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Series Preview #9 Cubs & Diamondbacks Square Off

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Round 2 of the season series with the North Siders this weekend at Chase Field

Terrel Williams v David Grayton Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Arizona Diamondbacks will square off once again with the Chicago Cubs in a rematch of last weekend’s series. The Cubs came out on top in that one, winning the series 2 games to 1.

What’s the Story ?

Chicago Started the season just 1-6, but since then have gone 11-5, and are coming off a 2-1 series victory against the Dodgers to improve their record to 12-11

A quick google search of the terms “Joe Maddon Hot Seat” will turn up a bevy of articles. The phrase “Joe Maddon Lame Duck” is also easily searched. He is in the last year of his contract and was not given an extension prior to this season. It seems strange. In his four full seasons as the Cubs manager his team’s have averaged 97 wins and of broke a 108 year curse winning the world series in 2016. They also made trips to the NLCS in 2015 and 2017. However last year they were bounced from the playoffs by Colorado in the Wild Card Game. Such is the life of a manager in the Major Leagues that this level of “failure” would land one on the hot seat.

The complaint against him seems to be he has not gotten enough out of his players. However it was GM Theo Epstein that inked the disastrous Yu Darvish deal. The Tyler Chatwood free agent signing has not worked out well so far either. Kris Bryant missed 60 games last year and has been a shadow of himself the last two seasons. Addison Russell is serving a 40 game suspension for Domestic Violence and is not due back until May 3rd. So it seems there is plenty of “blame” to go around and perhaps the Cubs are being shortsighted here ?

The Diamondbacks for their part are coming off a wildly successful 8-2 road trip, having sandwiched sweeps of Atlanta and Pittsburgh around that series loss to Chicago. The offense continues to be a surprising bright spot, and the pitching has improved from week to week. They currently find themselves just a half game back of the Dodgers in the NL West, and a half game up in the 1st Wild Card slot. While it is indeed too early to be talking playoffs, just the fact that the team has negotiated the gauntlet of their early season schedule to this point is quite the accomplishment.

Tale of the Tape

These are two very evenly matched teams

Cubs at Baseball-Reference

D-backs at Baseball-Reference

Who’s hot and Who’s Not?

(click links)

Cubs last 5 games

Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo have been hot, and virtually every other Cub has been cold, with no one batting over .214 the last 5 games. Kris Bryant has been taking a lot of walks though, which is maybe a sign he is ready to break out.

D-backs last 6 games

Eduardo Escobar, John Ryan Murphy, Christian Walker & Jarrod Dyson have been the hottest D-backs hitters, while Adam Jones and David Peralta have cooled. Ketel Marte had been slumping but is coming off a 2 homer game.

Pitching Matchups

Kyle Hendricks dominated the D-backs in that wind blown fiasco of a series opener last week. Working 7 shutout innings, he gave up just 3 hits while striking out 11. He has not worked since then as the Cubs had a day off and Jon Lester returned from the IL Thursday, pushing everyone back another day. So he’ll be well rested.

Robbie Ray got a no decision against the Cubs last Sunday, going 6 innings and allowing just 1 run in a game the D-backs would lose 2-1. He is showing signs of getting his walks under control of late, issuing only one free pass in that game, and one two starts previous, although he did walk 4 in the start in between. Ray has been very tough on the Cubs since 2015, having started 5 times and allowing a triple slash of just .170/.284/.260 with 1 HR and 6 runs against.

Yu Darvish lost to the D-backs last Saturday giving up 3 runs in 5 innings. Despite his horrific numbers he’s been slightly better of late. He still throws as hard as he did in Texas, but usually struggles with command and walks.

Zack Godley has had 3 bad outings and 2 good ones in his 5 starts this year. Inconsistency in his mechanics have continued to plague him, resulting in a lot of walks, wild pitches, and hit batters. Add to that his yips throwing to bases and one never knows what to expect from a Godley start. When he’s on he can dominate, he just hasn’t been able to stay on for an entire game very often dating back to last year.

Jose Quintana is throwing really well at the moment, having gone 7 innings enroute to victory in each of his last 3 starts. In those 21 innings, he’s allowed just 2 earned runs while walking 3 and striking out 25. He features both a 4 Seam and 2 Seam Fastball which he uses equally, to go with a Curve and sometimes Changeup.

Luke Weaver is coming off his best start as a Diamondback allowing 1 run in 6 13 innings against Pittsburgh this past Tuesday. His numbers this year match up well with Quintana. However the Cubs have tuned him up pretty good prior to this year. In the 6 games he’s faced them over the previous 3 season the batting line against is an eye watering .376/.439/.537, .976 OPS. It will be a big challenge for him to quiet this lineup.

BULLPENS

The Cubs are Carrying 13 pitchers, 8 relievers, a 4 man bench, and are woefully short on catchers, with just 2. (Although one of them is all star Wilson Contreras )

Their closer is veteran Pedro Strop, who is in his 11th year, 7th with the Cubs. 2018 was the first time in his career however that he was given the closer’s role. He took over in mid 2018, and did a pretty good job, posting a 2.26 ERA and getting 13 saves from Mid June onwards. So far this year he has a 3.52 ERA and 3 saves, 1 blown, and has given up single runs in 3 of his 9 outings. He features one of the best sliders in the game, which he throws over 40% of time.

Right Handed setup men Brandon Kinzler (2.53 ERA) and Brad Bach (3.38 ERA) have been good, as has lefty Kyle Ryan (2.25 ERA), While their team bullpen ERA is 4.91, which ranks 12th in the NL. they do rank 7th in FIP (4.57), and have been pitching better as a unit over the last couple of weeks.

Cubs Bullpen Frangraphs Page Here

The D-backs bullpen ranks 7th in ERA. (4.37) but 13th in FIP, (5.10) Things look quite a bit better when you take out John Ryan Murphy’s 2 innings and Matt Koch’s first 3 outings however.

Greg Holland is a perfect 5 for 5 in save opportunities and has yet to allow an earned run.

Archie Bradley and Yoshihisa Hirano are like inverted versions of each other right now, with Bradley sporting a 1.80 ERA, but 5.21 FIP, and Yoshi carrying a 4.50 ERA, but just 1.51 FIP

Andrew Chafin’s FIP is a bit high, but he’s been clutch so far this year, (not a typo) and is second on the team in WPA (.61) behind only Holland, (.83). Yoan Lopez has appeared in 12 games and allowed just 1 run, and Matt Andries has his ERA under 4 now in his 13+ innings of work. It’s been an adventure though, as his 5.75 FIP indicates.

DBacks Bullpen Fangraphs Page Here

Both teams are playing well right now, and they are very evenly matched. It should be a good fight. I’ll call for a D-Backs 2-1 series victory, resulting in a 3-3 draw for the season.