Cubs @ Pirates Series Preview: (9/24-9/26)


A disastrous six-game losing streak has basically ended the Cubs season. Chicago maintains an incredibly thin strand of playoff hope, but barring a miracle, the season will end Sunday.

It appears highly likely Joe Maddon is managing his final week of games for the Cubs. The strengths of Maddon as a manager that were so prevalent his first two seasons were obscured by his shortcomings the last three. Still, he will always be the man who led the North Siders to their first championship in 108 years.

Kris Bryant‘s season is over after an ankle sprain on Sunday afternoon. Many players are likely suiting up in Cubs blue for the final time. Ben Zobrist, Cole Hamels, Albert Almora, and a few others might be on the way out.

I won’t say much about the putrid Pirates, they are a terrible team with a chaotic locker room. They have been far and away the worst team in baseball in the second-half.

It really feels like the end of an era for the Cubs, big changes are coming this off-season. From 2015 t0 2018: Chicago made four consecutive post-seasons, won over 90 games every year, made three NLCS appearances, and won the 2016 World Series. While the collapse this season stings, never forget the greatness you’ve seen the last few seasons.


Tuesday: 6:05 PM CT on NBC Sports Chicago/670AM

Wednesday: 6:05 PM CT on WGN/670AM

Thursday: 6:05 PM CT on MLB Network/NBC Sports Chicago/670AM



1. Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B
3. Ben Zobrist (S) 2B
4. Kyle Schwarber (L) LF
6. Ian Happ (S) 3B
7. Jason Heyward (L) CF
8. Nico Hoerner (R) SS


1. Kevin Newman (R) SS
2. Bryan Reynolds (S) CF
3. Adam Frazier (L) 2B
4. Jose Osuna (R) 1B
5. Colin Moran (L) 3B
7. Kevin Kramer (L) RF
8. Erik Gonzalez (R) LF
9. Mitch Keller (R) P

Bullpen Usage



Lineups and Bullpen Usage via Baseball Press.

Opposing pitchers

Scouting Reports from Brooks Baseball.

Mitch Keller: Mitch Keller has thrown 699 pitches that have been tracked by the PITCHf/x system between 2017 and 2019, including pitches thrown in the MLB Regular Season and Fall/Winter Ball. In 2019, he has relied primarily on his Fourseam Fastball (96mph) and Slider (88mph), also mixing in a Curve (81mph). He also rarely throws a Change (91mph).

His fourseam fastball has well above average velo and has slightly less natural movement than typical. His slider generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers’ sliders, results in many more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ sliders, is much harder than usual and has some two-plane movement. His curve generates a very high amount of groundballs compared to other pitchers’ curves, has a sharp downward bite and is slightly harder than usual. His change is thrown extremely hard, is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers’ changeups and results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers’ changeups.

Sean’s Note: Keller has been awful in his rookie year allowing 37 runs in 43 innings pitched. Both right handed and left handed hitters bat well over .300 against him. The Cubs scored six runs off of him in a game in August.

Dario Agrazal: Dario Agrazal has thrown 1,076 pitches that have been tracked by the PITCHf/x system in 2019, all of them occuring in the MLB Regular Season. In 2019, he has relied primarily on his Sinker (91mph), also mixing in a Slider (83mph), Change (86mph) and Fourseam Fastball (91mph).

His sinker results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers’ sinkers and has slight armside run. His slider has primarily 12-6 movement and has some two-plane movement. His change generates fewer whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers’ changeups and is slightly firmer than usual. His fourseam fastball has slightly below average velo.

Sean’s Note: Agrazal has struggled mightily in limited work in Pittsburgh. He has allowed 14 homers in just 67 innings pitched. Right handed hitters punish the same handed pitcher.

Joe Musgrove: Joe Musgrove has thrown 7,063 pitches that have been tracked by the PITCHf/x system between 2016 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 Sinker (92mph), Change (85mph), Curve (82mph) and Cutter (89mph).

His fourseam fastball has less armside movement than typical, has some natural sinking action and has essentially average velo. His slider sweeps across the zone and has some two-plane movement. His sinker generates a very high amount of groundballs compared to other pitchers’ sinkers, has surprisingly little armside run, generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers’ sinkers and has some natural sinking action. His change has surprising cut action, is slightly firmer than usual and has some natural sink to it. 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, is much harder than usual and has primarily 12-6 movement. His cutter has some natural sink and has strong cutting action.

Sean’s Note: Musgrove has been decent, but not great in 2019. He has an average strike out and home run rate and has decent control. Left handed batters see him better than right handed ones. He has dominated the Cubs allowing just two runs in 16.2 innings of work against them.




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  • I'm having a little trouble working up any enthusiasm for this game...

  • In reply to Cliff1969:


  • Well, this year was pretty demoralizing, but there is two years to this so called 'window' to come. I was ready for the off season before the Cardinals came to town. I had seen enough.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Yeah, same here, but you know how it is with Cubs fans. If the would have won the first game against the Cards people would have been saying, "I KNEW they could do it!"

  • Remember the Alamo!

    We have nothing to fear but fear itself.

    It's better to burn out, than to fade away.

    Bah, humbug.

    Go Cubs!

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    "Did we give up when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?!" Ha!

  • I have gotten tremendous enjoyment from this team for over 4 years now and am grateful for seeing the best ball played by them in my lifetime anyway......I think it will continue on, at least for a few more seasons at least. This was an ugly wake up call this year.....but, I do feel confidant it will be rectified.

  • Thinking about next year and how to try to fix the lineup because I moved on a few days ago. Without any blockbuster trades, as far as I can tell, after the money spent on kimbrel, castellanos (and gerrit cole?), and KB (if they even have the money for that) there won't be anything left to fill the one hole left with a FA - second base. I know Nico has looked good but he should start next season at AAA to continue polishing his game. Obviously, it would be nice to find a guy that could leadoff here too... I wonder if scooter gennett would take a small prove-it deal. I bet he bounces back... I, personally, only see Happ, Almora, and Russell as dispensable (I'm pro-schwarber). And they can't be worth much on the market, especially the latter 2.

  • Just for giggles (or is it?), we know Javy can pinch-run. He can hit, somewhat. The problem he has now is he can't take any impact from a ball coming into his glove hand, and he has a problem squeezing that glove. Defense is the problem. But...

    El Mago. We also know Javy is naturally left-handed. We know Javy wants to play. I swear I'm not making this up:

    Javy is on the infield taking ground balls with a glove on his right hand.

  • Just saw this news:

    "I live in a silver mine and I call it beggar's tomb;
    I got me a violin and I beg you call the tune,
    Anybody's choice, I can hear your voice.
    Wo, oh, what I want to know, how does the song go?"

    RIP, Robert Hunter.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    You like so many different groups and lyrics I wonder if you’ve been watching the new Ken Burns film on PBS on Country Music. It’s at least 7 or 8 parts and it’s fascinating. Kris Kristofferson is mentioned as one of the finest writers of his generation.
    Someone in these episodes is undoubtedly a Cubs fan so I want to keep it relevant to Cubs Den.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    No need to apologize. I'm reminded of the early days of Cubs Den. John said his vision was to create a site that felt like friends pulling up a bar stool and talking baseball, and other things. No politics and keep the cursing to a minimum.

    Music is synonymous with baseball. Always has been and always will be. Americana. It has also been a huge part of this site ever since John was originally the Walrus.

    Stick to the Cubs, fine. But we've always been encouraged to expand our minds, respectfully, of course.

    That may be what we need to keep our sanity in our current situation.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I got a new sayin' from Country Music.
    "It's hard to kiss the lips that are chewin' your ass!"

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    Mark Loretta got a 1 game suspension from MLB for his "inappropriate conduct" following a replay review during the StL series.
    Just thought I would let you all know. I don't think it will change the outcome.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    "Security breach". Apparently he was on some sort of media during a replay review. He got caught.

    That's an old saying in racing: "if you ain't cheatin' you ain't tryin'".

    And again, I swear, the only reason Javy can't play right now is he can't receive a ball in his glove and squeeze it with his left hand, so he is taking ground balls with a glove on his right hand. Can he make a throw to 1B with a broken thumb on his left hand? They are seriously trying.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    That would cement his Unicorn status. Maybe he could hit a homerun left handed as well, but could he draw a walk?

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I saw Pat Venditte pitch in low-A Charleston (River Dogs) before he made the Show. Pretty neat, and he signed a ball for me after he saw me throw a ball at 80 MPH right-handed and 60 MPH left-handed. It is a rare skill-set.

    I do believe this was an honest attempt by Javy today. I haven't seen video but have heard from a few people there. He was really trying.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I think Javy could hang if not excel.

  • One of the strangest things about this year are Hendricks home/road splits. Awesome at home and hugely mediocre on the road. We all know that Kyle can pitch in big games, he's been great in arguably the biggest, and has never had road problems on the road.

    Is it possible, as I go down this totally fact-less road, that teams are now using technology in their own park that will steal a catcher's signs and somehow signal the batter? All you need is "one lantern for changeup, two for non-changeup" scheme and there you go. This would not be very successful for many pitchers, but for someone like the professor it would be a huge game-changer.

    I have no facts to back this up, just going off of my knowledge that if anyone would be unaffected by pitching on the road, it would be Hendricks.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    That's a very interesting observation. His splits were ridiculous, and I doubt he was pressing on the road like our offense. He is the unwavering Professor.

    I hadn't thought of that.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    And following that thought process, I hate to say this, but it may be true. Maybe we ain't cheating enough.

    I could give examples, but I won't. There is a flow to baseball, and it often parallels the rules, in this case the CBA. It is set to expire following the 2021 season. Theo and Co. were Boy Wonders and ahead of the curve. It brought us a Championship. I have the feeling we are now being left behind.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Right, we've seen cheating succeed in the NFL for some time now.
    I have zero inside knowledge, just a hunch that something is really fishy about how well teams hit Kyle on the road vs. home.

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    In reply to HefCA:

    It's one if by land and two if by sea.

  • In reply to Theodore Anderson:

    LOL! That's what I was thinking. If it works for Paul Revere...

  • I don't know if I have ever seen a hitter swing and miss on pitches right down the middle of the plate more than Air Happ.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Did I mention he can't catch popups either.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    There is a HUGE hole in his swing. It's hard to figure out how he missed those pitches. I hope he is gone this winter.

  • Just missing the dead silence that usually occurs between innings on MLB TV. Alexa Datt blathering with ANYONE just doesn't do it. Am I just old and curmudgeonly - or do people really find her entertaining?

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I got Pat and Ron on the radio.

    And get off my lawn!

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I get elevator music between innings on my mlb extra innings with the “we’ll be right back” sign....

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    How do we hide Happ’s glove? Make him an American Leaguer.

  • 14 left on base through 5. Sums up our year offensively, perfectly.

  • After watching Schwarber the last 3 months, I’ve changed my mind. Maybe we are finally getting that hitter we all thought was there in 2015. I now don’t think you can trade Schwarber and sign Castellanos, especially with the money difference. The only way signing Castellanos makes sense to me is if there is some way Heyward can be traded

  • Looks like they will get to scrape the half inch of dust off of the Jolly Roger.....

  • Yay! 5-1, with 4 errors. If we play our cards right, and lose every game, we may go as high as the 16th pick.

  • Good coaching Joe! Wouldn't want to use up our bullpen after a day off.

  • In reply to clarkAddson:

    Your really funny Clark. He gave up 4 straight weak singles, then another error by an infielder. I’m sure if Maddon would have pulled him after only 75 pitches and the reliever gives up a HR, you would have bitched about Maddon pulling him too early. Gotta say, your the greatest lazy boy coach I’ve ever seen

  • In reply to clarkAddson:

    I just sent you a response that was eaten. I guess calling you the greatest lazy boy coach in history probably did it

  • In reply to Cubpack:

    WoW... Thatb sure makes Joe look a lot better. You are so smart.

  • In reply to clarkAddson:

    Joe doesn’t need any of my help. And you don’t need to say anymore. I’m convinced. You are a hall of fame manager in my book

  • In reply to Cubpack:

    Thanks. I knew you were smart.

  • In reply to clarkAddson:

    Your welcome. And I am smart enough to know there’s a reason I’m commenting on a blog and not sitting in a major league (or even minor league) dugout.
    Does this mean I’ll get an invite when your inducted?

  • In reply to Cubpack:

    Wow, another smart answer. This reminds me of when I was a little boy. Are you sure where you are at?

  • In reply to clarkAddson:


  • In reply to clarkAddson:

    Ok. Sorry.
    Been a long year. I don’t like your comments. You don’t like mine. Let’s be done commenting at each other

  • In reply to clarkAddson:

    If Joe pulls Hendricks after 70 pitches and the BP gives up the same inning, i’m guessing you might criticize Joe for letting the BP crash and burn after taking the starting pitcher out after 70 pitches when he was cruising.

    Why not just admit you’re not a fan of the mgr and look for anything you can with hindsight to criticize him.

  • In reply to stix:

    That’s what I was trying to say in my comment that was eaten. Thank you

  • In reply to stix:

    I admit I am not a fan of Joe anymore but Hendricks was nowhere near "cruising" after the first 4-5 hits and my hindsight does in no way make a difference of Joe's handling of his pitchers. It stinks no matter what I think in hindsight and so has his managing.

  • I did the math. I don't think we can lose enough to pick higher than 16th.

    5 errors. We can quit trying now, guys.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    What would that record be?

  • This is embarrassing. A bunch of key players hurt. A lame-duck manager on a losing team. A team that is used to winning yet knows it has nothing to play for.

    Pride? This offseason can't come fast enough.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Not trying to Bob Nightengale here, just had a random thought while trying not to rip my hair out. Bear with me...

    Around 40 years ago there was a popular TV show called "Three's Company". After a few seasons the landlords, the Ropers, were spun off for their own series. The show was left looking for a new character to assume the "authority" role.

    The writers brainstormed ideas. They thought the new character should be played by someone who could do physical comedy, someone like Don Knotts. An actor who could be unassuming and self-deprecating, someone like Don Knotts. A person the audience could grow to love by his sheer ineptitude, someone like Don Knotts. Finally, one of the writers asked "why don't we get Don Knotts?".

    This Cubs team has been missing something since 2016, someone like David Ross. We have not had anyone to hold their butts to the fire, someone like David Ross. There hasn't been that leader, that anchor, that inspiration, someone like David Ross.

    Can you see where I'm going here?

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    They need a backup catcher like David Ross!

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    You're pretty close!

    I'll give a hint in the right direction. Joe Maddon is our current manager, and he probably isn't going to be our manager any more.

    Getting warmer?

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Whoa! Are you saying what I think you're saying?

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Wait.. so you think Don Knotts is going to be the next manager...? Or if not David Ross, maybe Bob Ross...Ha ha!

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Don Knotts in a Cubs uniform. Now there's an idea!

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    "And we'll put a happy little tree over here by the 3rd base line!" Love it!

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Maybe he can paint a happier picture of my beloved Cubs.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    And btw, I loved Don Knotts. And Tim Conway, Harvey Korman, and of course Carrol Burrnet.

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    We don't have cable/ dish etc. Just an attenia. So we have all these channels with oldies. MeTV at 10 pm every night has Carol Burnett Show.

    I'm in my 40's so, I am too young to remember when it was on. But we've watched some of the episodes from time to time. Wow, was she pretty incredible. So was the rest of the cast. The show makes an interesting time capsule.

    I'd recommend people trying an episode or two if you've never had a change and want a few laughs.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Comment reply eaten. Here’s cliff notes version. He’s inexperienced and a buddy with too many of the players . Press would eat him alive for any “errors”.in managing he might make.

  • In reply to stix:

    Yeah and just last year he didn't want to be considered for the bench coach job because he was liked being at home. His new home would be the clubhouse office for the next year. But who knows all of the decisions behind his not wanting to work last year.

    I don't think he's "buddies" with too many players. He took Bryant and Rizzo under his wing, so to speak, but aside from those two who else is left from 2016? I don't think he and Javy were buds, or Addison. Plus Rizzo doesn't need a manager any more.

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    Conteras Hendricks Lester strop Zobrist Almora????? Quite a few

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Zobrist and Strop won't be back. Lester and Ross have been together quite a lot of their careers, I don't see how it would hurt for Rossy to be back as Lester's manager. Ross was Contreras' mentor and it wouldn't hurt Willson at all have him back.

    I just don't see any "buddy buddy" issues if Rossy were to be hired as manager.

  • In reply to stix:

    The filter has been acting up again. I can't retrieve them unless it's my article, so sorry.

    I've heard the "fraternizing" argument before, but I don't buy it. The trend in baseball has been hiring young, inexperienced managers, many of whom are only a couple years removed from their playing days. The FO's are making almost all the calls anymore, from lineups to bullpen matchups, and the on-field manager is basically a cheerleader.

    I'm not saying Ross should be the new manager, but he is a possibility. We just lack leadership on this team. Maddon lost it long ago, and as awesome as Rizzo is, that's not him. Javy is a general on the field and with coaching and insight, but he's not an in-your-face leader. We miss Grandpa Rossy.

  • In reply to stix:

    Exactly stix. Theo would never hire this guy. Didn’t Ross say that’s why he was retiring, to stop the daily grind and spend more time with his family.

  • In reply to Oldno7:

    For a year, yes. He's a lifer and under contract.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    He’s the assistant to the assistant general manager. Theo would be better off putting Eddie Vedder as manager . ‘’ can’t find a better man”

  • fb_avatar

    Love hurts
    Love scars
    Love wounds and marks
    Any heart not tough or strong enough
    To take a lot of pain, take a lot of pain
    Love is like a cloud, it holds a lot of rain
    Love hurts
    Ooh love hurts
    My feelings about my beloved Cubs over the years.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    And some more from Nazareth:

    "I'd give all I've got to give.
    Just to find my way out.
    Got it going but I can't let go.
    I'm trapped on this crazy 'round about.
    Tryin' to break the spell you hold on me."

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Interesting, BP. I first thought of Gram Parsons’ version on ‘Grievous Angel’, 1974. I wonder if that’s Jonathan’s reference point.

  • nats beat phillies today to eliminate phillies from playoffs. nats fans gave harper standing ovation after his weak rollover grounder in the eigth inning. buyer beware on this dude. I thought having jhey for four more years would be bad. phils are stuck with this dude for a dozen more years with full no trade clause! good grief! I love it. harper cares more about his hair than baseball !

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