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Series Preview: Cubs vs Reds 5/16 - 5/18 [Updated]

Series Preview: Cubs vs Reds 5/16 - 5/18 [Updated]

[Thursday update: Sick of hearing about Ian Happ yet? Too bad. He may be here to stay. But as I said on Twitter last night, let's be careful in talking about the future of this team. Happ has some serious talent (and I may be in love with him), but today will only be his fifth Major League game. The Cubs have a while before they can give the reigns over to him and be comfortable with moving another player for, say, starting pitching. Let's just enjoy his performance for now, and worry about the other stuff after he's played for more than a week.)

[Wednesday update: Ian Happ looks like a major league player doesn't he? If you haven't already, make sure to check out Patrick Mooney's write-up on his call-up. As Maddon said his postgame press conference last night, we already knew that the rookie would be in the starting this evening against Scott Feldman. I, for one, am very glad I will not be in charge of making the "who stays, who goes" decision once Heyward comes off the DL. I would most likely go with the Oprah Method: "You get a start! And you get a start!"]

The boys are back.

After getting swept by the Yankees at home and then going 2-4 on the road, the Cubs are looking for a little home cooking.

I'm not one to panic this early in the season. How could you? It's the second month of the season, the team has dealt with injuries, and the people that are supposed to be doing awesome baseball stuff haven't been doing the awesome baseball stuff. To put it bluntly, this team has been just....average.

Right now, in almost every offensive metric, the Cubs are at or below the league median.  The eye test (and even some sabermetrics) will tell you that they've been poor on defense. Their starting pitching currently has a league worst .322 BABIP and is subpar in almost every other category...

The bullpen, on the other hand, has come through on more than one occasion.

Jared, Dabs, and myself have said it in many a recap so far this season. But this staff of relievers have been put through the ringer and have performed. As a unit, Cubs relievers have the third best BABIP, Wade Davis has yet to give up an earned run, and Carl Edwards Jr. (1.17 ERA) and Mike Montgomery (1.08 ERA) have looked like studs so far.

But what does this mean?

Average offense + poor defense + average starting pitching + stellar bullpen = Meh

And it's not going to get any easier. This Reds team is no joke. They currently sit 2.5 games back from the Cardinals and have a guy in Joey Votto that already has 10 homeruns and 33 runs batted in. John Lackey, Kyle Hendricks, and Jon Lester will have their work cut out for them.

Watch/Listen:

Tuesday: 7:05pm CST on CSN-C/670am 

Wednesday: 7:05pm CST on WGN/670am

Thursday: 1:20pm CST on CSN-C/670am

Lineups:
[Thursday]

Cubs
1. Ben Zobrist (S) RF
2. Kris Bryant (R) 3B
3. Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B
4. Ian Happ (S) LF
5. Willson Contreras (R) C
6. Addison Russell (R) SS
7. Javier Baez (R) 2B
8. Jon Lester (L) P
9. Albert Almora Jr. (R) CF

Reds
1. Billy Hamilton (S) CF
2. Zack Cozart (R) SS
3. Joey Votto (L) 1B
4. Adam Duvall (R) LF
5. Eugenio Suarez (R) 3B
6. Scott Schebler (L) RF
7. Jose Peraza (R) 2B
8. Tucker Barnhart (S) C
9. Amir Garrett (R) P

Bullpen Usage:

[Via baseballpress.com]

[Via baseballpress.com]

Opposing Pitchers:

Tuesday: Bronson Arroyo - The combined ages of the starting pitchers for this Tuesday matchup are 78. Both Lackey and Arroyo have gotten around. Arroyo, still rocking the long blonde locks, turned 40 in February. In watching Arroyo the last time out agains the Cubs, I can sum up his performance in one word: annoying. And I say that in all seriousness. Bronson has been relying mostly on his curveball and four seamer. They each sit around 85 mph and 72 mph respectively (dead serious). And back on April 23rd, he struck out 7 (!) Cub batters over 6 innings (that is still a season high). It doesn't make a lot of sense to me, but numbers don't lie. I'd put a good amount of money on the Cubs do not let that happen this time around.

Wednesday: Scott Feldman - The former Cubs is having quite a season thus far. He's gone at least 7 innings in his last two starts and went the distance against the Giants on May 7th. Feldman works off his cutter (89 MPH), curve (76 MPH), and sinker (90 MPH). He currently sports a 3.59 ERA and 4.09 FIP.

Thursday: Amir Garrett - The Reds are playing some service time/innings limit games with the 25 year old rookie this year. But he's back with the big league club after being sent down after his May 6th start against the Giants. Garrett has shown some flashes of solid stuff. The highlight being his 12 K game vs. the Orioles April 19th. He works mostly of his fourseamer, which sits in the mid nineties, and has two other offspeed pitches: a change and slider. Baseball Prospectus also calls him a "premium athlete." We'll see how he does in his Wrigley debut.

Final Thoughts:
It seems like Maddon and the Cubs are taking to the new kid, Happ. He's getting another start today, this time in center field. While this is kind of exciting to see, it's also a bit of a bummer not to see Jason Heyward back yet. Because of that, KB gets that start in right and Candelario moves in to play third.

You may want to see the turnaround start now. But I would caution you to not get that disappointed if it doesn't. Injuries are still a concern and the Cubs simply don't have their optimal lineup put together. That being said, they'er a major league team. There are no excuses. (Well, there are. But you know what I mean).

Comments

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  • Day off at home, 10-game home stand, warm weather, wind blowing out: I'm feeling like the Cubs are going to start getting on a roll tonight!

    Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports was interviewed on 670 The Score yesterday (podcast available.). He said that the Cubs are already looking at starting pitchers. He also said that there could be a lot of pitchers available. He mentioned some of the names thrown out here on Cubs Den (e.g., Verlander, Grienke), but also said that the Cubs would love Gerritt Cole, who is under team control through 2019. He threw out a possible trade: Baez and Jimenez for Cole. That would break a lot of hearts in Cubs Nation!

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    I've seen several Cole rumors myself. I'd love to have him, and it would take a painful package like that to get him. The Pirates becoming big-time sellers was the first thought I had when I heard the Marte suspension news.

    Warm weather, wind blowing out at 15-20 MPH, and Arroyo on the mound. Feels like a good time for the bats to start showing up. RH hitters have been lighting up Arroyo, and he's giving up a lot of fly balls and HRs. I think we take him yard four times tonight.

    Go Cubs!

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I guess I don't understand why they'd trade Cole. He's got two years left on his deal and I don't think Pittsburgh's window is necessarily closing. They have some good young pitching, hopefully Taillon makes a full recovery, and some nice position player prospects coming up. I don't see them as slam dunk non-contenders in his last two years. Plus why would you trade a potential ace within your division? Trust me, I'd love to have him but it doesn't seem plausible to me.

  • In reply to TC154:

    It seems implausible to me too. I can see him ending up with the Yankees, though. I always take these things with a grain of salt. So how does he know that the Cubs would "love" to have Cole? Show me a single person who predicted the Addison Russell or Mike Montgomery or Eddie Butler trades. Chapman doesn't count, because that one was obvious.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I agree trading Cole doesn't make much sense, I've just read the speculation. They should definitely build around their young pitching. I was thinking more about Cutch. He had a rough offseason, being publicly shopped and then losing his CF gig, with the additional gut punch of losing it to a cheater. I'd be surprised to see them deal Cole unless they're overwhelmed, which I wouldn't expect the Cubs to do.

    I also read that Lester will go Thursday on regular rest with Butler bumped to Friday. That news just came out a few hours ago, so Myles gets a pass.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I got the feeling that Passan considered the Pirates cheap, and it would be a move similar to what the A's do. Trade him just as he's going to arbitration, when he's in his prime and at peak value, get really good young players, and go from there.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    That does make sense, as he's going into his final two arbitration years. I have no idea who the Cubs will get, but I think they're more likely to take on a veteran with a couple years of big salary left. Pay the money rather than the blockbuster of emptying the farm on Archer or Cole. Verlander and Grienke fit that bill, and it would be like extending Jake, but for less years. The FO intentionally stayed back from the luxury-tax threshold this season for just that reason, to be able to add salary in-season, and we have a lot of money coming off the books after this year.

  • Wasn't Butler moved to Friday with Lester starting on Thursday? I thought I had read that.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Cubs.com still has Butler for Thursday. Will update if that changes.

  • Schwaber leading off again? Does Maddon realize that he is hitting .179 with an OBP of .313. Unbelievable!

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    He has the 16th best BB% in the league and has been unlucky with how hard he's hit the ball. Check out BleacherNation's analysis of this posted today.

  • In reply to Myles Phelps:

    If you take away his first hot month in the majors there is also this:
    Aug 15: .221
    Sep 15: .208

    Apr 17: .208
    May 17: .160

    And his career against LHP: .149

    I'm not worried at this point, but we are kind of getting out of the SSS timeframe with Schwarber. He brings below average defense, no value on the basepaths, and hasn't hit for power either. He needs to do more than just walk.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    This makes me sad. Perhaps he needs more seasoning in AAA.

  • In reply to Stubbs:

    He's not going to Iowa, per Theo.

  • In reply to Myles Phelps:

    16th best BB% in the league still adds up to a .313 OBP. He probably has never batted lead off at any level. I was all for trying this at the beginning of the year but, it is clearly not working. Time to move on in my opinion.

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    In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    He actually batted leadoff in college but regardless I agree, he needs to be moved down.

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    I am surprised to hear that he batted leadoff in college. Thanks for posting that. I would of never thought that.

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    I don't want to see any trade for Greinke or 30 yr old + pitcher with a huge contract. That goes against everything Theo has said he would do. Cole would be a terrific get, but I imagine Haps, Jimenez, Cease and probably another pitcher too. We need to find another Butler (I know, a sss) and maybe Mills in AAA might be the answer. But as bad as our starters have been, our position players have been worse. I hope the warm weather might be the cure.
    With Haps in CF, does anyone think that in could mean that Albert A is tradeable? Still a long way to go but it's never too early to start winning and Theo does do the unexpected.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    The Cubs need a true CF, especially if they are planning to stick with a below average LF in Schwarber. While Happ isn't bad in CF, he can't cover the same ground as Almora. I really don't see Happ as a long term solution there. Just a spot start sort of thing.

  • If they get a 30+ year old I vote for Verlander. Still pitching well, and while he is 34, he only has two more years on his deal. Similar to Lackey in that he has a long track record of health.

    Little long term risk for the Cubs, and I am sure the Tigers would love to get the 56M he is owed the next two years off their books.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I like the thought of Verlander for the reasons you metion. The only thing that makes me nervous his his consistent GB% being in the 30's. A flyball pitcher in Comerica is different than a flyball pitcher at Wrigley.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Wrigley hasn't been a hitter's park in years. And it is my understanding the Comerica has been pretty league neutral since the moved the fences in years ago as well.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I think they go that route, taking on salary with a proven veteran with a couple years left. Lester and Hendricks should be good at the TOR for a couple more years with one or two of Butler, Montgomery, Mills, or even Zastryzny filling the four and five slots. We need a playoff-worthy starter for a couple years to bridge the gap until the hopeful arrival of Cease, De La Cruz, etc.

    As for Schwarber, I'll admit to being all over the map and often thinking with my heart. He is a legend already for his postseason heroics in '15 and '16, but if I force myself to be honest, I'd prefer a different option in LF. I was often critical of Soler and shared my feelings that he wasn't a good fit on this team going forward, and Schwarber shares many of those same flaws. I love the guy, I think his bat will be something special, and his character and work ethic are inspiring. But when I put my feelings aside and think of how I would like to see the Cubs over the next several years, I can see a scenario where Schwarber may be more valuable in trade than his overall fit on this team. I repeat, I hope this doesn't sound like an overeaction to a poor start, and I absolutely love the idea of his big LH bat in the middle of this order, but if I envision the perfect Cubs team over the next several years, given it's current and anticipated strengths and weaknesses, I can see a team with a different left fielder.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    plus kate would look really cute in a cubs jersey!

  • I love to panic any time of the season, and this team is giving me plenty to panic about. However, I do think some things will get worked out. Defense: was historically good last year, ridiculously good, some regression was bound to happen. I do think the D will improve and come together. Offense: this will absolutely get better. Most guys are hitting well below their averages. It's unfortunate everyone hit a slump at once. Starting pitching: obviously the panic about Anderson was warranted. I think the panic about Jake is too. I think Lester and Hendricks will be ok. I'm never sure what Lackey will do. Player health: concerned. While Heywards injury was an accident, an injury may have been what threw off his swing last year. I hope he's back to April Heyward when he returns. It appears that age and back to back long seasons are finally catching up to Zobrist. He's battled back problems all season. I wanted Javy to take over on the strength of his play, not the weakness of Zobrist's back. Overall, plenty for he to worry about, but a lot of it isn't long term panic worry

  • Happ walks a lot.

  • By putting Happ 4th and Candelario 5th, Maddon might be saying these guys are hear to stay. Some people (you know who you are) thought both of them would be traded. Others more likely to be traded. I am not mentioning any names. You know who they are.

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    Tucker Barnhardt with a serious bomb to center. That was a mans man Homerun. No wind needed.

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    Not to jump on the Schwarber criticism train, but I was shocked to look at the box score and note that Barnhardt (who just hit his 1st HR of the year) is out-slugging Schwarber (who just hit his 6th HR of the year). That's pretty telling on how much he's been struggling this year.

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    Time for the Schwarbenator to join in on the fun.........Hang em and Bang em

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    It's time for the Schwarbenator !

    I wonder whose went further, his or Tucker's

  • The pinhead Reds broadcasters would not shut up about how Schwarber was struggling right as he hit the be-Jesus out of that baseball.

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    In reply to TD40:

    If this snaps the Schwarbenator out of his funk, we can thank him and JD. JD was basically abusing his Defense in the top of the inning in the nicest tone possible but we all know his intent.

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    They just replayed the Schwarbenator's HR with the path shown and it looked just like the St arch. A beautiful sight to see.

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    Anyone been watching the Astros and thinking boy this looks familiar? All the pitchers are pitching deep into games, playing solid D, and everyone in the lineup pitching in and they are flat out rolling teams. ( esp on the road)

    This is virtually like our start last year.

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    So far I am very Happ-y.
    Actually maybe we're playing Jeimer to hope he can get out of his hitting funk and show other teams how valuable he could be. Right now there's no contest who I would want on the Cubs--it's Happ all the way.
    A question for those much more informative than I am. When we see so many pop ups does that mean that the player is seeing the ball but just missing it or something else? I always thought that hitting it straight back was just missing it .
    Thanks.

  • I was just going over some notes and wanted to predict a few short-term roster moves, if for no other reason than to be seen as a guru or an idiot. I expected Happ and Candelario to stay up with the off day and rested pen. Heyward is eligible to be activated now, but I think it may be another week or so. I hope his knuckle injury doesn't set back the progress we've seen at the plate, but I'm scared it may. The pen sits at seven, and I expect that to bump back up to eight with the long stretch we're getting into. As long as the starters can go 6+, I see sticking with the 7-man pen. When Pena or Grimm is recalled, one of La Stella, Candelario, or Happ will be sent down. My money is on La Stella or Candelario first, then the other when J-Hey is activated. It's also possible Jay or Zobrist could land on the DL; Jay pinch-hit on Friday and Zobrist on Saturday, so a back-dated DL stint for either one is possible.

    Toot, toot. That is me tooting my own horn. I've said since spring training, and have all but been laughed off this board, that Happ will be up this year, sooner rather than later. I understand he is not a finished product and has no guaranteed starting role, but that doesn't matter. The goal of this organization is not to develop Ian Happ into the most perfect player Ian Happ may become, it is to win ballgames and defend our Championship. We are only allowed 25 players on the MLB roster, and if anyone can make the case that La Stella wins us more games for the rest of 2017 than Happ, I'll listen.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Theo will panick and trade for starting pitching.
    LaStella is a worthless trade chip.
    Hope I'm wrong but history says Happ and Candy
    Get traded.

  • In reply to mwillie:

    Noe bleepin way Happ gets traded.

  • In reply to TD40:

    Not sure why I put an e in no

  • In reply to mwillie:

    I've noticed in the pattern of your posts that you believe the FO is inept. I disagree as strongly as possible. I don't think they will panic just as much as I don't think they sat idly on their hands as you suggested they did last off-season. We do have an imbalance in needs and currency, and I have full faith they will get it right.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Hope your right POP. I would rather miss out on this year and buy some pitching next year than trade switch hitting young hitters.

  • Happ is a keeper. He needs to start everyday.

  • In reply to TD40:

    Yeah he does need to play everyday.
    But Maddon won't make that happen when JHay comes back and Zobrist.

  • In reply to TD40:

    Until the league figures him out as they usually do.

  • In reply to stix:

    The pitchers are already figuring out he has great pitch recognition and patience.

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    What I liked most about Happ's at bat was that he never even moved his bat on the balls not in the zone--not even the one high one that could have been called a strike--and this with the bases loaded. That was very impressive.

  • Umpires strike zone is very inconsistent and small.

  • Reds broadcaster: "Anthony Rizzo homers...again." First time I have enjoyed anything they have said.

  • Happ in CF and Jay in RF? I take that as a good sign of the Cubs'confidence in Happ's defensive abilities.

    On this day in Wrigley Field history (May 17), the Cubs beat the Padres 23-6 in 1977 and lost to the Phillies 23-22 in the famous game from 1979. Both days were warm with the wind howling out, just like today. With the bats beginning to heat up, tonight could be fun. I'd love to hear a repeat of "Enough, already!".

    Go Cubs!

  • Strop has not been effective since just past the All Star Break of last year. Why is Maddon still trotting him out there. This game should have been an "easy" win and now it's a nail biter or worse.

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    In reply to INSaluki:

    Can't put it all on Strop. 50% him and 50% Montgomery. Monty got the 1st 2 out to start the inning, you need to finish that and not let Maddon call on Strop, LOL

    Least Edwards was nails as usual. WD40 will close it out in the 9th, don't worry about this game.

  • I cannot be more pleased with Edwards Jr.. I was disappointed that he didn't become the starter some of us thought he could be, but his value as a late inning guy is greater that I imagined. I'm more pleased with Hendrick's recent run of starts (5 in a row now?) where he has been very consistent, if not near dominating.

    I'm not going to get too high as I haven't gotten too low, especially since these wins are against the Reds. I want to see this team beat some good teams before I get back to feeling really good about them.

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    In reply to INSaluki:

    I know how you feel because i was really disappointed that both Edwards and Johnson didnt pan out as starters but hey if they both turn out to be lights out relievers like Edwards is that will be freaking awesome.

  • He just got JAVYED!

  • Oh my Javier Baez.

  • In reply to Mom2futurecubs:

    We're both Javy fans, but I only view him as a potential unicorn. You have him full-blown deified. I like it.

    "I am a Golden God."- Robert Plant

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    When he's on, I attend the church of Javy.

  • In reply to Mom2futurecubs:

    My baseball spirit animal.

    I don't get the angst over Javy most of the time. He is not supposed to be one of the main offensive producers, yet his OPS is higher than Russell (by a huge margin), Zobrist, Schwarber, Contreras, and Almora and it is nearly equal to Rizzo and Jay. I know OPS favors slugging over OBP and therefore paints Javy in a better light, but again, he is doing exactly what is expected of him. Even his K rate is in line with his career norms.

    It is everyone else that is underproducing. Javy is far, far down on the list of why this team is struggling.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Preach.

  • I don't know if it means anything or not, but watching on gameday and the Field View shows Bryant's home run totally off the screen and about halfway up the wall of my office......

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    Oh i hope that Lester gets out of this game with a really low pitch count. He's thrown a lot of pitches the pass few games and it will be nice if Maddon can take advantage of this huge lead and get him out with less than 90 pitches thrown.

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    I think we're going to see Pierce Johnson's major league debut today.

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    In reply to Greg Simmons:

    That's a great point Greg. I believe he threw over 100 pitches in both his last 2 starts. I would like to see Pierce Johnson too. We're beginning to see our pitchers percolating through the system--mostly relievers, but in a year or two our starters will make their appearance.

  • Today when have been the perfect day to get Johnson in, I'm not sure why he wasn't given a shot.

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    In reply to Mom2futurecubs:

    and now it's too late. The Cubs had the best bullpen in the NL until yesterday and now it's nail biting time.

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