Cubs-Yankees Series Preview
Here Comes the Judge
Rarely do we get to see the Yankees play the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Even more rare is to see both teams playing well and leading their respective divisions. The Yankees have gotten off to a great start fueled by a combination of good young players and some unsustainable veteran performances. The Cubs, of course, are built around the young core of the team. With Gary Sanchez returning to the Yankees lineup to join the incredible Aaron Judge, this could be the most interesting series we’ve seen at Wrigley thus far this season.
Game 1- Friday, May 5th @ 1:20 CT
Kyle Hendricks (4.18 ERA, 5.08 FIP, 8.8 K-BB%) vs. Michael Pineda (3.14 ERA, 3.15 FIP, 28.7 K-BB%)
Michael Pineda has pitched quite well the last two seasons, but has relatively paltry ERAs to show for it. The surface stats have just never really lined up with his peripherals. This season has been a different story, at least up to now. Part of the reason for this is that Pineda is striking out more batters than he ever has before while maintaining excellent control. He has racked up a very unsustainable 20.8 percent HR-FB rate, which the Cubs are hoping will not suddenly regress in this start.
Kyle Hendricks has been an interesting story. Looking at the numbers as they stand, you would be right to be concerned. However, it’s important to keep in mind how early in the season it still is. And that “The Professor” has had two good starts in a row now, so we really know nothing about how his season will play out. He has walked over 10 percent of the batters he’s faced, which is very uncharacteristic of Hendricks, so expecting some regression to the mean seems correct.
Game 2- Saturday, May 6th @ 6:15 CT
Brett Anderson (6.23 ERA, 4.52 FIP, 2.9 K-BB%) vs. Jordan Montgomery (4.15 ERA, 3.64 FIP, 14.1 K-BB%)
Brett Anderson makes me sigh. Mostly because I know that having pitching depth is incredibly important, but because I do not believe he should be the Cubs fifth starter. Anderson has always had to rely on groundouts to get him through games, and that is not changing anytime soon. However, he is having an even rougher go than usual here in 2017. He simply cannot generate swinging strikes and his command is sorely lacking. Mike Montgomery is hot on his heels, so the reality is that he must turn things around quickly.
Jordan Montgomery, on the other hand, is an exciting young pitcher for the Yankees. The 24-year-old lefty has shown an ability to get strikeouts with a 25 percent rate. His command and control have both historically been excellent in the minors, even as he has struggled with them a bit to begin his major league career. The Cubs have generally done a good job of having a game plan for facing young, inexperienced pitchers, so one hopes that will continue in this one.
Game 3- Sunday, May 7th @ 7:05 CT
Jon Lester (3.67 ERA, 4.06 FIP, 11.4 K-BB%) vs. Luis Severino (3.86 ERA, 3.78 FIP, 23.4 K-BB%)
Jon Lester, like the rest of the Cubs staff, had a down April. But I don’t believe there’s anything fundamentally wrong with him. He needs to command his pitches a bit better, but that’s all there really is to it. If he is still struggling at the end of June, we can revisit this subject. Until then, I’m inclined to lean towards thinking Jon Lester just had a slow start to the season.
Luis Severino with good command is a scary thought. That is what we are currently seeing from the hard-throwing 23-year-old right now. He is still allowing way too much hard contact, but he’s also very young and it’s important for the Yankees to take things one step at a time with him. The 26.7 percent hard contact rate, though, gives the Cubs a real opening. A lineup with Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo in it could give the young righty fits and starts.
David Blumberg is studying for his Master’s of Sports Journalism at IUPUI. He harbors a distant dream of someday being the Cubs’ radio play-by-play voice. For now, he is a “humble,” baseball-loving comic book nerd. You can follow him on Twitter @DGBlumberg for amazing takes on baseball, movies, beer and much more.