Cubs @ Diamondbacks: Series Preview (4/26-4/28)

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The Cubs won their third consecutive series, taking two of three from a formidable Dodgers team at Wrigley. The starting pitching continues to excel, further boosted by the return of Jon Lester from injury on Thursday. Javy Báez and Willson Contreras continue to lead the offense, which looks considerably better than it did late in 2018.

Chicago now heads out on a quick five-game west coast trip, starting with three against Arizona at Chase Field. The D-Backs lost two of three against the Cubs last weekend. Those two losses were the only ones in a very successful 8-2 road trip for the snakes.

Eduardo Escobar and Christian Walker have been pushing the offense during this current hot stretch. The Cubs do avoid Zack Greinke, who shut them down last Saturday. The ball jumps in the thin air at Chase, so expect to see a lot of offense in the desert.

Despite having just a 12-11 record, the Cubs look very good recently. The Cardinals have moved into first-place while the Brewers have faded. With all that being said, the North Siders still have 139 games left to play in 2019. We are only at the 1/8th mark of the season, so lets stay patient and hopefully the Cubs keep winning series.

Watch/Listen

Friday: 8:40 PM CT on NBC Sports Chicago/670AM

Saturday: 7:10 PM CT on ABC-7/670AM

Sunday: 3:10 PM CT on WGN/670AM

Lineups

Cubs

2. Kris Bryant (R) LF
3. Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B
4. Javier Baez (R) SS
6. David Bote (R) 3B
7. Ben Zobrist (S) 2B
8. Mark Zagunis (R) RF

Diamondbacks

1. Ketel Marte (S) CF
2. Ildemaro Vargas (S) 3B
3. David Peralta (L) LF
4. Adam Jones (R) RF
6. Wilmer Flores (R) 2B
7. Nick Ahmed (R) SS
8. Carson Kelly (R) C
9. Robbie Ray (L) P

Bullpen Usage

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Lineups and Bullpen Usage via Baseball Press.

Opposing pitchers

Scouting Reports from Brooks Baseball.

Robbie Ray: Robbie Ray has thrown 11,998 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 has slightly above average velo and has slightly less natural movement than typical. His slider is a prototypical pitch with few remarkable qualities. His curve 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 19 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 pitched well against the Cubs on Sunday allowing just a single run in six innings. Anthony Rizzo had two hits against him and Javy Baez tripled to score the only run. Despite his control issues, he only walked one hitter. Still, patience is the best policy against the hard to hit Ray.

Zack Godley: Zack Godley has thrown 8,004 pitches that have been tracked by the PITCHf/x system between 2015 and 2019, including pitches thrown in the MLB Regular Season, the MLB Postseason and Spring Training. In 2019, he has relied primarily on his Curve (81mph) and Sinker (89mph), also mixing in a Cutter (89mph) and Change (82mph).

His curve has primarily 12-6 movement and is slightly harder than usual. His sinker has below average velo, generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers’ sinkers, has less armside run than typical, results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers’ sinkers and has some natural sinking action. His cutter is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers’ cutters, has surprisingly little cutting action and has some natural sink. His change dives down out of the zone, generates fewer whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers’ changeups and results in more flyballs compared to other pitchers’ changeups.

Sean’s Note: The former Cub farmhand Godley has struggled mightily so far in 2019. He has allowed 21 runs in 29 innings of work. His strikeout rate is pretty far below league average early on, while his walk rate is up. Left-handers have really teed off on him the first few starts of the season.

Luke Weaver: Luke Weaver has thrown 4,855 pitches that have been tracked by the PITCHf/x system between 2015 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) and Change (85mph), also mixing in a Cutter (87mph) and Curve (80mph). He also rarely throws a Sinker (93mph).

His fourseam fastball has essentially average velo and results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ fourseamers. His change results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ changeups and has some natural sink to it. His cutter is a real worm killer that generates an extreme number of groundballs compared to other pitchers’ cutters, has slightly below average velo, has some natural sink and has strong cutting action. His curve has primarily 12-6 movement, results in many more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ curves and is slightly harder than usual. His sinker generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers’ sinkers, has surprisingly little armside run, results in many more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ sinkers, has little sinking action compared to a true sinker and has slightly above average velo.

Sean’s Note: Weaver came from the Cardinals in the Paul Goldschmidt trade and has been good this season with a 3.33 ERA. The Cubs saw him four times in 2018 and scored a total of 15 runs against him. He strikes out a lot of hitters with his tremendous breaking stuff. His ground ball rate is high, 50% through his first five starts in 2019. Lefties fare much better against him than do same-handed righties.

Comments

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  • The offense is certainly better than late last season, Sean, and Javy and Willson (and J-Hey) are leading the way. But I'd like to see a little more hedging against over-use, especially with Willson, that led to that second-half swoon. He's caught every inning since Caratini went down.

    Javy's superhuman, so he can play every day, but that doesn't mean he should. We really don't have a viable backup on the ML roster, but you've probably heard we just added a quality SS at Iowa. I've heard it everywhere and the "argument" of what should happen, from the nuanced and rational to the click-bait gossip. I certainly have my opinion on the topic, and maybe I can beg Michael and Dabs to let me lay out my case for why Javy needs to (for purely baseball reasons) remain at short in a feature piece, where I can dig deeper. Or, more precisely, why this decision should be up to El Mago.

    SSS alert, but the D-Backs are far better on the road than at home on this young season. Let's at least win this series and inch closer to regaining, and retaining, our rightful place atop the NL Central.

    Go Cubs!

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Agreed on getting Willson some rest. It's a shame Caratini got hurt. He was really on a roll, and looking to have a good year with the bat Still, give Taylor some playing time. It will pay dividends down the road.

    Regarding Javy, I wonder if now should be the time for the FO to aggressively sign him to a multi-year contract. It's so hard to measure his value with stats nowadays, there is a good chance they can get a discount. He doesn't seem the kind of guy who has to have a particular # in terms of how many millions.

    When all is said and done, Javy is not a guy who can even be conceivably seen in another club's jersey. Sign him up now before his value increases even more, methinks.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Yes, please. The trend in baseball has been to identify and lock up young players. Think what you will of Theo, but he was the first I recall to publicly state "We don't pay for past performance". That seems to the thinking on FA spending.

    There are many reasons to, or not to, lock up a young player. Potential future baseball production, obviously, but also marketability and P.R. A team has to weigh the pros and cons. I'm admittedly Javy-drunk, but I see all the pros and no cons. This is up to Javy.

    Lock him up. 25 years/ $3.4 Billion.

    It ain't my money.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I don't know how much of Contreras's tailing off in 2018 was due to overuse, or just the matter that he quit on his daily routine and resting on his laurels for the entire season. I'm sure you've read the article/interviews with him where he said he didn't do his routine last year, and took for granted what he proved he could achieve in 2017? I think if he's doing his routine and keeping himself in better playing shape, he will play better. Last year, I even brought up doubts in Contreras being the player he showed us he was in 2017 during his hot couple months because he never showed the pop he should have last year. Just looking at last years splits, in the first half he started 73 games in the first half with a slash line of .279/.369/.449/.818 with 7 HR and 34 RBI. So double that and that's still only 14 HR and 68 RBI. That's nowhere near the pace he was on in 31 games of July and August 2017 (pre-injury) where he slashed .322/.389/.678/1.067 with 12 HR and 32 RBI. And that was getting into the dog-days. Further, for him playing in 20 of 22 games so far this season, he's slashing .303/.446/.652/1.097 with 6 HR and 13 RBI, so obviously his OBP should stabilize a little, but see how he's much more the player he was during the hot streak of 2017 than any time last year? That's the guy I wanted to see. I started to question it here even just because I knew nothing I saw from him last year showed me he's a star offensive player. I'm glad he looked within and didn't make any excuses, even admitted his faults and went back to working hard. It shows a world of difference in his game, with the eye test, as well as looking at the stats.

    Now having said all that, I do believe he does need more rest. A catcher playing 20 out of every 22 is just too much, but I don't think he needs that much rest yet, especially with the off days in the schedule. As we get into June, I really hope Caratini is back and healthy and hitting, because by then Contreras should probably get a day off every 5 or 6 days. I wouldn't even mind if he got an occasional extra day off of catching, but went out and played LF instead.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    Contreras has actually played in 22 of 23 games this year and that is not counting tonight. But, I agree he has to have more days off.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    My bad. That's the first time I've ever made a mistake! So this is what it feels like? Ha! J/k of course....

    I looked back at the game logs. Yes he's played in 22 of 23, but 2 of those he came in in the 8th inning just to finish the game and didn't even have any plate appearances. Lets call it 21.5 out of 23!

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    LOL ok, agreed. But it is still to much playing time at the catcher position like you said.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    I even just looked back at the game logs, and with all their day offs, he's only actually caught in as many as 4 games/4 days in a row two times now. So at this point he's had ample rest in regard to the demands and where we are at in the season. But yes, as we agree upon, the best recipe for a healthy catcher through the summer is going to be rest...

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    Those off days are a legitimate point. I didn't fully consider them. But still...

  • I should save this nugget for tomorrow night, but I can't wait.

    Tomorrow's SP is going to make a mistake to El Mago, and he's going to punish that pitch. How bad will Javy HAM! that ball, you ask?

    It's going to be un-Godley!

    I'll show myself out...

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I hope you're right BP! I will be at tomorrow's game. I was at a Cubs D/backs game probably at least 15 years ago where Richie Sexson hit a ball 507 ft off the scoreboard to straight away center. They used to put a big picture of the batter up on the scoreboard. He hit himself above the eye. So consider the CF wall is 407 ft (IIRC) from home plate, and the ball probably hit at least 100-150 feet up above that. But I remember the estimated distance being reported as 507, or maybe 508 feet. I'd love to see Javy serve up something even more Godley than that! I also remember a story about Mark McGuire hitting a HR during batting practice at the BOB (back in the day) that went out one of the open window panels that's there, which are rarely ever even open.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    Nothing beats watching Javy (and a Cubs baseball game) in person. Enjoy yourself.

    I lived in Miami during the infamous 2003 season. The Marlins couldn't give away tickets. I was buying 30 general-admission tickets (no date, good for any regular-season game) for $20 from my friend at the only redneck bar on South Beach. Of course I caught every Cubs game, and picked the other ones mainly based on the starting pitcher. I saw Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, etc. The bullpens at Joe Robbie had (empty) seats right there, so I could talk with these guys as they warmed up.

    We got drunk (imagine that) during one night game and had to leave early to work the next day. While we were in there, I was seated down the deep 3B line. The fan capacity was about 40,000, but they never drew more than 10,000. They would close off large swaths of seats, including the upper deck above left field. In my intoxicated state, I politely asked an usher if she would let me go up to that empty section to retrieve the HR ball that Sosa was sure to deposit there. She declined, explaining to me no one ever hits balls up there.

    We staggered out in the sixth inning, and Sosa later cleared the stadium out to the parking lot. It might have hit my van if we didn't to work the next day.

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    So Rosario was sent down and Maples is up. If, and it's a very big if, Maples can control his pitches, he will be a huge part of this BP. In Iowa he threw 8 innings and the good news is that he SO 16--of course, the bad new is that he walked 8. It will be fun to watch that big FB though.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Maples is on a stretch of run. He does that. Why not take advantage?

    I thought Monty would be up, but he is scheduled for another AAA start on Saturday. No bad news I can find, just caution. Hence, Maples.

    I'm with you, Jonathan. IF he has control, that stuff is filthy. But these flashes of brilliance have always been just that, flashes. I wish...

  • fb_avatar

    that those flashes would continue. It scares me that I can finish your sentences...

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    ... and that scares me. As I said to TC last night: great minds think alike.

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    I mentioned this in the minor league recap, but I would like to recognize the passing of John Havlicek. He was always one of my favorite players, never stopping, and never complaining about coming off the bench.
    Joe Maddon I'm sure loved him--he respected 90 every game.

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    I know it's easier said than done, but KB can be more patient. If you watch his swing, it's all timing. His load is a little off, but his timing is still off. He needs to let the ball get deeper in the zone before he swings(unless its a cookie). He's swinging early and rolling over balls, or scared to pull the trigger. Curious if that 97mph off the helmet got in his head. If it's just mechanical tweak, good for us. If not, it may be a little longer

  • In reply to Wrigley0923:

    Wrigley, can I call you Wrigley?, I have been intrigued by your comments. You seem to be very knowledgeable, but somewhat unsure, as if searching for confirmation. You've come to the right place, depending on who you listen to. :)

    People are putting KB down, but not realizing how hard it is to play at this level while not physically 100%. Even when healthy, it takes time to get that confidence back. I have laid bare my love of and belief in El Mago for the last five years. My point here is that I hope I've earned some cred in talent evaluation.

    Kris Bryant is first-ballot HOF talent. He has been off the last couple years.

    I don't know what's wrong, nor does he. He does seem to have a hole in his swing, high and hard, up and in, that is being exploited. He hasn't adjusted as quickly as I had hoped, which leads to further questions.

    I maintain my belief that he is a perennial MVP candidate, and this is a temporary lull. He is too talented.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    How is that hof talent? Dude had one or two great years . He is hurt and refuses to fix his injury. Some people say he guts it out, but the results are futile. He needs to repair that shoulder and stop playing awful baseball. Even his hit are loopy just out of reach of middle infielders. Power has been zapped from his body. It is not a hole in his swing or some technique. This is year 3 of this..

  • In reply to Oldno7:

    I remember you.

    So, no comment.

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    It’s interesting that JD said that with 2 strikes pitchers are now throwing up and in. The last few years it was low and away. Javy has the highest rate of hitting to the opposite field (I saw that during the broadcast.) So he’s adjusted to that pitch so now he has to learn about that up and in one. He will.

  • Wow 1 every 23 games. KB on a roll.

  • KB: "The reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated."

  • HAM!

  • When Kyle is pitching good, Maddon pulls him. How long is Maddon going to leave him in tonight?

  • WoW... Almora 4 for 4 including a double off a right hander.

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    Albert needs more than a game a week. He’s the best CF we have and he can hit. I thought this was the year he would be more of a full time player.
    He, and we, need him to play more.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    He’s very god defensively but he has no pop. Need more power from him.

  • In reply to stix:

    Good not “god”

  • Part of the Cubs problem is they got so many guys with "POP" but NO hits.

  • Time for a day off for Willson Saturday. He’s stopped hitting the ball hard.

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