Chicago Cubs Lineup (5/31/24): Tauchman Leads Off, Bellinger at 1B, Assad Starting

There’s no way to sugarcoat it, the Cubs suck right now. Even if they manage to win this afternoon, they’ll finish May at 6 games under .500 and well out of first in the division. Ian Happ is the only hot hitter on the team, and his 132 wRC+ over the last two weeks is tied for 93rd in MLB over that time. Even when they manage to produce a little punch on offense, their opponents just punch back harder.

Javier Assad probably needs to pitch another gem, which is certainly a possibility as he bounces back from his worst start of the season in St. Louis. Walks are becoming something of an issue, however, as he’s issued 14 over his last five starts. Efficiency hasn’t been a strong suit for Assad and there are times when he gets himself into a pickle by falling behind in counts.

That .242 BABIP against probably isn’t sustainable, so he’ll need to offset inevitable regression by keeping the ball in the yard. After allowing just two total homers over his first nine starts, Assad has surrendered two dingers in each of his last two outings. Warm weather isn’t going to help him limit the longball moving forward, but maybe the Cubs can hit a few of their own to counter.

Mike Tauchman has quietly been slumping lately, but he’s back in the leadoff spot as the DH. Seiya Suzuki bats second in right, then it’s Cody Bellinger at first base and Christopher Morel at third. Happ is in left, Nico Hoerner is at second, Dansby Swanson is the shortstop, and Pete Crow-Armstrong is in center. Yan Gomes will handle the catching duties.

On the hill for the Reds is righty Graham Ashcraft, a guy I’ve written up several times for these lineup posts. The burly righty has always perplexed me because his repertoire screams strikeouts but his results look like those of a soft-tossing finesse guy. It’s wild that a guy who throws a 96 mph cutter (44%), 89 mph slider (31%), and 95 mph turbo sinker (22%) ranks 88th in MLB with a 17.8% strikeout rate (min. 50 IP).

That’s just below Miles Mikolas, folks. The issue for Ashcraft is that he doesn’t seem to know where the ball is going most of the time, leading to way too many pitches that are either very hittable or simply uncompetitive. His 10.0% swinging-strike rate is nearly one point below league average and his 14.1% called-strike rate is 2.5 points off the mark. Only three of 102 pitchers in the above sample have lower than his 24.1% combined total.

He’s actually pitched to huge reverse splits in the past, allowing right-handed batters to slash an inconceivable .295/.366/.476 with a .366 wOBA. That’s 706 total batters, just incredible. While he’s tamped that down so far this season, left-handed hitters are slashing .286/.333/.467 with a .349 wOBA and have hit five of the eight homers he’s given up.

Even though he’s been better on the road so far, there’s absolutely no reason the Cubs can’t hammer this guy. Famous last words. First pitch is at 1:20pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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