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