The Cubs have a series of tough pitching matchups on deck this week (Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, and Trevor Bauer, in that order), and they just lost Ian Happ. But Joc Pederson is back, and just in time to help the Cubs against a tough, hard-throwing righty. Oh, and take a look at Kris Bryant flexing his positional versatility in a big-time matchup against the Dodgers.
Chicago Cubs Lineup:
1. Joc Pederson, LF
2. Kris Bryant, CF
3. Javy Baez, SS
4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
5. Willson Contreras, C
6. Jason Heyward, RF
7. David Bote, 2B
8. Matt Duffy, 3B
9. Kyle Hendricks, P
This is absolutely going to be one of those lineups we look back on in five years and say … whaaaat? I don’t remember Joc Pederson being the Cubs leadoff hitter, Matt Duffy being on the team at all, and Kris Bryant starting in center field? But here we are! Fun times. Before we get into these decisions, let’s take a brief detour into tonight’s starting pitcher, Walker Buehler, because I think it’ll help.
For his career, Buehler has been almost exactly split neutral against both lefties and righties, but in a small sample this season, those numbers have diverged dramatically:
v. LHH (55 batters): .294/.333/.529 (.371 wOBA)
v. RHH (67 batters): .194/.194/.269 (.200 wOBA)
He has been absolutely BRUTAL on right-handed hitters, and I think that’s why we’re seeing Nico Hoerner get a breather tonight. In other words (or more to the point), I do not think Hoerner is on the bench simply because Joc Pederson is back. My guess is we’ll see plenty of Hoerner moving forward, including tomorrow against Clayton Kershaw.
In the meantime, it sure is nice to have Joc Pederson’s left-handed bat (an ability to handle high heat) against Buehler. And it’s good to have Jason Heyward’s bat, as well, but it sure would be nice if Ian Happ didn’t get absolutely rocked in center field yesterday. From what I’ve heard, Happ seems to be doing okay, but if he were ready to start, he’d be in there tonight.
Instead, Kris Bryant had to kick out to center field, where he is starting for the first time since his seventh big league game back in 2015. He’s played there a handful of times over the years (including this season), but only ever as a sub. This is his first start in center since 2015. Wild. Jed Hoyer is like “Y’all watching?” And funny enough, Scott Boras is thinking the same thing.
Beyond that, David Bote (not Eric Sogard) gets the start at second base, and Matt Duffy gets another shot at third.
As usual, we’ll have your full Pre-Gamin’ post closer to game time (6:40 CT).
Walker Buehler Pitch-Mix
Against righties, Buehler likes to work away-away-away (with everything besides his curveball). He’ll use his four-seamer from the top of the zone to the bottom, but all on the outer third of the plate, while his cutter, slider, and sinker all work down and away. Against lefties, Buehler likes to work up with his four-seamer and sinker, and away with his curveball and slider. He’ll cut his fastball in on the hands of lefties, as well. He’s got good velo and a TON of spin on his fastball and curveball (99th and 98th percentile respectively).