As the title says, it’s Jackie Robinson Day as the Dodgers look to even the three-game series with the Cubs following last night’s offensive dud. Sitting at 7-7, the Dodgers will once again need a win to avoid slipping below .500 for the first time since last year’s 1-2 start in Colorado.
https://twitter.com/BrittDavis704/status/164733049710858250?s=2After the first six games of the season were followed by a day off, and then another seven with a day off, the Dodgers enter the second of 10 consecutive games tonight. It’s also the second of 19 games in 20 days that includes a trip from Los Angeles to Chicago, a day off to get from Chicago to Pittsburgh and from Pittsburgh back to Los Angeles.
With that said, and Michael Grove on the mound tonight after Noah Syndergaard seemed to bounce back a bit with nine strikeouts in 6 innings last night against the Cubs, here’s a look at where the bullpen stands with pitch totals since that first day off of the season.
|April 6 (May)||April 7 (Kershaw)||April 8 (Syndergaard)||April 9 (Grove)||April 10 (Urias)||April 11 (May)||April 12 (Kershaw)||April 14 (Syndergaard)|
After Andre Jackson just had to eat the final two innings last night (while also apparently tipping pitches) as Dave Roberts sort of gave up on a 3-2/4-2/5-2 game in the 8th inning, the bullpen is pretty fresh following Thursday’s day off.
As you can see on the chart, Grove’s most recent start led to 20+ pitches for three different relievers against the D-backs last Sunday after he managed just 3 1/3 innings in the 11-6 loss in Phoenix. Ideally I am wrong, but with Grove lasting just 63 and 66 pitches in his two starts, it seems like this all might be relevant tonight. On the mound for the Cubs, Jameson Taillon will face the Dodgers for the first time since 2018.
|6:10 PM||Los Angeles|
|LF||Happ (S)||3B||Muncy (L)|
|CF||Bellinger (L)||LF||Outman (L)|
|1B||Hosmer (L)||CF||Heyward (L)|
|P||Taillon (R)||P||Grove (R)|
Will Smith is still sick, so Austin Barnes is back behind the plate again.
For those who care about the batting order, James Outman‘s placement at No. 5 is his highest this season, due in part to Smith’s absence from the lineup. Jason Heyward gets his #RevengeGame after Cody Bellinger and Edwin Rios started against the Dodgers last night.
Heyward is 2 for his last 12, with both hits being solo home runs, in addition to a pair of walks and four strikeouts. David Peralta is 3-for-24 since his two-hit game against the D-backs in the season opener, with just one walk to four strikeouts. Given that Chris Taylor is 4-for-35 this season with three home runs, three walks and 16 strikeouts … yeah. Not ideal as everyone has figured out.
With another right-handed starter on the mound for Los Angeles, Chicago makes minimal changes to its lineup. Rios is out for Trey Mancini at DH and Tucker Barnhart is catching in place of Yan Gomes.
Back when he was a member of the Pirates from 2016 to 2019, Taillon faced the Dodgers once per year in his first three years in the majors.
In his fourth career start for the Pirates back in June 2016, Taillon lasted 4 innings while giving up four runs on eight hits and a walk. In August 2017, it was 5 innings with five runs on five hits and five walks allowed and in June 2018 he allowed three runs on eight hits and one walk. Of course with it being nearly five years since that last appearance against Los Angeles, just two current Dodgers faced Taillon back in 2018 (Max Muncy and Chris Taylor). However, J.D. Martinez‘s time in Boston led to 16 career at-bats against Taillon with a .250/.294/.500/.794 line that includes a homer run and four strikeouts. Similarly, Heyward’s time in Chicago has him 8-for-20 with a .400/.455/.450/.905 line with two home runs and one strikeout.
After a pair of seasons with the Yankees, Taillon signed with the Cubs this past December. With 1.9 fWAR in 2021 and 2.3 fWAR in 2022, Taillon earned $68 million over four years from Chicago. It’s been an up-and-down start to that contract in Chicago as Taillon allowed three runs on seven hits and a walk in his 4-inning debut against the Brewers followed by five runs allowed (four earned) on six hits and a walk in 5 innings against the Rangers. Around the six hits by the Rangers, which included four doubles, Taillon did strike out seven batters despite generating just five misses on 39 swings. Three of those five misses came on strike three, twice with his cutter and once once with his sweeper.
The right-hander’s career splits don’t show much, with lefties slashing .261/.325/.423/.748 and righties at .246/.280/.412/.692. Lefties do strikeout a bit less (19.3% to 23.8%) and walk more (8.4% to 3.5%). Somewhat unsurprisingly, the nearly equal split comes from Taillon’s seven pitches charted on Baseball Savant. Left-handed batters primarily saw a four-seam fastball the past few seasons, but through his 92 pitches to them this season it’s been 35.9% cutter, 31.5% fastball and 21.7% curves.
For right-handed batters, it’s been 33.3% sweeper, 24.1% sinker and 14.8% fastball with a slider also at 13.0% of his 54 pitches this season. The sweeper of course is new on the chart, with his slider at 29.1% to righties last season.
As for Grove, none of his seven appearances from 2022 came against the Cubs so there’s very little history between him and most of the batters in today’s lineup. And by very little, I mean absolutely no one in the Cubs’ order has faced him before.
It’s a small sample from both seasons, with a total of 472 pitches last year and the 129 this season, but Grove’s percentages are fairly similar. Using his fastball at 52.7% this year (51.1% last year), Grove has upped the slider to 27.9% from 20.1% and dropped the curve to 18.6% from 28.8%. He hasn’t thrown a curve to a right-handed batter yet this season, with the slider accounting for 23 of his 37 pitches this season.
Grove’s brief time in the majors has led to a .315/.376/.533/.909 line for lefties and a .258/.300/.409/.709 total for righties, with both the strikeout and walk rates higher to the former (19.8% vs. 17.1% and 8.9% vs. 5.7%). The slider has a 63.6 Whiff% right now and accounts for six of his eight strikeouts, with very little difference in the result between batters on both sides of the plate.
Shockingly, that lines up with exactly what this site said. So rather than go into any more detail on his small sample in the majors so far, here’s what the Top 33 Prospects post had on him:
His fastball is a solid 93-96 MPH offering that gets swinging strikes, but like most of his pitches, he has trouble commanding it consistently. It’s not a high-spin offering, but it plays well up in the strike zone. He backs it up with a mid-80s slider that’s easily his best pitch. It tunnels well with his fastball and should help produce strikeouts. He also has a high-70s curveball that showed well in his MLB debut (46.9 Whiff%) and has good depth. His change up is an afterthought at this point.
For now, the curve has led to a pair of doubles in four batted ball events, so that’s what to keep an eye on in my opinion as the Cubs send out five right-handed batters, two lefties and two switch hitters.
First pitch is set for 6:10 p.m. PT on SportsNet LA.