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October Confidential: Cubs

Rival players offer inside look at facing NL Central champions
September 28, 2016

How do you beat the Cubs? asked rival players from around Major League Baseball to offer an inside look at how best to face the National League Central champions.Jake Arrieta "Dominant pure stuff. He has late movement on his fastball, his slider and his curveball as well, and he

How do you beat the Cubs? asked rival players from around Major League Baseball to offer an inside look at how best to face the National League Central champions.
Jake Arrieta
"Dominant pure stuff. He has late movement on his fastball, his slider and his curveball as well, and he mixes in an occasional changeup to right-handed hitters. His crossfire delivery really creates some deception, especially because there aren't many guys like him. You just have to look middle and adjust. He's one of those guys you have to get to early. That's typical of the best guys. Once he settles in and gets comfortable, he's one of the toughest guys in the league to face. You combine the dominant stuff with the deception, and it makes for a challenging day."
-- NL Central outfielder

Jon Lester
"He believes in his stuff so much that he throws a lot of strikes. His stuff is so good that it allows him to pitch in the zone instead of around it. Obviously, the thing with him is to find a way to get to first base, and then once you're there, you try to take advantage of his inability to hold runners. It's hard to string together hits against him, so if you get a guy on, you try to take advantage and get into scoring position. But he's still quick to the plate, and David Ross, who is usually catching him, is still a good catch-and-throw guy."
-- NL Central outfielder
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Kyle Hendricks
"I'm really impressed with him. If you look around the league today, pure stuff is so good, so Hendricks is one of the only guys who's not throwing in the mid to upper 90s. Still, he dominates with his stuff because he locates so well and has abnormally late movement to both sides of the plate. That changeup is great. And I think he complements their other pitchers really well because their other guys are basically power pitchers who rely on dominant pure stuff. Hendricks is different. It presents a unique challenge. The changeup is interesting because he'll throw some that break down and in to righties, and some that cut and away, almost like you would try to hit a split-finger. It's tough, because as a hitter you can set a plan to recognize changeup, but he can manipulate it to make it do different things."
-- NL Central outfielder

John Lackey
"He's just a competitor. You can tell he's really into it. He's emotional. He's fiery. He's into every pitch. Big, strong guy who still has really good stuff. I don't think his stuff is any different than it's been in the last 10 years. The velocity is still there, the movement on his slider is still there. I think he's actually dropped his arm angle a few more times this year than I remember him doing in the past. And he's had a lot of postseason success, so you know he's a guy who will embrace that challenge."
-- NL Central outfielder
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Jason Hammel
"He's another guy with really good stuff. I feel like he's another of those guys you have to get to early, because once he gets settled in and comfortable as the game gets moving, he's really challenging."
-- NL Central outfielder
Aroldis Chapman
"Most explosive fastball on the planet. He has really long arms and a long stride as well, which creates some deception. On top of throwing harder than anybody else on the planet, it feels like he releases the ball closer to the batter than anybody else does. That makes it that much more challenging. Certainly, you look fastball, because you have no chance to look for something else and adjust to a fastball. It's a really good slider and a plus changeup when he throws it, but anybody who throws 100 mph, you have to look for the fastball and trust your eyes, hope you get the barrel to it. If he locates an offspeed pitch, you tip your cap."
-- NL Central outfielder

Kris Bryant
"Veteran approach, young hitter. You don't want to go in on him until you're in a good count, 1-2 or 0-2, and then you have to go in off the plate or expand his zone up with heaters chest-high. He'll chase that sometimes, but he's a guy you had better get Strike One on and attack right away. When the count is in his favor, he's going to get you. I think he's probably the league MVP. How consistent he's been at that age, it's unbelievable."
-- NL Central pitcher

Anthony Rizzo
"He doesn't miss mistakes. He's one of the best mistake hitters you'll see. I think you start him hard, or soft down and away, but he's on top of the plate so much that down and away is actually off the plate. If you can get the count in your favor as a pitcher, I think you can get him with fastballs up and in, but it has to be above his hands. Strike-to-ball changeups are good to him, too -- changeups that start as a strike and end as a ball."
-- NL Central pitcher
Ben Zobrist
"To me, he is the most patient hitter on that team. I heard this but don't know if it's true: He has the highest percentage of strikes called balls of any hitter. I don't know if that's the way he stands, his reputation. He gets strikes called balls. I think his presence is huge on that team. Their depth is so key, having interchangeable parts."
-- NL Central pitcher
Dexter Fowler
"Always hunting the heater. He never gets off the fastball. He's an aggressive hitter, I would say even more aggressive with runners in scoring position. I feel like he's a guy you have to go hard in, soft away. I think bringing him back to that lineup was huge. He ignites that offense."
-- NL Central pitcher
Addison Russell
"He crushes mistake off-speed pitches. If you hang a curveball or a changeup or a slider, you're in trouble. I feel like he is a guy you have to go after with the fastball, at the knees on the corners."
-- NL Central pitcher

Javier Báez
"Aggressive hitter. You have to pitch him backwards. He's a guy that if you get ahead, you can expand with your offspeed and there's a good chance he's going to swing. He does not want to walk, put it that way. He's swinging. But he has some pop, too, and he'll hit your mistakes."
-- NL Central pitcher