Cubs vs. Braves: Series Preview (4/13-4/15)

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The Cubs began their nine-game homestand dropping two of the three to the Pirates. Chicago has been hovering around the .500 mark the first two weeks of the season, currently holding a 6-6 record. It's the identical record they had after 12 games in 2017. The inconsistency they demonstrated last year lasted throughout the first half.

The team the Cubs look to get on the right track against is the rebuilding Atlanta Braves. The Braves are further along in their rebuilding track than the Marlins or Reds. Many felt they were a year away from serious contention, but young players have contributed to a 7-5 start. Ozzie Albies has four homers early on and former top prospect Dansby Swanson is hitting .348. Hard throwing Mike Foltynewicz is the young ace surrounded by veteran starters.

Javy Baez was on fire in the Pirates series hitting four homers in two games. Willson Contreras also has had a very nice stretch of late. The bullpen had its first rough stretch allowing 7 runs against Pittsburgh. Yu Darvish and Jose Quintana were dominant against the Brewers last time they pitched.

Watch/Listen

Friday: 1:20 pm CT on MLB Network/NBC Sports Chicago/670AM

Saturday: 1:20 pm CT on NBC Sports Chicago/670AM

Sunday: 1:20 pm CT on WGN/670AM

Lineups

Braves

1. Ender Inciarte (L) CF
2. Ozzie Albies (S) 2B
3. Freddie Freeman (L) 1B
4. Nick Markakis (L) RF
5. Kurt Suzuki (R) C
6. Preston Tucker (L) LF
7. Dansby Swanson (R) SS
8. Ryan Flaherty (L) 3B

Cubs

2. Tommy La Stella (L) 3B
3. Kris Bryant (R) 1B
5. Kyle Schwarber (L) LF
6. Addison Russell (R) SS
7. Javier Baez (R) 2B
8. Jason Heyward (L) RF
9. Yu Darvish (R) P

Bullpen Usage

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via Baseball Press.

Opposing pitchers

Scouting Reports from Brooks Baseball.

Anibal Sanchez: Anibal Sanchez has thrown 24,567 pitches that have been tracked by the PITCHf/x system between 2008 and 2018, including pitches thrown in the MLB Regular Season and the MLB Postseason. In 2018, he has relied primarily on his Fourseam Fastball (90mph) and Change (81mph), also mixing in a Cutter (87mph), Slider (82mph), Sinker (91mph) and Curve (78mph).

His fourseam fastball is straight as an arrow, is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers' fourseamers and has below average velo. His change generates a high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers' changeups, results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers' changeups and has slightly below average velo. His cutter (take this with a grain of salt because he's only thrown 19 of them in 2018) is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers' cutters and has strong cutting action. His sinker (take this with a grain of salt because he's only thrown 18 of them in 2018) is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers' sinkers, has surprisingly little armside run and has little sinking action compared to a true sinker. His slider (take this with a grain of salt because he's only thrown 18 of them in 2018) is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers' sliders and has short glove-side cut. His curve (take this with a grain of salt because he's only thrown 11 of them in 2018) results in more flyballs compared to other pitchers' curves, has little depth and has primarily 12-6 movement.

Sean's Note: Sanchez struggled mightily last season in Detroit with a 5.33 FIP in 25 appearances. In small 2018 sample he has allowed 2 runs in 8 innings. Those numbers are deceiving as he has stranded 94 percent of baserunners, which doesn't seem sustainable. At one point, Sanchez was a ground ball pitcher that didn't allow much power. Late in his career his fly ball and home run rates have gone way up.

Sean Newcomb: Sean Newcomb has thrown 2,032 pitches that have been tracked by the PITCHf/x system between 2015 and 2018, all of them occuring in the MLB Regular Season. In 2018, he has relied primarily on his Fourseam Fastball (94mph), Change (88mph) and Curve (78mph). He also rarely throws a Slider (80mph).

His fourseam fastball generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers' fourseamers, has less armside movement than typical, results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers' fourseamers and has slightly above average velo. His change is thrown extremely hard, is a real worm killer that generates an extreme number of groundballs compared to other pitchers' changeups, generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers' changeups and has slight cut action. His curve has an exceptional bite, is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers' curves and has slight glove-side movement. His slider (take this with a grain of salt because he's only thrown 1 of them in 2018) is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers' sliders, sweeps across the zone, has exceptional depth and results in more flyballs compared to other pitchers' sliders.

Sean's Note: The big lefty Newcomb made his MLB debut last season. The Cubs faced him twice, having much better success against him the second time in Atlanta. Javy Baez and Willson Contreras took him deep in that game, which is not surprising since right handers have hit him for much more power than lefties.

Julio Teheran: Julio Teheran has thrown 16,307 pitches that have been tracked by the PITCHf/x system between 2010 and 2018, including pitches thrown in the MLB Regular Season, the MLB Postseason and The World Baseball Classic. In 2018, he has relied primarily on his Fourseam Fastball (90mph), Sinker using a Two-seam Fastball grip (90mph) and Slider (80mph), also mixing in a Change (82mph). He also rarely throws a Curve (72mph).

His fourseam fastball results in more flyballs compared to other pitchers' fourseamers, has some natural sinking action, has slightly below average velo and has slightly less natural movement than typical. His sinker generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers' sinkers, results in more flyballs compared to other pitchers' sinkers, has slight armside run, has slightly below average velo and has some natural sinking action. His slider comes in below hitting speed, is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers' sliders, generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers' sliders, has short glove-side cut and has some two-plane movement. His change generates a high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers' changeups, results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers' changeups, has slight armside fade and has slightly below average velo. His curve (take this with a grain of salt because he's only thrown 11 of them in 2018) comes in below hitting speed, generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers' curves, has sweeping glove-side movement and results in more flyballs compared to other pitchers' curves.

Sean's Note: Teheran has been shelled so far in 2018 allowing 11 runs in just 14 innings. Last year saw an ERA and FIP that hovered around 5. A likely factor was a drop in strikeout rate and an increase in walks. He has allowed a lot of homers the last two seasons, 57 since 2016.

Final Thoughts

At this point it doesn't matter who the Cubs play, it's more about how they play. They need to find some consistency, which can be hard to find early in the season. The Braves are not a pushover at all, still the Cubs are the better team if they play their best. Albert Almora gets another shot in the leadoff spot against a right handed starter. Ben Zobrist rests Friday, he has cooled off a bit from his hot start to the year.

Update

Almora was a late scratch with illness so Happ is in.

 

Comments

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  • love Maddon's comment on Hurdle's Comments on Javier Baez on if its ok for a manager to make comments about players on other teams. Maddon saying it reveals more about you then the person you are talking about, and him associating those who are hypercritical about Pedro Strop's and Fernando Rodney's hat was great stuff.

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    That was close. Getting the first two out rather easily and then letting the next 2 get on--it could have been a repeat of what's becoming all too familiar. Now let's take some pitches and let Yu get warm in he dugout while we score a few.

  • Fly the "double-Yu'.

    Go Cubs!

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    Double-Eww, instead.

  • Lots of rain coming in about an hour. Time to put some runs on the board and shorten the game.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Good grief. That's not what I meant at all. Top of the 5th? We need a monsoon, now, and it's not happening. Ugh.

  • Need it to start raining NOW!

  • Ok, now I'm angry at the offense. Darvish had his best stuff of the year today. If he had ANY run support he wouldn't have been in that position. You can't waste your pitchers like that. Logic tells me "this too shall pass" but I'm mad now.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I'm still very curious who has a better season, Darvish or Alex Cobb. And who is better over the length of Cobb's contract.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    I'm not worried about Darvish if they score him some runs. He was good today. Very good and the slider was nasty. Then the balk and it fell apart. If he had a run or two behind him you might have gotten 6-7 innings. I've been critical of the pitching early but he shouldn't have been in that position. Of course I'm not absolving him either. You have to be more mentally tough than that. As far as Cobb goes I just don't think the guy is any good but we'll see.

  • In reply to TC154:

    We'll see. Cobb is going to make $14m this year and Darvish $25m. When Darvish was signed I said people are always giddy the day a free agent pitcher is signed, but that often fades quickly when faced. But we'll see. 105 pitches in less than five innings is a lot.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    It is but it all fell apart quickly. Before that he was humming along and getting squeezed some from the ump. The stuff is ace stuff, we're all aware he's not ace level mentally. I get that Cobb is a "gamer" but give me stuff over a "grinder" any day of the week. Of course you have to score some runs to support a guy like that.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I didn't think Darvish was that sharp today. The Braves left 2 runners on in the first inning and left the bases load in the second inning. It could of been a blow out after 2 innings. He did get out of the jams though.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Of those 5 baserunners in the first two inning two of them shouldn't have been on at all as he had thrown strike three on both men but they were called balls. He was throwing mostly strikes until the fifth and he locating his pitches. That's what I saw anyway. Not going to defend him after that because that 5th was terrible.

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    In reply to TC154:

    He was not getting the same strike zone as Sanchez and of course it really showed because the Braves were way more patient then the Cubs.

    This was the result.

    DO I think Yu was pitching good or great? No, but he was pitching plenty good enough to win and w some help from his offense and a fair strike zone, he prob would have got us a W.

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    Another bunch of fans complaining about the strike zone and not getting the same call. I really hope you guys clean up the sour grape comments cause it gonna be a long year listening and reading the whining. He wasn’t good today. 4+ innings at 100+ pitches. 4 walks and 9 hits.

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    Cub fans need to stop whining about getting calls or other team is getting better calls. Gonna b a long season if we have to listen to the excuses and complaining. Yu wasn’t good today. Enough said.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    This falls on Joe... in the absence of a Ross type veteran to set a clubhouses tone Joe needs be a little less juggler/magician buddy and more of a leader.

  • Boy, I hate to say this, but our pitchers losing too many strikes with the way Contreras was been receiving.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    has

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Seriously. He punches at everything. So brutal seeing pitches healthily in the zone get dragged outside of it by Contreras.
    The difference between he and Austin Barnes in the LCS last year was glaring.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    I believe that I'd call up Chris Gimenez for Darvish' s next start to see if Yu can't find his comfort zone. He seems a little psyched out right now.

  • This is gettin hard to watch. This team is playing like they need more focus and sense of urgency. I for one, don't think Maddon is capable of leading that effort. Joe seems to be more of a charade character than a leader. Reminds me of someone else in the news a lot these days.

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    I'm not putting this on Maddon, that's silly. He's a great manager but players have to hold up their end.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I feel Maddons 'act' has worn real thin. Just my opinion.

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    Dude, that comment it tough to let slide. I'll toe the line...

    I believe Joe's track record of focusing his team when the games become urgent speaks for itself.

    We try to leave that other stuff out of our discussions. I will say we're doing pretty damn well.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I don't feel Joe can sell his act. The talent is here, not focused like it should be. Because his style is exposed. Worked well in small market like Tampa - but under more scrutiny it doesn't, longer term.

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    I can see your point. Maybe it was necessary in Tampa, and possibly even the first few years with a young Cubs team. Many of us commented back and forth in last night's game recap about "fun" vs. "respect". Some fans call him a terrible manager of a bullpen. Some fans don't like his care-free attitude. Some fans don't like his messages and catch-phrases. I'm a fan, and I like calling him our manager.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Fair enough BP. But a point that Moody just brought up could be relevant, how much of the hunger and 'eye of the tiger' attitude of 2016, was brought by the presence of guys like Ross and Dex - and Joe just played the role, and tried not to mess it up.

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    In reply to cubbustible:

    I didnt agree w your first statement but I do believe and agree w this one. I was a tampa partial season ticket holder for most of Maddon's time down there. When your quirky and do strange things in Tampa and your playing the Redsox and Yanks, everything you do that helps a team nobody expects to win makes you popular and bigger then life. Now he occasionally thinks he's bigger then the team. Lucky for us, he hasn't let it affect the results........yet

  • So frustrating watching all these talented players play like trash day in and day out.

  • Cubs are making Sanchez look like a Cy Young candidate.

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    Two possibilities, and neither is particularly appealing.

    Possibility #1: the players aren't as good as we think they are. Addy is no longer "young" and he just isn't putting it together. Baez is what he is, a low walk hitter who will live on his power. Schwarber may never justify taking him over Trea Turner. The majority of our young players are just okay.

    Possibility #2: something is very wrong in the clubhouse. I keep going back to that critical moment in spring 2015 when David Ross let Rizzo have it for half-assing a drill in practice. Laziness and a certain slackness in attitude could easily mask as a "hangover." Whether or not that's wholly or partly Maddon's fault is beyond my paygrade.

    Either way, there seems to be another issue they're struggling from: the plan was stated pretty boldly to use young position players as currency for pitchers. That hasn't worked. They're stuck with overpaying in currency or money for "okay" pitchers. That's not catastrophic but with the hitters not hitting it certainly contributes to a .500 team.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    The core of the offense is Rizzo and Bryant. In 2016, it was Fowler, Bryant, Rizzo and Zobrist. When the team jumped out to the ridiculous 25-6 record, I think a lot of it could be attributed to the fact that Zobrist and Fowler were two of the three best offensive players in the NL.

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    In reply to Cubswin09:

    I do think there's a lot to that. It's easy to forget but Fowler won a lot of those games almost single handedly with big hits. But that's not uncorrelated with what I'm saying. They let Fowler walk because the great young players coming up made him expendable, in theory.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    We can’t overlook the importance of a great lead off hitter. Dexter’s OBP in 2015 was .346 but in 2016 it was .393. That’s why we we constantly ahead. We also had the best defense in MLB. I’ve said before that I believe we need a lead off hitter more than pitching. Until that gets settled we won’t be that super team we were in 2016. We’re very good, but there’s another level we could be.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I think there is certainly an option #3: a fan base who freaks out when we don't dominate.

    Addy will never be the "Barry Larkin" that Beane promised. Baez is on his way to bring a perennial top-15 MVP candidate. Schwarber will hit 40 bombs, slash .280/.370/.530, and be dealt. Turner's a stud and I wish he was on my team.

    I agree completely on the leadership issue. Many here comment that leadership and even coaching shouldn't matter to these elite athletes, but it absolutely does. Rizzo is the appointed " leader" of this club, and for good reason. I wouldn't even try to contest what he has done in his life, on and off the field, but...

    You brought up an example in 2015. Cool. The example I've used was Rizzo leaning on Ross in Game 7, saying "I'm freaking out!" I know Rizzo is a leader, no question, but he leaned heavily on Grandpa Rossy. My point is that leadership seems to be lacking, and I've been saying this since early 2017.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    To characterize the level of play we've seen so far as "not dominating" seems overly optimistic after a spring of "No hangovers this year; We are ready to go!" and Joe closing last year with "We didn't win this year because we got off to a slow start." They've struggled significantly both pitching and hitting and the early bullpen work is starting to wane. The hitters aren't having good at bats in key situations and the pitchers aren't getting the big outs. You love to call me wrong. That's cool. I get it. But I don't think it's fair to mock Cubs fans for being concerned about it.

    Maybe the front office isn't concerned about this but -- if they aren't -- it certainly goes against what they were saying in the Spring about how important it was for everyone to be ready for a strong start.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I'll gladly mock Cubs fans, we're the worst fanbase in sports, but that said no one is wrong to be angry right now not even the meatballs. Someone on another site called it lack of effort and that goes against everything I believe about professional athletes, I think they always give effort but sometimes it's not enough. The fact is though, you are 100%, except for the bullpen there isn't one aspect of this team performing well right now. A couple individuals with some promise but nothing substantive as a team. This team is still going to win a lot of games but something has to change quickly for it to be entertaining to watch them try to do that.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Ok, that was harsh. Not the worst while Philadelphia exists in the sports world not to mention Red Sox fans. How about in the top third of sports fanbases? I'm salty today. I apologize.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I understand there is no "hangover" excuse this season. We need to get off to a quick start, and I was as excited as any Cubs fan by the (mandatory) Spring optimism.

    There are many things I am sure of, some things I'm confused about, and some things I would never do

    The Cubs will be good and go deep into the playoffs.

    I don't remember Maddon blaming last season's failure to reach the ultimate prize on a slow start to the season. I don't know why you think I try to prove you wrong, because we agree far more often than not.

    Most importantly, I've made it very clear that every fan is entitled to their own opinion. I respect that. I'm not mocking anybody.

    Good day.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    https://www.mlb.com/news/nlcs-game-5-joe-maddon-postgame-interview/c-259109786

    [T]his year really illustrates the importance of getting off to a good start. We didn't, and then we had to fight back, which we did. I said you can, but you're understanding when you find out you do that, it really expends a lot of energy when you get back into it, which we did.

    But, listen, it's another lesson learned for us. So that was one of the things. So you want to emphasize the importance of a good start going into next season, and whatever that means to you during this off-season to get ready for the next year, I wanted them to be cognizant of that.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Dude, Maddon and every other manager has been preaching the importance of a fast start since the beginning of competitive baseball. I see the flaws in this team, as I have the last couple years. I want to see progress in the young players, and I know we will.

    We're all Cubs fans. No need to be bitter.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Yankees brought Boone out of the ESPN booth, with no experience as a manager. If I'm Theo, I do the same with Rossy, if things don't change quickly.

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    Oh, heck no. If you absolutely had to make a change, and I do not it will get to that point, bring in Girardi. I want no part of a rookie manager in a contention window. I think that will come back to bite Cashman in NY.

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    Ross is one of the most over rated Cubs ever

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    Yanks, Nationals, Dodgers and a few others(Indians, etc) aren’t doing as WELL as the cubs. Should we form a new league/division and compete with them? Only ~ 92% of the season to go. SSS to start panicking isn’t it?

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I think you are over rating the young players on the team. I also think you are over valuing leadership in the clubhouse.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    With all due respect, where should I be rating clubhouse chemistry? I believe it is a real thing on a championship team. Don't you?

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Trae Turner is 10-50 as of the end of Thursday. I presume he’d be part of this dumpster fire we are all commenting on though 13 games as a flop.

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    These are hard to watch. It seems like we’re just getting out of situations and then with 2 outs it suddenly falls apart. This reminds me of last year; score 10 runs, get shut out twice, score a lot the next day.
    I don’t blame Joe when the hitters aren’t hitting, I do want the white hair back!

  • Disappointing to see darvish get out pitched by anibal sanchez who was in triple a last season and signed a minor league contract after being released by the twins a month ago. Darvish has a given up a hr in every start too

  • Whooa, Chip singing the 7th inning stretch and the Cubs stinking it up, gave me a bad feeling.

  • This albies kid is good,last year when the braves came to wrigley he was a nuisance

  • I think if I was pitching against the Cubs, I'd intentionally walk batters until the Cubs had runners in scoring position. It's comical how bad their production has been with RISP. Just by the laws of mathematics, you'd think they'd get a hit here or there on accident.
    Going into today with RISP: .193/.317/.294

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    Reminds you of last season’s failure doesn’t it. I guess LCS Is now considered a failure. World Series or bust?

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