Cleveland Indians Series Preview: Five Questions With the Cubs


The Cleveland Indians are in Chicago on Tuesday, as they take on the Cubs at Wrigley Field. The Cubbies are full of young rookies, hoping to make their mark on the big leagues this season. Meanwhile, the Tribe has just called up top prospects Francisco Lindor and Giovanny Urshela, who are equally dangerous.

Cleveland hasn’t played the Cubs since 2009, so it seemed important to take a look at what’s been happening with the Wrigley Field crew this season. To do that, we spoke with Jacob Misener of Cubbies’ Crib to see what Joe Maddon‘s team has been up to:

The Tribe will see all of the Cubs’ starters except Jon Lester over the next four games. Who has pitched the best this season, and which one should they be most afraid of?
JM: Jake Arrieta is always the most dangerous. Even when he’s not 100 percent, he’s still good for a quality start. He’s averaging a career-high 9.7 punchouts per nine during his dozen starts and you could very well make the case he is the true ace of the staff.

Don’t overlook Jason Hammel, either. After being traded mid-season last year, the righty came back to Chicago on a two-year deal and has been dominant – posting a 0.963 WHIP and 2.81 earned run average in his 12 outings.

Since Kris Bryant and Addison Russell were called up, what kind of impact have they had on the team? And speaking of top prospects, whatever happened to Javier Baez?
JM: Bryant is one of the most well-rounded rookies in all of baseball. He seemingly does it all. He hasn’t homered in a few weeks, but his approach at the dish is more like a veteran than a kid with two months of big league experience.

Russell hasn’t been as big of an offensive threat, but his work with the glove has been impressive. He doesn’t seem to be as matured and developed as Bryant, but there’s no doubt that along with Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs have an impressive – albeit young – infield.

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The Indians are an AL team, so they’ve been witnessing Maddon’s special brand of management for years. Has he done anything particularly unusual with the Cubs, and is it being received well by the team and fans?
JM: He’s batted the pitcher eighth in every game this season in an NL park, which is highly unusual. It had only happened one time in team history prior to this season, so it rubbed some fans the wrong way.

As much as Cubs fans like to pretend like we know how to manage better than Maddon, we’re half-a-dozen games above .500 (entering play Sunday) – so who are we to complain?

Rizzo might be one of the most under-appreciated players in baseball. What exactly does he bring to the Cubs, and will he be an All-Star this season?
JM: Two years ago, Rizzo couldn’t hit his weight against lefties. This season, he’s batting right around .400 against southpaws and he leads baseball in hit by pitches, as well.

Essentially, he can take you deep or slap the ball the other way for a base hit. While most teams seem to think he still struggles against southpaws, he’s become the most well-rounded hitter this team has seen in years.

Should he be an All-Star? Absolutely. It’s up to Cubs fans to put their money where their mouths are and actually take the sixty second to cast their votes.

Even though Cleveland won’t have to face him, inquiring minds want to know: is Lester going to turn into the ace the Cubs thought he would be?
JM: ​He’ll be fine. Sure, he struggled for TWO starts. Ask most Cubs fans, they’ll tell you we should be ready to burn him at the stake for not throwing perfect games every time out.

Guess what?​ Prior to that, he turned in seven-straight quality starts. Look at his May numbers. He was one of the best pitchers in baseball last month and you saw Sunday night against the Reds just how good he can be.

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