Chicago Cubs Lineup: Rizzo Leads Off, Al Mago Sits, Hendricks on Mound

Rockies starter Jon Gray will have to deal with the return of the greatest leadoff hitter of all time, Anthony Rizzo. Joe Maddon might be trying to get the veteran first baseman going by putting him in a different spot in the order, as Rizzo brings a heart-wrenching .149 batting average and 33 wRC+ into tonight’s game. You may recall that Rizzo homered to lead off his first two games atop the order in 2017, just missing a home run in the third. All told, he put up a 1.114 OPS in 42 at-bats in games he started as the leadoff hitter.

Kris Bryant follows Rizzo as he continues to get his feel back after his scary face bean, but he showed signs last night by playing pepper with the left field wall for a triple. Bryzzo sitting atop the order Tuesday night means Albert Almora Jr. and Javier Baez (Al Mago) have the day off.

Following Bryzzo and batting third is a heathy Ben Zobrist, which will be huge for the Cubs going forward. The veteran utility player owns an impressive .327 batting average and .382 wOBA this season and looks locked in at the plate. Situational hitting has been a theme for the Cubs in the early going of 2018, and no one is better than Zo at working quality at-bats and putting pitches into play (BB: 10.9%; K:10.9%).

Addison Russell cleans up tonight even though he’s batting .250 with a .293 wOBA.  The 24-year-old shortstop has shown glimpses of offensive prowess lately by going 6-of-11 in his last four games. With the Cubs’ offense fully healthy, how Maddon utilizes Russell and the rest of his offensive weapons will be worth monitoring.

Victor Caratini, who spells Willson Contreras for a start at catcher, follows the front four in the five-spot and precedes Kyle Schwarber, who returns to the lineup after a night off yesterday against a lefty. War Bear has already accumulated 0.8 WAR through April and brings a .401 wOBA to start May.

Jason Heyward and Ian Happ round out the batting order batting seventh and eighth, respectively. Maddon has been particular about when to start Happ lately. The switch-hitting sophomore has been inconsistent this season and carries a borderline below-average .309 wOBA and .246 batting average into Tuesday night’s game.

Starting for the Cubs will be right-hander Kyle Hendricks. I’m always reminded of Mentos when Hendricks takes the mound. “Kyle Hendricks is to pitching like Mentos is to freshness,” Len Kasper said during Hendricks’ rookie season. It’s indeed so refreshing to watch Kyle work all sides of the zone with his trademark two-seamer and change. Kyle has looked more like himself lately, and his ERA stands strong at 3.10, but his FIP is much higher at 4.71. In the middle of his ERA and FIP is a 4.00 bbFIP — xStats bbIP is based on batted ball types such as weakly hit grounders.

Gray, the Rockies’ starter in this one, features a fourseamer and slider that both generate above league-average grounders. His fourseamer tops off at 97 mph and his slider, which shows more 12-6 breaking action than a typical slider, comes in at 90 mph. Just to keep batters off-balance, Gray will display a curve and change now and again.

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