The online MLB odds for the Cubs winning the division have taken a small hit over the last month or so, but they still have close to 90% odds of winning their division. The NL Central lead for the Cubs is down to 6.5 games again after the Cardinals swept a double-header on Wednesday and came from behind last night.
The Cubs begin a series with their rivals to the north Friday night. I’m kind of surprised the Brewers are only 40-53. I expected them to be a lot worse than that. The Brewers have managed to be slightly better than .500 at home this season (23-22). Let’s see if the Cubs can change that this weekend.
Cubs (200 PA)
- OBP: Anthony Rizzo (.403)
- ISO: Rizzo (.304)
- HR: Kris Bryant (25)
- R+RBI: Bryant (142)
- wRC+: Rizzo (162)
- BSR: Bryant (4.0)
- SP K/9: Jake Arrieta (9.57)
- SP BB/9: Jon Lester (2.36)
- SP FIP: Arrieta (2.94)
- RP K/9: Pedro Strop (11.86)
- RP BB/9: Hector Rondon (1.03)
- RP FIP: Rondon (2.18)
- WAR: Bryant (5.1)
- OBP: Jonathan Villar (.384)
- ISO: Chris Carter (.274)
- HR: Carter (22)
- R+RBI: Carter (99)
- wRC+: Ryan Braun (130)
- BSR: Aaron Hill (2.0)
- SP K/9: Junior Guerra (7.95)
- SP BB/9: Zachary Davies (2.33)
- SP FIP: Guerra (3.76)
- RP K/9: Tyler Thornburg (12.42)
- RP BB/9: Jeremy Jeffress (2.23)
- RP FIP: Thornburg (3.23)
- WAR: Jonathan Lucroy (2.6)
K/9, BB/9, ERA, FIP, projected ERA listed for each pitcher.
It’s the second half of the season and everybody is expecting Jason Hammel to start pitching poorly. I’m not entirely convinced he’s pitched well up to this point. There are some troubling numbers when you look at his stats. His walk rate is up from the last few years and his strikeout rate is down considerably. His home runs are leaving the yard on fly balls more frequently and about the only thing holding his numbers together is an increased groundball rate and an unsustainable left on base percentage. Still, when I compare his numbers to what the Brewers have in the upcoming series it makes me feel a lot better about the back of the Cubs rotation. Hammel would one of the best Brewers starters if he was to switch sides.
I don’t know why, but for some reason it seems to me that Jimmy Nelson has been around forever. He only made his MLB debut in 2013 and is just 27 years old though. He’s an OK pitcher. He’s about like Hammel, but he walks more guys and doesn’t keep the ball on the ground as much. He’s faced the Cubs twice this season. In his first start he allowed 2 hits and 3 runs (1 earned) in 5.1 innings. He walked 4 and struckout 6. He threw 7.1 scoreless innings against them on May 18th. He walked 4 in that start too. He’s been pitching pretty well of late. Since he gave up 8 runs in 3.2 innings to the Giants on June 15th, he’s made 5 starts and given up 6 runs over 29 innings. He’s left the game twice over the span having not allowed any runs.
I’ll never be a fan of John Lackey, but I am impressed at how he has maintained his velocity throughout his career. He’s still striking out a career high, but he is walking more batters than he has since 2011. His groundball rate has also fallen and he’s given up more home runs. Thanks a .268 BABIP, his ERA is still decent. Lackey has had some very bad games this season and has been terrible since June 25th (5 starts) when he gave up 7 runs in 4.1 innings. Since then he’s given up 24 runs (23 earned) in 30.2 innings. He’s given up 8 home runs over his last 6 starts. If Lackey keeps the ball in the ballpark, the Cubs win.
Davies is a groundball pitcher who doesn’t throw all that hard. The Brewers acquired him midseason in 2015 from the Orioles. The O’s drafted him in 2011 in the 26th round. He’s only 23. He hasn’t walked many batters this year and his strikeout rate is OK. He has given up more home runs than he’d like. His first three starts were terrible this season, but since then he’s been pretty good. He has not faced the Cubs yet.
Sunday: Jon Lester, LHP (8.44, 2.36, 2.89, 4.03, 3.28) vs Junior Guerra, RHP (7.95, 2.95, 3.06, 3.76, 4.04), 1:10 PM CT
Jon Lester’s ERA is pretty good, but some of his peripherals are a bit concerning. Not necessarily for this season, but for the next four. His strikeout rate is down a little bit and his walk rate is up a little. His home runs per 9 are nearly double what they were the last few years. 16.2% of his fly balls have left the ballpark, so I expect some regression there, but I also expect his .256 BABIP to regress in the opposite direction. Same goes for left on base percentage (a ridiculously high 84.9%). His velocity is the same as the last few years, if not a little better so I’m not overly concerned. Some of it might be signs of aging though.
Junior Guerra has been pretty good, but it’s mostly due to his .238 BABIP. The 31 year old mostly keeps the ball on the ground and is the best starter the Cubs face in this series. Guerra faced the Cubs on May 19th and threw 7 innings, allowed 5 hits and 3 runs. He walked 3 and struckout 11. He has a good fastball with an average velocity of 93.3 mph.