Chicago Cubs Lineup (5/1/24): Hoerner Leads Off, Imanaga Starting

I know the Justin Timberlake memes have been going for a while now, but is it really (gonna be) May 1 already? The Cubs weren’t able to close March with a W, so they enter the new month at 18-12 on the season with the arrow pointing up due to all their injured reinforcements waiting in the wings. Even if that doesn’t wash away the stain from sloppy play last night, it’s a bright spot on the horizon.

Another bright spot is their pitcher from the Land of the Rising Sun, as Shota Imanaga has exceeded all expectations in the early going. He enters this game at 4-0 with a 0.98 ERA and 28 strikeouts to just three walks. Though he’s allowed homers in each of the last two games, Imanaga continues to limit serious damage by avoiding free passes and limiting hard contact.

He’s also done a better job of getting grounders over the last three starts, which is a very promising trend as the weather warms up. Another strong outing will be required if the Cubs can’t figure out how to put runs on the board early.

Nico Hoerner leads this one off at second, Mike Tauchman is in right, Ian Happ is in left, and Christopher is at third. Michael Busch is at first, Dansby Swanson plays short, Matt Mervis is the DH, and Miguel Amaya is the catcher. Pete Crow-Armstrong bats ninth in center.

They’re facing righty José Buttó, who I’m reasonably sure I’d never heard of prior to this. He debuted in 2022 and made nine appearances for the Mets last year, though nothing about his performance really jumps off the page. That 2.86 ERA through four starts this year is pretty good, but his 13.3% walk rate washes out a good chunk of his nearly 28% strikeout rate.

This scouting report is going to be somewhat abbreviated due to my circumstances, so I’ll try to be informative while still providing solid info. Buttó has gotten excellent value from the four-seamer he throws about a third of the time, often working it well up out of the zone. He can dot it pretty much anywhere, though, and loves to cut it a little to carry it to the glove side. His three secondaries — sinker, change, slider — are used with similar frequency and can cover almost the entire zone.

He’ll ride that two-seam in hard on righties, often brushing them back, then the change lights up the lower-middle section of the zone. The slider can work anywhere from off the plate middle and arm-side to back-footing left-handed hitters, plus he has a sweeper that ends up out of the zone almost all the time. Buttó’s velocity is right in line with the league average for the most part, so nothing to see there.

One interesting note is that he’s held lefty batters to a .135 average, but they have a .319 OBP. Righties are at .184 and .279, so the wOBA splits are actually very similar. Buttó has been much better at home so far over three starts, pitching to a 2.55 ERA with a .259 wOBA allowed, though both of the homers hit against him have come at Citi Field. Maybe the Cubs can inflate those numbers a bit.

First pitch is once again at 6:10pm CT on Marquee — which I sincerely hoping actually works without glitching every time that Miller Lite commercial airs — and 670 The Score.

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