Chicago Cubs Lineup (4/10/19): Descalso Leads Off, Almora in CF, Darvish on Mound

Daniel Descalso has been proving doubters wrong so far with the Cubs and he’ll try to continue that as he plays second base and leads off for the second time. Kris Bryant is at third, Anthony Rizzo is at first, and Javy Baez mans short.

Kyle Schwarber continues to look more and more like the guy the Cubs have long hoped he’d be in left, Willson Contreras is catching, Jason Heyward is in right, and Albert Almora Jr. is playing center. Almora really needs to get something going with the bat because he’s not looked great in light of the whole production-over-value thing.

Facing the Cubs will be 28-year-old Jordan Lyles, a soft-tossing righty who relies mainly on getting his outs via contact. Though he can touch mid-90’s with his fastball, he’s going to sit around 93 and his curve and change make up a very large part of his repertoire. That percentage has increased dramatically over the last two seasons as Lyles has gotten away from his sinker and slider.

Whatever the exact mix Wednesday night, all of Lyles’ offerings grade out as decidedly mediocre or flat-out bad. None of his individual pitches has positive value over the course of his career and his curveball has generated the eighth-worst score (-21.4) in MLB since 2011. And that’s out of 312 qualified pitchers in that time who throw a curve.

By all accounts, there is no reason the Cubs shouldn’t be able to pound this guy into bolivian (yes, I know). That said, Lyles is one of those guys who’s going to nibble at the edges of the zone with stuff that looks hittable even when it isn’t. So it’ll be incumbent upon Cubs hitters to sit on pitches they can attack, rather than getting overly aggressive and wasting good swings on bad balls.

That goes for hitters on both sides, since Lyles has virtually even splits over the course of his career. A change in his repertoire could make him more effective against righties, but there’s no way to know for sure yet since his only stats from this season came against a Reds team that looked like hot garbage last week. This feels like a good game for Bryant to get off the schneid, so mark the tape on a loud noise from KB.

Yu Darvish is healthy and happy, but something is getting lost in translation even though he’s ditched his interpreter. The righty’s velocity is down from what we saw in spring training, almost two ticks lower than in any of the past three seasons, though much of that could be due to his issues with fastball command. After all, it’s hard to cut it loose when you’re not confident it’ll find the plate.

Darvish has walked 11 batters in only 6.2 innings, good for a 14.85 BB/9 that even 2018 Tyler Chatwood thinks is bad. That’s unsustainable and will come down as the season goes on, so may as well get started tonight. The Pirates will take their walks and they don’t strike out at an inordinate rate, but they might be a little jumpy after Monday’s 10-0 shellacking.

The stuff is there, so Darvish just needs to put it together and get a solid outing under his belt to create momentum. With Jon Lester out for at least the next turn, Darvish stepping up would be a big boon to both the rotation and the bullpen.

First pitch is set for 7:05pm CT, at which point it’s supposed to be 41 degrees with a breeze kicking up later in the evening. And Chicago is supposed to receive mixed precipitation throughout the afternoon, so the conditions should be positively glorious. This after the most perfect weather you could ask for in the home opener. You may be glad you’re home watching on WGN (or whichever local station syndicates the broadcast).

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