Submitted by Jim Hurley’s Network on Friday, July 28, 2017 at 1:26 PM
IT'S THE BIGGEST SERIES OF THE YEAR IN NL CENTRAL AS CHICAGO CUBS VISIT MILWAUKEE THIS WEEKEND
Chicago Cubs fans have had this series circled for weeks. And, now, thanks to some extremes in recent form, it's actually a three-game set that could virtually cement an NL Central title for last year's World Champs.
Cubs: 11-2 since the All-Star Break
Brewers: 2-9 their last 11 games
Chicago has the more talented roster, and a much better starting rotation. They're finally starting to play like a playoff team rather than a bunch of guys enduring a long hangover. Milwaukee seems to realize they're a pretender given that recent skid. NO WAY the Brew Crew can come back to win this division if they lose at least two of three at HOME this weekend in their most important series of the season.
Is it virtually automatic that those recent trends will continue? Or, can Milwaukee get back on track? Let's look at JIM HURLEY'S key indicator stats to evaluate these teams and this vital weekend showdown.
Chicago Cubs: +34 runs, while playing 49 home games and 52 road games
Milwaukee: +25 runs, while playing 52 home games and 52 road games
Only a slight edge in the numbers for the Cubs (who deserve bonus credit in the evaluation because of the extra road games). But, that slight edge probably reflects Chicago playing with a hangover that's long gone, while the Brewers were playing over their heads for three months. (Think about what the differentials looked like before the Cubs won 11 of 13 and the Brewers lost 9 of 11!)
Chicago Cubs: 4.7 runs-per-game, .330 on-base, .433 slugging
Milwaukee: 4.8 runs-per-game, .324 on-base, .445 slugging
Very similar offenses to this point in the season. Milwaukee has more slugging (helped by their home park, and the fact that a lot of games at Wrigley have seen the wind blow in this year). We would expect the Cubs to show better than this moving forward. It's a close divisional race "right now" because these offenses have performed so similarly.
Moving to probable pitchers…
Quintana: 4.22 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 9.8 K's per 9 innings
Suter: 2.84 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 7.6 K's per 9 innings
Quintana was pitching in bad luck for the disinterested White Sox until the trade. That combination of WHIP and K-rate is going to work very well for a top team like the Cubs. Suter has been effective in limited time as a starter. That K-rate is problematic though, so the ERA is likely to rise in the near future. Frankly, in terms of "true" performance, you should probably reverse those ERA's. Quintana is All-Star caliber, while Suter isn't likely to be as good longterm as his current ERA suggests. This one should set the tone for the weekend.
Hendricks: 3.95 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 7.6 K's per 9 innings
Guerra: 5.22 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 7.1 K's per 9 innings
Both pitchers throw to contact, which could be a problem if scoring conditions are good on Saturday. Hendricks clearly has the edge in terms of ERA and WHIP…meaning the Cubs winning a high scoring game is the best expectation. It's pretty amazing how many games the Brewers have won this season considering the mediocrity of their starting rotation.
Lackey: 4.97 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 7.6 K's per 9 innings
Davies: 4.45 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 6.1 K's per 9 innings
Lackey, in particular, is a pitcher NOT served well by a juiced ball! That's also a part of why the Cubs have fallen down a bit this season. Their pitchers had to adjust while their hitters were still patting themselves on the back for last year. Davies has been flirting with disaster this season with the high WHIP and low K-Rate. Another possibility for a high scoring game that the Cubs will have an edge in.
All told, you can see why Chicago is a heavy favorite to win the division. They have a pitching advantage here even with Arrieta and Lester missing the series. But, that pitching advantage isn't so big that a winning weekend is a lock. True gut check time for Milwaukee. Red hot Chicago wants to send a message.
JIM HURLEY has also had this series circled for weeks. But he won't force plays if the market isn't giving away any edges. There are other great matchups on tap this weekend (like Kansas City/Boston, Tampa Bay/NY Yankees, and Colorado/Washington). He'll find you BIG, JUICY WINNERS wherever they are on the board.
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Back with you Monday to preview Cleveland/Boston, a huge series in the American League and a potential playoff preview involving two teams who have a real shot to take out Houston in October. Then, midweek, we'll look at that Dallas Cowboys/Arizona Cardinals kickoff game on the NFL exhibition slate.
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