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.


baseballjen said...

Hopefully the Cubs will finally break through against the Brewers pitching staff, and that home sweet home is just that. Very informative post!