This is my favorite time of the year at On The Horizon.
Why? Because it’s the time I turn this post over to Liz Roscher, Supreme Blog Lord (that’s her official title) of our SB Nation Phillies site The Good Phight.
Without further fanfare, here’s Liz’s preview of her Phillies.
Welcome, Cubs fans, to the NEW Phillies! These aren't the old Phillies who the Cubs mercilessly beat into the ground, making most Phillies fans question their love of baseball and their purpose in life. These Phillies are competent! Mostly!
As opposed to previous years when I've written this preview, the Phillies aren't a pathetic train wreck. The players you once saw have grown up and matured. The Phillies actually managed to sign functional outfield depth over the offseason. As a whole, they're no longer comically bad. Taken together, they could be considered a slightly-below-middling team that has an occasional flash of brilliance. Of course, they did just get swept by the Dodgers, so you all can consider that a point in the Cubs' favor already.
Let's start with the probable pitchers. The Cubs will face Vince Velasquez first, and while he's been struggling with command and throwing an inappropriately large number of pitches in relatively short outings, he actually seemed to harness his stuff in his last start. And in his start against the World Series-winning Cubs lineup, we'll get to see if he has the discipline to repeat it. No better time to find out if you can make mechanical changes stick than against some of the best hitters in baseball.
Jeremy Hellickson is next, and he's pitched so well this season that you just know he's due for a painful regression. I'm sure there is something positive about his excellent 2017 performance, but I'm just not programmed to see it. I'm programmed for despair and misery. Jerad Eickhoff is the third Phillies starter the Cubs will see, and he's just as great as he was last time the Cubs saw him.
But Zach Eflin, or "Porn Zorro" as I call him, is who you should really be interested in. He's never faced the Cubs before, and he's been pitching like gangbusters. He's got deceptive stuff, and not only is he adorable, he's somehow like 2/3 leg. Look at him when he's on the mound, his legs are seriously 2/3 of his body. He's like a spider, or a puppet. He's more leg than man!
Let's hit some position player highlights. The main guys the Cubs pitchers should be worried about are Cesar Hernandez, Maikel Franco, and Aaron Altherr. Hernandez has the best triple slash on the team, and after two years of waiting for him to regress, I think in year three it's time I stop expecting that to happen. Altherr started getting more playing time when Howie Kendrick went on the disabled list, but at this point he's playing more because he's earned it. (And because Michael Saunders shaved his beard and started hitting like crap. Those things may or may not be related.) Altherr has always had promise that's been slightly out of reach, but he seems to be realizing some of it right now. And Franco's .213 average might not look like much, but he's been supernaturally unlucky since the start of the season. And in the past week he's hit over .400, raising his average nearly 60 points. He's also hit two grand slams this season, and no one on the Cubs can say they've done that. (Of course, now that I've said that, please place your bets on which Cubs player will match or surpass him this week.)
Guys who no one should really be worried about are Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp. Both are hitting under .200, and are looking absolutely nothing like the guys they were last year. In my other baseball writing job over at Big League Stew, I chose Tommy Joseph as my NL home run champ before the season began, because sometimes I get blinded by my love for the Phillies, and also because I'm a complete idiot. Joseph may yet break out this season, but I doubt it's going to be against Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. And don't even get me started on Rupp, who is currently No. 1 on my list of Phillies I would gladly launch into the sun.
Please enjoy this four-game series against the Phillies. (Seriously, a four-game series? Is that really necessary?) But remember, the Phillies are getting better. Get your laughs in now, because the Phillies are coming for you, Cubs. And as sure as Cole Hamels and the 99-loss Phillies no-hit the Cubs on my birthday in 2015 on their way to a three-game sweep, I... I don't actually have an ending to this sentence, but did you really think I'd go an entire preview without mentioning that glorious weekend? Those are literally the only positive memories I have of the Phillies facing the Cubs, JUST LET ME HAVE THIS.
Since that Cole Hamels no-hitter against the Cubs at Wrigley July 25, 2015, the Cubs are 7-4 against the Phillies, 3-1 at Wrigley Field.
Monday: Brett Anderson, LHP (2-0, 3.54 ERA, 1.574 WHIP, 3.88 FIP) vs. Vince Velasquez, RHP (1-2, 6.33 ERA, 1.547 WHIP, 5.81 FIP
Tuesday: Jon Lester, LHP (0-1, 3.68 ERA, 1.432 WHIP, 3.58 FIP) vs. Jeremy Hellickson, RHP (4-0, 1.80 ERA, 0.800 WHIP, 3.63 FIP)
Wednesday: Jake Arrieta, RHP (3-1, 4.56 ERA, 1.310 WHIP, 4.27 FIP) vs. Jerad Eickhoff, RHP (0-2, 3.56 ERA, 1.253 WHIP, 3.52 FIP)
Thursday: John Lackey, RHP (2-3, 5.10 ERA, 1.333 WHIP, 4.93 FIP) vs. Zach Eflin, RHP (0-0, 1.89 ERA, 0.684 WHIP, 4.68 FIP)
Times & TV channels
Monday: 7:05 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago Plus
Tuesday: 7:05 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago
Wednesday: 7:05 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago
Thursday: 1:20 p.m. CT, WGN
As Liz wrote, the Phillies are an improved team this year but I’m pretty confident the Cubs can still take three of four, especially with these pitching matchups.
How many games will the Cubs win against the Phillies?
This poll is closed