Series Preview – Chicago Cubs at Colorado Rockies – 8/5/14-8/7/14

Michael Cuddyer

Chicago Cubs at Colorado Rockies

CHC on road (22-36), last 10 (6-4).

COL at home (27-28), last 10 (3-7).

Probable Starters:

Brett Anderson (5.7 IP, 6.0 SO/9, 3.0 BB/9) vs. Travis Wood (5.1 IP, 7.6 SO/9, 3.9 BB/9)

Jordan Lyles (5.9 IP, 6.4 SO/9, 2.4 BB/9) vs. Jake Arrieta (6.0 IP, 9.7 SO/9, 2.6 BB/9)

Franklin Morales (5.5 IP, 6.0 SO/9, 4.4 BB/9) vs. Kyle Hendricks (6.5 IP, 5.8 SO/9, 2.4 BB/9)

(Innings pitcher per-start, strikeouts per-9 IP, walks per-9 IP)

All Left Things Must Come to An End

It was only last week when the Colorado Rockies visited Wrigley Field. What looked on the calendar as a generic midweek battle of cellar dwellars turned into the longest game in Wrigley Field’s 100 year history. Overall, the Cubs took three games of the four game series from the Rockies. Returning to Coors Field, some things are changing for both teams.

On the Rockies side of the things, Jordan Lyles is expected to start in Wednesday, taking the slot of Yohan Flande who may be rewarded by his last brilliant effort with a trip back to Colorado Springs. The last time a right handed pitcher started for the Rockies was Jair “Remember the Time” Jurrjens on July 9th. Tuesday’s game will mark 20 straight games started by a left handed pitcher, tying a major league record. Lyles, however, breaks the streak… which is probably a good thing since the Rockies are 5-14 over the last 19 games started by lefties.

Always Look At The Bright Side

The Cubs brought up elite prospect Javier Baez who will be debuting on Tuesday, batting second, at second base. He is the first of a wave of young kids coming up through the pipeline. Baez has always been younger than his peers at each age level in the minors and after each promotion, he usually struggles. However as a sign of maturity, at each level, he eventually adjusts which is something former Cubs prospects Corey Patterson or Felix Pie never did. By bringing him up now instead of September when it is more conventional, the Cubs are being proactive in getting him experience to prepare him for 2015. The cost? A year of free agency.

This is the first in a wave of star prospects along the way. The well known names are Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Addison Russell and Alberto Almora. Then there are those like Mike Olt (who had their shot) and Christian Villanueva (who may still get a shot). In times past the Cubs would just have one big prospect… “One Baez”, if you will, as long as you don’t confuse him with Joan Baez. If Baez struggles and never figures it out, the Cubs have plenty more people to give it a spin. Things are a changin’ in the friendly confines.

Thoughts On Pitching

The Cubs traded away two star pitchers. Starting on Tuesday is Travis Wood, who was acquired from the Reds with three other players in exchange for Sean Marshall. This was one of the first trades pulled off by Theo Epstein so please don’t confuse him with Kerry Wood. Wood’s ERA has been unsightly high at 5.10, particularly because his 2014 BB/9 rate of 3.90 is significantly higher than his career average of 3.14. Other peripheral numbers are also ticking in the wrong directions as his H/9 and HR/9 rates are slightly up and his K/9 rate is slightly down from his career norms. Courtesy of FanGraphs, Wood features a fastball that averages 88.4 MPH and a 85.5 MPH cutter which he throws 50.4% of the time. He’ll also throw the rare “knuckle curve” on occasion. He’ll be on the mound Tuesday.

Jake Arrieta, starting Wednesday night, is another reclamation prospect by Theo and Co. was acquired from the Orioles for former reclamation project Scott Feldman. As the defacto ace among mice and men, he has brought his walk rate under control while allowing only 2 home runs in 98 innings in 2014. To give you an idea of how far he has come, he logged 100.1 innings during his 2010 rookie year. If you set aside adjusting the difference between pitching against the Yankees DH and the Reds leadoff hitter, Arrieta gave up 9 home runs and averaged only a shade over five innings per start in 2010. This year? He’s averaging at least six innings a start. Whatever the Cubs have been doing to reclaim the castoffs of other teams has been pretty special and further reason not to get too concerned that the Cubs farm system is more known for its hitting prospects than its pitching prospects.

Third, we have Kyle Hendricks striding to the rubber on Wednesday. Hendricks was the additional piece the Cubs got in addition to Christian Villanueva for Ryan Dempster in 2011. Four games into his major league career, he has completed at least six innings in all of them. In his last outing against the Los Angeles Dodgers, he logged seven innings of four hit, one walk ball, bowing out of the game after a season-high 107 pitches. More of a groundball control specialist according to Fangraphs, expect 88 MPH fastballs mixed with 78 MPH changeups and the occasional (as in 8.6% of the time) curveball.

Thoughts on Weiss

After Walt Weiss had his media interview, there was a chat amongst us reporters (and Me?!?!) about the great Braves teams he used to play behind. Weiss emphasized that Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux could get a strikeout when they wanted to, or a double play when they needed to. It is that kind of “pitch-to-contact” philosophy he is interested in beyond a mere “get the ball down”. Not that he said this, but I wonder if keeping the ball always down in the zone makes it easier for hitters to “pitch a pitch” and focus on it since their eye level is never being changed. Completely off-topic, but Walt Weiss also thinks Frank Thomas is one of the most underrated hitters to play the game.

About Richard Bergstrom

Originally from Chicago and after an extensive tour of most of the western United States, this is my second stint in Denver. I've lived here since 2004 and go to quite a few Rockies games, especially Rockies fireworks games! When I'm not writing about baseball, I enjoy karaoke downtown, a bit of poker and a bit too much of my iPad.
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