April 29, 2010

Series Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks (10-11) vs Chicago Cubs (10-12)

The Diamondbacks head to Wrigley for 4 straight day games this week. I honestly didn't know much about this team before looking at the numbers. I knew a few of their players that had been around for awhile, such as Upton (who deserves the title of Most Exciting Young Player far more than Alcides Escobar), Drew, Young, Reynolds, and Haren, but had no idea how they were doing. Upton especially is a guy who's seemingly been ticketed for superstardom for awhile but was merely really, really good in 2009 (4.7 WAR season) after struggling in his first year as a regular in 2008.

Looking at their numbers so far, the team has been clubbing the ball, with many of their regulars (Johnson especially) outperforming their projections by a wide margin in the small sample of the season so far. They've posted a .349 wOBA, 4th in the majors. Their pitching, however, has more than made up for it. Their staff has posted a 4.81 FIP, only ahead of the Royals, Pirates, and Natinals. The bullpen has been especially fail-tastic. However, overall they've been incredible unlucky with HRs, as their xFIP stands at 4.29.

Hitters (wOBA, CHONE wOBA, CHONE projected defense)

  1. C Chris Snyder, RHB (.352, .329, 1.4)
  2. 1b Adam LaRoche, LHB (.383, .359, -2.9)
  3. 2b Kelly Johnson, LHB (.470, .349, 3.0)
  4. SS Stephen Drew, LHB (.369, .332, 0.0)
  5. 3b Mark Reynolds, RHB (.393, .365, -3.8)
  6. lf Gerardo Parra, LHB (.257, .325, 2.9)
  7. cf Chris Young, RHB (.354, .313, -2.5)
  8. rf Justin Upton, RHB (.300, .383, 4.5)

Pitchers (FIP, xFIP, CHONE FIP)
  1. Dan Haren, RHP (3.84, 2.87, 3.24)
  2. Edwin Jackson, RHP (4.42, 4.25, 4.41)
  3. Ian Kennedy, RHP (5.76, 4.04, 4.70)
  4. Rodrigo Lopez, RHP (4.20, 3.94, 4.68)
  5. Kris Benson, RHP (4.41, 5.72, 5.37)
  6. Chad Qualls, RHP (5.08, 3.25, 3.41)
  7. Juan Gutierrez, RHP (5.52, 5.21, 4.04)
  8. Bob Howry, RHP (8.56, 4.80, 4.41)

Still not much to report on the Cubs front. Caridad has been throwing in Arizona and could rejoin the team as soon as Saturday. For the Diamondbacks, their regular LF Conor Jackson is on the DL with a strained right hamstring. Former PECOTA favorite Miguel Montero is out 4 to 6 weeks with a meniscus tear in his knee suffered in mid-April. Worm-killer Brandon Webb is still on the 60-day DL following shoulder surgery from last season. There's no timetable on his return.

Players to watch
The bullpens. Each team has had horrendous performances from their pens. I don't see Arizona moving Dan Haren to the 8th inning.

Pitching matchups

Thursday: Ian Kennedy, RHP (5.76, 4.04, 4.70) vs Ted Lilly, LHP (2.74, 4.34, 4.10), 1:20 PM CT
Kennedy has been racking up the strikeouts this year (21 in 22.1 innings), but has been stung by the HR ball (6 HRs in his first 4 starts). He missed most of last year after surgery to deal with an anuerysm. Lilly was a little wild in his last start (by his usual standards at least), but the hack-happy Brewers were happy to help him out by swinging at a lot of his pitches. Hopefully Chris Young doesn't make him slam down his glove again.

Friday:Rodrigo Lopez, RHP (4.20, 3.94, 4.68) vs Randy Wells, RHP (2.29, 3.53, 4.27), 1:20 PM CT
Lopez keeps bouncing from team to team, built on 2 BABIP-fueled good seasons with Baltimore in 2002 and 2004. He has decent control, but gives up too many HRs and doesn't strike out enough to make up for it. He was hammered by the Phillies in his last start. Wells has pitched quite well this year, improving his strikeout rate while dropping his already great walk rate even lower, and put up his numbers despite a .356 BABIP. However, he has yet to give up a HR this season. He's not as good as his numbers so far, but it certainly looks like his chances of avoiding the sophomore slump are pretty good.

Saturday:Dan Haren, RHP (3.84, 2.87, 3.24) vs Carlos Silva, RHP (3.00, 4.08, 4.67), 12:05 PM CT
Haren is great at throwing baseballs. Like the rest of the staff, he's had some problems with HRs this year (six so far), but the rest of his peripherals are even better than his career numbers. Dave Cameron wrote an interesting piece on Silva's new approach yesterday - basically Silva is now throwing a lot more changeups to LHH rather than a heavy dose of fastballs as he had previously done. Silva's had a big platoon split over his career, but this change in his pitch mix should help out his overall numbers since changeups don't really have a big split. His numbers against RHH are right in line with his career values, so it looks like this success vs LHP is a big portion of his success this season.

Sunday:Edwin Jackson, RHP (4.42, 4.25, 4.41) vs Tom Gorzelanny, LHP (2.49,4.04,4.43), 1:20 PM CT
Speaking of pitchers and changeups, Edwin Jackson's changeup isn't very good, and more importantly it's taking away from his success last season that came from a greater reliance on his slider. Maybe he doesn't have a good handle on it yet this year. He was crushed by Colorado in his last start, surrendering 10 runs in 2.1 innings. Gorzelanny had another wasted start on monday, giving up 2 runs in 7 innings though his strikeout rate (as expected) dropped a bit. I'd love to see the Cubs move him in a hypothetical deal for a Eighth Inning Guy™ which would also solve the problem of moving Z back to the rotation. He's probably the most fungible guy in the rotation - Wells has too much value due to cost-control, Lilly still has the injury question, though he does have the expiring deal, and Silva has too much $$.

I like most of these matchups (except Saturday of course), but this is the Cubs we're talking about. They'll get a split and feel lucky to do so. Get used to seeing the Cubs hover around .500

April 26, 2010

Thanks, IRS!

I just received an ominious looking letter from the IRS. As it turned out, I made a mistake on my taxes...I forgot to claim a credit. They went in, calculated the credit, and sent me an extra $800. Wow!

Starting to climb on the Tyler Colvin Bandwagon

I was pretty skeptical of the New and Improved Tyler Colvin this spring training, and would rather the Cubs had sent him to AAA to get regular playing time. Even then, I didn't think that he'd ever be more than a 4th outfielder. After the first 20 or so games here this season, I'm starting to change my mind. The kid can hit. He's not this good, but his likelihood of ever becoming a MLB regular in my mind has risen by about 50% or so in my mind.

Stay Classy, Iowa State

I was at a conference at Iowa State over the weekend, and it went fine (I think my talk went really well). As we were leaving town the next day, my reseach group (which is entirely Chinese except for me) was waiting around outside the union for everyone to meet up before we made the drive back to Madison. As we were waiting, some guys drove by in a pickup truck and shouted "FUCK YOU ASIANS!!" (or possibly Death to Asians, but I think it was the first) before laughing uproaringly and speeding off. Luckily no one else in my group was able to pick up their english.

April 25, 2010

Series Preview: Washinton Natinals (10-9) at Chicago Cubs (9-10)

The Cubs prepared for their upcoming series with the over-.500 Natinals by taking three days off to do nothing but take batting practice. Even Aramis Ramirez looks like he's starting to break out of his slump, getting some good contact in the last BP session.

The Cubs somehow managed to pull a winning record out of that road trip, and the big reason is still starting pitching. I mentioned this in my last preview, but wanted to extend the numbers. Here are the ERs (and IP) given up by Cubs starters since the beginning of the Astros facepalm-inducing series

0, (7.0), 2 (3.0), 1 (7.2), 1 (6.0) 2 (6.0), 1 (6.0), 2 (5.2) 1 (7.2), 0 (6.0), 2 (7.0)

That's an ERA of 1.74, folks. The Cubs starting pitching is pretty good.

As far as the Natinals go, it's pretty similar to last year. Their offense is surprisingly good (5th in the NL), the starters are appallingly bad (second worst FIP and xFIP in all of MLB), and they play decent defense, led by the underrated Nyjer Morgan. Their second best player, Ryan Zimmerman, is banged up and likely won't be able to play in all three games (he missed the last series except for a pinch-hit appearance). Their best player is of course pitching for Harrisburg.

Position players (wOBA, CHONE wOBA, CHONE UZR)

  1. C Pudge Rodriguez, RHB (.449, .290, 2.3)
  2. 1b Adam Dunn, LHB (.363, .378, -4.0)
  3. 2b Cristian Guzman, BHB (.306, .316, 0.0)
  4. SS Ian Desmond, RHB (.331, .324, -18.6)
  5. 3b Ryan Zimmerman (.445, .379, 0.0)
  6. LF Josh Willingham, RHB (.468, .361, -0.9)
  7. CF Nyjer Morgan, LHB (.363, .321, 10.3)
  8. RF Willie Harris, LHB (.329, .328, 2.6)

Pitchers (FIP, xFIP, CHONE FIP)
  1. John Lannan, LHP (5.50, 5.28, 4.74)
  2. Craig Stammen, RHP (4.28, 3.66, 4.96)
  3. Zombie Livan Hernandez, RHP (4.22, 4.96, 4.83)
  4. Scott Olsen, LHP (6.40, 4.08, 5.12)
  5. Luis Atilano, RHP (3.68, 5.27, -)
  6. Matt Capps, RHP (3.69, 4.68, 3.82)
  7. Brian Bruney, RHP (6.37, 6.61,4.35)
  8. Tyler Clippard, RHP (1.69, 3.29, 4.20)

A lot of these guys are really tearing the cover off the ball, especially Pudge and Willingham. Laughably Riggleman has been batting Cristian Guzman, arguably the worst batter on the team, in the 3-spot while Zimmerman was out.

The Natinals have quite a laundry list of injured players. Ryan Zimmerman has been having hamstring issues. Pudge has a sore back. RF Willie Harris had an MRI on his sore knee yesterday which came back okay, but he's expected to miss Monday's game at least. Catcher Jesus Flores had offseason shoulder and elbow surgery and still has not begun throwing. Cubs Legend Jason Marquis (the greatest fifth starter ever) is on the DL with floating bodies in his throwing elbow. Starter Garret Mock is on the DL with a spine injury with no timetable for return. The Natinals also have Chien-Ming Wang and future star Jordan Zimmerman on the 60-day DL recovering from arm surgeries.

The only injury out there for the Cubs is Caridad, who has been throwing in Arizona. According to this Bruce Miles report, Caridad could be reactivated after this homestand.

Players to watch
As mentioned above, Rodrigo Ramirez seems to have started squaring up the ball again. Hopefully the upcoming Natinals pitchers will keep the Cubs bats hot and build even more confidence. For the Natinals, I hope Adam Dunn strikes out 12 times and commits 4-5 errors at 1b, to ram a stake into the 'Cubs should have signed Dunn' partisans that will inevitably turn up the volume of their whinging in this series.

Pitching Probables
Monday: John Lannan, LHP (5.50, 5.28, 4.74) vs Carlos Silva, RHP (3.06, 4.03, 4.67), 7:05 PM CT
Lannan, the Natinals erstwile ace, 'kept his team in the game' in his last start, and admitted that his off-speed pitchers were not working for him. He has been pretty unlucky though, with a .350 BABIP. The Fail Whale, meanwhile, has posted a ridiculous .178 BABIP so far, so that's going to go up. He's also seen a jump in his K-rate and big drop in his BB-rate. Obviously none of these are sustainable. It will be interesting to see where his numbers level off.

Tuesday: Zombie Livan Hernandez, RHP (4.22, 4.96, 4.83) vs Tom Gorzelanny, LHP (2.14, 3.42, 4.43), 7:10 PM CT
I was about to complain about how Hernandez has pitched so late into his career and was surprised to find that he's only 35. It seems like he's been around forever. Something must have happened to him in 2006 (injury?), because after cranking out 7 years with FIPs more or less in the high 3's, his FIP jumped by about a run. His main problem is that his strikeout rate has gone waaaay down from earlier in his career, and he's posted an eyeball-averaged 4 strikeouts per nine innings over the last three seasons. Most of what he has left is his durability - in his last few years as an effective starter, he pitched 233, 255, and 246 innings on some awful Expos/Natinals teams. He's been lucky so far this year, posting a .158 BABIP and leading some to wonder how he turned it around this year, but he's still the same shitty pitcher from the last few years. Which of course means he'll throw a 3-hit shutout tonight.

As far as Gorzelanny goes, I still think despite all evidence to the contrary that he's the most likely guy to be demoted to the pen if they ever move Z back (*jams improvised paper-clip shiv in ear*). Just a feeling. He has been striking out a ton of batters in his first few starts, which is a nice sign.

Wednesday: Luis Atilano, RHP (3.68, 5.27, -) vs Ryan Dempster, RHP (2.92, 3.54, 3.89), 1:20 PM CT
Atilano made his major league debut last week agains the Dodgers and was fairly effective, allowing only one run over 6 innings. He wasn't blowing anyone away though - he only struck out one. None of the systems (on fangraphs at least) seem to have projected him, but based on last year's minor league numbers he's basically a replacement level starter. He has decent control, but that's about it. Maybe HP will chime in more on what he throws before his start.

Dempster continues to roll along, piling up strikeouts and getting a decent number of ground balls, exactly what you want to see. He's been a bit lucky with HRs, but there's no question that he's the best pitcher on the team right now.

Prediction Cubs win 2 out of 3, and climb back to .500. Given the shitty pitchers the Cubs are facing this series, a sweep is not out of the question, but the Natinals have a decent offense and are facing the back end of the Cubs rotation here too.

April 23, 2010

My actual thoughts on Z to the pen

Well, this still applies.

More seriously though, while this is a dumb, dumb, dumb move, I don't think we should read anything more into it than

  1. The Cubs starters have been pitching very well
  2. The Cubs failpen has been pitching like shit
  3. Z has the worst numbers of any of the starters *this year*

That's it. I don't think there's any secret punishment of Z running around the organization, nor is it a 'message' to the team, nor is Z injured. It's just a dumb decision based on small sample size.

While I recognize that having Z in the rotation will equal more wins, seeing a fired-up Z coming out of the bullpen should be pretty cool. He's still one of my favorite players, and coming out of the pen doesn't change that. Hats off to Z for being accomodating to this move and not bitching about it too.

April 22, 2010

Series Preview: Chicago Cubs (4-10) at Milwaukee Brewers (8-7)

The Cubs just lost consecutive series to the worst team in the NL (Astros), and the worst managed/GM-ed team in the NL (Mets). Now the Cubs and their ice-cold offense head into Milwaukee, who are fresh off a sweep of the Pirates in Pittsburgh, outscoring them 36-1. As you can see below, the Brewers are all offense, no pitching. Unlike the Cubs, who have had great starting pitching, but shitty, shitty offense. In the last 7 games Cubs starters have given up 2,1,2,1,1,2, and 0 earned runs over a total of 41 1/3 innings, for an ERA of 1.95. And the team has only 2 wins in those games.

I feel pretty good about the starters matching up with the Brewers potent offense (power meets power), but the failpen is another story. If Z (I still can't believe I'm saying this), Marshall, and Marmol get all the extra work, then the Cubs will only lose these games 3-1 instead of 7-1.

Brewers lineup (current wOBA, CHONE wOBA, chone UZR)

  1. 2B Rickie Weeks, RHB (.348, .374, -5.2)
  2. CF Carlos Gomez, RHB (.325, .323, 11.4)
  3. LF Lloyd Braun, RHB (.486, .404, -4.9)
  4. 1B Prince Fielder, LHB (.309, .412, -3.0)
  5. 3B Casey McGehee, RHB (.479, .324, -3.4)
  6. RF Jim Edmonds, LHB (.371, .334, -6.2)
  7. C Gregg Zaun, BHB (.149, .315, -1.2)
  8. SS The Most Exciting Player Ever, RHB (.368, .322, 0.9)

Pitchers (FIP, xFIP, CHONE FIP)
  1. Yovani Gallardo, RHP (3.98, 3.30, 3.62)
  2. Randy Wolf, LHP (4.50, 4.01, 4.22)
  3. Doug Davis, LHP (5.61, 3.73, 4.57)
  4. David Bush, RHP (4.47, 4.32, 4.79)
  5. Jeff Suppan, LOL (7.20, 7.23, 5.23)
  6. Trevor Hoffman, RHP (10.23, 6.52, 3.84)
  7. LaTroy Hawkins, RHP (2.40, 3.47, 3.97)
  8. Todd Coffey, RHP (4.60, 5.77, 4.10)

Not much new on the Cubs front. Lilly comes back in Saturday's game. Caridad was supposed to start throwing this week but I haven't heard any news on him. For the Brewers, the only injury of note is to "3b" prospect Mat Gamel, who has a shoulder tear and should be out a few more weeks.

Players to watch
Don't look now (or I guess, look now), but Soriano has started looking pretty good at the plate. He's been locked in the past few games, and was taking a ton of pitches in Thursday's game. Look for him to break out against this weak pitching, especially Suppan and Davis. For the Brewers, how can you not go with The Most Exciting Player Ever? Fireworks go off whenever he handles a routine grounder to SS.

Friday Ryan Dempster, RHP (2.83, 3.34, 3.89) vs Jeff Suppan, LOL (7.20, 7.23, 5.23), 7:10 PM CT
Demp's having a great season. He didn't bring great control against the Brewers in his last start, but the Cubs' bats actually woke up, so he was pitching to contact for most of the game, including a towering HR by Lloyd Braun. Jeff Suppan, is, well, Jeff Suppan (dying laughing). Just look at those FIP and xFIP numbers.

Saturday Ted Lilly, LHP (-,-,4.10) vs Doug Davis, LHP (5.61, 3.73, 4.57), 6:10 PM CT
Ted had a nice outing in his last rehab start on monday and should be ready to go. He struck out 9 over 7 innings and threw strikes, which is what he's best at. He's a fun guy to watch pitch. Davis has been hammered pretty hard in all three of his starts this year, and hasn't made it out of the 5th inning in any of them. The Cubs hit a pair of homers against him last week, and with the righty-heavy lineup they can throw out there, hopefully they can do the same again.

Sunday Randy Wells, RHP (2.43, 3.69, 4.27) vs David Bush, RHP (4.47, 4.32, 4.79), 1:10 PM CT
Bush painted the corners in his last start against Pittsburgh, inducing a ton (14) ground balls over 7 innings. He's had a lot of BABIP luck (.220) and is doing a shitty job of striking out batters (4.82 K/9), so hopefully the Cubs get to see a little regression here. Wells, on the other hand, has posted great numbers despite being very unlucky (.362 BABIP). So far the main source of his success is a higher K rate and a lack of HRs. That streak will probably end in this series.

Though this should be a boring series, since both teams strengths match up well. But the Failpen should be worth at least two losses. Cubs lose 2 out of 3. It's too bad Cubs Ace Carlos Silva won't pitch in this series.

Z to pen reaction: one day later

That's still pretty much all I got.

April 21, 2010

Idiocy: It's a Way of Life

I just got back from the airport only to discover Carlos Zambrano was moved to the bullpen.

That's pretty much all I have to say, except that whoever lobbied for this idea should be fired on the spot. Ugh.

April 18, 2010

Series Preview: Chicago Cubs (5-7) at New York Presbyterian Hospital (4-7)

Well, that was a disappointment. But luckily the Cubs are playing an even more disappointing team over the next four days. Seriously, Cubs fans, whenever you start feeling bad about this season just look at the Mets. The team blew big leads in 2007 and 2008 and were shut out of the playoffs, and then saw nearly their entire roster go down to injury last season, including Jose Reyes, Johan Santana, Carlos Beltran, David Wright, Carlos Delgado, Jon Niese, John Maine, J.J. Putz, Billy Wagner, Gary Sheffield, Oliver Perez, and others. Beltran (the team's best player) is still unable to play after microfracture knee surgery in January, the cicumstances surrounding which are still unclear. The Mets claim they did not give him permission to get the surgery, and aired out all this dirty laundry to the NY Press. On top of this bizarre PR reverse-push, current manager Jerry Manuel was hired in 2008 after the bizarre firing of Jerry Manuel in the wee hours of the morning after the team had just won a game on a west-coast road trip, and most of the team found out from the media the next day.

To 'fix' the roster from last season Minaya went out and replaced the aging (and probably still injured) Delgado with Mike Jacobs, he of the .332 projected wOBA. Furthermore, he also acquired Angels millstone Gary Matthews Jr. to help fill in for the missing Beltran. The only big splash the team made in the offseason was signing the overrated Jason Bay, while seemingly completely ignoring their terrible pitching rotation. It seemed like the Mets were the second choice in every deal, and signed half a hundred backup catchers before Bengie Molina, who's not a great asset himself but was the only 'legitamite' starting catcher on the market, ended up re-signing with the Giants after the Mets kept dragging their feet. On top of that, midway through the previous season Minaya traded for my personal Bete Noire, Jeff Francouer, to be their everyday right fielder.

It's amazing how much of a joke this franchise has turned into.

The Cubs offense needs to wake up, and this could be just the series for it. The Mets are throwing three left-handers against the RHH-heavy Cubs, though their cavernous park should temper our expectations.

Mets lineup (with CHONE projected wOBA, UZR)

  1. SS Jose Reyes, BHB (.366, 7.6)
  2. 2B Luis Castillo, BHB (.329, -6.9)
  3. 3b David Wright, RHB (.393, -6.0)
  4. LF Jason Bay, RHB (.388, -6.9)
  5. 1B Mike Jacobs, LHB (.332, -5.2)
  6. RF Jeff Francouer, RHB (.327, -3.0)
  7. C Rod Barajas, RHB (.304, 4.3)
  8. CF Angel Pagan, BHB (.334, 6.1)

Pitchers (with current FIP, xFIP, CHONE FIP)
  1. 1. Johan Santana, LHP (2.85,3.95,3.79)
  2. John Maine, RHP (8.02, 5.70, 4.43)
  3. Jon Niese, LHP (4.65, 5.33, 4.23)
  4. Mike Pelfrey, RHP (2.66, 4.02, 4.36)
  5. Oliver Perez, LHP (3.10, 4.35, 4.90)
  6. Francisco Rodriguez, RHP (3.02, 4.65, 3.43)
  7. Pedro Feliciano, LHP (5.35, 5.80, 3.94)
  8. Ryota Igarashi, RHP (4.07, 5.52, xxx)

Currently, the Mets hospital lineup includes reliever Sean Green (rib injury), "1B" Daniel Murphy (knee injury, out 2-6 weeks), Carlos Beltran (knee surgery, out until at least May), and oft-injured pitcher Kelvim Escobar (shoulder soreness, not expected to contribute for months). For the Cubs, Lilly is expected to make his last rehab start on Monday before rejoining the team to make his season debut on Saturday in Milwaukee.

Players to watch:
Geo Soto's bat has warmed up in the past few days, and it would be great to see him (and the rest of the Cubs bats) warm up against the left-handed pitching they will see in this series. For the Mets, I'd love to see Francouer strike out about a dozen times in this series against the Cubs strikeout staff. I don't think he could draw a walk off even 2009 Marmol.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: Randy Wells, RHP (2.45, 3.78, 4.27) vs Jon Niese, LHP (4.65, 5.33, 4.23), 6:10 PM CT
Wells had a decent outing in his last start, even striking out the side in the first. He ran out of gas in the later innings too, and not surprisingly got into trouble after walking the pitcher. Niese looks like a decent young pitcher who could turn into a pretty good one. He pitched well in 5 starts with the squad last season before presumably going down with some sort of injury (with the 2009 Mets, it's a safe assumption). Fangraphs says that he throws mostly 90 mph fastballs and 89 mph cutters, though I'll trust HP more if he takes another look at him. He gets a decent number of ground balls though, so there's a chance that cutter is actually a 2-seamer.

Tuesday: Carlos Zambrano, RHP (6.17, 3.70, 4.08) vs Mike Pelfrey, RHP (2.66, 4.02, 4.36), 6:10 PM CT
Z had issues with cramps and wildness in his last outing against the Brewers. Despite that he still was as 'effective' as Brewers starter Jeff Suppan. Hopefully this will remind him to eat his bananas and gatorade this season. Pelfrey's leads the Mets in both wins AND saves so far, and closed out the 20-inning suckfest on saturday on his throw day (one day's rest). He'll probably still get the start here, I think. He's a sinkerballer, but so far this season his secondary pitches (splitter, slider, curve) have been pretty sharp this season.

Wednesday: Carlos Silva, RHP (2.02, 3.38, 4.67) vs Oliver Perez, LHP (3.10, 4.35, 4.90), 6:10 PM CT
The Fail Whale continues to impress Lou and surprise everyone. I'm still skeptical of Rothschild 'fixing' him, but so far it definitely seems he's earned the rotation spot that he and Gorz were fighting over for when Lilly returns. Silva struck out 5 and walked none in his last start, and the 2 runs he allowed were both unearned. Who knows what's going on with Perez. He's always had good stuff but shitty control, but apparently this year he's lost a nontrivial amount of velocity on his fastball. He mixed in a lot more offspeed pitches with uncharacteristically good control in his last start, but given his track record you can't expect him to keep that up.

Thursday: Tom Gorzelanny, LHP (2.48, 3.80, 4.43) vs Johan Santana, LHP (2.85,3.95,3.79), 6:10 PM CT
Gorzelanny took a liner off his arm in his last start and had to be pulled after three innings. From all reports he's okay, if a little sore, and should make his next start. The 'bright' spot in that game was actually the failpen, which pitched 6 innings and only gave up 2 runs, which isn't bad for a pen. Santana threw a great start to begin the 20-inning affair with the Cardinals, striking out 9 while walking one and allowing no runs in 7 innings. He's not the elite pitcher he once was, though he's still a great pitcher. The main source of his decline seems to be that he's lost his great change-up, which was one of if not the best changeups in mlb history.

Prediction: Split series. The Cubs win on monday and wednesday but get shut down by gb machine (and right-hander) Pelfrey and lose the mismatch with Santana.

April 15, 2010

Series Preview: Houston Astros (1-9) vs Chicago Cubs (4-5)

The Cubs won their last series against the Brewers, and now face the near-winless Astros. Many here were hoping that the Astros would win in their last game against the Cardinals, so that they wouldn't come into this series winless. I don't really see it as a big deal - they're the same crappy team either way. If it made any difference, I think a winless team would struggle more since they would feel the additional pressure to win.

I touched on a few of these in recent threads, but I wanted to reiterate the futility of this team. It's pretty bad. Small sample size caveats apply of course, but here's two 'fun' facts:

Number of walks, 2010:

  • Daric Barton, Adam Dunn - 11
  • David Wright, Nick Markakis - 10
  • Chase Utley, Colby Rasmus, Nick Johnson, Jose Bautista, Denard Span - 9
  • Entire Houston Astros team - 8

Houston's lineup Thursday vs St Lous

  • Michael Bourn, CF
  • Jeff Keppinger, SS
  • Pedro Feliz, 1B
  • Carlos Lee, LF
  • Hunter Pence, RF
  • Kaz Matsui, 2B
  • Chris Johnson, 3B
  • Humberto Quintero, C
  • Bud Norris, P

There are two decent hitters in that lineup in Lee and Pence, but I find it hilarious that for one, Pedro Feliz, who was the worst hitter in the Phillies lineup last season, is in the slot traditionally reserved for the 'best' hitter in this lineup, and secondly, that he isn't playing third base (where his glove gives him most of his value). I don't know anything about this Chris Johnson guy, but I strongly suspect that he's not the second coming of Brooks Robinson. Take heart though, Houston fans - Ed Wade's contract extension kicks in next year!

Here's an overall look at their main lineup and pitching. As usual, I will list the players CHONE projected wOBA and UZR, and for the pitchers I will list their 2010 FIP, 2010 xFIP, and 2010 CHONE FIP projection

Batters (opening day lineup):

  1. Michael Bourn, LHB, CF (.327, 0.9)
  2. Kazuo Matsui, BHB, 2b (.309, 0.0)
  3. Hunter Pence, RHB, RF (.358, 0.0)
  4. Carlos Lee, LHB, LF (.365, -9.3)
  5. Geoff Blum, BHB, 1b (.294, 0.5)
  6. Pedro Feliz, RHB, 3b (.308, 8.6)
  7. J.R. Towles, Done Deal Sealed, C (.326, 1.4)
  8. Tommy Manzella, RHB, SS (.285, -6.8)

Holy balls, does this team miss Lance Berkman. Not that it would help that much


  1. Roy Oswalt, RHP (3.29, 3.57, 3.81)
  2. Wandy Rodriguez, LHP (5.27, 5.33, 3.54)
  3. Brett Myers, RHP (3.20, 3.56, 4.72)
  4. Bud Norris, RHP (5.29, 7.34, 4.40)
  5. Felipe Paulino, RHP (3.84, 5.21,4.75)
  6. Matt Lindstom, RHP, closer (7.54, 2.41,3.82)
  7. Brandon Lyon, LHP, (6.86, 6.29, 3.75)
  8. Jeff Fulchino, RHP (6.04, 3.37, 3.98)

So far, the Astros have actually gotten decent production from their starters (Bud Norris's numbers haven't been updated to include his last start v the Cardinals yet, where he struck out 9 in 5 innings). But, as you can see above, that offense is horrendous and sorely misses Berkman, who was projected to have a wOBA in the .380-.400 range. Going from that to Geoff Blum or any of the other stiffs they're rolling out there in his place is a huge dropoff. Sadly the lack of Berkman will also mean a dropoff of ridiculous/embarassing Berkman pictures from Mercurial Outfielder.


Berkman is having trouble with his left knee. He bruised it somehow in workouts early in spring training and has been slow to recover, having it drained 5 times and having a small surgery since the beginning of March. It sounds like he's chased whatever problem it had, as the swelling hasn't returned since the latest draining, and he was able to run full speed today. Lee showed that there is little to worry about with his thumb injury, homering off the hittable Jeff Suppan on Thursday. Ted Lilly has seen his minor league starts pushed back due to back stiffness. He pitched 4 innings on Wednesday and is expected to make one more start before rejoining the team. Caridad is on the DL with a case of domus canis Piniellitis.

Players to watch

Hunter Pence is the only player with any real future in the Astros lineup, and he's not even really that great. Of course, I'm forgetting J.R. Towles who is finally going to have a breakout season this year. He'll hit 7 or 8 home runs in this series. Done deal sealed. For the Cubs, I'll go with Kosuke Fukudome, who has been leading the offense with yet another stellar April. Hopefully he can keep this going.

Pitching matchups (pitching numbers are the same as above)

Friday: Felipe Paulino, RHP (3.84, 5.21,4.75) vs Carlos Silva, RHP (2.04, 3.63, 4.67), 1:20 PM CT

Silva had a nice outing his last time out, going 6 innings in only 71 pitches while striking out 3, walking none, and giving up a lone run. I was surprised when he was taken out but apparently his shoulder was bothering him. He got a fair number of ground balls, but his GB/other ball ratio wasn't quite as large as I expected. Still, Silva throws strikes, and with a lineup as weak as the Astros' lineup it's a great matchup for him. Paulino was hit pretty hard in his first start of the season, but it's not too surprising considering it was the Phillies. He's a decent strikeout pitcher, but he walks too many and gives up too many home runs. If the wind is still blowing out tomorrow, he should have a short outing.

Saturday: Roy Oswalt, RHP (3.29, 3.57, 3.81) vs Tom Gorzelanny, LHP (1.78, 2.64, 4.43), 12:05 PM CT

The Astros nominal ace isn't the dominant pitcher that he once was, but is still pretty good. He's had two good outings wasted by the Astros anemic offense. I always think of Oswalt as a power pitcher for some reason, but really he's much more of a control pitcher. His BB/9 has always hovered around 2, and he has decent though not great strikeout and HR suppression abilities. Gorzelanny made his case to stay in the rotation in his last start, striking out 7 in 6 1/3 innings and getting a fair number of ground balls along the way. The jury's still out on whether Gorz will turn out to be an above-average pitcher. You could point to his excellent 2007 with the Pirates, when he posted a 3.88 ERA and 4.24 FIP despite a .311 BABIP. However, he had a lot of HR luck that year. Last season he put up the best numbers of his career, albeit in 47 innings. We'll just have to take a wait-and-see approach.

Sunday: Wandy Rodriguez, LHP (5.27, 5.33, 3.54) vs Ryan Dempster, RHP (3.53, 3.58, 3.89), 1:20 PM CT

I know I say this every time the Cubs face him, but I still can't believe Wandy Rodriguez has turned into an above-average pitcher. It must be some combination of my memories of him when he first came into the league (hittable) and his lame-sounding first name. He's had trouble fooling people so far this season, which is strange considering how much of a strikeout pitcher he's turned himself into in the past few years. Hopefully the Cubs right-leaning lineup feasts on him. Demp meanwhile had a very shaky outing his last time out, almost completely opposite of his sharp first start. Lou pushed him into the 7th inning with a decent-sized lead but he was having trouble finding the zone with all of his pitches. I hope Lou's new strategy of pushing his starters to avoid his bullpen doesn't have next-start type reprecussions.

Prediction: I was going to say Cubs sweep, but predicting a sweep of any team is tough even with a team as awful as the Astros. The matchups aren't as much of a slam dunk in this series as the last one, so I'll say the Cubs win the series, two out of three, and head to Citifield to face the New York Pile of Fail with a .500 record.

April 11, 2010

Road Trip Recap and Series Preview: Milwaukee Brewers (2-3) at Chicago Cubs (2-4)

(cross posted at ACB)

Well, that sucked. What did we learn from the opening road trip?

1. Alfonso Soriano looks even worse on defense than he did last season, despite the fact that he was playing hurt all of last year
2. He looks just as lost with the plate
3. Soto has forgotten how to swing his bat
4. Aramis Ramirez looks lost at the plate
5. The offense in general is having trouble scoring runs
6. The bullpen is going to kill Ron Santo
7. John Grabow should not face any RHH that can outhit Neifi Perez

Now, the good news

1. Carlos Marmol's stuff is still incredibly flithy
2. The starting pitching was pretty great. It's hard to pick which one was the best but I'd probably go with Dempster's outing vs Atlanta (6 IP 1R 3H 2BB 9K). Silva and Gorz were surprisingly effective too
3. After looking like crap in the first two games, Fontenot found his glove and showcased some great defense in the Reds series (and got a few hits too). Fukudome made some great plays in RF. All in all, players whose names do not rhyme with Garbanzo Italiano played some good defense.
4. It's only been a week. We have good reason to believe Ramirez will bounce back, and to a lesser extent Soto. Even Soriano should get hot at some point. The Cubs are mixing Colvin in, which is the right thing to do (though he should be replacing Soriano defensively earlier in games), but you have to give these guys at least a month or two before you make any major changes.

Anyway, enough blathering. Onto the first Wrigley series of the year!

The Cubs take on the Brewers in what should be a beautiful week (great weather, 6 straight day games) to watch a baseball game, drink some Old Style, and gaze at the Glorious Scoreboard™ and the regenerating ivy vines...except the boo-birds should be out. Who will get booed the most? Soriano is the best bet but Z should be up there too. But the best way to stop the boos is to win, and the Cubs are set up to do so in this series with their rivals and their Little Brother Complex fanbase from the north.

Here's a glance at the Brewers' lineup and pitching staff

Batters (CHONE wOBA, CHONE UZR projection)

* 2b Rickie Weeks, RHB (.364, -5.2)
* CF Carlos Gomez, RHB (.323, 11.3)
* LF Lloyd Braun, RHB (.404, -4.9)
* 1b Prince Fielder, LHB (.412,-3)
* RF Jim Edmonds, LHB (.334,-0.2)
* 3b Casey McGehee, RHB (.324,-3.4)
* C Gregg Zaun, SHB (.315,-1.2)
* SS Overrated Escobar, (.322,0.9)

My lineup-a-tron pegs this lineup at 3.719 runs/game

Pitchers (CHONE FIP)

* Yovani Gallardo, RHP (3.62)
* Randy Wolf, LHP (4.22)
* Doug Davis, LHP (4.57)
* Dave Bush, RHP (4.79)
* Jeff Suppan, LOL (5.24)
* Trevor Hoffman, RHP (3.84)
* LaTroy Hawkins, RHP (3.97)
* Todd Coffey, RHP (4.10)

That non-Braun/Fielder offense is much more pedestrian than I thought. McGehee played way over his head last season, though I think CHONE might have him pegged a little low. Gomez is graded out to be their only plus defender, but scouts have raved about Escobar's defense for a long time - his main problem is that he swings at everything. Their defensive numbers could see a slight bump up with those two in place of Cameron (who is about as good as Gomez defensively) and J.J. Hardy (who was also pretty good defensively), but don't expect a big defense-related turnaround with this team.


Suppan not only sucks, but he's making his first start coming back from a neck injury. Future DH trade bait Mat Gamel has a shoulder tear and is expected to miss the first month or two of the season. For the Cubs, Lilly has had another setback and has had his next start pushed back to Wednesday. He'll throw a bullpen session on Monday. Theriot has been bothered by a sore calf but was well enough to play (and take some pitches) today. I wouldn't be surprised to see Fontenot get a start sometime in the next week.

Players to watch

I actually like several players on the Brewers, but it's kind of cancelled out by the douchiness of Braun and the crapulence of their pitching staff in general. Prince Fielder is one of my favorite players in all of baseball, and Rickie Weeks can still be an incredible player if he manages to make it through the season for once. He's an exciting player and can get on base. For the Cubs, I'm not going to pick someone specific. The offense in general needs to pick it up, and there's no better recipe than the starters the Cubs are facing this week (not to mention the shambolic Astros in the following series).

Pitching Matchups

Monday: Doug Davis, LHP (6.41,4.52,4.57) vs Ryan Dempster, RHP (1.41,1.86,3.89), 1:20 PM CT

I'm glad Demp gets the start in the home opener, since he is the nominal ace of the staff (if you define Ace to be best starting pitcher). We can't say enough about what a great job Hendry did in bringing him back after 2008. Everything was working for him in his last start. Adding further hope for a good start at home, Davis is a LHP, which the Cubs righty-heavy lineup should pound. Of course, I remember Davis giving the Cubs fits in many other starts. He's pretty wild (4+ BB/9 projected, and 4.07 for his career), but given the Cubs swing-happy clubs maybe it's not so surprising that he does well against them. In his first start, he was wild early and settled down as the game went on.

Wednesday: David Bush, RHP (4.14,2.81,4.79) vs Randy Wells, RHP (3.57,4.26,4.27), 1:20 PM CT

Bush has great control (2.15 BB/9 in his career) but his main trouble has always been the home run ball (1.28 HR/9 on his career, 1.41 and 1.50 in his last 2 seasons). He had a pedestrian outing vs StL in his first start, fanning 6 while walking two and giving up 3 runs (one homer) in 5 2/3 innings. Wells, meanwhile, had a great start against the Braves. He only struck out one batter, but he didn't allow any runs and managed to induce double play balls to get him out of jams. He got 13 grounders to only 3 FB and 5 LD. If he can keep the GB rate (and popup rate) going like he did last year, he'll keep putting up useful numbers.

Thursday: Carlos Zambrano, RHP (6.99,3.62,4.08) vs Jeff Suppan, RHP (5.23) 1:20 PM CT

This should be a fun one. There is a chance Gallardo could get this start (he's listed as the probable on mlb.com), but everything else I've seen points towards Suppan making this start. Luckily for the Brewers, this is the last year of his awful, awful deal. Hats off to Suppan, who turned 2 good weeks at the end of 2006 into $42 million dollars. Well played, sir, well played.

Fun fact: Z has a career 3.64 ERA at home and 3.35 ERA on the road


Cubs win 2 out of 3, and a good chance for a sweep. I also think that Sean Marshall and Jeff Gray will replace Grabow and Caridad as the top 2 relievers behind Marmol by the end of the week.

April 10, 2010

Today in meaningless superstitions

I watched the first 6 innings of the Cubs game last night and was feeling pretty good. Silva looked shockingly good (and efficient), and the Cubs got some runs off of Bailey, who was quite wild last night. I was a little worried that they didn't take advantage as much as they could have. I was actually pretty surprised to find that he only walked two batters (though he did hit two). Anyway, after the 6th inning I gave in to my wife's suggestion that I get a new Cubs hat. She's been suggesting it for a few years now but I stood firm - the cap is nice and broken-in, comfortable, and actually fitted to go over my enormous head (I can't wear most of the usual flex-fit hats that they sell at/near the stadium). I've owned it for about 8-9 years and have been wearing it nearly every day since the middle of the 2003 season. However, it could be seized by the Center For Disease Control any day now to advance microbial science by about 50 years. Here's a pic

My wife refuses to even touch it at this point (dying laughing). Anyway, to continue the story we headed down to the mall to see if I could find a new hat at one of the innumerable sports paraphenelia stores there*. We caught the 7th on WGN in the car on the way, listening to Berg retire the Reds in order in the 7th. The Cubs were up 3-1 at this point and I figured that either 1) the Cubs would win, and I'd already seen the key moments in the game or 2) The bullpen would implode and I wouldn't want to experience it anyway. I picked a new hat (pictured below).

*It could just be me, or maybe Wisconsin being weird, but there are way too many sports-y stores at the mall. I hit the hat shop and a more general jersey shop, but I also spotted no more than 2 sports memorabilia stores there (to get important stuff like packers trash cans, banners, steins, etc). There's also a Dick's there and one of the generally awful department stores (Gordman's) actually has a great selection of Cubs gear (i.e. the t-shirt jerseys that I prefer).

Apparently I'm the only Cubs fan I know (including my wife) who likes the red-brimmed hat better than the all-blue one. The all-blue ones look too drab. I definitely need to break this in - I don't like the too-new look of, well, new hats, but I also think it's dumb to buy the pre-distressed ones you sometimes see. New hats also have a lot more shaping/structure than I seem to remember - there's gotta be an inch between my scalp and the top of the hat at some points. I don't remember if this was also the case with my circa 2001 hats or if new era has just changed things. It makes my head look really tall. Once I accidentally sit on it a few times that might fix it though.

Anyway, I bought the and we cruised through the bookstore (our favorite thing to do on friday night, huge nerds that we are), and headed back to the car. Orange Guy was on the postgame show and sounded kind of chipper, so I assumed the Cubs won...until he reported that the pen had blown the game with a HR. I got home and saw that Caridad blew the game with a GS in the 8th...probably just as I bought the hat. I've got the receipt so I know the time, but I'm too lazy to check to see the game time when it happened. On top of all that, the Reds tried to give away the game in the 9th, giving up a HR to Lee and then flubbing the final out of the game not once but twice, before Chad Tracy grounded out with the bases loaded to end the game 5-4.

My dog is now sporting her Cubs bandana to right this karmic wrong. Now that she's blind she can't watch the failpile of bullpen implosions this year.

April 08, 2010

Series Preview: Chicago Cubs (1-2) at Cincinnati Reds (1-2)

(cross-posted at ACB)

The pitching staff kept it exciting from time to time, but the Cubs pulled out their first win of the season vs the Braves last night, salvaging the series. Wells was a little rocky early on but settled down a bit as the game went on, managing to get himself out of jams (one of which he created with a throwing error on another DP opp) with two double play balls. Hopefully Lou has disabused the notion of using Grabow as a setup man, and will use him as an overpaid LOOGY instead.

I'm not that worried (or surprised) that the Cubs dropped this series to the Braves. They were playing on the road, against one of the top 3 teams in the NL. I think the main thing we learned from this series is pretty much ZOMG Jayson Heyward. And that Grabow sucks.

On to Cincinnati, the city I always have to look up to remember how to spell!

Here's a glance at the main contributers to the team, along with their CHONE projected wOBAs and FIP

Batters (lineup simulator: 3.2508 runs/game)

  1. Stubbs, CF (.317)
  2. Cabrera, SS (.320)
  3. Votto, 1b (.392)
  4. Phillips, 2b (.336)
  5. Rolen, 3b (.344)
  6. Bruce, RF (.379)
  7. Gomes, LF (.355)
  8. Hernandez, C (.325)

  1. Harang, RHP (4.26)
  2. Arroyo, RHP (4.81)
  3. Cueto, RHP (4.67)
  4. Bailey, RHP (4.66)
  5. Leake, RHP (??)
  6. Cordero, RHP (3.66) - closer
  7. Masset, RHP (3.84) - RH setup
  8. Rhodes, LHP (3.69) - LH setup

Wow, looking over those numbers, especially the pitching staff, I'm really scratching my head as to why people are high on the Reds to be on the fringes of contention this year. I'm sure it will be even uglier when I do the Brewers after this series, but wow, what a shambolic staff projection. Most of the optimism has to do with the upside of their young pitchers, Bailey (who had a good run at the end of last year), Cueto (who had a good run 2 years ago but is still young), and Leake, whose talent was overshadowed by Strasburg but is going to make his pro debut without throwing a single pitch in the minors, the first to do so since Jim Abbott in 1988.

Not much going on for the Cubs that will affect this series. Lilly had today's rehab start pushed back 2 days due to back stiffness. Jeff Gray pitched for Iowa last night, and will likely join the squad as soon as he's elgible. He'll probably bump F7 or Russell from the roster. Nothing seems to be cooking for the Reds, except that ROY candidate Edinson Volquez is still recovering from his TJS.

Players to watch:
I'm excited to see Leake pitch on Sunday. It's pretty rare to see a guy thrown right into the majors, but the Reds seem to believe his stuff. After a good series against the Braves, the Cubs player to watch is Marlon Byrd. He hammered both of his HRs, especially the second one.

Pitching matchups:
Friday: Carlos Silva, RHP (4.67) vs Homer Bailey, RHP (4.66), 6:10 PM CT
Silva had a good spring, but sadly we'll probably see something closer to the CHONE projection above. Rothschild has changed his delivery a bit, most notably moving him over on the rubber. It has worked so far, but I'm kind of skeptical, since if something so simple could 'fix' him, you'd think someone would have tried it in the past 5 years. Bailey is a former overhyped prospect who has now shed the labels that he had coming up - mainly because he flopped in his first few stints in the majors. However, Bailey finally seemed to figure it out last year - routinely going deep into games in the minors for the first half of the year, and then posted a 1.70 ERA in his last nine starts with the big league club at the end of the year. He doesn't have great control (4.13 BB/9 last season) or particularly dominating stuff (6.83 K/9 last season), but it seems that his MO is that of a slight GB pitcher (42.5%)

Note: for pitchers who have already pitched, I am listing their FIP, xFIP, and CHONE projected FIP.
Saturday: Carlos Zambrano, RHP (3.61,4.27,4.08) vs Aaron Harang, RHP (4.14,3.95,4.26), 12:10 PM CT
Well, let's see if Z can bounce back from that opening day nightmare. Great American Band Box might not be the best place to do it, given how HRs fly out of the place. I thought Z's pitches looked like they had lots of movement on them in his first start, but he threw way too many pitches up in the zone, and from what Z/Lou said, he didn't have great control either. He did have a great PA against Glaus, who he struck out on 3 94-95 mph fastballs, which was pretty much the only bright spot in the start. He'll have the same leaky infield defense behind him, so lets hope that by getting the ball down a bit more there will be less bloops and more balls hit past futilely diving middle infielders. Harang is another perpetually underrated pitcher, just like Z. He gets a ton of strikeouts, but far fewer ground balls than I expected. In fact, you'd think a fly-ball pitcher like Harang would be a recipe for disaster given his home ballpark. He's broken down a bit since Dusty's arrival, seeing his K rate drop and bb rate rise a bit, but that could just be due to aging. He was also quite hit-unlucky last year (.339 BABIP), so should see a little better luck this year.

Sunday: Tom Gorzelanny, LHP (4.43) vs Mike Leake, RHP (??)
Right now it seems like Silva has the edge on staying in the Rotation when Lilly returns, so Gorz pretty much has two starts to convince the Cubs otherwise. Lord of the internets Harry Pavlidis did a breakdown of Gorzelanny's stuff after the Cubs acquired him last season. He throws 4 and 2 seamers, a changeup, curveball, and slider. He's mostly a fastball-changeup guy against RHP, and mixes in a few more sliders vs lefties. Leake, having had no minor league stats whatsoever aside from his AFL stint last fall, doesn't even have a fangraphs page yet. He was a star at Arizona state though. Here are his lines from the past 3 seasons:

It sure looks like he's ready. That last year was Strasburg-esque. Per KG, he has an above-average speed fastball with good movement that he locates well, a good change, and an average curveball and slider. He also hit pretty well in college too. The main knocks against him are that he's short and he doesn't have one dominating pitch, just a collection of good ones. KG has him pegged as a third starter with upside. He's still young, so some of those pitches could improve with major league coaching, so long as his arm doesn't fall off

Prediction: I think the Cubs take the first two games and lose the third to Leake.

April 07, 2010

Cubs start season 0-2

I'm not worried, though I did find the games a bit disappointing. I've been waiting for months for real baseball, only to be reminded of the following facts

1. Soriano still waves futiley at sliders down and away
2. I still hate the John Grabow signing
3. Ryan Theriot is frustrating to watch on defense, no matter what the metrics tell me
4. The Cubs continue to show terrible fundamentals in the field and on the basepaths
5. Jeff Samardzija should be catching footballs
6. Ron Santo is a year older but sounds about 10 years older. I'm worried about his health.

But, on the bright side
1. I still love watching baseball, and watched/listened to all of the home opener despite how much it brought me down from my pre-game optimism and anticipation.
2. Jason Heyward. Wow.
3. Sean Marshall has looked dominating as a reliever. Someone mentioned on ACB that he might be this year's DeRosa.

The Braves are a really good ballclub - possibly the best or second-best team in the NL (up there with the Phillies). We shouldn't be surprised that a fringy team like the Cubs would lose a road series to (or get swept by) a top team like this.