Cubs vs. Diamondbacks: Series Preview (4/19-4/21)

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The Cubs took care of business with a three-game sweep of the Marlins in Miami. While the Fish are lousy, a sweep is always an accomplishment. Even more so considering Chicago has struggled in Marlins Park since it opened.

The real story of the series was the excellent pitching performance. The Marlins scored two total runs and were shutout the last two games. Cole Hamels, Jose Quintana, and even the struggling Yu Darvish were good. Javy Báez was sizzling hot with two homers and several other big hits.

The Cubs head back to Wrigley for three games with the Arizona Diamondbacks this weekend. Key pieces Paul Goldschmidt and AJ Pollock are gone, lowering expectations in the desert. David Peralta is still a big bat in the heart of the order and Zack Grenike is still pitching at the top of the rotation. The D-Backs are off to a decent 10-9 start so far in 2019.

The North Siders have gone 7-3 since their rough 1-6 start to sit at 8-9 for the year. Their run differential is +18, which is the best in the NL Central. Things have clearly stabilized since that puzzling bad opening. Having played 12 road games and only five at home probably didn't help much either.

The Cubs have clawed out of their early hole, now they have to keep up their strong play. The offense, despite Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant slumping, looks excellent so far. If the starting pitching can keep impressing like it has, they should keep winning. Here's hoping they do, because, winning is a lot more fun than losing.

Watch/Listen

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

Saturday: 1:20 PM CT on ABC-7/670AM

Sunday: 1:20 PM CT on NBC Sports Chicago/670AM

Lineups

Diamondbacks

1. Wilmer Flores (R) 2B
2. Eduardo Escobar (S) 3B
3. David Peralta (L) LF
4. Adam Jones (R) RF
6. Ketel Marte (S) CF
7. Nick Ahmed (R) SS
8. Caleb Joseph (R) C
9. Merrill Kelly (R) P

Cubs

1. Daniel Descalso (L) 2B
2. Kris Bryant (R) RF
3. Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B
4. Javier Baez (R) SS
6. Jason Heyward (L) CF
7. David Bote (R) 3B
8. Kyle Schwarber (L) LF

Bullpen Usage

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Lineups and Bullpen Usage via Baseball Press.

Opposing pitchers

Scouting Reports from Brooks Baseball.

Merrill Kelly: So here is where I normally put a scouting report on Merrill Kelly from Brooks Baseball. Since he has only made three career starts he doesn't have one, so I have to do one on my own. He throws a fastball (92 miles an hour), cutter (89 mph), change (85 mph) and a curve (80 mph).

Sean's Note: Kelly has pitched the last four seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization. He made his MLB debut this year at age 30. He has had good control through out his minor league career and has struck out a league average number of hitters this season. Lefties have teed off on him early with a .314 average.

Zack Greinke: Zack Greinke has thrown 37,500 pitches that have been tracked by the PITCHf/x system between 2007 and 2019, including pitches thrown in the MLB Regular Season, the MLB Postseason and Spring Training. In 2019, he has relied primarily on his Fourseam Fastball (90mph) and Change (87mph), also mixing in a Slider (83mph), Sinker (90mph) and Curve (71mph). He also rarely throws a Slow Curve (68mph) and Splitter (82mph).

His fourseam fastball is straight as an arrow and has below average velo. His change generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers' changeups, is much firmer than usual, results in more flyballs compared to other pitchers' changeups and has some natural sink to it. His slider has short glove-side cut and has some two-plane movement. His sinker is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers' sinkers, has less armside run than typical, results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers' sinkers and has slightly below average velo. His curve comes in below hitting speed, is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers' curves, has a sharp downward bite, results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers' curves and has slight glove-side movement. His slow curve is a real yakker that's separated from his other curveball due to its big drop and slow speed. His splitter is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers' splitters, has surprising cut action, is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers' splitters, has below average velo and has movement that suggests a lot of backspin.

Sean's Note: The veteran Greinke is off to a very un-Greinke like start in 2019. He has a 5.79 ERA in 23.1 innings thanks largely to a whopping eight homers allowed. Most of the damage is coming from fellow right handed hitters, who are hitting .278 with six homers. So look for a more right-handed heavy lineup against him.

Robbie Ray: Robbie Ray has thrown 11,906 pitches that have been tracked by the PITCHf/x system between 2014 and 2019, including pitches thrown in the MLB Regular Season, the MLB Postseason and Spring Training. In 2019, he has relied primarily on his Fourseam Fastball (93mph) and Slider (83mph), also mixing in a Curve (81mph). He also rarely throws a Sinker (93mph).

His fourseam fastball results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers' fourseamers, has slightly above average velo, has slightly less natural movement than typical and has some added backspin. His slider generates a high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers' sliders and results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers' sliders. His curve generates fewer whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers' curves, is much harder than usual, has little depth, has primarily 12-6 movement and results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers' curves. His sinker (take this with a grain of salt because he's only thrown 18 of them in 2019) generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers' sinkers, is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers' sinkers, has well above average velo, has less armside run than typical and has little sinking action compared to a true sinker.

Sean's Note: Ray had a bit of a down year in 2018 after his good 2017. He has allowed 14 runs in just 21.1 innings pitched in 2019. He walked hitters at pretty alarming 13.3% in 2018 and is even higher at 16.3% so far this year. He also misses a ton of bats with a 31% strike out rate in 2018. The key is to take advantage of the walks so the few hits he allows really hurt.

 

 

Filed under: Series Preview

Comments

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  • I would love to see big Z do well in his bid to make it back to the MLB. Be a great story if he was in the cubs bullpen.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Burned too many bridges......

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    Really???? How is that?

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Wasn’t he the first one Epstein jettisoned out of town when he took over? Zambrano’s antics won’t play well here anymore.

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    Not sure on Epstein. Thought he was gone before that? Tommy LaStella and Addison had some bad antics. I don’t think Theo cares about that. Bottom line if he could help the cubs bullpen????

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    I see your point.....would almost think they would go with a minor league call up first if it ever came to that though....

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    He is almost 38 years old now. Don't see it happening and don't want it to happen. The Ricketts have a tight budget. Don't think they cab afford the cost of water coolers in the dugout.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    I hope it happens. If he is good enough to help that would be great. Don’t think he’d be expensive. I think most fans would welcome him back.

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    I'd like to see both Kyles do well today. They need it.
    Bases loaded, no outs and Hendricks up. We need at least 2 runs this inning.

  • This is a perfect day to play for Kris "popup" Bryant. LOL

  • I know it wasn't exactly the hardest contact but KB needed that I almost felt like he was pressing harder in RBI spots at times. It drives me crazy when the cubs strand runners at 3rd with less than 2 outs but in this case it worked out for the best. Sometimes it's the soft timely hits that start a hot streak and I'm hoping that's the case with Bryant it's scary to think how good they can be if he can get back into form.

  • This is a perfect weather day for KB and his weak pop ups !!! : )~

  • Why even have Baez pretend to bunt, let alone actually bunt?

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    I love watching games like this, to see how far the ball travels while in the air, both long gone and horizontally.
    I also like how we’re taking a lot of pitches and getting walks. Unfortunately we’re not scoring many runs, but we’re running up the pitch count and they’ll be using their bullpen early.

  • A LOT of lost opportunities so far today. I hope it doesn't come back to bite them.

  • In reply to INSaluki:

    Just tell Javy not to swing at anything today they have at least 2 more runs following that theory.

  • Why does KB get banged on so much and Rizzo given a pass? Rizzo is at .172!!!!!

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Rizzo constantly starts slow and rebounds. I’m guess I just don’t worry much about Rizzo he’s just been so steady throughout the years. But last year wasn’t one of his better years and he’s really struggling again this season. Maybe he’s getting more of a pass then deserved although unlike Bryant he’s not coming off 2 straight down years

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I think Bryant has had only one down year. In 2018 and he was injured for a good part of that one. I thought Rizzo bounced back pretty good after that slow start last year. Hopefully they both get it going pretty soon.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    That's honestly what I think 2016 and I'm not bashing Bryant at all. I'm just giving an explanation on why fans probably feel Rizzo is a higher floor player at this point. Not only do I think Bryant was injured badly in 2018 but I actually also think he was injured in 2017. He was playing all star starter (not just all star) caliber baseball in 2017 until he hurt his wrist and hand in June I know one of the injuries occurred against the nationals. I don't have splits on hand but I know he had about 20 home runs before the injury and this was in June. He ended up with only 29 home runs on the year I definitely think the wrist affected his production. In other words, who really knows when was the last time he's been himself, but I certainly hope he can stay healthy so we can see the real KB.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I agree. I of course want to see that also.
    Oh by the way, I did not think you were bashing Bryant.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Tough room to say Bryant had a "down" year in 2017 with a .295/.409/.537/.946 which is much better than .290/.326/.554/.881.... Just saying.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    I admit cubber when analyzing Bryant’s numbers his advanced metrics are better then you’d think. Personally I think a lot of that production came in the 1st half but I think he was horrible that year in big rbi spots especially in the 2nd half. Personally I admit that looking at 2017 as a down year is harsh on my end, but I think his metrics are misleading. He wasn’t particularly good after his June injuries. I know you hate the rbi stat cubber but I think Bryant was absolutely abysmal in rbi spots in 2017 with only 73 rbis. Now I get people think The rbi stat is outdated but for me I agree and disagree with that statement. I think when viewed alone those statistics have less value that’s why I try to analyze using metrics and traditional stats I think combining the 2 gives you a more accurate picture of player performance. To me it’s always troubling when a player hits 30 home runs and barely even had double the amount of rbis, and Bryant was really bad in rbi spots that season.

    I understand Bryant’s always been a metrics darling but I don’t even think you can compare the 2s impact when viewing javys 2018 vs KBs 2017. There’s a reason why javy was voted 2nd in mvp voting while not necessarily having an absurd WAR or OPS. I think evaluators understand that his impact is felt on 3 levels: as perhaps the most feared baserunner in the game, as a versatile defender that plays high end defense anywhere, and recently with the bat where I don’t trust anyone more in rbi spots. And that’s even with today’s lousy game javy just has a contact ability (ability to cover any pitch within the strike zone) that others on the team lack. That said good points on Bryant’s 2017 I think when a 6 WAR season is your down year you must be doing something really well. I know KB is gonna be fine and I’m glad both are on my team. It’s scary to think about how dangerous this lineup can be if they can get all of Contreras, javy and bryzzo rolling

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I feel sorry for the leagues’s pitchers. Maybe both those guys get hot at the same time.

  • A 30-year old rookie pitcher with 19 IP can go 3 2/3 against this Cubs lineup walking 7 batters, yet he can strike out Javy 3 times while just throwing only 3 of his 15 pitches in the strike zone.

    Javy struck out on 3 pitches with the bases loaded and 2 outs. Not one pitch in the zone...

    Hopefully our bullpen brings their A game.

  • Great job by Hendricks today and even though the competition has been weaker this is a great way of getting the pitching on track which it has. Just noticed the era’s of the Mets and Brewers......not good.

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    Agreed wickdipper I don’t know why but I don’t worry about Hendricks even when he’s struggling. He seems to have mechanical issues keeping that sinker down all the time and then figures it out as the season progresses. Hopefully we can avoid the midseason slump he had last year, and this start gets him back in track

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    29 or 30 straight innings without a run allowed by the pitching......that is gettin’ it done!

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    Starting pitching looks outstanding. If they can get Morrow back healthy and add another reliever at the deadline I'd feel a lot better as well.

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    I’m surprised that Javy didn’t try and steal 2nd this inning. With KB at 3rd it seemed like a good percentage play although it worked out ok but I’d like to see us put more pressure on the other teams. He’s really the only player we have with speed, although he is more quick than fast and his quick-twitch reactions make him seem faster.

  • I know the 1st hit was extremely fortunate but KB with a quiet 2-3 day with a walk. The rebound has to start somewhere

  • No jinx...

    The Cubs haven't thrown three consecutive shutouts since July of 1992.

    So, as I type this, there it goes. :(

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Doh! (Hee, hee). But gotta love 7 shutout innings by the professor!

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    And .500.

    W.

  • Chatwood starting Sunday??? With an off day this past Thursday and this upcoming Monday why in the world do they want to start an unreliable pitcher that isn’t stretched out, and hasn’t pitched since April 10. With all of these off days it should be a no brainer to go with a 4 man rotation while they can. I honestly think part of the rotations recent success was a by product of being allowed to skip chatwoods last start. I hope he wins and proves me wrong but his ceiling is probably 4-5 innings given he isn’t stretched out. I disagree with the call I think pitching darvish while he isn’t in his best form and then chatwood makes it difficult for the cubs to sweep this series against a vulnerable D-Back team

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Hate to say it but this feels like politics to keep chatwood stretched out and content

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    The snow out wound up playing to our advantage.....I don’t understand this move either.....but, we have to use him sometime, maybe Lester will be ready for LA....then you have him, Hamels and Quintana lined up for them.

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