Series Preview: Cubs at Rockies, May 8 – May 10, 2017
The Chicago Cubs are heading out west to take on the Colorado Rockies with a depleted rotation (Brett Anderson), lineup (Matt Szczur, Jason Heyward), and bullpen (idk … everyone?). I am still very optimistic about their season as a whole, but this is one dark stretch. After the Rockies, the Cubs will head to St. Louis to take on the Cardinals for the second time this season. Thankfully, that series is bookended by off-days – both will be quite welcomed.
If you’d like a pinch of optimism, the Cubs are still projected to win 76 games the rest of the way (tied for most in baseball with the Dodgers). And if they do that, they’ll finish with a 92-70 record, which is tied for fourth best in baseball and most in the NL Central. So, like, it’s okay for now.
We’re Going Streaking
With that said, no, it has not been a great stretch of baseball. The Chicago Cubs (16-15) just dropped three straight to the Yankees for their second sweep of the season. They have still not had the good kind of sweep yet, but perhaps Colorado will help with that.
Or, you know, maybe not. Because the Rockies (20-12) have one of the best records in baseball and have just won three straight series against the Diamondbacks (twice) and Padres. The world is upside down.
Location: Coors Field
Game Times and Broadcasts
- Monday, May 8 at 7:40 CT on CSN-C, 670 The Score
- Tuesday, May 9 at 7:40 CT on WGN, 670 The Score
- Wednesday, May 10 at 2:10 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 Lineup or Pre-Gamin’ post for the actual lineup.
- Jake Arrieta (4.63 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 3.12 xFIP; 4.56 K/BB)
- John Lackey (5.14 ERA, 4.77 FIP, 3.55 xFIP; 4.00 K/BB)
- Kyle Hendricks (3.51, 4.68 FIP, 4.12 xFIP; 1.93 K/BB)
- Kyle Schwarber, LF
- Kris Bryant, 3B
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Ben Zobrist, 2B
- Addison Russell, SS
- Jason Heyward, RF
- Willson Contreras, C
- Albert Almora/Jon Jay, CF
Javy Baez will work in, as well.
- Antonio Senzatela (2.84 ERA, 4.18 FIP, 4.51 xFIP; 2.50 K/BB)
- Kyle Freeland (2.65 ERA, 3.62 FIP, 4.31 xFIP; 1.43 K/BB)
- German Márquez (7.31 ERA, 4.31 FIP, 4.76 xFIP; 1.86 K/BB)
- Charlie Blackmon, CF
- D.J. LeMahieu, 2B
- Nolan Arenado, 3B
- Carlos Gonzalez, RF
- Ian Desmond, LF
- Mark Reynolds, 1B
- Trevor Story, SS
- Dustin Garneau, C
Hot or Not and Whom to Watch
Chicago Cubs – Pitching
We’ll talk about Jake Arrieta later in today’s Pre-Gamin’. As for the other two Cubs’ starters scheduled for this series – John Lackey and Kyle Hendricks – you can call me cautiously optimistic.
Both Lackey (47.2%) and Hendricks (49.5%) are posting larger ground ball rates this season than they have for their career – which should help immensely in park like Coors. And while Hendricks is only just barely beating his career mark, he did post back-to-back GB% greater than 50.0% in his last two starts.
And perhaps it’s not much, but Hendricks last three starts have been MUCH better than his first three:
First Three Starts (16.0 IP): 6.19 ERA, 5.94 FIP; 18.8 K%, 10.1 BB%
Last Three Starts (17.1 IP): 1.04 ERA, 3.52 FIP; 20.6 K%, 10.3 BB%
He can stand to walk fewer batters, but that’s not usually one of his main struggles, so maybe (or, rather, hopefully) it’ll naturally improve.
Chicago Cubs – Offense
In case you weren’t sure (I wasn’t positive before looking), Javier Baez’s 97 plate appearances are just enough to qualify so far.
And, if you can believe it, his 96 wRC+ is the third highest mark on the team, behind just Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. To be sure, his 5.2 BB% is the lowest (among the qualified hitters), but his 26.8 K-rate is not the highest (Kyle Schwarber is first and Willson Contreras is second). The key to his success so far has got to be his massive .227 ISO (second only to Bryant), because his .322 BABIP is technically lower (albeit by .001) than his career numbers.
And get this:
Since his 1-11 start to the season, Javy Baez is slashing .282/.329/.538 w/4 HRs, a 5.8 BB% and a 25.6 K% (114 wRC+) – 23 games, 86 PAs.
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) May 8, 2017
During that stretch, Baez has actually been a better hitter than everyone on the team besides Bryant. These are not tiny sample, guys. They’re not huge, but they’re definitely significant.
And how about Albert Almora? As he approaches 75 plate appearances (he’s just three short), he’s still slashing .292/.352/.446 with two homers and a 15.3% strikeout rate. But the craziest thing might be his 8.3% walk rate. Both he and Baez already provide SO MUCH value with their gloves, if they can really hit like this too … woof. Watch out.
Colorado Rockies – Pitching
The Rockies, as I mentioned, have been one of the best teams in baseball this season, and they can credit much of that success to their pitching staff. Their combined staff 4.4 WAR is fifth best in the Major Leagues, but there’s a catch.
While their bullpen has earned a 2.88 FIP and 2.6 WAR (second best in MLB), their rotation has been a bit worse: 4.66 FIP, 1.8 WAR. So the lesson this week is going to be do your damage against the starters.
Indeed, the Rockies three starters this series are just a combined 77-years old – or three years younger than John Lackey. All three are still rookies, though Wednesday’s starter, German Marquez, did get 20.2 MLB innings last season.
Colorado Rockies – Offense
As expected, a 33-year-old Mark Reynolds – who’s been a below average hitter for the past four seasons – is the Rockies best hitter in 2017. His 151 wRC+ is tied for 20th best in baseball, and his eleven home runs are tied for fourth most. Must be nice playing at Coors field:
Eight of Mark Reynolds Eleven HRs have come at Coors Field – he's played just one more game there than on the road.
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) May 8, 2017
Aside from Reynolds, just Charlie Blackmon (134 wRC+) and Nolan Arenado (124 wRC+) have been above average hitters this season. Trevor Story, in particular, has been really struggling at the plate (66 wRC+). He’s still got power (.231 ISO, 6 HRs), but everything else looks bad (38.3% strikeout rate).
Alright, let’s do it all again.