Chicago Cubs Lineup (6/17/24): Tauchman Leads Off as DH, Assad Starting

The Cubs have dropped nine of their last 10 series and haven’t scored more than five runs in any of their last 10 games, with five of those seeing them score two or fewer. Their 34-38 record is identical to their expected win-loss mark, yet they’re somehow still in the hunt for a spot in the expanded playoff race. That could mean soft moves toward either the buy or sell side that don’t do anything to markedly improve the team either immediately or in the long run.

Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins love to talk about building a foundation for sustained success, but they don’t seem to be doing much to actually get the winning started. Maybe the Cubs’ fortunes will start to turn tonight against the Giants. Barring a rare offensive outburst, they’ll need a strong effort from Javier Assad to keep them in the game.

Assad hasn’t gotten credit for a win in over a month and he’s failed to complete five innings in two of his five starts in that time. He has issued at least two walks in each of those outings and has piled up 15 free passes with six homers allowed. Maybe he’s just a big Teddy Swims fan, but it sure would be nice if he doesn’t lose control in this one. It’s would also be nice to see some crooked numbers behind him.

Mike Tauchman leads off as the DH, Christopher Morel is at third base, Cody Bellinger is in center, and Seiya Suzuki is in right. Ian Happ is in left, Nico Hoerner is at second, Michael Busch is at first, and Dansby Swanson is the shortstop. Miguel Amaya finishes out the lineup behind the plate.

They’re up against former Cardinals reliever Jordan Hicks, who is on for his 15th start of the season. That’s one more than he’s ever made at any professional level and his 71.2 innings are the most he’s logged since he racked up 77.1 over 73 appearances with St. Louis in 2018. His vaunted fastball has been toned down quite a bit in this new role, though he still sits 95 mph with the sinker and 96 mph with the four-seam.

The sinker makes up about 51% of his offerings, down from the mid-60s in previous seasons, and his sweeper has been dialed back to 21% with an 81-82 mph average velo that is about five ticks lower than before. The biggest difference, however, is the splitter he’s throwing far more than ever at much lower speed. After using it very sparingly at a firm 91-92 mph in the four previous seasons, Hicks goes to his new-look 84-85 mph splitter for nearly 23% of his pitches.

It serves as more of a change of pace than a fall-off-the-table deal that gets chases, but it’s been very effective when paired with that sinker that fills up the zone. Throwing more strikes and working at lower levels of intent has allowed Hicks to dial in his control and command, thus mitigating the reduced strikeouts with fewer walks. Interestingly enough, however, his 16.6% called-strike rate is well below his 18.2% career mark. His 10.9% swinging-strike rate is a little higher than usual despite the lower number of Ks.

Hicks has very similar splits and does a great job of keeping the ball on the ground and in the park, so there’s not much there to exploit. Based on what the Cubs have been doing offensively over the last several weeks, this is a very bad matchup on paper. Here’s to hoping they buck the trends.

First pitch is at 7:05pm CT on Marquee and 670 The Score.

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