The Cubs put the best record in baseball against the Brewers, who are winless on the season after watching their Cy Young-winning ace fall Thursday. What, we can’t have a little fun with small samples? The Cubs certainly had fun on Opening Day, jumping on Corbin Burnes with a combination of good luck and unexpected power indicative of this roster’s best-possible-scenario results.
While you can’t really hold duck snorts and pop-ups as an example of good hitting, there’s something to be said for consistently putting the ball in play and forcing the defense to make plays. With only seven strikeouts against eight walks and four hits, the Cubs never allowed Burnes or the other Brewers pitchers to get comfortable. That’s the formula they’ll need to use all year if they want to be more than a 70-win team.
Clint Frazier will be a big part of that at he looks to bounce back from a down year with the Yankees that saw him struggle through concussion issues. He brings his bat speed to the leadoff spot as the DH, followed by Nick Madrigal at second and Willson Contreras catching. Ian Happ cleans up in left, Seiya Suzuki is in right, and Jonathan Villar is at short.
Justin Steele was the surprise pick to take the No. 2 spot in the order but it makes sense to slot him here because it gives the Cubs an extra layer of differentiation between their two main righties. It also allows David Ross to alter his bullpen usage, since Kyle Hendricks and Marcus Stroman are expected to eat more innings.
Steele can hold his own, though, and he’s got the ability to shut down any lineup with his mid-90s velocity and nasty breaking stuff. The lefty goes with his fastball for a little less than half of his pitches, then he’ll go sinker for around 20% and the rest are split somewhat evenly between the slider and curve. He’s got the ability to dominate, it’s just a matter of pitching efficiently and not being forced to throw strikes after falling behind.
Watch to see how he uses those two breaking balls, as the curve became much more of a go-to than the slider as last season wore on.
Brandon Woodruff is going for the visitors, which is kind of like facing Burnes all over again. Woodruff also throws really hard, averaging around 97 mph on his fastball, but he favors the four-seam and sinker and doesn’t throw a cutter. His curve is his best secondary by far, though his changeup is a solid pitch that can get whiffs and grounders. The hard stuff is really the key, as Woodruff can blow it by hitters while locating in the zone.
Few pitchers are aggressive as he is with first pitch strikes, and even fewer throw overall strikes with as much frequency. Rather than sitting back and hoping he’ll walk them, the Cubs can take control by matching his aggressiveness and looking to do damage on good pitches.
Momentum can be overrated, but the Cubs have it and can maintain it this afternoon at Wrigley. Getting off to a hot start would be huge as they look to make the most of a season that might just end up better than many expected. First pitch is at 1:20pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 8, 2022