Dodgers @ Cubs April 25, 2019: Stripling vs. Lester

The Dodgers (15-11) have now lost two in a row as they enter the third and final game against the Cubs (12-10). The pitching staff last night was mostly responsible for the loss, as the offense attempted to make a comeback but it was too little too late. A hanging breaking ball and a sinker left up resulted in six runs for the Cubs, and Joe Kelly did his normal thing as well. Today we have a pitchers duel between Ross Stripling and Jon Lester, both of whom are struggling with velocity.

Dodgers
Cubs
11:20 a.m.
Chicago
2B
Hernandez
RF
Zobrist
3B
Turner
3B
Bryant
1B
Freese
1B
Rizzo
RF
Bellinger
SS
Baez
CF
Pollock
2B
Descalso
LF
Verdugo
C
Contreras
SS
Taylor CF Heyward
C
Gale
LF
Schwarber
P
Stripling (R)
P
Lester (L)

The Dodgers are putting out a similar lineup as yesterday, with just a few changes. Cody Bellinger slides up to fourth after batting sixth last night, Alex Verdugo will start in left field over Chris Taylor, who is now starting at short as Corey Seager will take a rest day. Additionally, Rocky Gale will start over Austin Barnes today.

The Los Angeles Times post-game article from last night touches on the reason behind batting Bellinger sixth. It could be overthinking just a touch — by thinking about matchups later in the game over getting your star more at-bats — but it worked out both times. Personally, I don’t find it particularly important, and the reasoning behind it does make sense.

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Stripling has been solid to start the year, with a 3.07 ERA and a 4.14 FIP. Similar to Lester, he also has a high on left-on-base percentage at 83.3%, the 26th highest of 138 qualified starters. He also has a very low BABIP against him at .234 – the 19th lowest among those 138. His strikeout rate (22.2%) is down from 27.0% last season, while his walk rate is at 7.7%, up from 4.4% last season. According to FanGraphs, his average fastball velocity so far has been 90.0 MPH, down from 91.7 in 2018. At 29.1 innings, he’s thrown more than any other Dodgers starter, and at the worst case he’s decent. I think he’ll thrive when he gets bumped back into the pen, but he’s a solid piece of the rotation for now.

Lester is making his return from the IL today, last pitching on April 8. He left that start after two innings, as he injured his hamstring running the bases. In his first two starts he went six innings, allowing two runs in each, both quality starts. At the same time, his 2.57 ERA is paired with a 5.19 FIP. His left-on-base percentage is currently at 100.0%, the highest mark of those same 138 qualified starters. According to FanGraphs, Lester’s average fastball velocity is now 89.8 MPH down from 91.0 last season. So far, his 41.8% usage of his fastball is the lowest of his career, and his 39.0% usage of his cutter is the highest of his career. It’s early, but it looks like he’s adapting, or at least trying to adjust to a dip in velocity. Lester had a 1.50 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP against the Dodgers last season, allowing only nine hits and two runs over 12 innings. Historically, Lester is very tough against left-handed batters, so it makes sense to keep a similar lineup to yesterdays.

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It looks like the Pirates will have a tough Dodgers rotation to face this weekend, including the return of Rich Hill.

This is also a good way to look at things, so hopefully they can pull it off.

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First pitch is at 11:20 AM PT on SNLA.

About Allan Yamashige

Allan Yamashige
Just a guy living in Thousand Oaks, CA who happens to love the Dodgers and statistics. Hated baseball practice as a kid, but writing about adults doing baseball is alright.