Series Preview: Cubs vs Yankees 5/5-5/7

The Yankees are off to a surprising hot start. They enter the anticipated series as one of the three teams with a winning percentage over .600. This series is different and special. You will be told how different and special this is ad nauseam on two national broadcasts, but it doesn’t make it any less true. It is like the Cubs trip to Fenway in that it just will feel different, and an added bonus is that both teams are good again. The Yankees had been building for a run like this after several down seasons. The Cubs have been building for this run for 5 or 6 decades. Add in that the Cubs don’t see the Yankees often, and it begins to feels a bit like the 2003 showndown in Wrigley. The Cubs came within a few outs, who can remember how many oh so long ago, of meeting the Yankees in the World Series that year. The temptation to see this as a prelude to a future meeting with far more meaning. Both franchises certainly would like to write a different ending of that season a fort-year (that’s not a thing is it) ago.

One of the other ways that this series is different has been the infusion of young talent. The Yankees feature a rotation that is no older than 28 except for elder statesman Sabathia. The young rotation and bullpen ranks sixth in baseball in ERA and K/9. They have been outstanding in limiting base on balls issued coming in second only to the Nationals in that category. There is more about the trio of young hurlers the Cubs face this weekend below.

The real key for a team that won eight in a row once already this year has been an offense headlined by young stars. Sometimes it has felt like the Cubs have had a monopoly on young position talent, but the Yankees offense looks much like the dynasty era teams lineups did. The Yankees continue to control the strikezone on both sides of the ball. Their hitters have drawn walks in 11.0% of their plate appearances. That ranks as second best in baseabll as is their 44 home run total. They’ve managed the best wRC+ despite huge injuries to players like Didi Gregorius, Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird all going on the disabled list. Young Aaron Judge has filled a lot of that void, but the Yankees have seen contributions from all over the roster to achieve those numbers.

The Cubs continue their best tortoise impression as they hit the four over .500 mark for the second time of the season. The Yankees have ran hot and cold but mostly hot. The team has won two in a row after their last four game winning streak was snapped by two. The Cubs have two struggling pitchers throwing in the opening games, but should have a strong outing as Jon Lester matches up against the Yankees once again on Sunday.


Friday – 1:20 pm CT on CSN, 670 AM

Saturday – 6:15 pm CT on FOX, 670 AM

Sunday – 7:08 pm CT on ESPN, 670 AM


Friday –


1. Kyle Schwarber LF
2. Kris Bryant 3B
3. Anthony Rizzo 1B
4. Ben Zobrist 2B
5. Addison Russell SS
6. Jason Heyward RF
7. Willson Contreras C
8. Kyle Hendricks P
9. Jon Jay CF



1. Brett Gardner LF
2. Aaron Hicks CF
3. Gary Sanchez C
4. Starlin Castro 2B
5. Aaron Judge RF
6. Didi Gregorius SS
7. Chase Headley 3B
8. Chris Carter 1B
9. Michael Pineda P

Bullpen Usage Chart: 

Pitcher                             1 day 2 day 3 day 4 day
Wade Davis 18 13 10 0
Brian Duensing 5 0 0 23
Carl Edwards Jr. 19 0 27 0
Justin Grimm 24 0 0 39
Mike Montgomery 45 0 0 52
Hector Rondon 0 19 13 0
Pedro Strop 4 0 0 0
Koji Uehara 9 12 0 0

Opposing pitchers:

Friday-Michael Pineda

Michael Pineda has been the subject of much consternation since being part of a rare young player challenge trade. Pineda pitched one season in Seattle at age 22. He was traded to be paired with CC Sabathia a top the Yankee rotation at the price of top hitting prospect Jesus Montero. Pineda was hurt almost immediately and didn’t return to the big league rotation until 2014. He came back a different pitcher scrapping his four seam fastball for a mid 90s cutter.  He was very good in his 80ish innings in 2014, but has had difficulties with his results matching his peripherals ever since. Pineda has been a sabr-darling with FIP, DRA and other measures suggesting Pineda’s results don’t match his true talent performance.

Pineda was hit hard last year with all of his pitches getting hit a lot harder than previous years. Stacey Gotsulias wrote about his changeup in particular this spring. The change was a pitch that he has worked on to give him a strong third offering to pair with his cutter and good 86 mph slider. Pineda this year has been terrific in 5 starts and 28.2 innings. His strikeouts are up to an astounding 11.6 K/9 and miniscule 1.3 BB/9. Curiously his change has been used more than since the first half of 2016, but it appears like the change is still being hit hard. The real difference has been an increase in whiffs across the board while really limiting damage done to his cutter/slider combination.

Saturday-Jordan Montgomery

Montgomery is the most unfamilar of the Yankeess starter. The 25 year old lefty is making his first trips through the leagues. Saturday will be the 6’6″ southpaw’s fifth start of his big league career. So far the lefty has been a solid if unspectuclar presence out of the fifth spot for the surprise Yankees. As Jake Devin notes at Pinstripe Alley, Montgomery is not the usual fifth starter. He throws five different pitches very evenly. He generates a lot of deception despite the unspectuclar radar gun readings of 92 on the four seam and sinker. Right now against all of his pitches are generating a lot of swings and misses. They are also generating a lot of weak contact. This makes for an intriguing young arm as his manager noted:

“He was a four-pitch mix,” the manager said. “He had a very good downhill angle. He’s 6-foot-6. He’s left-handed. He was able to use his breaking ball extremely well, whether it was his curveball or his cutter, his changeup’s good. When he locates his fastball, it’s really good. His stuff is really good. And he’s got run to his fastball on the first base side of the plate. He has different ways to get you out.”

The reason he has a 4.15 ERA at the moment is two main culprits. One is perhaps a little bit of bad luck with the defensive play behind him and sequencing. That would help explain why his FIP, DRA, and cFIP all point to a brighter future for the Yankees fifth starter. One issue that is of his own control is his, well, control. Montgomery walked 4.2 batters per nine innings in his 21.2 inning big league career. A hopefully patient Cubs approach will outlast him, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it took once or twice through the order to really see him well either.

Sunday- Luis Severino

Hard throwing Luis Severino is one of many new homegrown Yankees. Severino was signed all the way back in 2011 for $225,000 as a 17 year old kid. He exploded onto the scene in 2015 with 62.1 innings with a 2.89 ERA. His peripherals suggested he may have been a little lucky, but an overcorrection may have followed it up as his ERA jumped to 5.83 in 71 innings in 2016. This year he has been very good with a 3.86 ERA. He has done this with a drop in walks and an increase in stirkeouts. All of this bodes well for continued success of the young fireballer.

The Cubs will primarily see a 97 mph four seam fastball on Sunday night. Severino also has an 88 mph slider and an 88 mph changeup. Severino leans heavily on the slider as well throwing in 30% of the time. He has increased his changeup usage to the highest levels since the first half of 2016. The slider generates a ton of whiffs and is true stikeout pitch. Paired with a 97 heater makes it a deadly combination when he is on. In his one May start the opponents did hit the slider harder than ever, but I am not certain that is a formula the Cubs can count on repeating Sunday night.

Final thoughts:
There is one obvious narrative that will also be repeated endlessly this weekend which I have neglected until now. That is the homecoming of several familar faces. Aroldis Chapman is a huge reason the Cubs are the defending world champions right now. He was as promised a costly mercenary that delivered what was needed. Chapman griped about his handling while here, and pulled a Jason Hammel resigning with the team that traded him away earlier that season. Chapman has been very good in New York. Statistically he is still at the same peak among the elite closers in the game.
Starlin Castro needs no introduction, but this is Castro’s first return trip to Wrigley. Castro had an up and down season in his exile from Chicago. It was far from a peak season, but it was a step up from the two seasons which led to his removal from Chicago. If you haven’t been checking, Starlin is a scorching start to the 2017 season. He has a .362/.402/.543 slash line. He also already has 5 home runs. Perhaps Jim Hendry might be vindicated up close and personal in that 25 home run potential label he slapped on Castro years ago.
Not drawing the same headlines but an inexorable link  between the two is relief pitcher Adam Warren. The price the Yankees paid for Castro of course was the late 20s swingman. He had been excellent for the Yankees, and then was promptly terrible in Chicago. One of the few bets Theo and crew made that didn’t pan out, and Warren wound up being returned to New York as part of the king’s ransom paid for Chapman. Warren, of course, has instantly reverted back to his very good Yankees form of 2015. This year Warren is sporting an unbelievable 0.63 ERA and 0.488 WHIP in 14.1 innings of work this year. Perhaps there is something to relievers’ roles affecting performance when relievers are used to them.


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  • I hope the 20+ MPH wind blowing in today will knock down Judge's first-inning HR (we know it's coming) from 500' to a mere 395'. Visiting players should not be allowed to hit baseballs onto our streets, and very few of the ball-hawks out there have the arm strength to throw them back to the field without the assistance of a cut-off man in the bleachers.

    Go Cubs!

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    Bologna sausage sandwiches my friend. Judge's first AB is not coming until the 2nd inning sir !

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    That would give it a much better chance of being a solo shot. I hope you are correct.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    Just as planned, no Judge in the 1st inning.

    Thank you Heyward !

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    Great Preview as usual. Very informative and lots of important parts, but........Are the Yankees hot start that surprising? I mean we all knew they had a lock down bullpen and it's been better then advertised. The offense has really gotten nothing from Sanchez, Didi ( injury) and Bird, so when they heat up the others may come down to earth so thats sustainable. The only thing I think that may not be is the starting pitching. I said and most experts did as well, the Yankees will go as far as their starting pitching takes them.

    Aaron Judge has been quite the surprise, not the light tower power but the plate discipline and batting average ! What are they saying? Jeter like character/intangibles in a Frank Howard body, wow !

    The Yanks are in a great position like our Cubs to be able to augment their team at the deadline w a top 3 farm system.

    I look at them like our 2015 team, perhaps a year ahead of schedule, but not a shocker that they are playing this well as they have a great manager like us and a nice mix of Vets and high character young guys.

    We could be looking at a potential WS preview this weekend. Maybe not this year, but in the near future. These 2 squads are the future of this sport.............

  • "Para nooo ando yo solo
    No soy delincuente como dice la gent"

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    Is that Portuguese BP? A man of tongues. I just get home and missed the HRs by KB and the Schwarbenator and the collusion at home (I hope Willson is alright) but I'll take a Cubs win above all.
    You have to be excited by Hendricks today. The bullpen has been good and now we need the starters to come around. I hope that Duensing can go another inning or two because then it's Rondon, Strop and Pena and that's all.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I have no clue. It's a couple lines from the song Castro uses as his walk-up music that I pulled off a website. My little tribute, and "thank you", to a player who shined a little light on some dark days. I did do an online translation, and those particular lyrics from that song seemed fitting.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    ok, I thought you were writing something to John. Castro was really a good player and when challenged by Russell he took the high road and was a great teammate. Thanks BP.
    btw, how can I (or we) find out what the walk up music different players have? thanks.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Also, has a search tool for all players, even going back several years.

    Thanks for the question, btw. You've helped me occupy my mind and time for the past half hour without breaking things.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    I just checked google translate--its means
    "For nooo, and you, only
    I am not delinquent as the gent says"

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    It's Spanish. I'd translate it as
    "There's no reason that I walk alone
    I am not a delinquent as people say"

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    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Dunsing may be a star of the game today. He somehow got 5 outs. I know one was rather fortunate but still. If he rights the ship, our bullpen is impressive.

  • Oh crap. I hope Willy's okay.


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    It's time for the Schwarbenator !

    Dunsing and Strop did their jobs

    Now it's time for Rondon to show why he's still an elite closer in this league !

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    I am speechless!

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    This one stings

    Damn umpire squeezed us w Ellsbury and now he throws a cement mixer into his hot zone.......why would anyone ever throw gardner a low inside pitch?

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    Glad I didn't go to this game...........I would want to hurt something right now

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    Don't fans throw the ball back anymore, and if they do, why don't we see it on TV? It's a Cubs tradition!

  • Is it true that Rondon had to hit for himself? What an awful way for this game to end. Truly craptacular game all around. Joe & Rondon can both get Zero stars for this one. Or maybe they get #1 Stars for the Yankees blogs.

  • I think Gardner (and the Yanks bench) were more demonstrative than normal after the HR off Rondon after Strop's over the top (IMO) celebration after striking out Judge. I love seeing emotion but sometimes I feel Strop takes it too far.

    Losing the game hurts but i was encouraged by Hendrick's start so I can live with it.

    But I agree with Kaplan 10000%. As a closer, you absolutely cannot walk guys.

    Anderson pitching tomorrow..............GULP !!!!!

  • I was trying, really trying, to give Anderson the benefit of doubt and time to get going. I'm about done. I don't know who's next in line, but they need to get stretched out and ready to go.

  • The Anderson experiment is OVER. Get rid of him. He has nothing.

    Butler or Montgomery need to replace him.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I think you're right. When Bosio went to the mound, he asked Anderson if he was OK, and the answer was an immediate no. He'll probably hit the DL, but I think would have to light it up to get called back up, and we can't hide him on a rehab assignment indefinitely. I think he just walked off the mound as a Cub for the last time.

    With the off-day next Thursday, on normal rest, we wouldn't need a fifth starter for a couple turns through the rotation. As it stands now, I'd guess Montgomery slides in and Rosscup slides up, but we have a little time to figure it out. And a trade is coming soon. Probably not the big one, but it's no longer early, the losses are piling up, and it's causing collateral damage.

    Watching Javy play baseball tonight has kept me from going postal. The two double-play turns were amazing and often overlooked, and that popup in front of the mound showed who's the boss in the infield, and even got him a shout-out on national TV.

  • The cubs starting pitching is embarrassing. I don't know if it's a world series hangover or what, but this is ridiculous every game the cubs are down 3-4 to 0 after one inning.

  • I don't get to see a lot of games during the week so getting blown out of the water in the first inning is a massive bummer.

    It's pretty clear that Anderson is either: a) hurt, or b) has nothing left. Either way, it's time to pull the plug on that experiment and go with someone else. Zastryzny?

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    Or c) All of the above. It looked like Bosio came out to ask if he was OK and the quick answer was no. I expect a trip to the DL, followed by a rehab assignment, and I think he'll have to really impress to get called back. I don't think he will. With the off-day next Thursday, going on regular rest, we won't need his spot for two more turns through the rotation. As of now, I'd guess Montgomery slides in and Rosscup slides up, but we have a little time. But a trade is coming soon. Probably not the BIG one, yet, but it's no longer early, the losses are piling up, and the short starts are causing collateral damage.

    Watching Javy play baseball tonight has kept me from going postal. The two double-play turns were beautiful, and too often overlooked as to their impact on the game, and the early pop-up in front of the mound showed who's the boss in the infield and got him a shout-out on national TV.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    And Javy even had a couple hits. I don't care the circumstances, any time he gets hits, multiple hits too, I consider it a good day. And we get to see him again tonight.

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