Chicago Cubs Lineup (5/12/24): Suzuki at DH, Madrigal at 2B, Hendricks Starting

The Cubs drew six bases-loaded walks in the 5th inning last night on a total of 26 pitches, which is something I haven’t seen outside of low-level rec ball. How they still managed to lose with the Pirates pitching that poorly is beyond me, but I suppose it had something to do with giving up five homers. Justin Steele was throwing batting practice during his abbreviated start and Keegan Thompson struggled badly with control in his inning of work.

There was a time when Kyle Hendricks would be looked to as the perfect pitcher to close out a series like this, a steadying force to win the rubber match and get out of town on a high note. Trouble is, most of the notes he’s played this year have been sour as hell. The Professor has given up at least one homer in each of his five starts and he’s surrendered 37 total hits over 21 innings.

He has completed five innings just once and probably won’t be going deep in this one because he was just activated from the IL. What’s more, that activation was hastened by Jameson Taillon‘s balky back and Ben Brown throwing nearly four innings in relief on Friday. This game isn’t going to determine Hendricks’ future in and of itself, but he’s got to be better this afternoon than he’s been so far in 2024.

Getting a bunch of early runs sure would be a nice help. That starts with Nico Hoerner at short and Seiya Suzuki at DH, followed by Cody Bellinger in center and Christopher Morel at third. Patrick Wisdom is at first, Mike Tauchman is in right, Ian Happ is in left, and Nick Madrigal is at second. Miguel Amaya bats ninth as the catcher.

They’re facing lefty Bailey Falter, who could do everyone a big favor by just living up to his name. A fifth-round pick by the Phillies in 2015, Falter debuted in 2021 and got time with the big club over the two subsequent seasons before being traded at the deadline last year for Rodolfo Castro. The southpaw has worked as a swingman in the past but is now a full-time starter with the Pirates.

Though most of his numbers are entirely pedestrian, Falter’s walk rate as a pro really stands out. With the exception of some issues in the minors last year, he’s usually in the 5-6% range because he pounds the zone. That might not be a good thing for him in the end, especially when you consider that he’s got a 4.34 ERA with a 4.93 FIP despite a paltry .208 BABIP against.

That number is unsustainably low and should catch up to him quickly if he keeps giving up barrels at a 10.6% clip. Falter has surrendered seven homers thus far and isn’t a big strikeout guy, so this sets up to be pretty advantageous for the Cubs. Things look really good when you see his massive reverse splits on the season. Though left-handed batters have always hit him better, they’ve got a ridiculous .310/.333/.517 slash with a .369 wOBA so far.

It’s weird that teams seem to be going with traditional platoons against him, including the Cubs opting for righties on the right side of the infield. Then again, the regression is probably going to come from the right side because those batters have a .169 BABIP to this point. And when you see that Falter is allowing just a .143 BABIP at PNC, it becomes even more clear that he’s due for some serious reckoning.

Falter will throw the four-seam about 56% of the time with good ride and a little cut, and it plays up a little more than 91-92 mph because he gets tremendous extension and locates up in the zone. He uses every bit of that lanky 6-foot-4 frame and seems to hide the ball well so that an otherwise standard-looking heater really jumps on them.

The upper-70s curveball is a decent weapon and has a little slurviness to it as it cuts down to the glove-side corner and can even back-foot righties from time to time. Falter also throws an 86 mph slider at a 15% clip, though it tends to flatten out and catch a little too much of the zone. His sinker is anything but, working way up in the zone to the arm side, and his split-change also stays high with very little depth.

It’s a pretty weird repertoire because most of the secondaries are at or above league-average velo even though his fastball is below-average. The Cubs should be able to score some runs today, particularly now that they’ve gotten Suzuki and Bellinger back. Famous last words, huh?

First pitch is at 11:35pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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