Cubs @ Royals Series Preview: (8/5-8/6)

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So this is really a continuation of the two games at Wrigley the Cubs won. The bullpen keeps adding unnecessary drama to these contests. Craig Kimbrel struggled again on Tuesday, failing to close out the 9th inning. Chicago is winning these games, but it will be an issue against better competition.

Wednesday Nico Hoerner gets a start in center field with a lefty on the mound. The Cubs continue to get healthy production from the bottom of the lineup. The Royals lineup has not been effective save for the last inning Tuesday.

Watch/Listen

Wednesday: 7:05 PM CT on Marquee SN/670AM

Thursday: 6:07 PM CT FOX/670AM

Lineups

Cubs

1. Kris Bryant (R) 3B
2. Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B
3. Javier Baez (R) SS
5. Kyle Schwarber (L) LF
6. David Bote (R) 2B
7. Jason Heyward (L) RF
8. Nico Hoerner (R) CF
P. Yu Darvish (R)
Royals
1. Whit Merrifield (R) CF
2. Jorge Soler (R) RF
3. Ryan O'Hearn (L) 1B
5. Alex Gordon (L) LF
6. Ryan McBroom (R) DH
8. Maikel Franco (R) 3B
9. Nicky Lopez (L) 2B
P. Kris Bubic (L)
Bullpen Usage
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Lineups and Bullpen Usage via Baseball Press.

Opposing pitchers

Scouting Reports from Brooks Baseball.

Kris Bubic: Kris Bubic has thrown 75 pitches that have been tracked by the PITCHf/x system in 2020, all of them occuring in the MLB Regular Season. In 2020, he has relied primarily on his Fourseam Fastball (92mph) and Change (80mph), also mixing in a Curve (81mph).

Sean's note: Bubic had never pitched above A ball before starting for the Royals this July. He allowed 2 earned runs over 4 innings in his only start against the White Sox.

Brad Keller: Although he has not thrown an MLB pitch in 2020, Brad Keller threw 4,941 pitches that were tracked by the PITCHf/x system between 2018 and 2019, all of them occuring in the MLB Regular Season. In 2019, he relied primarily on his Fourseam Fastball (94mph), Slider (85mph) and Sinker (93mph). He also rarely threw a Change (89mph).

His fourseam fastball is straight as an arrow, generates a very high amount of groundballs compared to other pitchers' fourseamers, has some natural sinking action and has essentially average velo. His slider has exceptional depth, has short glove-side cut and results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers' sliders. His sinker has surprisingly little armside run, results in many more groundballs compared to other pitchers' sinkers and has slightly above average velo. His change is thrown extremely hard, is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers' changeups, has surprising cut action and results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers' changeups.

Sean's note: Keller has not started yet in 2020. He made 28 starts in 2019 with an ERA just over 4. Left handed and right handed hitters fared about equally against him.

Comments

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  • Interesting lineup with Nico Suave getting his 1st start in CF. We want the right-handed bat against the lefty Bubic, and being teammates at Stanford, Hoerner probably has some familiarity with his stuff and tendencies.

    That's the good news. There's usually another side to that coin, and I believe there is here. Everyone is raving on the Cubs hot start, and praising Boss Ross with motivating players and prioritizing production, putting the best product on the field to win that day's game. We saw it with starting Heyward against a lefty on a breezy, difficult night to play RF defense over Souza.

    Almora could be under the weather, I haven't heard. More likely, Ross has determined that Albert isn't an option as a starting player on a contending team. He may be relegated to a defensive-replacement role, and Ian Miller may be a better option if that's the case. I like Almora, but it's time he proves he deserves a spot on a contending roster.

    Yu will take the motivation of his staffmates success to heart, and pitch his best game of the season. 7 IP, 12K, 1BB, 2H, 0 ER. Some Cubs batters hit enough balls to score some runs. We win, 7-2.

    Go Cubs!

  • In reply to Mike Pilbean:

    I suspect that there are more few teams out there that would jump at the chance to have Almora patrolling center. I am surprised that Albert has not found his mojo in Chicago.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I don't mind the thought of Almora patrolling CF, but there's more to playing baseball than that. I haven't looked up current stats, but I believe I've seen that Almora may be among the worst, and I think maybe THE worst, offensive player in all of MLB over the last two seasons. A team can bury a weak bat in a strong lineup for a premier glove in CF, or SS for that matter, but our lineup isn't as bulletproof as we had hoped. We can't afford the automatic out. And honestly, I don't think Almora has developed into an absolutely premier defensive CF'er.

    Very good, yes. But not enough to cover the other deficiencies in his game.

  • In reply to Mike Pilbean:

    I wasn't disagreeing, I know he has sucked at the plate I think Almora
    was expected to be a pretty good bat on ball hitter and that he would get that chance elsewhere. I could be wrong, but I think Albert could still find his way on offense and that other orgs would agree. For some reason he has regressed. He seems to have a good attitude.

  • In reply to Mike Pilbean:

    #262 out of 273 hitters with over 300 at bats posting a stellar 64 wRC+. Safe to say he is the worst hitter on the field when he is in the lineup.

    Well, that changes when we play MIL with Arcia. LOL. He is THE WORST everyday hitter in all of MLB actually performing worse than Chris Davis. LMAO. I always thought he sucked, but.......

  • A couple other notes while we're on this topic:

    Ross discussed the decision to start Nico in CF in his interview before the game. He mentioned the familiarity with Bubic from their time together at Stanford. He said he had concerns about Nico's ability to handle CF defense in Kauffman Stadium, but coach Will Venable said Hoerner should be fine with the wide-open space and lack of peculiar angles. No mention of Almora, for better or worse. To me, that is coach-speak, and doesn't bode well for their confidence in Almora.

    Kimbrel also spoke to the media today, and admitted that his mechanics are off. He went so far as to say his arm slot is too low and he is likely tipping his pitches.

    It's one thing to admit it, but another thing to fix it. It is comforting to know that he accepts the problem and is willing to try. Many players with his track record are not so forthcoming.

    We shall see.

  • Javy should be on second.

  • Javy stood in the box for a full 3 seconds. Cost us a base and an out when Contreras grounded into a double play with Javy on first. I hope Ross benches him tomorrow night, he has to set an example that Maddon was unwilling to do.

  • In reply to jeffalson:

    Yep, disappointing. I don't know that Ross will deal with it by benching. I am sure Javy will hear about it.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Ross definitely doesn’t have to say anything to javy. Maybe he should spend more time showing jhey on how not to roll over into so many pitiful ground ball outs and double play s.

  • In reply to Oldno7:

    So last night when the cubs needed to move a runner to third Jhey grounds to third . Should be trying to pull the ball as he usually does!!

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    Let’s see what Ross says about Javy in his after the game press conference. Javy keeps looking and not running. What’s happened to Respect 90?
    I’ve been a huge Albert A fan, but he’s become an offensive liability and maybe a possible trade candidate. Ian Miller is supposed to be a very good defensive outfielder in all 3 positions and we know he’s got good speed.
    I like the clutch hitting in the 8th.

  • Variation showing Javy how to run the bases tonight.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Caratini that is.

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    Cubs Win!!

  • No mention of Yu???

    7 innings with 6 base runners throwing 2 of every 3 pitches for strikes. Only 93 pitches in 7 innings.

    Very good outing, Yu.

    Disappointed in Javy. While the ball is in play, you run. Period. If he half jogged out of the box he has a stand up 2B. I guarantee Ross said something and given the old school nature of Ross I could sense a private fine coming—maybe via the Kangaroo Court if Ross put that back in play. Not running is such a bad visual.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Good that you mentioned Yu. Jeffress again and Rea too. And heads up base running for Caratini. He was safe at home by a whisker.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I see Quintana could be back over the weekend. Does he start in the bullpen? We saw what kind of velo bounce Rea had from being a reliever compared to a starter. Could we see the same with Quintana?

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Quintana is scheduled to throw two simulated innings in South Bend today. This is his first "action" of the year, so I think it will be a couple weeks before he's ready to be recalled. I think he or Mills will be sent to the pen and that probably depends on Mills' performance in his next couple starts. If it ain't broke...

  • In reply to Mike Pilbean:

    If Mills keeps pitching as he has, I leave him in the rotation. He is a very good #5.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Starting pitching, solid defense, and timely hitting up and down the lineup. I think I've seen this movie before...

    Yu was awesome. Jeffress, by nearly every metric available, has been our most effective pen arm. Rea was also impressive, touching 95 MPH on his fastball, and more importantly, throwing strikes. 15 of 18 pitches for strikes, which has been a big problem with the pen so far.

    I missed part of the game, but I've seen video of the Baez play. He seemed to lose track of the ball, and the wind helped blow it back fair, but I agree: that's not his call to make. Just run, always, and then figure it out. He took the blame after the game, and Ross didn't seem too upset (publicly), saying he doesn't want to nitpick every play. That's probably covering for his player to the media, and I'm sure it will be mentioned.

    Having said that, I personally get more upset when he doesn't run while admiring something he hammered. Who can forget the basket-shot against Cuevo in 2016?

  • In reply to Mike Pilbean:

    *Cueto. I must have tequila on the brain.

  • In reply to Mike Pilbean:

    Mike, I hope you are right that Ross' statement was just a facade, because it is exactly how Maddon handled the same situations--pointing out that it was a "close play" (but of course you run on close plays until you see whether the ball is fair or foul, and this sends the message that Ross would be equally okay with Bryant and Rizzo standing on their bases until they see the ball drop fair) that he wouldn't "nitpick" one of his key players (sends the message that there is a double standard, I bet he wouldn't say that about Almora), that he "brings it every day" (well, not on that play). I don't have the exact numbers in front of me, but I think Javy makes about $60,000 per game and about $15,000 per at bat, and it is ridiculous that he can't invest running 50 or 60 feet for the team. I hope he took a different tack with Javy one-on-one and, more important, that the other players know it, or else he risks losing control of the team like Maddon did.

  • In reply to jeffalson:

    That information is best kept in-house. I also think this is nothing.

    I love Javy, and maybe some will think I'm just sticking up for him. I'm not. He should have ran, immediately. This is no big deal.

    This wasn't showboating or laziness. Javy lost track of a ball he clearly thought was foul. It was hit sky high, and the wind blowing right-to-left blew it back into play. No excuses, that's not his decision to make. Run until someone tells you otherwise.

    I just think that one instance is being blown way out of proportion because some people have a bias against Javy.

    As I said previously, I take much more offense when he dogs it out of the box on a HR. I'll call him out. This just isn't the instance to do so.

  • In reply to Mike Pilbean:

    I don't see any meaningful difference between the play last night and a possible home run ("hey, I did not run because I thought it was a home run!"). You either hustle for the good of the team or you do not hustle for the good of the team. I love Javy, and the only time I criticize him is when he does not hustle for the good of the team. Ross better have laid down the law to Javy, and his teammates need to know that there is not a double standard, or we are heading down the Maddon path.

  • In reply to jeffalson:

    I do see a big difference. Javy skied a ball he clearly thought was foul. He's done this thousands of times in his life, and I trust his judgement. He wasn't lazy or showboating, he simply thought with his years of experience the ball was way foul. It wasn't. He made a mistake.

    My argument is intent. In that moment, he thought the ball was foul. He has nothing to gain by standing in the box. It wasn't a lack of hustle or will to win. Javy has that, perhaps more than anyone on this team, and his teammates will tell you that. He thought the ball was foul, like a thousand other times. He was wrong. It happens. It was not intentional or malicious.

    I think it's blown out of proportion because it's Javier Baez. His teammates seem to agree, and they know more than I do.

  • In reply to Mike Pilbean:

    I just watched the replay a few more times. It is really hard to watch. 6 people are all moving, 5 in Javy's line of vision: Bryant (tho he can only go halfway until he is sure that the ball is not caught), Rizzo (halfway for the same reason), the RF, the 2B, the 1B, and even the umpire are all running toward the foul line. With 6 people moving, even if Javy cannot see the ball, his baseball instincts have to tell him that there is a chance the ball might be fair because why would everyone else be hustling so hard? And yet he stood in the box for nearly 3 seconds. And instead of shaking his head to acknowledge his mistake, he has a big smile on his face as if to say, "hey, I got lucky on that hit and RBI, eh?"

    My hope is that Rizzo or Lester explained to Javy that this is not acceptable.

  • In reply to Mike Pilbean:

    Javy knows better and he has really taken a step forward in situational hitting, including later in a similar at bat yesterday. I'm not sure what happened there, but I think everybody is moving on. Stuff happens.

  • Today is cut day, when MLB rosters need to be pared down to 28. The Cubs have optioned LHP's Rex Brothers and Justin Steele to South Bend. Both have options and will remain with the team.

    That leaves Kyle Ryan as the only lefty in the pen. The 3-batter-minimum rule has diminished the need for lefty/righty "specialists", but I still wonder if this says anything about their confidence in Burl Carraway's development.

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    I forgot about Yu, so even though you didn't ask--of course Yu may!!

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Yeah, I'm slacking. I missed some of last night's game. But baseball, and superstition during a winning streak...

    Yu was brilliant, and the pen threw strikes. Javy rebounded from an embarrassing moment, and the lineup produced up and down the order. I remember another year when we won from starting pitching and a diverse offense.

    The DirtyBirds were off again, though it looks like our series in St. Louis is a go for this weekend. The Reds continue to lose games despite "winning" the offseason, the Brewers won a game, and I think the Pirates still play some semblance of ML baseball, but I'm not really sure. We have sole possession of the best record in the NL at 10-2, tied with the Twins for the best in MLB, and a 4.5 game advantage in the NL Central through 12 (!) games.

    Thank Yu. May I have another?

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    In reply to Mike Pilbean:

    Yu may!!

  • In reply to Mike Pilbean:

    I like what the Reds did. Anytime a smaller market team increases payroll to try to improve their chances for playoffs I'm all for it. They jumped payroll from 2019 season by $40 million. I wish baseball hard more teams trying to make the playoffs during the off-season.

    Castellanos is on fire! 5-7 and they seem to be having big offensive struggles, & the bullpen also has problems...

  • The Cardinals will be missing a couple major cogs and could be a little rusty this weekend. It's baseball tho, so one never knows. Chapman tonight. Can we sweep? Why not!!

  • I'm sure Ross and his teammates spoke to javy behind closed doors. I'd be more mad if he didn't run out a home run with the ball being obviously in play like Barley said. As a competitor I'm sure javy was as frustrated as anyone to only get a single when he should've been standing at 2B in scoring position. But this one was just an honest accident to me, and they can address it more seriously if it keeps happening.

    On another note like Rbucato I've also noticed that pretty much no cubs beat writers outside of cubs den are giving darvish any headlines now that things are going well for him. This despite the fact that the man has been pitching like the Darvish we hoped for since June of 2019.

    I know KC isn't the best competition but I judge by process as much as results. Coming off his 2018 injury Darvish led the league in walks last year in mid-May, and didn't look like the same guy that he was before signing with the cubs. What has caught my eye is how he's been consistently attacking hitters you barely ever see him walk a hitter anymore. Darvish had an absurd 118:7 K:BB over the 2nd half last year on his way to a 2.37 xFIP over the 2nd half. He's seemingly picked up where he left off and I think you can make a case that he's pitching some of the best ball of his career. Right now he still has good strikeout numbers but he's getting his Ks attacking the hitters, and not walking guys. And we know with Darvish stuff it's not easy to string many hits together off of him when he's on his game, and not beating himself. His stats and peripherals have been really good for an extended period of time, and it seems like the Darvish haters around cubs nation aren't watching the same Darvish that I am. Whatever happened with his injuries in 2018 this guy is a legit asset to the cubs now, and his emergence is one of the biggest reasons why I'm gaining optimism towards this 2020 team. This rotation is just so much deeper with Darvish pitching like the guy the cubs expected they were signing. He brings a needed power arm to complement Lester, Hendricks and the others.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I agree Darvish has been great, and silencing the critics. So right about him attacking. He’s got some confidence back, that’s for sure. Last night, I didn’t even think he had his best stuff, and the defense helped him out some, but he never gave in or started nibbling. I was truly impressed that he went 7 solid innings and kept us in the lead of a tight game. This is the Darvish who earned that contract. He can help carry this team if he keeps pitching like that.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    You know cubber I had the same observation. I don't even think Darvish had his best yesterday, but he battled to post 7 innings. When he's on his A game he gets plenty of swings and misses, and he had only 4 Ks yesterday with less swinging strikes vs his previous outing. I think his consistency with his command of his different variations of cutters/breaking balls wasn't quite as locked in, but to Yu's credit he only walked 1 hitter. To me the outing was encouraging because he adapted on a day he didn't have his A game, and pitched moreso to contact. He even got out of a pretty big jam in the bottom of the 6th. His fastball command improved as the game went on, and he started to lean more on that pitch. I hope an outing like that with less strikeouts gets it through to Darvish that he doesn't have to pitch around guys with his stuff. He doesn't have to strikeout 10+ hitters a game to win.

    I'm making kinda a bold prediction here but I think the cubs have likely won the Arrieta vs. Darvish trade off. I loved Arrieta during his time here and think his 2015 stretch was as dominant as I've ever seen. I'll always be thankful for the player that he was, and he won a lot of big games for this team. But right now he's clearly experiencing a physical decline, and that's illustrated by his decline in velocity and spin rate. I don't want to crown or annoint Darvish after 2 good 2020 starts, but to me he's basically the same guy physically that he was in Texas even at age 33. I think it's fair to say he's aging more gracefully and I look for him to change the narrative that his contracts a bust.

  • As for Javy not hustling on the play last night. I honestly don't think that's a big deal. I'd bet it was handled properly in the back of the house and no one needs to be concerned about Ross's leadership. No I wasn't thrilled about it. Like another poster said, he has the baseball IQ to notice how every other player reacted on that hit and should've figured it out a little quicker that he needs to get moving down the line. At the same time, I've very much liked Javy's approach most of the time this year in the batter's box, as it looks more like he's bought into the team hitting concept of hitting the ball up the middle and not trying to hit a 500 foot homer during every at bat. Let the next man come up and do the same... He redeemed himself later in the game doing just that, hitting the ball up the middle to drive in a run and extend the inning, allowing Contreras to drive in another. And we all know those insurance runs (or as Rossy calls them, "manager runs") are very necessary right now. I think Javy from just a year ago would've been swinging for the fences in the 8th inning with 2 runners on and 2 outs.

  • Cubs sign the just released Kelvin Herrera to a minor league deal. Herrera was just released from a 2 year $17 million deal. This guy has a history of success going back to his KC days when he was a part of that elite pen featuring Greg Holland, Wade Davis, and Herrera. Unfortunately though he used to be mid to upper 90s and he's been around 91 thus far this year. I don't know if he's the same pitcher but I'm good with throwing darts at the wall, and seeing what sticks. Remember the cubs also have former Indians closer Cody Allen getting ready on a minor league deal.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Should have just signed Chapman after 2016 season. All this musical chairs with a closer and cf/lead off is directly on Theo Epstein. To have him spend all this money plus the trades to get a closer is ridiculous. To be excited for a washed up chad Allen or kelvin Herrera or Brandon Morrow is crazy. Now we are stuck with an inept Craig kimbrel and his high price tag. What will Theo do next? Theo is great at rebuilding teams but horrible at maintaining and free agency. His time is short in Chicago thankfully.

  • In reply to Oldno7:

    When the yankees want someone like Chapman they get their guy. They made a huge offer to Chapman and to me the cubs never had a chance to outbid them. Theo's made his share of mistakes with his win now moves since 2017. But he's also made a ton of good moves to put this core together in the 1st place. This is only the most successful cubs group in their franchise history last time I checked. Theo's not perfect and most GMs will inevitably make some mistakes when they'be been with one organization for almost 10 years now. But the Darvish signing many have called a bust only recently doesn't look so bad today. Darvish seems to have found his form with the cubs, and frankly he's been pitching well since June of 2019. I agree Theo seems to be better at rebuilding/identifying young talent vs. making win now moves. I think part of the reason he made those desperate moves though was because he knew this team had a limited championship window with an aging pitching staff. Add to that our entire young core for the most part will be free agents after 2021, and their was some desperation to make moves to win before 2021.

    I'm personally not excited for Allen or Herrera and I'm not putting high expectations on them. But why not sign established pitchers if you can get them on minor league deals? They essentially cost us nothing, and Herrera is only 30 while Cody Allen is 31. I Wouldn't be surprised if one or both of them aren't here by the end of the season. But if the Ricketts aren't allowing the front office to spend on real players, then they've gotta search for talent somewhere. I'll take these guys over guys like Maples or Norwood we need arms anywhere we can find them.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Epstein is still one of the few execs out there that will pull the trigger on the bigger deal....many haven’t worked out but I still like the way he will roll the dice trying.

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    Agreed he's a bit of a gunslinger, and it's part of why he's effective and part of why his moves bust sometimes. He overpaid on some moves, but he's also won the vast majority of trades that he's made. He certainly isn't afraid to fail trading his own prospects the way many less accomplished executives are. In general I see cubs fans turning on Theo, but I'd say be careful what you wish for folks. It's not like an elite executive like say dodgers president Andrew Friedman would come into replace him, unless they're okay with hiring perhaps former astros GM Jeff Luhnow. Luhnow couldn't cheat this time though. Realistically we would most likely see Jed Hoyer promoted, or they'd likely hire another young, forward thinking, and cheap executive. Relying on the ricketts to hire a young executive that isn't established doesn't sound too promising to me.

    To me it's easy as a fan to freak out when a few moves don't go well. It really is a what have you done for me lately type of job. But I try to judge guys on their total body of work, rather then on a few moves. And the entire body of work shows that Theo has presided over the most successful Red Sox and cubs groups ever. He's already a hall of fame executive while only in his 40s. He's not perfect and I don't agree with every move he makes. But he's the best option that we have available, and that's coming from a guy that fully supported moving on from joe maddon. In other words I'm not just blindly defending this regime for the sake of defending them. That said I don’t see the ricketts paying him again, as I think they’re satisfied to rest on their curse breaking WS title.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I also like Theo and company. For some reason his high priced free agent signings since he was with Boston has had a lot of misses.

    From the outside looking in, the front office looks to be run much more professionally. I assume the Cubs are spending more money on the front office, technology, scouting, coaching, and player development then the Tribune company ever did...

    People complained about Dallas Green, and then we got Jim Frey...YIKES!

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