Cubs vs Cardinals Series Preview: (9/19-9/22)

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The Cubs maddening inconsistency reared it's head again against the Reds. Chicago lost two of three games to Cincinnati; the losses prevented them from gaining ground in the division and the wild card races.

Now the first-place Cardinals come to Wrigley for a season-defining four-game series. The Cubs are three games back of St. Louis with just ten games left in 2019. The Cards starting pitching has had a tremendous second half to catapult them to the top of the standings.

Marcell Ozuna and Dexter Fowler are leading the charge on offense. Paul Goldschmidt, of legendary Cub killer status, is also playing much better of late. The task is surely a daunting one for an undermanned Chicago team.

The losses of Anthony Rizzo and Javy Báez may be too much for the North Siders to overcome. That being said, seven of their final ten games are against the Cardinals, so they can control their own destiny.

By my rough math, the Cubs are going to need to go at least 8-2 to have a shot at the division. They will have to win both series against St. Louis and sweep the Pirates. I don't think anyone has confidence they can actually do that. All we the fans can do is watch and hope for the best.

Watch/Listen

Thursday: 6:15 PM CT on Fox/670AM

Friday: 1:20 PM CT on MLB Network/ABC-7/670AM

Saturday: 1:20 PM CT on MLB Network/WGN/670AM

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

Lineups

Cardinals

1. Dexter Fowler (S) RF
2. Kolten Wong (L) 2B
4. Marcell Ozuna (R) LF
5. Paul DeJong (R) SS
6. Yadier Molina (R) C
7. Tommy Edman (S) 3B
8. Harrison Bader (R) CF
9. Jack Flaherty (R) P

Cubs

1. Ben Zobrist (S) 2B
3. Kris Bryant (R) 3B
4. Kyle Schwarber (L) LF
6. Victor Caratini (S) 1B
7. Jason Heyward (L) CF
8. Nico Hoerner (R) SS

Bullpen Usage

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Lineups and Bullpen Usage via Baseball Press.

Opposing pitchers

Scouting Reports from Brooks Baseball.

Jack Flaherty: Jack Flaherty has thrown 5,853 pitches that have been tracked by the PITCHf/x system between 2017 and 2019, all of them occuring in the MLB Regular Season. In 2019, he has relied primarily on his Fourseam Fastball (95mph) and Slider (85mph), also mixing in a Curve (78mph) and Sinker (92mph). He also rarely throws a Change (87mph).

His fourseam fastball generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers' fourseamers, has less armside movement than typical, has some natural sinking action and has slightly above average velo. His slider generates a high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers' sliders, has short glove-side cut, has less than expected depth and results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers' sliders. His curve is a real worm killer that generates an extreme number of groundballs compared to other pitchers' curves, generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers' curves, has a sharp downward bite and has slight glove-side movement. His sinker generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers' sinkers, has less armside run than typical and has some natural sinking action. His change is much firmer than usual.

Sean's Note: Flaherty has been the best pitcher in baseball since the All-Star Break, with a 1.05 ERA in 77 innings. He gets a ton of strikeouts (29.5%) with his wipe out slider. He is a fly ball pitcher, so his one weakness is the home run ball with 24 allowed in 174.1 innings. The Cubs have scored six runs off him in 15.2 innings this season, he threw seven one-hit innings against them in August.

Michael Wacha: Michael Wacha has thrown 14,849 pitches that have been tracked by the PITCHf/x system between 2013 and 2019, including pitches thrown in the MLB Regular Season and the MLB Postseason. In 2019, he has relied primarily on his Fourseam Fastball (93mph) and Change using a Circle Change grip (86mph), also mixing in a Cutter (90mph) and Curve (76mph). He also rarely throws a Sinker (93mph).

His fourseam fastball has essentially average velo. His change generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers' changeups and is slightly firmer than usual. His cutter is a real worm killer that generates an extreme number of groundballs compared to other pitchers' cutters and has slightly above average velo. His curve has a sharp downward bite and has slightly below average velo. His sinker is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers' sinkers, has less armside run than typical, has little sinking action compared to a true sinker, results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers' sinkers and has slightly above average velo.

Sean's Note: Like the rest of the Cardinals staff, Wacha has been much better in the second half. His strike out rate is below average at just 18% and he has given up a whopping 26 homers in just 121 innings. Right handed hitters have crushed him with a .308 average and 16 homers. The Cubs scored 4 runs on Wacha in a five inning start in May.

Dakota Hudson: Dakota Hudson has thrown 3,119 pitches that have been tracked by the PITCHf/x system between 2018 and 2019, all of them occuring in the MLB Regular Season. In 2019, he has relied primarily on his Sinker (94mph) and Cutter (88mph), also mixing in a Fourseam Fastball (94mph) and Slider (82mph). He also rarely throws a Change (88mph).

His sinker generates a very high amount of groundballs compared to other pitchers' sinkers, has less armside run than typical, has slightly above average velo and has some natural sinking action. His cutter generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers' cutters, has heavy sink and has strong cutting action. His fourseam fastball has heavy sinking action, is a real worm killer that generates an extreme number of groundballs compared to other pitchers' fourseamers, has slightly above average velo and has slightly less natural movement than typical. His slider has exceptional depth and has short glove-side cut. His change is thrown extremely hard and results in more flyballs compared to other pitchers' changeups.

Sean's Note: Hudson is an extreme ground ball pitcher with 57% of his contact on the ground. He doesn't strike out many hitters and his walk rate is above average at 10.7%. His FIP of 4.99 is way higher than his 3.54 ERA, so he has been very lucky. Left handed hitters fare better against Hudson than right handed batters.

Miles Mikolas: Miles Mikolas has thrown 7,451 pitches that have been tracked by the PITCHf/x system between 2011 and 2019, including pitches thrown in the MLB Regular Season, Spring Training and Fall/Winter Ball. In 2019, he has relied primarily on his Fourseam Fastball (94mph), Sinker (94mph), Slider (87mph) and Curve (79mph). He also rarely throws a Change (88mph).

His fourseam fastball generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers' fourseamers, has some natural sinking action, has essentially average velo and has slightly less natural movement than typical. His sinker generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers' sinkers and has slightly above average velo. His slider is much harder than usual. His curve has an exceptional bite and results in many more groundballs compared to other pitchers' curves. His change generates fewer whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers' changeups, is much firmer than usual, has slight armside fade and has some natural sink to it.

Sean's Note: Mikolas has had a down year from his strong 2018 season. He has allowed ten more homers this season in 26 fewer innings pitched. He strikes out a below average number of batters and he has excellent control. The percentage of hard contact against him is up 9% from last year. He has given up just four runs in 16.1 innings pitched against the Cubs in 2019.

Filed under: Series Preview

Comments

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  • Urgency? Motivation? Do we really need to have any buzzwords entering this series? Our season starts now, and we've played ourselves behind the 8-ball. This is it, boys.

    I love this verse on it's own, but the song title pretty much sums up where we are and where we may be in a few days. What are we? From Van Halen's "DOA" ( Dead or Alive):

    "We was broke and hungry on a summer day.
    They sent the sheriff down to try and drive us away.
    We was sittin' ducks for the police man.
    They found a dirty faced kid in a garbage can."

    Go Cubs!

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    All hands on deck as Kimbrel activated. Definitely need this dude.

  • Article out today that David Ross will replace Maddon. Not a surprise here, I still recall Rizzo in the dugout talking to Ross during game 7 of World Series at a critical time, didn’t see anyone huddling with Maddon. Then during rain delay game 7, it was a struggling Jason Heyward that gave a motivational talk to the team, not Maddon. Maddon was lost game 6(his overuse of Chapman), then game 7(removing Hendricks to early).
    Then look at the demise of an all star shortstop like Addison Russell and a young talented pitcher like Carl Edwards Jr who lost his focus “dancing in the bullpen” celebrating? There’s been a lot wrong here in Chicago wasting the best young core we’ve had in decades.

  • In reply to Roe Skidmore:

    Not a chance! The next manager is sitting in the dugout already. Ross still cashing in on his World Series fame. Go back to Dancing with the Stars with this dope.

  • In reply to Oldno7:

    Ross would be a fundamentally sound manager, not one of gimmicks like Maddon. Maddon is wasting our young talented core, same as he wasted talent in Tampa. Open your eyes and see.

  • In reply to Roe Skidmore:

    Only thing I saw was Hoyer refused to answer a question as to whether Ross would replace Maddon. Where did you see your article?

  • In reply to stix:

    One of the Chicago sportswriters put out a tweet a couple days ago that the decision has already been made that Ross is the manager next season. Take that for what it's worth. It could be, it could not be. But that's what started the buzz.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Thanks

  • I believe the cubs need 3/4 this weekend and would prefer all. Just saw a tweet from Bruce Levine that Javy might be available to pinch run. Also cleared to hit off a tee.

  • In reply to stix:

    We've speculated here, with people noting that they hadn't seen him in the dugout. Is he with the team? My guess was that he is, but apparently he hasn't been. I'm encouraged by this news. That tells me he has been away from the team on an aggressive rehab assignment. Cool beans!

    Cubs to Javy: You can run, but you cannot slide. At least not head-first.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I see that Maddon just said he was "close" to using Javy to pinch-run last night, I guess in the Descalso/Caratini situation. So Javy is now back with the team.

    He's healing quickly. The big issues are gripping a bat, obviously, but also squeezing his glove playing defense. That's the issue that made him remove himself from his last game. The door has not been completely shut that he can't return before the end of the regular season. Javy's replacement could be activated at any moment as well.

    All hands on deck.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Descalso, hasn't been on base since July I believe. Not much need to pinch run for him. I have also seen Baez in the dugout with a black cast on.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Baez was in the dugout. I seen him on TV a couple of times. Black cast like bandage on the hand.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Javy IS there.....has been back for a couple days. And we NEED him back!
    If Rizzo walks one off tonight the Cardinals might as well head to the airport......

  • Surprised we're not mixing in a combination of Almora Jr., Bote, Happ, or Garcia at CF or 2B, instead of always playing Heyward and/or Zobrist............

  • In reply to Treebeard:

    I'm not. It's crunch time. We rotate players throughout the season to keep everyone fresh. We're in must-win mode now.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I hear that............

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Cubs should have been in "must win" mode all along.

  • In reply to clarkAddson:

    All year? Then they would have been like the ‘69 Cubs, toast by August

  • In reply to Treebeard:

    Heyward has stepped up his game since breaking out of the epic slump. He's playing like a veteran and putting up good at bats and getting timely hits.

    And Zobrist... Are you kidding? I don't want to see Happ playing second base or coming up to bat when it counts most. Zo is the man.

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    I'm not necessarily saying people should be playing besides Heyward and Zobrist, I'm just noticing they're not getting any rest.......

  • In reply to Treebeard:

    No rest for the wicked... or the desperate. We are desperate.

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    I would wrap Javy's thump in as much bubble wrap as possible if he did run.
    I think we have to focus on the WC race. I just don't see us overtaking the Cards--maybe if we had won yesterday, but winning maybe 6 of 7 with them is highly unlikely--we couldn't win 2 of 3 against the REDS!
    Wash is within reach thought and Milw too. Let's find a way to get into the playoffs and then worry about who we play.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Whether its division or wild card if we don't win minimum 7 and better guess 8 out of 10 the season is probably over.

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    According to the Score, Hamels is scratched from Saturday's start and Alec Mills will start. Hamels is dealing with shoulder fatigue, apparently. Something has been bothering him.

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    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    One more thing. Kimbrel has been activated for tonight's game. Good.

  • Rizzo playing tonight. Hamels scratched from his Saturday start.

  • Wow! Everyone is stunned. Rizzo was on a scooter two days ago, and supposed to be in the immobilizing boot until *at least* Friday, then beginning a long rehab.

    Rizzo was just added to the lineup, starting at 1B.

    There must be something in the water. Don't tell me, I honestly don't want to know.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Craziest thing I've ever seen. You just have to hope he doesn't re-injure himself. Still, mad props to the man. Also Baez is available to pinch run.

  • WOW! Rizzo in the lineup. That was a fast 6-8 weeks out as many were saying here.

  • Javy and Kimbrel and Rizzo, oh my!

    All hands on deck.

    Rizzo did have a cortisone shot Monday and spent nearly 48 hours of continuous treatment. After that I'm plugging my ears and chanting "la-la-la-la-la...". I don't want to know.

  • Tony Rizzo is freaking stud. Len is on the radio with Pat, h said that "they" say Rizzo is a fast healer and playing is about pain tolerance. Sheesh, dude wants it bad.

    The diagnosees around here had him laid up up till Thanksgiving.

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    Must be Thanksgiving.

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    I like Rizzo. Sometimes I wonder how hurt he really was???? Just glad he is back.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    He wasn't faking it, but the injury was way less severe than everyone initially predicted.

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    I didn’t think he was faking. Just thought over dramatic. They had a boot and scooter immediately. I say cubs staff deserve credit.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Over dramatic? On whose part? You saw the replays......

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    I think on Rizzo’s part And the fan base too. But it doesn’t matter cause we aren’t playing well again.

  • As an old timer. This has all the earmarks of Gibson VS Jenkins match up.

  • I’m sorry folks. I have read comments on Rizzo in the lineup as being the savior to the season. I still believe this team with or with out rizzo is good enough to win the division.

  • In reply to Wild Bill:

    Hope you’re right. Rizzo isn’t much better than Caratini if that the way he tried to field the bunt in the third.

  • In reply to stix:

    Except for the HR :)

  • In reply to stv711:

    :):) Caratini would have hit it on Waveland. :):)

  • In reply to stix:

    Maddon or Loretta should have called for a standard defense against the bunt. Come on. That's a no-brainer.

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    Some heavily criticized decisions are debatable. That one is not. Dumb. Just dumb.

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    Can’t give up too many more against Flaherty.

  • Kirk Gibson.

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    Willis Reed of the NY Knicks.

  • Classic. Was that 1988?

  • In reply to Wild Bill:

    Gibson was , Reed was in the 1970’s

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    In reply to stix:

    He was very hurt and scored the first 2 points and didn’t score again but guarded Wilt. Classic case of an injured player surprising everyone by playing. 1970.

  • A little more launch angle KB!!

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    He can’t keep letting the lead off man get on—especially in scoring position.

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    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Maybe next inning.

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    How about this strike zone?!

  • Not getting the same zone. That's tough at home when you're fighting for a playoff spot.

  • And willy goofs it! I'm beyond sick of this team's fundamentals!

  • Contreras has had problems all year catching throws and tagging runners. Goldie should have been out by 15 feet if Contreras doesn’t bobble the catch with on Schwarbers throw.

  • In reply to stix:

    If he doesn’t boot it then he doesn’t try to score.

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    Too inconsistent all around, all year long. Time for some real changes, Theo.

  • Doesn’t matter. You can’t win if you can’t hit. Same as 2017,2018 and now 2019. Worst contact team in baseball.

  • In reply to TheSarge#36:

    Must be the hitting coaches fault . They have had them like vitamins-one a year.

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    Can we even score again? There is time left but let’s settle down, take pitches, get the bat on the ball, saying every cliche I know. This is where losing 2 of 3 to the Reds really hurt, that and Milw wining 11 of 12 too.

  • This game so far is a perfect example of the "supposed launch angle" against the contact hitters.

  • O for that number 4 pick in the draft that's going to cost the Cubs preseason play. All of the outfielders Theo passed on in the last three
    years hurts.
    Maybe the Cubs can get into the American League so they can have a DH.
    Is K.B. hurt ? He sure doesn't look good. Changing the manager without gutting part of the lineup won't work. Changes
    need to be made.

  • In reply to ronvet69:

    Well costing preseason play isn’t much cost, is it? Contreras should have caught the throw home that’s not Schwarbers fault.

  • After watching this ridiculous moving strike zone, I've come to the conclusion that the only reason Rob Manfred won't go to a electronic zone to aid the Umpires, is that it will hurt the betting line on games.

  • In reply to ronvet69:

    You don’t understand. Molina’s great framing ability would go by the wayside and he would lose his reputation as a great catcher. All those pitches outside the zone are statistically credited to the catcher’s framing ability.

  • Just plain old good baseball by the Cardinals. Solo homeruns and strikeouts just plain boring. Things will have to change in the hot stove season. Please no hour long dissertations this time Theo. Just action.

  • Willy then can't get the run home OR get to second when Schwarber forces 4 throws on the rundown.
    Let's talk next year:
    So can you keep Schwarber as your 4th OF/ pinch hitter/'3rd catcher cause screw it why not', if you don't trade him this offseason? Or do you have to trade him in order to get an ace, leadoff/cf/contact hitter, and resign costellanos?

  • In reply to DarBar15:

    Doubt the cubs can sign Castellanosand stay under the salary cap unless they can have Heyward resign.

  • In reply to stix:

    I was thinking it's Castellanos or Garrett Cole, but not both

  • 12 hits total in the last three games. Terrific offense. 4 runs allowed should keep them in the game but not when they score 5 over 3 games.

  • 3 & 0 He swings at balls in the dirt and watches strike three.Go figure.

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    Win it in extras!

  • Huge rally!! Would have been even better if Nico could have Suave’d, but if they can win this it could save the season

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    Never mind

  • Too many 1st hitter multi base hits. Are our pitchers too predictable or is it poor pitching command? Too much pressure on the pitcher when he starts in the hole!

  • Ouch
    That loss might be worse than if they didn’t come back to tie it

  • To bad Kimbrel had to get off the IL today!

  • "The cubs have the most talent, they should win the division" that's what they said

    "the reds aren't that good sonny gray had terrible #'s with the yankees " that's what they said.Until he shut the cubs down in a must win game and the reds won the series this week and season series.

    When baez went down the season was over,mr overrated blinky bryant did NOTHING to step up and has underwhelming #'s since late july. Yea let's sign that guy for 280+ mil

    thankfully this offseason theo who has ruined what was once a great situation can earn his pay.

  • In reply to bolla:

    Blah Blah Blah.

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