Second City October: World Series Game Two Preview, Cubs (0-1) vs. Cleveland (1-0)

Looming is what this game feels like. The start time has been moved an hour ahead to try to avoid the impending rain fall in Cleveland. The Cubs need at least one game in Cleveland no matter what, and the Cubs have, on paper, a favorable pitching matchup, and so the math has not changed much for the Cubs following the 6-0 loss to Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller and the rest of the Cleveland bunch.

And yet it feels like the Cubs really could use this game to prove that they are not just there to be there. It is impossible to read much from a single baseball game, and the Cubs offense was manhandled by the incredible stuff of Kluber, Miller and Cody Allen nearly the entire night. The task becomes a lot easier with Trevor Bauer and his probably not quite as bloody finger on the mound tonight. Cleveland only managed to get two outs from Bauer last time out and will need a lot more from him with Miller throwing 46 pitches the previous night.

Jake Arrieta looks to regain his dominant form. Arrieta pitched a quality start on 11 days of rest in his first postseason start, but with seven days of rest he coughed up four runs in less than six innings of work in the NLCS. Montero has been catching Jake each start, and that trend should continue with a right hander on the mound after Montero starting against southpaws the previous two games. The thinking is clear in this move in trying to give Arrieta the highest level of comfort. The lineup will hopefully spring back to laugh facing a pitcher that while talented is no where near the challenge Kluber posed.

The Pitching Matchup: Jake Arrieta vs Trevor Bauer

Jake Arrieta 197.3 76 190 0.7 54% .221 1.08 94 4.02 3.0
Trevor Bauer 190.0 70 168 0.9 49% .245 1.31 99 4.12 2.6

Jake Arrieta has had an up and down season. His DRA is inflated compared to his ERA, like most Cubs starting pitchers. This is a reflection of the Cubs’ historic defensive performance, but Arrieta has also struggled with his command more than you would like, including in his two outings in the postseason. Jake is pitching Game Two for the first time, as it appears like Joe Maddon will continue to start Kyle Hendricks at home where he has been so very, very good. That takes Arrieta’s bat out of the lineup, but run prevention is the most important job.

Arrieta has changed his profile dramatically this season with a huge spike in sinker usage at the expense of his slider. His velocity was trending down at the end of the season, but his velocity jumped back up in the playoffs after his extended time off. He also reverted back to his previous slider usage. It is interesting that Arrieta has gone back to the heavy slider approach in the postseason. It could be being with the postseason that Arrieta is more willing to use the high stress slider but it has not been a one game aberration as his slider usage only increased against the Dodgers.

Trevor Bauer throws everything. He is capable of touching 97 with his four seam fastball, but it more comfortable sits in the 93-95 mph range. He throws his four seam fastball, cutter and sinker around 60 percent of the time, but the exact mix can change drastically. He has leaned heavily on the four seam fastball in the postseason. Only one of those starts was following the drone incident, but it is interesting to note that he threw the four seamer nearly 60 percent of the time in his brief appearance. Bauer frequently has battled command issues and so a reliance on four seamers in the postseason makes some sense.

Bauer’s main secondary offerings are curveball and change up. He throws the curve the most of any of these other pitches hoovering in the 10 to 20 percent range, but this year he has jumped the use of his curveball. He used to throw a slider, split finger and screwball. He has completely abandoned the screwball this year, and nearly the splitter as well. The slider has become a show me pitch as well. The change up is usually thrown only slightly less than the curve ball, and it is usually Bauer’s most effective pitch for getting whiffs. Recently though Bauer has really leaned heavily on the four seam and curveball combination.

What to Watch For
The Cleveland running game had a small impact on the game last night. It did seem to affect Lester when Lindor was able to move into scoring position with no outs. He walked the next two batters, and a swinging bunt drove in the winning run of the game. Jake Arrieta and Montero are a combination most teams look to take advantage of, but Cleveland has the personnel to exploit this weakness. Controlling the run game does not matter a lot if Arrieta is struggling to command his pitches, but it can make a difference if the offense goes through another 21 inning streak.

Bauer has leaned heavily on the curveball in the month of October. The Cubs offense struggle mightily against some really, really good curveballs by Rich Hill and Clayton Kershaw. It will be interesting to see if the Cubs can make an adjustment since Bauer is likely to continue this trend tonight. Bauer’s curveball is good, but it isn’t on the level of Hill’s at the very least. So perhaps the Cubs struggles were more against very good curveballs or against left handed curves.

Andrew Miller has been the story of Cleveland’s postseason, but the Cubs had very good at bats against the relief ace. The Cubs made him throw 46 pitches to get through his 2 innings. Miller is certainly going to be available again if Cleveland needs him, but to see if there is any fatigue from his heavy workload will be interesting to monitor. The Cubs neutralizing Miller would swing the series very much in the Northsiders favor.

Lead photo courtesy David Richard—USA Today Sports.

Related Articles

Leave a comment

Use your Baseball Prospectus username