Long have we laughed at the ineptitude of the Cubes, but those days are at an end. The front office's tank for prospects approach has come to fruition and to bolster that they've started exercising their financial clout. This is far from the final form of this monster but it's formidable nonetheless.
In addition to what can now be considered their veteran players Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs have added top prospects Kris Bryant and Addison Russell. They've also brought pricey free agent Jon Lester to form a potent 1-2 punch along with Jake Arrieta.
The bullpen has been a mess and I still have my doubts about their 3-4-5 starting pitchers. But the Cubs have done much better than they Brewers. At 12-8 on the season their Wild Card hopes are still very much alive. The Brewers probably can't say as much. But that doesn't mean they have to make it easy for them.
As fans if we can't enjoy a postseason berth for our team, at least we can take joy in our team spoiling things for their rivals. That's what I'm looking forward to or at least hoping for this weekend. I guess it's sort of petty, but that's half of sports fandom!
Kris Bryant has been considered a top prospect from the moment he was drafted. He hit 41 home runs in 594 plate appearances between AA and AAA last year. He opened the season in AAA for service time reasons only. In 55 MLB plate appearances (at the time of writing) he slashed 318/455/409. He has yet to hit his first home run at the big league level but if you've been watching the Brewers at all this season, you know that will probably come this weekend.
Friday May 1, 1:20 pm CST: Wily Peralta vs Jon Lester
Jon Lester was the figurative battle horn signifying the Cubs were ready to transition from rebuild mode to compete mode. The Cubs gave Lester a 6 year $155M deal but the early results (6.23 ERA) have not been what they were hoping for. That seems to be on the defense though. His 2.25 FIP and 3.35 xFIP are both quite good. He has a 25.0 K% and a 5.2 BB% but his .319 BAA is high. That's going to drop though as his .424 BABIP is unsustainable.
Saturday May 2, 1:20 pm CST: Mike Fiers vs Jake Arrieta
Chris Bosio reportedly helped Arrieta rework his pitching mechanics which allowed him to have a break out season last year. So far he's picked up right where he left off. He throws mid-90s fastball, cutter, curve, and change. They spent the money on Lester but before this season is over Arrieta might (re-)take the title of the Cubs ace.
Sunday May 3, 1:20 pm CST: Jimmy Nelson vs Jason Hammel
Hammel is mostly fastball-slider. He does throw a curve and a changeup though infrequently. He's been really good for the Cubs but was performed much worse for half a season with Oakland last year. Maybe it's Chris Bosio's influence? Maybe it's the early season park effects at Wrigley? I'm not sure what it was, but I don't quite buy Hammel as a low-3.00 ERA guy. He does seem to match-up well against the Brewers as they seem to have a hard time against ground ball pitchers.
- Saturday is the first day Carlos Gomez will be eligible to return from the disabled list. As of right now it sounds like that will happen. The question then becomes what the corresponding roster move will be. Gerardo Parra and Juan Cenento aren't going anywhere. Elian Herrera, Hector Gomez, and Luis Jimenez don't have options left. That makes it more likely that Logan Schafer or Jason Rogers will be sent down as they're the only ones with minor league options left.
-Ryan Braun is starting to heat up. On the season he's hitting 254/293/423 but in the last 7 days he's hit 286/318/714. That slugging is a bit skewed because of his recent 2 HR game. There are 2 things that jump out at me. He only has a 4.0 BB% and .275 BABIP on the season. Both of those things should go up. He just needs to stop swinging at so many pitches outside the strike zone (48.1 O-Swing% this season compared to 34.4% for his career). In other words, I don't think it's the thumb.
Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs