Series Preview--Cubs at Nationals: 6/26-6/29

The Nationals hold a commanding lead in the NL East. The Cubs are trailing in the NL Central. The differences in the two club's season are pretty easy to spot beyond the records. The Cubs clearly are limping into this showdown of what was supposed to a potential postseason matchup. The limping is hardly metaphorically in the Cubs case.

Addison Russell still has not been placed on the disabled list despite an ailing shoulder. The Cubs have instead opted to send down 9th reliever Dylan Floro down for Jeimer Candelario. The Cubs clearly could use another infield bat, but have been very reluctant to call up their minor league depth for most of the season.

Tonight Joe Maddon has crafted a lineup sure to create a bunch of discussion. Willson Contreras has been inserted into the leadoff spot. Contreras has been heating up with the bat, and his raw athleticism plus bundle of energy approach makes this not a crazy thought in a vacuum. But it represents the first time in a decade where a catcher is hitting leadoff in the Cubs lineup. The lineup tonight also features players that played for Cubs farm teams before debuting with the Cubs. It is a rare sight, and hopefully a pleasant sight as they take on the cream of the National League.

Watch/Listen:

Monday: 6:05 pm CT CSN/670 AM

Tuesday: 6:05 pm CT WLS/670 AM

Wednesday: 6:05 pm CT CSN/670 AM

Thursday: 3:05 pm CT CSN/670 AM

Lineups

Cubs
1. Willson Contreras (C)
2. Anthony Rizzo (1B)
3. Kris Bryant (LF)
4. Ian Happ (2B)
5. Javier Baez (SS)
6. Albert Almora (CF)
7. Jeimer Candelario (3B)
8. Eddie Butler (P)
9. Mark Raymond Zagunis (RF)

Nationals
1. Trea Turner (SS)
2. Brian Goodwin (LF)
3. Bryce Harper (RF)
4. Ryan Zimmerman (1B)
5. Daniel Murphy (2B)
6. Anthony Rendon (3B)
7. Matt Wieters (C)
8. Michael Taylor (CF)
9. Gio Gonzalez (P)

Bullpen Usage:

bullpen-data
via Baseball Press.

Opposing pitchers:

Scouting Reports from Books Baseball.

Gio Gonzalez: "His fourseam fastball has essentially average velo. His sinker has slight armside run. His curve generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers' curves, results in many more groundballs compared to other pitchers' curves, has a sharp downward bite and has slight glove-side movement. His change is slightly firmer than usual, results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers' changeups and has some natural sink to it. "

Max Scherzer"His fourseam fastball generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers' fourseamers, has some natural sinking action, results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers' fourseamers, has slight armside run and has slightly above average velo. His slider generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers' sliders, results in many more groundballs compared to other pitchers' sliders and has primarily 12-6 movement. His change dives down out of the zone, generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers' changeups, is slightly firmer than usual, results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers' changeups and has slight armside fade. His curve is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers' curves and results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers' curves. His cutter generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers' cutters, is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers' cutters and has some natural sink. "

Stephen Strasburg"His fourseam fastball has well above average velo and has slight armside run. His curve is a real worm killer that generates an extreme number of groundballs compared to other pitchers' curves, generates a high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers' curves, is much harder than usual and has slight glove-side movement. His change is thrown extremely hard, generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers' changeups, results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers' changeups, has slight armside fade and has some natural sink to it. His slider is thrown extremely hard, is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers' sliders, has much less depth than expected and has primarily 12-6 movement."

Joe Ross"His sinker is a prototypical pitch with few remarkable qualities. His slider has much less depth than expected, has primarily 12-6 movement and results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers' sliders. His change generates fewer whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers' changeups, is slightly firmer than usual and results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers' changeups. His fourseam fastball generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers' fourseamers, is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers' fourseamers and has essentially average velo. His curve has very little depth, has primarily 12-6 movement, is slightly harder than usual and results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers' curves."

Final Thoughts:

Meausring stick series are a silly concept in baseball. There is just too much randomness for any particular 4 game stretch to mean anything objectively. That said it is going to be hard not to read more into this series against a top flight opponent. If the Cubs can win this series it would go a long way to soothing the angst of the fanbase, but it is hard to feel like that is the likely outcome at this point. If this team loses the series it would be a bitter pill to swallow after the split in Miami. Fandom is not rational and the reactions to the results of this series will bear that out.

 

Comments

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  • If the Cubs can avoid a sweep I'd be happy. The key to this series is getting to the BP as early as possible. If they can keep the games within reach they have a good chance of pulling ahead once the BP takes over. It would of been great if K-Rod would of been called up for this series

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    Wow, that lineup. Almost completely home-grown talent top to bottom. We'll see what happens.

  • One of those lineups that gives me anxiety, but those are usually the ones that break out for 10 runs. If the Cubs can win 2 in DC, I'll be thrilled.

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    The last catcher I can remember leading off was Craig Biggio. If Willson can contain some of his enthusiasm he could be a good leadoff man. He does make things happen.
    This is a huge series psychologically for the Cubs. If they can split this series I believe the Cubs could start believing in how good they are even with all the injuries they have. Just hit with RISP!!

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Kendall used to do it. Jaso did for a while. I think the A's used somebody else too.

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    He Rizzo-ed it!!

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    Error, bobble and RISP. We could have more runs and our margin of error isn't so great. I feel like we're hanging by our fingertips. Butler is pitching well, some well hit balls yes but he's getting outs when he needs too. We're also running up the pitch count and that's important because their bullpen is one of the worse in the NL. If we can go deep into the bullpen tonight it helps us in the next 3 games.

  • Javy head had beautiful defensive plays tonight, but three strikeout, ugly strikeouts, not a good look. He looked in control in Miami, but is chasing in DC.

  • In reply to Mom2futurecubs:

    Javy's had. You'd think my autocorrect would recognize everything related to Javy Baez by now.

  • In reply to Mom2futurecubs:

    Maybe your autocorrect is as smitten with Javy as you (and I) are, and gets as tongue-tied as a teenage boy around a pretty girl. :)

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    Your autocorrect saw a low and away comment and whiffed on it.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Now that's funny. Brutally painful for us Javy fans, but accurate, and funny.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    And you are in the early lead for comment of the week.

  • In reply to Mom2futurecubs:

    Bahahaaaa....I HATE autocorrect, if I was tech savvy enough I'd turn it off.

    Great game tonight so far.....Butler did the job and Edwards just made them look foolish. That grab by Javy robbing Harper was primo...

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    Can't get a better defensive play than that grab. I don't know how he got it or how he didn't get hurt falling to the ground.

  • In reply to Mom2futurecubs:

    Javy redeems himself offensively in the 8th. Singlehandedly gets the Cubs an insurance run.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    That is why Javy is so frustrating to me. He is better than any other ballplayer on the field, and he knows it. His non-slide into second was him knowing he couldn't be thrown out, but was surprised the play went his way. His instincts are better than any player I can think of, and I've known and seen a lot.

    That also gets him into trouble. I've commented before that these young players with immense natural talent sometimes hit a wall, because they are too good. That natural talent can sometimes slow progrssion. I think this is exactly why the FO called Javy up in 2014, before he was ready and knowing he'd fail. Tough love.

    Javy immediately re-evaluated the situation and stole third with one out. That is another example of him taking every play personally, and knowing he can beat you. The safety squeeze by Almora was beautiful. Many fans get excited by the 500 ft. bomb, but that play floats my boat.

    Javy is often over-matched at the plate. That is a one-on-one situation vs. the pitcher. I'm hoping maturity will help that, because I do see a few .300 BA years in his career (to go along with 30+HR). And of course being possibly the best defensive and instinctive player in all of baseball. He's only 24, but when it all comes together...

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Me, back in May of 2013 when Javy was still in A ball and people were freaking out about him being a bust:

    “Baez has supreme confidence in himself. You can tell by the way he carries himself, the comments he makes, and the way his teammates and coaches speak of him. There is no thought of failure in his mind. Sometimes this can lead to a guy that is slow to adjust, because he has such trust in his own ability, but ultimately the desire to succeed will win out. I will put my money on confident people succeeding.”

    June of 2013:
    “What I thought was the same thing I always think when I see any Javy Baez doubters and that is: Javy Baez will crush all non-believers.”

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Preach, my brother, preach. I've called myself the founding member of the "We love Javy club", but you may have a legitimate claim. Javier Baez can be that elusive unicorn. The only thing that may be holding him back is his talent. He has been through a lot over the last couple years. If he could fully focus on baseball and become the player he can be, that would be amazing. He has talents that are generational.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Preach, my brother, preach. I proclaimed myself the founding member of the "We love Javy" club, but you have legitimate credentials.

    Javy can be that proverbial unicorn. The best middle infielder in baseball who can beat you with his glove, his head, his speed, his aggressiveness, and his bat.

    I'll break into my personal stash here. Javy is worthy. From the legendary poet Jim Morrison:

    "I am the Lizard King.
    I can do anything."

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    Len announced that the Cubs traded Zac Rosscup to the Rockies for Matt Carasiti. He's 25 and a reliever and throws a mid to upper 90's FB. His problem is control (isn't it always) but if the Cubs can work with him he could be another great find by Theo.

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    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    What happens if he can't harness his control? Is it still okay? Was Zac Rosscup was that useless for us?

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    Control wasn't exactly a strong suit for Rosscup, although he was better this year. Rosscup had yet to pitch in back-to-back games this year. Tough to be an MLB reliever if his shoulder wasn't bouncing back quick enough. He was dominant with Iowa but he was always pitching with plenty of rest.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    He was also DFA'd to make room for Zagunis on the 40 man roster.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I do have to say the Cubs adding him to the 40 man roster to come up and pitch one game then send him back down, only to DFA him a few weeks later is a head-scratcher and a poor utilization of resources that you rarely see this front office make.

  • Javy redeemed himself with an exciting trip around the bases. I feel better with the extra run. Good baserunning I get into scoring position and excellent bunt by Almora.

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    Catch of the Year!

  • Wow. Javy. That is some kind of play.

  • I love Javy. Some people on this blog criticize him and want to trade him. You know who you are. But he takes over games. When it's going good he is incredible. We saw that in the postseason last year and we are seeing it tonight.

  • In reply to TD40:

    Watching Baez is how I used to feel watching Favre. Both were frustrating at times, but they were so fun to watch bc of their joy for playing the game. At any moment they could take over a game & make plays you've never seen before

  • In reply to Bamacub:

    Are you a Packer fan? Disclaimer: It's okay if you are. This is a baseball blog.

  • In reply to TD40:

    Not a Packer fan. Grew up a Saints fan, but there wasn't much to cheer about for many years. My dads friend married Favre's cousin so they use to give me lots of Favre stuff when I was younger, so I was always a fan of his.

  • In reply to Bamacub:

    I actually am a packer fan. I grew up in a state where there are no professional sports teams. So I had to pick my teams for different reasons (For the record my teams are Packers, Cubs, Nuggets and Penguins. Too long a story to explain all of those. But I am not a front runner or I wouldn't be a Cubs fan) I was worried about admitting this in the past because I know the Packer hate in Chicago. But after reading the posts when John "got personal" I figure the people on this blog won't care. This blog has a lot of great people and there's more important things in life.

  • In reply to TD40:

    we all have our faults, TD. I'm glad you came clean.

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    lol

  • In reply to TD40:

    That's what is great about this site. You can admit to being a Packer's fan & you don't get attacked. I used to play hockey with some of the older guys from the Predators so I might hold a grudge on the Penguins right now though. Championships in 2 out of 4 sports is a pretty good year for your team. Maybe the Cubs can turn their season around & make it a hat trick

  • In reply to Bamacub:

    It's been a great year. Thanks Bamacub.

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    I'm sure MLB will have how far Javy ran, how fast he ran and his angle running to it. We've seen tonight how he can dominate a game. His ceiling is probably higher than almost anyone else on the team.
    Now we just have to win this game. For all the good we've done, again that last play by Happ could have been an out, then we don't pitch Grimm in the 8th and save him for tomorrow. Get him out!!

  • I am really enjoying this game. It feels like the playoffs.

  • Let's be honest. The Nationals got Javyed tonight.

  • In reply to TD40:

    Yeah, and then the Cubs got Hectored.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    He just wanted to make sure that Javy got the GW RBI

  • Can we please trade Rondon? I have zero confidence in him.

  • Whenever Davis comes in non save situations I feel like he gives up at least 1 run & throws 30 pitches

  • Do we have anyone left in the bullpen.

  • In reply to mwillie:

    Pena

  • Mad Max's numbers against LHB are insane (18/1 K/BB, ..386 OPS allowed), more normal vs. RHB (3/1 K/BB, .658 OPS allowed). Hope the Cubs load up on LHB's to at least give themselves a fighting chance. Rizzo back to leadoff? Montero? Happ, of course (switch, but good from either side). LaStella?. Jon Jay? Rush Heyward back? Bring back Schwarber?!

  • In reply to djbk:

    *LHB and* RHB should be reversed in the first sentence above.

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