVG) and 8 walks(7.3%) over 29.0 innings pitched. During that stretch he’s also struck out 27 batters (24.6%) and gotten a 42.5% ground ball rate. If it weren’t for the home runs (3 allowed), he might have looked as dominant as anyone in baseball.

Chicago Cubs – Offense

Before Monday’s home run, Kris Bryant didn’t have an extra base hit in six games – a stretch in which he hit just .167, but managed to keep a .333 OBP thanks to a 16.7% walk rate. During that rough patch, he struck out 36.7% of the time and was clearly working through some stuff. Still, Kris Bryant’s overall offensive production is still among the very best in all of baseball, and he’s the current NL WAR leader – so, uh, that’s pretty cool.

That said, his teammate, Anthony Rizzo, is hitting for a better average, getting on base at a better clip, hitting for more power, as well – all of which is not easy to do. Had Rizzo been capable of playing another position, he’d probably be one of the single most valuable players in baseball (although, he kinda already is).

You know who has been quietly scorching hot (once again)? Ben Zobrist. In his last 44 plate appearances, Zobrist is slashing .368/.429/.553 (.412 wOBA, 159 wRC+), wth a walk rate (9.1%) greater than his strikeout rate (6.8%). Yeah. 6.8% K-rate. That is one tough out.

Los Angeles Angels – Pitching

As you can see from his stats listed above, Jered Weaver is not having that great of a year (5.11 ERA), but things look even worse over his past few starts. Since July 23 (15.2 IP), Weaver has surrendered 10 earned runs on 22 hits, and more walks (5) than strikeouts (4). He has just a 20.7% ground ball rate over that stretch, as well. Had his home run/fly ball rate experienced a bit of a spike from its tame 7.4% level, things would have probably looked very, very ugly. Hopefully the Cubs can get the ball in the air and do some damage.

The Angels relievers have been among the bottom three bullpens in baseball this season. They are one of only three units with a negative season fWAR (-0.1). There is a bright spot, though, in Cam Bedrosian. The Angels 24-year-old reliever has a 1.12 ERA (2.12 FIP) through 40.1 innings pitched, including a 31.5% K-rate and an 8.6% walk rate. Outside of him, though, everyone is beatable.

Los Angeles Angels – Offense

Mike Trout.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami