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.