Cubs versus Atlanta Braves: Scouting Report on Sunday’s Pitcher Julio Teheran

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

Game 23: Julio Teheran
The Cubs are coming off a grind-out 6-1 win in the series opener against the Atlanta Braves on Friday afternoon. Jon Lester and Aaron Blair both gave their teams solid pitching performances. The game was tied at one heading into the eighth until the Cubs offense broke the game open against the Braves bullpen. After the rain out Saturday, Sunday’s  game could involve a little more offense as John Lackey and his 3-1 record with a 4.97 ERA face Julio Teheran and his 0-3 record with a 4.60 ERA.

Teheran, a right hander, is a former All-Star who has struggled the past few years and this year has been no different. However, in his last game against the Boston Red Sox he took the loss despite only giving up one run. Teheran is a strikeout pitcher having a career average of 7.7 strike outs per nine innings. He has the same average this year; however, he has a high walk rate as well. This year he is walking 3.38 batters per nine innings, which is partly why his WHIP is so high at 1.36. Teheran throws five pitches—four-seam fastball, slider, two-seam fastball, change-up, and curveball. The velocity on his fastball has dropped throughout the years. This year his fastball averages about 90 mph. Teheran predominantly throws fastball and slider. He will mix in the change-up and curve to keep hitters honest.

Outlook: Teheran stays in and around the strike zone despite having a high walk rate. Hitters are still able to make contact. As a result, the batting average for balls in play is .276. Lefties hit him a little more frequently at a .261 average as opposed to righties at .239. The key to hitting Teheran is keying on the slider and laying off when he throws it. Since the fastball velocity is slow batters have time to catch up. The slider is his out pitch and is averaging 10 mph slower than the fastball, which causes hitter to get out in front of it if looking fastball. Cubs hitters need to be patient and not chase the slider, or any of his pitches, outside of the strike zone. Cubs hitters have been amazingly patient this season, so they just need maintain that same patience with Teheran. Moreover, Lackey needs to have a better outing than last game. The game will be up for grabs if he has a repeat performance. On the other hand, hopefully the extra day of rest will help Lackey limit the Braves from getting on base. If so,  then the Cubs should touch Teheran for enough runs for another Cubs win.

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Cubs versus Atlanta Braves: Scouting Report on Friday’s Opposing Pitcher Aaron Blair

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By Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

Game 22: Aaron Blair
The Atlanta Braves roll into Wrigley Field with MLB’s worst record at 5-17 while the Cubs come in with MLB’s best record at 16-5. Jon Lester (2-1, 1.98 ERA) will be facing rookie Aaron Blair (0-1, 5.06 ERA) this afternoon. Blair is a 6’4” right hander who made his Major League debut on April 24 against the New York Mets. He pitched 5.1 innings in a loss giving up three earned runs on six hits while striking out one and walking two.

Interestingly, the lefties did all the damage off of Blair batting .429 while he surrendered no hits to right handers. Blair has four pitches—four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, change-up, and curveball—with moderate speed. His fastball averages low 90’s, his change-up averages 85 mph, and his curveball drops down to 78 mph. In the minors, Blair primarily relied on his change-up as his secondary pitch. Experts project him to be a mid-rotation starter, which is why he was included in the package deal that sent Shelby Miller to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Outlook: It appears Kris Bryant is going to avoid heading to the DL after he rolled his right ankle running the bases on Thursday. Still, he will not be in the lineup this afternoon as Javier Baez will be playing third base. For the Cubs it has been next man up. Kyle Schwarber goes down and Jorge Soler steps up, Miguel Montero heads to the DL and David Ross steps up, and now Bryant goes down so it’s Baez’s turn. With Lester on the mound and the Cubs offense facing a rookie starter the potential for another Cubs victory is high. The Cubs hitters should have no problem hitting Blair’s fastball. If he is unable to vary his speeds and pitch locations the hitters, especially left handers, should make great contact. It’ll be another chilly day at Wrigley, but that shouldn’t slow down the Cubs.

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The Sports Corner Bar & Grill: Fun Atmosphere to Watch Cubs Road Games

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Last Thursday, during a beautiful Chicago spring afternoon, we decided to head down to Wrigleyville to watch the Cubs and Jake Arrieta take on the Cincinnati Reds. As soon as we got off of the Red Line we quickly found ourselves on the corner of Sheffield and Addison taking in the sight of Wrigley Field at the Gate D entrance as we always do. Wrigley Field is a vision to behold, almost larger than life as it sits before us. Our plan was to head to Clark to see what was going on until we started hearing noises of excitement behind us at The Sports Corner Bar & Grill. It was like the bar was calling us to come inside and watch the Cubbies that night.

Ambiance: For a Thursday afternoon there was plenty of excitement in the bar as the regulars were waiting for the Blackhawks playoff game and Cubs game to start. In the meantime, they were passing the time away cheering on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of Orange County and North of San Diego against the White Sox. The patrons were cheering on every out the White Sox made towards their 2-1 loss to the Angels, which created a fun atmosphere.

It appeared that the White Sox loss was a nice precursor to the fans inside before the Cubs and Blackhawks games started. Since the Blackhawks were playing an elimination game against the St. Louis Blues that game took center stage with the fans that came piling into the bar. Still, with having approximately 30 televisions in the bar there were plenty of screens to watch the Cubs game. Even better, we got to enjoy what turned out to be Arrieta’s second no-hitter and the Cubs 16-0 domination of the Reds.

The Sports Corner also has a great patio that sits about 100 yards from Gate D and the Ron Santo and Billy Williams statutes. I can’t think of a better afternoon when the Cubs are away then sitting in the sun, having cold beers, and taking in Wrigley Field’s surroundings. They also have rooftop beer garden for patrons to get an even better view of Wrigley Field.

Food and Drink: The service at The Sports Corner was impeccable. The minute that we walked in Dot, a server, greeted us and took us to a table in the center of the bar. He was extremely cordial and funny. When we sat down we discovered all the specials they offer on a daily basis. To our luck Thursdays was $1 domestic drafts. That is always a plus!

Leah, our server, came over and took our drink order. She was very friendly and answered a few questions we had. The menu offered so many delicious choices that we couldn’t decide on what to try so we called over Dot and asked him what he liked. He said that he loves the Italian Beef because it was cooked just right and the peppers gave it the right kind of heat. He sold us on the Italian Beef so when Leah came back around we ordered that and the Bratwurst.

The Italian Beef and Bratwurst looked amazing when Leah brought them to us. We found out quickly that Dot was spot on with his recommendation. The Italian Beef was cooked perfectly. The combination of the au jus, sweet peppers, mozzarella cheese, and giardiniera was perfect. The bratwurst with sauerkraut and spicy mustard was just as good.  It was cooked to perfection. The food was all-around excellent and the $1 beers could not be beat.

Overall: The Sports Corner Bar & Grill is a recommended stop for all Chicago Cubs fans either coming through to watch the Cubs at Wrigley, visiting the field, or watching the Cubs on the road. It was a great experience, with friendly staff, and very affordable prices. They have daily special so we recommend checking them out. Moreover, the atmosphere is perfect for a sports bar as any seat in the house has a good view of several televisions. Lastly, there is nothing better in a sports bar then looking out the window and seeing Wrigley Field directly across the street. If you have not visited The Sports Corner Bar & Grill then it is a recommended stop.

 

Info:    The Sports Corner Bar & Grill 
952 West Addison Street
Chicago, IL 60613
(773) 929-1441

 

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Cubs versus Milwaukee Brewers: Scouting Report on Thursday’s Opposing Pitcher Taylor Jungmann

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By Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

Game 21: Taylor Jungmann
The Milwaukee Brewers send out Taylor Jungmann to the mound to slow down the Chicago Cubs offense. Although the Brewers were able to limit the Cubs to just four runs, they still lost 4-3. Jungmann is currently 0-3 with an earned run average of 8.47, which does not bode well for him or the Brewers.

Like Nelson, Jungmann is a 6’6” right hander, who throws in the low 90’s. He throws two major pitches, a four-seam fastball and curveball. He also throws a two-seam fastball and change-up infrequently. In 2016, right handers have hit Jungmann significantly well with a .342 average. Left handers have it him with a .250 average which is also troublesome. Batters are averaging a .339 when making contact against Jungmann. So when batters from both side of the plate get their bat on the ball they are finding success. Moreover, he has shown command issues this season with a 5.29 walks per nine innings with only 5.82 strikeouts to a nine innings.

Outlook: Currently Best Pitcher-of-the-Universe Jake Arrieta is pitching tonight so the outlook for the Cubs is promising to say the least. Theoretically, the Cubs just need to get one run off of Jungmann and watch Arrieta dominant. Not much of deeper analysis is needed. However, the Cubs right handers should have success against him tonight. Batters from both sides of the plate should remain patient and force Jungmann to throw strikes. If they do that then the Cubs should have no trouble getting enough runs for Arrieta to win the game.

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Cubs versus Milwaukee Brewers: Scouting Report on Tuesday’s Opposing Pitcher Jimmy Nelson

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By Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

Game 20: Jimmy Nelson
The Cubs enter Game 20 of the 2016 season with a 14-5 record, which is the second best record in MLB. The team now comes home to play the 8-11 Milwaukee Brewers. Kyle Hendricks will be pitching for the Cubs tonight. Hendricks’ performance so far this season has stood out, because he is the lone concern among fans in the five-man rotation that has garnered rave revues. His record is 1-2 with a 4.00 earned run average. Hendricks struggled in his last outing against the St. Louis Cardinals. He only lasted 5.1 innings, giving up four earned runs on seven hits including one home run. He also gave up seven hits in his only outing at Wrigley Field in a loss to the Colorado Rockies. Hendricks looks to come out with a better performance against the Brewers Jimmy Nelson.

Nelson, a 6’6” right hander, is in his fourth year of the majors—all with Milwaukee. His overall record is 16-23, but he looks vastly improved this year as him comes into tonight’s game with a 3-1 record and 3.46 earned run average. In his last game against the Minnesota Twins he pitched 6.2 innings giving up four earned run on ten hits and two home runs. Nelson is a sinkerball pitcher, which averages about 94 mph. He will also throw fastball, knuckle change, and slider. He has thrown three change-ups this year, so it’s not something he relies on. His left and right splits are remarkably even. Both righties and lefties hit him for an average of .229 this year.  Righties have a better average with batting average of balls in play versus lefties. The righties BABIP is .270 compared to .177 for lefties. Nelson has an average strikeout per nine innings rate of 6.58. His walks per nine innings is high with a 3.46 average.

Outlook: Although Nelson got the win in his last outing against the Minnesota Twins he still gave up four earned runs and most significantly allowed two home runs on ten hits. Such a performance against the Cubs and their potent offense would assuredly lead to a loss for Nelson. The key to the Cubs is not chasing the sinker out of the zone. If Nelson’s sinker is not dropping then he is headed for trouble. Moreover, if the Cubs wait on his 93 mph fastball they will hit him hard. The heat maps show that he throws mostly down the middle and down so Nelson will be sticking in the strike zone. If there is little to no movement to get swings and misses and the Cubs make contact then they will put up runs on the board and it will be a short night for Nelson. However, all things considered, Hendricks has to pitch better and hold down the Brewers offense, which is at the bottom of all NL team batting categories.

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Cubs Notes: A Look at Some Cubs Impressive Statistics, Team Chemistry, Dexter Fowler’s Offseason Paying Off, Reason for Jake Arrieta’s Struggles in Baltimore, Journalists Running Out of Things to Say About the Cubs

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

The Cubs stand 14-5 today, which is their best start since the 1907 season. Currently, the Washington Nationals have a better record at 14-4 in Major League Baseball. To say that the Cubs have met expectations is an understatement, because even the most optimistic fans would have felt greedy if they asked for this start to the season heading into Game 20 on Tuesday versus the Milwaukee Brewers. Here is a look at some promising statistics:

  • The Cubs already stand 3.5 games ahead of the second place St. Louis Cardinals, which is a nice cushion for not even 20 games into the season.
  • The Cubs lead the majors with a +68 run differential; the next closest is the Cardinals with +40.
  • Not only do they win at Wrigley Field but they win on the road as well having won their first four road series this season. Their overall road record is 10-3.
  • Jake Arrieta is leading the NL in wins with 4. While Jason Hammel and Arrieta are second and third in NL ERA with 0.75 and .087 respectively. The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Kenta Maeda leads with a 0.36 ERA.
  • Anthony Rizzo is second in home runs and RBI with 8 and 21 respectively, behind Bryce Harper and his 9 home runs and 23 RBI.
  • Dexter Fowler is second in the NL in batting with a .385 average behind Nationals Daniel Murphy who has a .397 average.
  • Despite leading the league in runs and run differential the Cubs are only eighth in the NL in team batting average at .255. However, their team average should start to trend upward as Rizzo and Jason Heyward are starting to raise their averages from a slow start to the season.

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Cubs versus Cincinnati Reds: Scouting Report on Sunday’s Opposing Pitcher Alfredo Simon

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By Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

Game 19: Alfredo Simon
The Cubs come back after a forgetful pitching performance last night in their 13-5 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. The offense managed to put up five runs on seven hits, but the bullpen gave up seven earned runs and eight hits in just 2.1 innings pitched on top of the six earned runs that John Lackey gave up. The Cubs look to prevent back-to-back losses for the first time this year. Luckily, they will be facing Alfredo Simon who they hit hard on April 13 at Wrigley Field. The Right hander only got through two outs in the first inning after giving up five earned runs on four hits. Jason Hammel will take the mound with a record of 2-0 and a miniscule 1.00 earned run average. Hammel has three consecutive quality starts to open the 2016 season including a win against the Reds on April 14.

Currently, Simon is 0-1 with a ridiculous earned run average of 12.15. Simon followed his terrible outing against the Cubs with one inning pitched in relief against the St. Louis Cardinals. In that game, Simon gave up three earned runs on four hits and two home runs. As stated in the first report on Simon, he throws mostly fastball—four-seam or two-seam—along with a sinker, cutter, and occasional curve. He has eliminated his slider. The problem with only throwing fastball is that his average velocity is 93-91 mph. As a result, if he doesn’t locate his pitches or gets significant movement teams are going to hit him, which is exactly what they have been doing.

Outlook: The Cubs hitters should be running over each other to get to the plate today. Whatever troubles Simon is having this season looks like they have not been corrected. His fastball is very hittable and his sinker is not moving. Cubs hitters from both sides of the plate should have no trouble making contact again. Simon is still able to strike out hitters as he has nine strikeouts in 6.2 innings pitched. But he is not as overpowering as he used to be. Moreover, he still very prone to giving up the long ball as the Cardinals showed in his last game by hitting two home runs off of him. The Cubs offense hasn’t slowed down and Simon is the type of fastball pitcher that they feast on. If Hammel can do his part by keeping runs off the board then look for this to be a fun day on the base paths for the Cubs.

 

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Cubs versus Cincinnati Reds: Scouting Report on Saturday’s Opposing Pitcher Dan Straily

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By Frederick Krauss Ph.D.

Game 18: Dan Straily
Jon Lester showed why he is also an Ace of the Cubs staff by throwing seven innings of one-run all to follow Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter. Now it’s John Lackey’s turn to show the Cincinnati Reds how fearsome of a starting rotation they have. Lackey dominated the St. Louis Cardinals in his last start also throwing 7 innings, giving up only four hits, and no earned runs. In Saturday’s game he is up against former Cubs pitcher Dan Straily. Straily was a part of the deal that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Oakland A’s. In return, the Cubs got shortstop Addison Russell, highly-touted outfield prospect Billy McKinney, and Straily. The following offseason the Cubs traded Straily and Luis Valbuena to the Houston Astros for Dexter Fowler. So, it is suffice to say that Straily has been in the middle of two of the bigger deals that have made the Cubs the team they are today.

Currently, the right hander has a 0-0 record with a 2.70. He has pitched in four games this season with one start. In that only start against the Colorado Rockies, Straily pitched five innings and surrendered one earned run and just two hits. Straily throws four pitches—fastball, slider, change-up, and curveball. He predominantly throws his fastball; however, he is dependent on location as the pitch only tops out at 92 mph. His next favored pitch is his slider that induces a lot of swings and misses. Still, despite his 8.10 strikeouts per a nine innings he is averaging 4.05 walks per a nine innings

Outlook: With the way the Cubs offense is swinging the bats and scoring runs with ease, having scored 24 runs in two games, it is hard to imagine a pitcher like Straily to be the one who slows them down. His 2016 season produces too small of a sample size to determine how his pitches affect the left/right splits. However, in 2015 he only pitched 16.2 innings, which also provides a small sample size. It does show that he has been unable to stay regularly on a major league staff. Again, it is highly unlikely that he will slow down the offense since the lineup up and down can hit fastball. Since Straily does not throw his fastball with significant velocity the Cubs have time to see his slider and lay off of it. He does get his curveball over for a strike, but if the Cubs wait for the fastball (since he throws it a ton) they should have no problem hitting him. Look for the Cubs to win and move to 14-4 as they start to run away with the National League Central.

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Cubs versus Cincinnati Reds: Scouting Report on Friday’s Opposing Pitcher Jon Moscot

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By Frederick Krauss Ph.D.

Game 17: Jon Moscot
In the afterglow of Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter the Cubs look to continue their dominance of the Cincinnati Reds. The Cubs will reload by sending out Jon Lester (1-1, 2.21 ERA) to go against Jon Moscot (0-0, 4.76 ERA). The second-year right hander has pitched one game this season, a no-decision against the St. Louis Cardinals. In the match-up, Mascot pitched 5.2 innings giving up six hit and three earned runs. He also gave up two home runs and struck out two.

In his rookie year in 2015, Moscot started three games before having season-ending surgery after he dislocated his non-throwing shoulder while diving to tag out a runner against the Detroit Tigers. Prior to the injury, Moscot was 1-1 with a 4.63 ERA. In 2015, lefties and righties hit about the same against Moscot—.238 and .250 ERA respectively. In this year’s small sample size, lefties are having more success hitting .271 while righties are hitting .231. Moscot throws five pitches—four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, slider, change-up, and curve. Last year Moscot primarily threw his fastballs and mixed in the slider change-up and curve. In his first game of 2016, Moscot threw more sliders than any other pitch, which might show that he is changing his approach.

Outlook: Moscot utilizes the majority of the strike zone with the lone exception of the upper left hand corner. As a result, the Cubs right hand hitters will see a number of pitches inside and the bottom outside corner. The Cubs left hand hitters will see a majority of their pitches away in the strike zone and on the inside corner. Moscot will not overpower the Cubs hitters as his fastball averages 92 mph. However, his success will be dependent how well he locates his pitches and changes up his speeds. Still, the momentum is all on the side of the Cubs as they enter this game and the Cubs hitters have too much experience to have kept off of the base paths by such an inexperienced pitcher. Couple that with Lester on the mound and there is a high probability that the Cubs will come out with another victory against the Reds and move to 13-4.

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Jake Arrieta Makes Strong Case for Best Pitcher in MLB with Second No-Hitter

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Frederick Krauss, Ph.D.

In a season where 3-time National League Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers is having his best season yet, the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta is entering a new stratosphere that even Kershaw is unable to reach. Arrieta pitched his second career no-hitter yesterday, a masterful performance over the Cincinnati Reds. Although he gave up four walks and only struck out six, one could sense that the Reds had no chance against Arrieta. He had the demeanor that he owned the plate and every batter looked like they were back on their heels. A breakdown of his pitches shows just how Arrieta was able to accomplish his most recent no-hitter. The following scatter plot shows how well Arrieta was able to vary his pitch velocity:

Arrieta vs Reds Horizontal

Arrieta threw his fastball and sinker at 95-93 mph, his slider at 90-86 mph, and his curveball at 83-78 mph. By commanding his pitches and switching speeds so drastically batters were left to guess what he was going to throw without much luck. His pitches had minimal variation in their movement horizontally. However, Arrieta was not only able to vary the speed of his pitches he was able to vary the vertical movement of his pitches with great distinction, as the next scatter plot shows:

Arrieta vs Reds Pitch Vertical

Arrieta was able to utilize his fastball and sinker with just enough movement to keep batters from getting decent contact. He threw his curve with a significant bite that left the Reds chasing while also sneaking in a slider that stayed level when the batters were guessing otherwise.

Altogether, Arrieta’s performance on Thursday was exemplary of his dominance since the beginning of the 2015 season. In the last two seasons he is now 26-6 with a combined earned run average of 1.66 and WHIP of .0842. What is most impressive about Arrieta’s performance is over 260 innings pitched he has an average of 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings pitched while only walking 1.9 per nine innings.

In comparison, Clayton Kershaw has similarly pitched 262.2 innings since the beginning of 2015 and has a record of 18-7—eight fewer than Arrieta. Moreover, Kershaw’s earned run average is 2.06 a half-run more than Arrieta. Kershaw’s strikeouts and walks per nine innings are slightly better than Arrieta’s at 11.3 and 1.5 respectively. Arrieta does hold the edge with a better WHIP as Kershaw’s WHIP is .868. Arrieta has also given up fewer home runs. Kershaw has given up 17 since the beginning of 2015 while Arrieta has only given up 12 home runs over the past two seasons.

Even though Kershaw is two years younger (Arrieta—30 years old, Kershaw—28 years old) it is evident that there is a changing of the guard of MLB’s best pitcher in the game. The 2016 season is still young, but Arrieta is showing that this season may be even more special than last year. Most importantly, Arrieta is leading the Cubs directly towards the playoffs and hopefully a World Series birth. Maybe come October these two heavyweight pitchers will square off and can put to rest the argument of who is best. Still, as of right now it looks like the title of MLB’s best pitcher now belongs to Arrieta.

 

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