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Series Preview: Milwaukee Brewers @ Chicago Cubs

The Cubs are bad and should feel bad.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Chicago Cubs Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

After an entertaining, back-and-forth competitive weekend against the team with the best record in baseball, the Brewers head into a new week with four games against a team that has already quit.

The Chicago Cubs should have been a dynasty, but their owners decided developing Wrigleyville into their own version of Times Square (in which they own and corporatize and sterilize everything) was more important than keeping and supplementing their championship core.

And now that era of Cubs baseball is forever dead. But hey, at least the Ricketts still have their real estate.

The Lineup

Here’s a list of players no longer with the Cubs since the last time we saw them, a three-game sweep by the combined score of 31-12 that effectively clinched the firesale:

- Kris Bryant

- Javier Baez

- Anthony Rizzo

- Joc Pederson

- Jake Marisnick

- Craig Kimbrel

- Trevor Williams

- Eric Sogard

- Andrew Chafin

That’s more than a third of a roster turned over in just a couple months, and now the Cubs are routinely putting guys with names like Frank Schwindel and Johneshwy Fargas in the lineup. The lineup will be even weaker this week with Jason Heyward landing on the injured list.

That’s led to some of the lineups the Cubs have put out in the last couple weeks looking more like an Iowa Cubs lineup, with the middle of the order being made up of guys like Schwindel and David Bote and Patrick Wisdom and Matt Duffy.

Even with the Brewers’ pitching situation in flux for the next week, this is not a terribly scary lineup to face, even if Milwaukee needs to opt for some spot starters from the minors.

The Probable Pitchers

Monday, 7:05 p.m. - Freddy Peralta vs. Alec Mills

Peralta is the only starter the Brewers have officially listed for this series as of Monday morning, as guys like Adrian Houser and Eric Lauer are still on the COVID list. Mills joined the Cubs’ rotation full-time in mid-June and hasn’t seen as much success as he did in last year’s COVID-shortened year, but has been a decent back-end rotation guy. Chicago’s problem is their entire rotation is made up of back-end rotation guys at this point. Mills is coming off a solid 6 innings in which he allowed 2 runs on 8 hits against the Rockies last Wednesday. He won’t miss many bats at all but he’s been elite at missing the barrel, with a barrel rate ranking in the 92nd percentile of all pitchers this year.

Tuesday, 7:05 p.m. - TBD vs. Justin Steele

Steele is being moved into the rotation as the Cubs go to the 6-man model starting this week. The lefty has been almost entirely fastball-slider out of the bullpen, so it remains to be seen if he’ll start to sprinkle in more curveballs as he stretches back out. He’s been effective in limited action in the bullpen this year, striking out 21 batters in 13.1 innings while putting up a 1.05 WHIP and 2.03 ERA, but this will be his first appearance since May. He made 9 appearances at Iowa since then, including 5 starts, putting up a 1.32 ERA in 27.1 innings, striking out 29 while walking 13 and putting up a WHIP below 1.

Wednesday, 7:05 p.m. - TBD vs. Jake Arrieta

If the Cubs were actually trying to be competitive, Arrieta would’ve been gone from their rotation after the game in which he blew a 7-0 first-inning lead. Instead, he’s pitched another month and a half after that. If it wasn’t so funny, it would be legitimately perplexing. Arrieta has legitimately been one of the worst starting pitchers in baseball this year, ranking in the bottom 10% in average exit velocity, hard-hit percentage, whiff percentage, chase rate, expected slugging, expected slugging, expected ERA and expected wOBA. He has a 6.34 ERA in 19 starts and has a -0.7 fWAR and -1.8 bWAR.

Thursday, 1:20 p.m. - TBD vs. Kyle Hendricks

Hendricks may be the best Cubs’ starter this season, but he’s still quite a ways off of where he was a few years ago. He comes into this start with a 3.68 ERA but a 4.57 FIP in 23 starts. Despite throwing one of the slowest fastballs in the majors this year — his 87 mph four-seamer ranks in just the 3rd percentile — he’s still managed to put up a chase rate in the 94th percentile due to that extremely good changeup. The Brewers scored 4 times against him in 6 innings on June 28th as part of that three-game sweep. He’s coming off a very solid start against a tough White Sox lineup in his last outing, limiting them to just 2 runs over 6 innings while striking out a season-high 7.

Statistics courtesy of Statcast and Fangraphs