Well, nobody said it’d be easy. The first rubber match of the season comes during the first series of the year (and it’s against Milwaukee). Let’s see what Tyler Chatwood and friends have in store for Freddy Peralta and the Brewers.
Chicago Cubs Lineup:
1. Kris Bryant, 3B
2. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
3. Javy Baez, SS
4. Kyle Schwarber, LF
5. Willson Contreras, C
6. Jason Heyward, RF
7. Nico Hoerner, 2B
8. Victor Caratini, DH
9. Ian Happ, CF
The Cubs don’t have a ton of experience against Peralta. And unfamiliarity tends not to bode well for any offense – especially against a guy with a 30% career strikeout rate. With that said, there’s a reason all those strikeouts haven’t turned into a ton of production over his short career (4.79 ERA), and that’s what David Ross and the Cubs are banking on today.
Namely, Peralta has had a difficult time keeping the ball on the ground over his first two seasons (31.3% ground ball rate) and he’s allowed plenty of hard contact (39.3%) to go with it (though he did manage to improve on both accounts as the 2019 season went on). Seeing as it’s a windy day in Chicago, the Cubs will probably look to elevate early and see what happens when the ball gets put in play.
Weirdly, Peralta had strong, traditional splits in his rookie season – lefties crushed him (.374 wOBA) and righties did next to nothing (.185 wOBA) – but that totally flipped last year, as righties (.354 wOBA) fared much better than lefties (.301 wOBA). Other than throwing his changeup a little more often, Peralta didn’t really change his pitch mix to achieve those results, but he did start throwing harder (about 3 MPH harder on his fastball, to be exact) so perhaps that made enough of the difference (then again, that was as a reliever, so …)? I’m not really sure.
In any case, there are once again not many changes to the lineup, with the exception of Nico Hoerner moving back in there at second base in place of Jason Kipnis. Hoerner also moved up one spot in the lineup, pushing the DH, Caratini, back a spot. That could be a compliment to Hoerner, it could be to move his contact-bat higher up in the batting order, it could be an attempt to get two higher-OBP guys like Happ and Caratini directly in front of Bryant when the lineup turns over, or it could be a combination of all three. Either way, David Ross has shown very little interest in tinkering too much with his lineup, so I’d expect to see this general group more often than not this year.
As usual, we’ll have your full Pre-Gamin’ post closer to game time (1:20 CT).
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) July 26, 2020