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Chicago Cubs series preview: The Javier Báez Show comes to KC

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These guys might be good at baseball

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Chicago Cubs Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into a series on the road against the second-worst team in baseball, the Chicago Cubs will look to build on their one-game lead over the 2012 Kansas City Royals Milwaukee Brewers by beating the stuffing out of the lowly Royals.

Game times and pitching matchups are as follows:

  • Monday, August 6 — 7:15 PM CDT — Cole Hamels (L) versus Jakob Junis
  • Tuesday, August 7 — 7:15 PM CDT — Mike Montgomery (L) versus Brad Keller
  • Wednesday, August 8 — 7:15 PM CDT — José Quintana (L) versus Heath Fillmyer

Cubs at Royals pitching matchups

Pitcher G IP K K% BB BB% ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Pitcher G IP K K% BB BB% ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Game 1
Cole Hamels (L) 21 119.1 123 23.6 44 8.4 4.53 5.04 4.07 4.01 0.5 1.0
Jakob Junis 20 116.0 106 20.8 35 6.9 5.12 5.41 4.52 4.22 -0.2 -0.1
Game 2
Mike Montgomery (L) 30 92.1 56 14.2 29 7.4 3.90 4.04 4.43 4.55 1.0 1.0
Brad Keller 32 82.1 54 15.7 35 10.2 3.39 3.67 4.36 4.68 1.2 2.0
Game 3
José Quintana (L) 21 113.2 101 20.7 52 10.7 4.12 4.62 4.39 4.64 0.8 1.1
Heath Fillmyer 8 30.1 18 14.0 15 11.6 3.86 4.85 4.92 5.16 0.0 0.2

Both Cole Hamels and José Quintana are shells of their former selves, but each can consider himself a favorite in his matchup with his Royal counterpart. Hamels’s Ks are actually up from last year and are just over his career average, but he’s posting an abysmal 20.7 HR/FB% which has undone any progress he should have made from last year and then some. Quintana’s struggles can be directly tied to a jump in walk rates, walking nearly 4.0% more batters this year than he’s averaged in his career. Compounding issues? His Hard% is up 7.0% over his career mark. With a 4.5% jump over his career average in HR/FB%, these are all trends sending him off in the wrong direction.

Former Royal farmhand (and one of the prime examples of the Royals mishandling of highly touted pitching prospects), Mike Montgomery has been pretty effective as a swing-man for the Cubs, jumping from the pen to the rotation when needed. Somewhat alarmingly, his K-rates have dropped to the area of Twins Pitcher Circa 2014. One of the few bright spots to this new pitching-to-contact focus is that Montgomery has his best Soft% of his career. He’s also grown increasingly reliant upon his sinker at a time when the rest of the baseball world seems to be opting for the four-seamer. Whether his new style of pitching can allow him continued success is anyone’s guess.

Chicago Cubs position players

Name Pos PA HR R RBI SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Name Pos PA HR R RBI SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Javier Báez 2B 428 23 69 84 19 .299 .333 .577 .377 135 4.0 4.5
Willson Contreras C 392 9 39 40 4 .278 .369 .450 .355 121 2.8 3.2
Ben Zobrist (S) Util 342 7 50 42 2 .305 .392 .442 .363 126 2.7 2.1
Kyle Schwarber (L) LF 375 20 51 48 3 .250 .369 .487 .359 124 2.7 2.1
Addison Russell SS 382 5 49 36 4 .266 .336 .374 .312 92 2.0 2.4
Jason Heyward (L) RF 374 7 56 46 1 .283 .345 .417 .331 105 1.9 1.5
Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B 449 17 47 73 4 .264 .361 .450 .346 115 1.6 1.2
Ian Happ (S) 2B/OF 336 12 45 32 5 .245 .372 .428 .345 114 1.5 0.9
Albert Almora Jr. CF 345 4 50 30 1 .299 .335 .408 .322 99 1.3 1.9
David Bote 3B 71 2 10 11 3 .310 .408 .483 .380 138 0.9 1.0
Tommy La Stella (L) IF 137 0 16 17 0 .283 .358 .325 .309 91 0.3 0.3
Victor Caratini (S) C 115 0 13 10 0 .269 .330 .327 .294 81 0.1 0.0

As a team, the Cubs have managed a .266/.345/.425 triple-slash with a .332 wOBA and 105 wRC+. That wRC+ ties them for sixth-best in baseball with the Dodgers. Once their fantastic team defense is factored in, however, the Cubs position players are nearly two wins (1.8 fWAR) better than the next best team in baseball. Yes, they currently have the best group of position players in the game. To say they don’t matchup well with the Royals would be a comic understatement.

Notable amongst their position players is surprise NL MVP candidate Javier Báez, whose breakout performance has put him in the conversation with Matt Carpenter, Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich, Freddie Freeman, and Nolan Arenado. Always a top-notch performer in the little ways a player can impact a game, Báez has ridden a .345 BABIP to a .299 AVG that has allowed his OBP to be a palatable .333 in spite of his measly 4.0 BB%. Of course, it’s the power (.279 ISO) that has really driven his value skyward, and that coupled with his 5.5 Base-runs (third-best mark in the NL) puts him squarely in the running for the MVP, especially considering the Cubs’ position in the playoff picture.

Poll

How will the Royals fare against the Cubs?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    Royals sweep
    (35 votes)
  • 6%
    Royals take two of three
    (19 votes)
  • 33%
    Cubs take two of three
    (106 votes)
  • 48%
    Cubs sweep
    (152 votes)
312 votes total Vote Now