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Series Preview: Angels @ Cubs (What could go wrong?)

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Good news is that it's only 2 games against the #1 team in MLB

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Well crap.  The Angels were swept by the Mariners and now head to Chi-Town to take on the Cubs.  I think they are good?  We are probably in great hands with Weaver and Nolasco taking the mound against the Cubs.  I mean, the Cubs?  That sounds kinda wimpy right? Cubs are cute and cuddly.  I'm sure our top 2 pitchers will be no match for a cute and cuddly team like the Cubs who are on a lowly 7 game winning streak.

I guess the good news is we will get to watch some really good players on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Like Mike Trout and pretty much the entire Cubs roster.  So chin up buttercup.  Opps, I said the bad word.  But don't worry - we can't be buttercupped when we lose by 10 runs (or worse).  During the two game series to start the season, the Cubs beat the Angels by a total of 15-1 on the backs of Arrieta and Lester.

Yes the Cubs are good.  No the Angels are not.  I suggest you still enjoy this short series, but keep your expectations low.  Post All-Star break, the Angels have scored 16 more runs than the Cubs and are hitting 25 points higher.  The Cubs have also hit a measly 14 homeruns (last in the majors) since the break, while the Angels have socked 22.  Offensively, the Angels have actually been significantly better than the Cubs which is pretty amazing considering our lineup was basically MacGyvered together with duct tape and left over pieces from other teams.

The problem will come into play when our offense faces the #1 pitching staff.  Since the break, the Cubbies have a staggering 2.31 team ERA and pretty much have a lights out bullpen now (aside from Joe Smith).  The Cubs pen has a 1.88 ERA since the break and they've only had Aroldis Chapman for a portion of that time.

An often potent Angels offense facing lights out pitching + Cubs sometimes potent offense facing bad pitching. You can see which way this series will probably go.  We don't have to face Hendricks, Arrieta, or Lester, so that's a bit of hope since Lackey and Hammel are the two "worst" starters on the Cubs.  Must be nice to have your two worst staters with a 1.10 WHIP or less and 3.70 ERA or less.

Biggest question(s): Who is better - Trout or Bryant?

Game 1
Jered Weaver vs. John Lackey
Tuesday, August 9th, 2016 @ 5:05PM

Veteran arms face off or fall off

Jered Weaver v. Cubs Current Roster (Career)
AB H HR K% BB% BAA FIP
56 14 2 29.5 6.6 .250 3.34
John Lackey v. Angels Current Roster (Career)
AB H HR K% BB% BAA FIP
67 22 2 16.7 4.2 .328 3.93
Players/Stats to watch:
Ben Zobrist v. Jered Weaver (last 5 years)
AB H RBI HR BA
20 6 2 1 .300

Yunel Escobar v. John Lackey (last 5 years)
AB H RBI HR BA
23 7 4 0 .304
Considering most of the current Cubs roster were in diapers when Weaver started pitching, it's surprising he's faced their hitters 56 times.  However, 27 of those career at bats come from Ben Zobrist who has had pretty decent success against the Weave.  Most of this Cubs roster will be a new challenge for Weaver, but being the intelligent pitcher he is, that may not be a bad thing.  Weaver only gave up 3 runs in his last start and only 1 run in 3 of his last 4 before that.  The Astros made mince meat out of him on July 23rd and hopefully the Cubs won't do the same.
Former Angel John Lackey is older than Weaver by 4 years but throws 8 MPH faster on average.  He's still effective, especially given his age and has a 1.086 WHIP in 2016 along with a 3.70 ERA.  His 9.1 K/9 rate is the highest of his career.  Yunnel Escobar has seen Lackey the most and has a .367 career AVG against him (.304 over the past 5 years).  Cliff Pennington has also seen Lackey for 16 AB, but only has one hit to show for it.  Lackey has been good, but does have 5 rough starts (5+ ER) this year in 22 appearances.  He's great at going long and has averaged 6.5 innings per game in 2016.
VERDICT: Angels have a tough matchup here.  Probably a Cubs win unless that dreaded curse is starting to take effect in Chicago.

Game 2
Ricky Nolasco vs. Jason Hammel
Wednesday, August 10th, 2016 @ 5:05PM

Ricky Fiasco Nolasco is trying to shake off his new nickname.

Ricky Nolasco v. Cubs Current Roster (Career)
AB H HR K% BB% BAA FIP
87 27 3 17 12 .310 5.25
Jason Hammel v. Angels Current Roster (Career)
AB H HR K BB BAA OBP
66 14 1 11 6 .212 2.84
Players/Stats to watch:
Anthony Rizzo v. Ricky Nolasco (last 5 years)
AB H RBI HR BA
7 3 2 1 .429
Jason Heyward v. Ricky Nolasco (last 5 years)
AB H RBI HR BA
19 6 1 1 .316
Mike Trout v. Jason Hammel (last 5 years)
AB H RBI HR BA
13 4 2 1 .308
We all know that Nolasco isn't that good.  Certainly not as good as Santiago "can" be.  But Eppler didn't make that trade to get better in 2016, so here we go with another Nolasco start.  Nolasco gave up 3 HRs in hist last start and now has allowed 21 on the year.  He's #10 in most home runs allowed in the league, and only 1 behind Santiago and 2 behind Weaver , both of whom he could pass on Wednesday at Wrigley.  On the bright side, he HAS had 5 games this year where he's allowed only 1 or 2 runs, so we could get one of those - right?
Jason Hammel was trashed by the Mets on July 1st for 10 runs.  Unfortunately, that's about the only bad start he's had all year.  Hammel has a 1.86 ERA over his last 5 starts and only allowed 19 hits over those 29 innings.  Other than the fluke against the Mets, he really doesn't give up a lot of runs so the Angels have their work cut out for them.
VERDICT: The baseball gods can be fickle, but everyone will be surprised if the Cubs DON'T win this one.

OVERALL VERDICT: Cubs should probably sweep the Angels and extend their winning streak to 9 - but they have to lose some time right?  Hope springs eternal....