Back in 2015, I was living in Chicago about a mile and a half from Wrigley Field. The Giants were in town for a four-game series and my partner and I had plans to the opening game of the series. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to make it off work in time so I didn’t buy tickets in advance. I never had any trouble walking up in the previous two years I had been going to Wrigley, so I didn’t think it was going to be a problem.
I walked up to the box office and the attendant informed me the only seats available were obstructed view. I said, “Really?” with just a smidge of incredulity.
To which he replied, “Yeah, man. You can’t just walk up an hour before the game and expect good tickets,” and then he muttered something about my Buster Posey shirsey.
I found this strange because I had always been able to walk up, buy the cheapest tickets I could, and sit in the lower levels because in my experience, there were always plenty of open seats. The Cubs were bad; no one wanted to watch them. I witnessed Madison Bumgarner’s 14 strikeout game the year before with nearly an entire section to myself. I was on the front lines of the #OneManOneRake debacle. For each, I never bought tickets any better than the 500’s.
But the Cubs were suddenly good and Chicagoans cared about them again,* so I couldn’t just sit where I wanted. I settled for the obstructed view tickets and miserably watched the Giants roll over against Jason Hammel. Since that game, the friendly confines have not been friendly. The Giants are 2-9 against the Cubs at Wrigley. They’ve been outscored 52-35. And that doesn’t count the playoff games they played in 2016. If you count those, that falls to 2-13 and a -21 run differential.
*Not because Cubs fans are bandwagon jumpers. People are bandwagon jumpers.
The Giants eventually lost all four games. That night marked a shift in how I felt about the Giants coming to Chicago. It used to be a joyous occasion, not unlike Christmas, when the Giants would come to town and lay waste to terrible Cubs teams. Now, I think they’re lucky to come away without getting swept.
This year, I’m feeling slightly more optimistic about the Giants’ chances. For one, the Cubs’ vaunted starting rotation has vastly underperformed what they’re capable of. Cubs starters have collectively been worth 1.4 fWAR. If you want an idea of how bad that is, the Giants’ starting rotation has also been worth 1.4 fWAR.
Walks have been a major cause for concern for Cubs starters. Their 4.31 BB/9 as a staff is second worst in the majors. Much of that has been Tyler Chatwood who has a 7.88 BB/9; but the Giants will miss him. Instead, they’ll get Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, and Yu Darvish, all of whom have struggled with the long ball this year. Of course, they’ll be facing the Giants, who aren’t terrible at mashing dingers, but they’re not good either.
Despite how disappointing Chicago’s rotation has been, the Cubs are still maintaining a 62 run differential because their offense continues to be outstanding. Out of their everyday starters, only Jason Heyward, Addison Russell, and Anthony Rizzo have a wRC+ under 120 (all three are beneath 100). Rizzo’s only below because he started out the season so dreadfully, but in May he’s hit .263/.341/.526.
The Giants will most likely have to ride their bats to victory, and even then, they’ll still have to keep up with the Cubs’ offense.
Pitcher to Watch: Kyle Hendricks has been the one Cubs starter who hasn’t struggled with command but that’s to be expected. Hendricks, the poster boy for tunneling, has thrived with seemingly average stuff, but he always hits his spots and he still possesses an above average change-up.
Batter to Watch: Ian Happ got off to one of the worst starts in recent memory. After dingering off the very first pitch of the 2018 season, Happ struck out in 47% of his first 53 plate appearances. His K% is still at 39% and incredibly, that’s not the worst among hitters with at least 100 plate appearances. Even more incredibly, despite striking out over a third of the time, Happ’s wRC+ on the season is 135. He’s slashing .254/.362/.525 on the season and a lot of that is thanks to going on a Crawford-esque tear in May.
He has been the quintessential all-or-nothing hitter. If you can strike him out, you should be fine. If you can’t, he will take everything you hold dear and destroy it as you and your family watch. Good thing the Giants have been so good at striking hitters out this year.
(The Giants have not been good at striking out hitters this year.)
Prediction: The Giants will salvage one game out of three behind a strong performance from Ty Blach.