After wrapping up a relatively disappointing 3-4 homestand that featured four postponements thanks to some awful weather, the Chicago Cubs embark on a brief five-game road trip that begins tonight with three in Colorado against the Rockies.
The Cubs probably wish things had gone better in their first three series at Wrigley Field this season. Not only did they fall to fourth place in the NL Central at 8-8, 2 1/2 games in back of the surprising Pittsburgh Pirates, but the offense was inconsistent and often struggled to take advantage of scoring opportunities. Overall, the starting pitching wasn’t much better, as the Chicago rotation failed to go at least six innings in all but two games, forcing a heavy early-season workload on the bullpen.
One person who didn’t struggle during this stretch was Javy Baez. During the home stand, El Mago slashed .345/.367/1.000 with five home runs, two doubles and a triple, good for a wRC+ of 264. Baez had 10 hits over the seven games, with all but two going for extra bases.
The Rockies (11-9), meanwhile, come into this series as a bit of an enigma on offense in the early going. While they lead the majors in home runs with 27, the rest of their stats have been either decidedly average or downright bad. Colorado currently sports the second-worst team batting average (.214), on-base percentage (.285) and BABIP (.253) in all of baseball, but sit in the middle of the pack in runs scored (76) thanks in large part to a comparatively high ISO (.167).
While the team as a whole may be struggling on offense, the trio of Charlie Blackmon, DJ LeMahieu and Nolan Arenado are not. Blackmon has celebrated his recent contract extension by hitting seven home runs, while LeMahieu has put up a surprising five home runs of his own in the early going. Arenado is coming back from a five-game suspension, and while his power numbers haven’t quite been there this season, the rest of his stats are right in line with what you would expect: .288/.387/.462. With Arenado’s track record, you know it’s just a matter of time before the balls once again start to fly out of the park.
The Colorado pitching staff has been slightly above average thus far, with the Rockies sitting at No. 11 in MLB in ERA (4.24) and No. 12 in FIP (4.24). Jon Gray is the staff ace and although his numbers have not been pretty so far (1-3, 6.23 ERA, 1.52 WHIP), a high BABIP (.385) and low strand rate (63.8 percent) suggest he has been the victim of some bad luck.
Game Time and Broadcast Info
- Friday, April 20 at 7:40 p.m. CT on WGN
- Saturday, April 21 at 7:10 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago
- Sunday, April 22 at 2:10 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago
What to Watch For
- Will this be the series where the Cubs’ much-hyped rotation finally makes a prolonged appearance? While there have been games here and there that displayed the potential, Chicago’s starting pitchers have been disappointing thus far in 2018. They have combined for the third-worst ERA (4.92), FIP (4.75) and fWar (0.3) in the NL, behind only the rebuilding Reds and Marlins in all three categories, and the third-worst WHIP in all of baseball (1.57), behind the Orioles and Padres. The main culprit? Far too many walks. Cubs starters have combined for a BB/9 of 5.0, better than just the White Sox. Not good.
- There were a lot of questions when the Rockies gave Ian Desmond a five-year, $70 million contract before the 2017 season. An injury-shortened season a year ago followed by a slow start in 2018 have done little to quiet those concerns. Through 19 games, Desmond is slashing just .162/.194/.353 with a GB/FB ratio of 3.50.
- The weather. Mother nature has not been kind to baseball so far, and the Cubs are no exception, having already seen five of their games get postponed. So how does this weekend look? Friday could get rough, with a rain/snow mix and temperatures in the 30s expected by game time. Thankfully, the forecasts for the remaining two games look much better.