Yankees vs. Cubs Series Preview:

The Cubbies are in the Bronx for the first time in eight years tonight for a three-game weekend series with the Yanks. Here’s what you need to know, along with some things you may have forgotten…

The bottom line is that Cubs are a tick below an average team. They’re currently 23-33, 8.5 games behind Milwaukee in the NL Central, and on a three-game losing streak. Don’t be deceived by the record though, based on their run differential and some things we’ll discuss in a moment, their Pythagorean record suggests they’re closer to a 26-30 team.

The batters from the North Side currently rank 14th in MLB in runs per game. They’ve drawn walks at a higher rate than all but two MLB teams leading to a 5th overall ranking in OBP. Once they get on, they tend to be aggressive on the bases as they’re tied for third in swiped bags and eighth in extra-base taken percentage. That said, their SB success rate is a tick below average and they’re second in the league in outs made on the bases.

The problem for them so far is that they haven’t hit for power. They rank 15th in home run percentage, 13th in SLG, and 11th in extra-base hit percentage. That’s not bad per se, but considering they play in a park that’s conducive to long balls and extra-base hits, it certainly isn’t good. When it’s all added up, their OPS+ of 102 is 15th in baseball – more or less average.

The run prevention side is what has dragged them down a bit, as they’ve allowed the 6th most runs per game in MLB. The pitching staff ranks 21st in ERA+ and 24th in FIP, but the more advanced measurements have been a little kinder to them (12th in xFIP, 13th in SIERA, 15th in K%-BB%.) Defensively they’ve turned batted balls into outs at a league-average rate but they rank 23rd in defensive runs above average overall.

Yankees fans will see some familiar faces this weekend. Former Yankee David Robertson has been one of the better closers in baseball in 2022 for the Cubs. In 19 games he’s thrown 21.2 innings, allowed only 20 baserunners, and struck out 30 while sporting a 1.66 ERA.

Meanwhile, former Yankee outfielder Clint Frazier (I’ll bet Paul O’Neill still can’t pronounce his name) returns to Yankee Stadium for the first time. Clint got off to a rough start with the bat, then missed over a month due to an appendectomy. Yet since returning from the IL he’s seemed to find his groove as he’s posted a .364/.533/.455 slash line over his last six games.

If you’re the trade rumor gossipy type, something to keep an eye on this weekend is Cubs’ catcher Willson Contreras. The 30-year-old, seven-year veteran is having a monster season in the Windy City for the Cubs as both his WAR (2.4) and OPS+ (161) are tops among big league catchers. Given his impending free agency and with the Cubs’ chances of reaching the postseason currently standing at 0.3 percent, his name will be in the trade rumor mill quite often this summer.

The Cubs aren’t a pushover and they have two pitchers who’ve pitched well for them going tonight and tomorrow (see below). Yet this is still a series that anything less than two out of three would be disappointing for the Yankees.

Pitching Matchups, How to Watch:

Tonight: Luis Severino vs. Wade Miley, first pitch 7:05 PM, Prime Video.

Saturday: Matt Swarmer vs. Jordan Montgomery, first pitch 7:15 PM, FOX.

Sunday: TBD vs. Jameson Taillon, first pitch 1:35 PM, YES Network.

As always, follow along with me @mybaseballpage1 on Twitter and on the “My Baseball Page” on Facebook.

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