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.