Chicago Cubs Lineup (7/26/23): Tauchman Leads Off, Barnhart Catching, Stroman Starting

The Cubs have won four straight and they’ve got a chance to extend that streak against a White Sox team that looks at times like it’s populated by a bunch of dudes who aren’t really trying any longer. The South Siders aren’t just going to roll over and die or anything, but there’s a strong sense that several of them could be shipped out at the deadline.

One such player is Lance Lynn, who has fallen back to earth in a very big way in his third year with the Pale Hose. He’s actually striking batters out at nearly a career-high rate, but he’s also walking more than usual and he’s giving up way more homers than ever before. Even if his 6.18 ERA is a little unlucky, he’s creating plenty of his own poor fortune.

Those strikeout figures might be a bit of a mirage as well, since Lynn has put up four games with double-digit Ks, including one with 16 punchies. He struck out 11 Blue Jays with just one walk over seven shutout innings three starts ago, then had 12 combined Ks with six walks and 10 earned runs over his next two starts.

Still a fastball-heavy pitcher, Lynn has dialed back his sinker usage and is throwing more cutters and changeups than he used to. We’re talking about a guy who used to be around an 80% fastball usage between his four- and two-seam, so being at just 54% is a big shift. What’s odd about that is his sinker has been by far his best pitch this year, and it’s actually the only one with positive value.

He’s still able to locate that pitch right on the arm-side edge of the zone to get whiffs and called strikes alike, and it can be devastating when it’s working. The fastball typically stays middle-up, though it has ended up in hitters’ happy zones way too often. His change has good tumble, but he can also fade it arm-side to bust righties on the hands or get lefties to chase.

The cutter will work the outer glove-side edge and, as noted, is easily his best weapon. Lynn works in the low 90s and isn’t going to dominate with velocity, but he can still put up incredible outings when his location is tight. Here’s to hoping it’s loose and that left-handed batters continue to dominate him to the tune of a .338 average and 1.055 OPS.

That includes Tucker Barnhart, who hails from the same hometown of Brownsburg, IN and was named Indiana Mr. Baseball four years after Lynn. My son actually just had his first high school baseball workout on the field Lynn and Barnhart called home back in the day. In addition to being a good matchup, the Cubs may also be looking to change their batteries a bit. After being paired primarily with Stroman for much of the first half, Barnhart had been catching Kyle Hendricks.

Stroman has been very inconsistent over his last several starts and could really use a get-right game in this one against a roster he’s limited to a .602 OPS over 69 total at-bats. I think we’ll know early on which version of Stroman the Cubs are getting, but I also believe getting the bats going will allow him to settle in from the jump.

Mike Tauchman is leading off in center with Nico Hoerner at second, Ian Happ in left, and Cody Bellinger at first. The grand slam-robbing Seiya Suzuki is in right, Dansby Swanson is at short, Christopher Morel is the DH, and Miles Mastrobuoni is at third. Barnhart will handle the catching.

First pitch is at 7:10pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score. As an aside, this is one of the more interesting pitching matchups from a visual standpoint, as Lynn is about 10 inches taller and 100 pounds heavier than Stroman.

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