A not so wholesome preview
The Chicago Cubs are not a good baseball team and the Cardinals should sweep them.
The Cubs currently have a 35-27 record which gives the illusion that they are a good baseball team. The Cardinals can help give them a record they’re more deserving of with this three-game weekend series. Their last series against the Cubs was an unfortunate blip, but luckily three games does not really tell you much. Except for this weekend, when the Cards sweep them.
You may have noticed I’m not lil_scooter93, although I kind of hope you didn’t and just accepted that she was being uncharacteristically mean for some reason (that reason being it’s the Cubs). Sometimes, it can be difficult to find things to talk about in these previews, especially when she’s already written a preview for that same team, so a switch-up was in order.
Both rotations are going through some things. The Cardinals are going to be using Johan Oviedo on Friday, John Gant on Saturday, and ??? on Sunday. The Cubs will be pitching Kyle Hendricks on Friday, ??? on Saturday, and maybe Zach Davies on Sunday. I don’t know how to preview a series that doesn’t even have defined pitching matchups yet, but I’ll give it my best shot.
Kyle Hendricks is not the man you remember him as. He has given up at least three earned runs in six of his 12 starts. He gave up three runs, two unearned, against the Cards in an earlier start. He has been prone to the home run ball, allowing 17 home runs already. He has been annihilated by lefties to the tune of a .444 wOBA against, which makes the Cards something of a good matchup for him, with Tommy Edman, Dylan Carlson, and I guess Matt Carpenter if he starts the only lefties in the lineup. He doesn’t strike out righties though, with just a 14.8 K%, so that’s something.
Saturday’s Cubs starter seems likely to be Kohl Stewart, who has pitched in Trevor Williams place for the last two starts. Stewart has a Dakota Hudson profile when he’s working, and a Dakota Hudson with less groundballs profile when he’s not working. In other words, too many walks, not enough strikeouts, and possibly a lot of groundballs. If not him, Alec Mills, who has been terrible, also being a groundball pitcher with too many walks and not enough strikeouts. He pitched six innings in a rehab start on June 2nd, though just one inning yesterday in his first return from the IL.
On Sunday, they might use Zach Davies on normal rest. Davies pitched Tuesday, and because of the off day, they can use him on Sunday without going through the typical five man rotation. Whether they will or not I don’t know. Davies is also not good, and I assume if it’s not Davies, his replacement will not be good either. In theory, the Cardinals should hit this weekend. A lot.
They should probably hit with who is pitching for the Cards if they want to win. Oviedo depends entirely upon whether or not he’s throwing strikes that day, While 2 ER in 4 IP doesn’t seem great, he did have a 3.95 xFIP in his last start. He struck out 4 and walked two, with one of the two being intentional. He had a 75 GB%. So if he does that on Friday, I like the Cards’ chances. To a certain extent, the same applies to Gant. Gant has two modes, both of which involve walking batters. Sometimes, he’ll pitch like he knows where he wants it and just misses and sometimes he can’t throw a strike. We need the former, though we really just need Gant magic to work again,
As for Sunday, it could be Jake Woodford or it could be Angel Rondon. Unless I’m mistaken, those would seem to be the only options. Woodford would be effectively a bullpen start, whereas Rondon would probably be allowed to throw 90 pitches, were he effective. Neither are great options for an MLB start, but don’t really seem a lot worse than the Cubs options and might be better!
You want to know why the Cubs aren’t for real? Because their winning streak is being driven by Patrick freaking Wisdom. He’s 29-years-old and he’s bad at baseball. Seems like a good guy or at least that was the story while he was here. But he’s about as fluky as Bo Hart. He has a .421 BABIP and a 53.3 HR/FB%. That’s right. Over half the fly balls he hits are leaving the yard. A number more indicative of his talent is like… 20%. So that’s five less homers than he has now. He’s striking out 35.4% of the time. Nothing has changed since we last saw him, just a hot, unsustainable streak.
The old guns are back. Kris Bryant is the Kris Bryant of old. Anthony Rizzo seems to have rebounded from last season (which is good because maybe the Cubs will give him a stupid contract). Willson Contreras is still hitting. Javy Baez is more Javy Baez than Javy Baez has ever Baez’d. Outside of that foursome, you get the powerless Matt Duffy and powerless Nico Hoerner, but who will single you to death. Joc Pederson and Ian Happ have both been forgettable presences in the lineup. David Bote, Eric Sogard, and Jason Heyward have been terrible.
Keys to the Series
Cardinals pitching – DON’T WALK PEOPLE
Very simple strategy, very hard to execute. It’s just that the Friday and Saturday starters are prone to the BB. If Sunday is Woodford, he is as well. If it’s Rondon, well Sunday would certainly be a bad time to start walking people. And of course the bullpen is extra walk prone. Oldest rule in the book here. Free baserunners leads to free runs. Make them earn those runs guys.
Get Ian Happ out
A mediocre offense is no longer mediocre if one of the below average hitters turns into Albert Pujols when he faces you. Ian Happ is batting a ridiculous .284/.387/.676 for a 1.063 OPS in 174 career PAs against the Cards. It’s good for a 160 tOPS+ which basically means his line is that much better than his career line. Get him out, the Cubs have a mediocre offense and are pretty beatable. If he homers three times this weekend, less so.
Get to the starters
The Cubs have a good bullpen, with the 2nd best ERA in the NL. Now, they’re not that good. A few players are way outperforming their peripherals – hello Dan Winkler, Andrew Chafin, and Keegan Thompson – but you know their starters are actually bad and their bullpen is not. The Cardinals aren’t particularly good against bullpens in general this year, which puts a lot of onus on hitting the starters. So do that.
Definitely a series where you hope the offense just tees off on everyone they face, which is definitely possible. Starters and the bullpen just need to give the offense a chance to win. Obviously, the offense can’t rely on the pitching only allowing one run, but if they need to score over 5 runs to win, the pitching has put them in too big a hole. Just keep the game winnable.
Everyone here ready for a good old fashioned sweep of the Cubs at Wrigley? Admittedly, this is not the greatest situation for a sweep, but that’s what’s great about baseball: a sweep can still happen. And it will.
Friday, 1:20 PM – ESPN+ (and I assume local channels)
Saturday, 6:15 PM – Fox
Sunday, 6:00 PM – ESPN