May 24, 2010

Series Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles (25-19) at Starlin Castro (21-24)

I don't know why, but for some reason I've always disliked the Dodgers. They've just always seemed kind of overrated to me in general. And boring. Anyway, depending on how you feel the Cubs will either keep their recent mini-tear going against the Dodgers, confirming their excellent BsR record, or they will collapse like the shitty team they are and it will trigger a fire sale. I'd be kind of happy with both. *shrug*. This part of the season just came earlier this year. At least we'll get to see Kershaw and the rejuvenated Billingsley in this series, and miss Cub kryptonite Hiroki Kuroda. This godforsaken heat wave should make this an exciting series.

LAD position players (wOBA, ZiPS RoS wOBA, CHONE defense projection)

  • C Russel Martin, RHB (.330, .341, 0.0)

  • 1b James Loney, LHB (.338, .352, 0.0)

  • 2b Blake DeWitt, LHB (.271, .320, 0.9)

  • ss Rafael Furcal, BHB (.369, .332, 2.7)

  • 3b Casey Blake, RHB (.354, .330, 5.2)

  • lf Manny Ramirez, RHB (.396, .411, -6.1)

  • cf Matt Kemp, RHB (.356, .374, 1.0)

  • rf Xavier Paul, LHB (.386, .308, -4.4)

Pitchers (FIP, xFIP, ZiPS RoS FIP)

  • Clayton Kershaw, LHP (3.56, 4.21, 3.38)

  • Chad Billingsley, RHP (3.51, 4.34, 3.41)

  • Hiroki Kuroda, RHP (3.49, 3.55, 3.60)

  • John Ely, RHP (1.83, 3.25, -)

  • Ramon Ortiz, Holy shit, he's still pitching? (5.49, 4.92, 4.46)

  • Jonathon Broxton, Holy shit (0.34, 1.43, 1.98)

  • LAD Bullpen (4.03, 4.45)

2 things: The Cubs might be hitting the Dodgers at the right time, given their injury woes (Furcal, Ethier, Padilla). Too bad they won't get the chance to take some batting practice off Ramon Ortiz. The other thing that surprised me was how mediocre their total bullpen numbers were despite Broxton's absolutely obscene numbers this year.


Furcal is set to be activated from the DL tomorrow, but I would be surprised if he played in all three games. He was supposed to be activated ~2 weeks ago but his date had to be pushed back, which is never a great sign. Ethier broke one of his fingers a week or so ago and will miss this series. Vincente Padilla is on the DL with nerve irritation in his elbow (never a good sign) and is expected to return sometime in June. Reliever Cory Wade (i.e. Scott Proctor 2.0) is on the 60-day DL following shoulder surgery in spring training. And the mighty Brad Ausmus is also on the 60-day following surgery to remove 15,682 catching innings from his back.

As for the Cubs, Caridad is on the DL with an elbow injury. Ramirez is expected to sit a few games to allow his bruised thumb to heal and work on his timing with Jaramillo. Gorz's x-rays were negative on the hand that was struck by a line drive last week, but the off-day today means it's not a big deal - they'll probably just move everyone up a day before they decide where to slot in Z.

Players to watch

Starlin Castro owns this spot until any of Andrew Cashner, Jay Jackson, Brett Jackson, or Josh Vitters get a call-up. For the Dodgers, it's Broxton. He's putting up cartoon numbers, and the projections agree that they're no joke. Wasn't he rumored to be part of one of the many Rich Hill deals floating around a few years ago?

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday Clayton Kershaw, LHP (3.56, 4.21, 3.38) vs Ryan Dempster, RHP (4.08, 3.88, 3.78), 7:05 PM CT

Kershaw and Billingsley are both good pitchers, but as you can see they have had a bit of luck this year on HRs. Kershaw has only had one horrendous outing all season - he was touched up for 7 runs in only 1.1 innings by the Brewers at the beginning of May. He's posting an ungodly 10+ K/9, but his control (never his strong suit) has been especially terrible this season, as he has walked 5.26 batters per 9 innings, though it's been a bit more under control in his last few starts. All those walks and the inevitable HR regression (he's a slight FB pitcher) is not a good combination. Speaking of regression, Demp has pitched well this year but has posted a .252 BABIP. His numbers are due for a rise as well.

Wednesday Chad Billingsley, RHP (3.51, 4.34, 3.41) vs Tom Gorzelanny, LHP (2.78, 3.57, 3.89), 7:05 PM CT

I guess you should ignore what I said above about moving everyone up, since Gorz is penciled in as the Wed starter on That injury was on his pitching hand so hopefully it doesn't mess with his stuff. *insert yet more praise for the theft of Gorz from PIT for two guys who had torn labrums this year*. Billingsley's numbers look a lot better than Kershaw's - he still strikes out a ton of guys but has much 'better' (relatively speaking) control. He's also more of a groundball guy so he's not quite as burned by the HR ball either, though he has had some luck there as well.

Thursday John Ely, RHP (1.83, 3.25, -) vs Ted Lilly, LHP (4.53, 4.83, 4.04), 1:20 PM CT

At least Lilly is pitching on the coolest day of the series. Still though, it could be hot, humid, and raining baseballs on Waveland Ave. At least his control seems to have improved. Ely came out of nowhere (he doesn't even have a projection) and has pitched like Lou Pineilla's wet dream in his MLB debut - it took him 90 batters to issue his first career walk. He was a 2007 draftee by the White Sox out of college, and was one of their top prospects when he came to the Dodgers in the Juan Pierre trade. That was some great work by Colletti.

May 20, 2010

Series Preview: Starlin Castro (19-23) at Elvis Andrus (23-18)

The Cubs head to Texas to face the Rangers, who were generally considered to be the best team in the AL west, and have lived up to their preseason projections so far. Here's their lineup and pitching staff

Hitters (wOBA, ZiPS RoS wOBA, CHONE UZR projection)

  • C Matt Treanor, RHB (.251, .279, -1.3)

  • 1B Justin Smoak, BHB (.291, -, -)

  • 2B Ian Kinsler, RHB (.385, .377, 3.7)

  • SS Elvis Andrus, RHB (.366, .338, 0)

  • 3B Michael Young, RHB (.351, .354, 0)

  • LF Josh Hamilton, LHB (.373, .368, 0.8)

  • CF Julio Borbon, LHB (.240, .310, 13.3)

  • RF Nelson Cruz, RHB (.445, .383, 4.5)

Pitchers (FIP, xFIP, ZiPS RoS FIP)

  • Scott Feldman, RHP (4.49, 5.09, 4.77)

  • Rich Harden, RHP (5.75, 5.76, 4.04)

  • C.J. Wilson, LHP (3.53, 4.25, 3.69)

  • Colby Lewis, RHP (3.66, 3.99, 4.10)

  • Derek Holland, LHP (4.42, 3.93, 4.90)

  • Neftali Feliz, holy shit (2.86, 3.50, 3.99)

  • Darren Oliver, LHP (2.90, 2.44, 3.53)

  • Frank Francisco, RHP (3.94, 4.25, 3.77)

It seems strange that Traenor is their catcher, given the shitton of talent I seemed to remember at the catcher position there. Maybe the depth chart is off its rocker. Aside from their erstwhile ace (Feldman), the Rangers have a damned good pitching staff. Just look at all that young talent. This is what the 2013 Cubs should look like before Hendry and Ricketts fuck it up by trading their young talent for the Joe Blantons of the world.


Caridad was moved back to the DL (sucking), and Gorz is not expected to make a trip after taking a liner off his hand. He might miss a start, but the Cubs should be able to skip his turn in the rotation with the off-day on Monday. The Rangers have a bunch of guys on the DL whose names I don't recognize, so I figure they're not very important (dying laughing) ST can correct me tomorrow if I'm wrong.

Players to watch

The easy choice is Castro and Andrus, two young and talented SS who broke into the big leagues at a very young age. They've both got great careers ahead of them.

Pitching Probables

Friday Ted Lilly, LHP (4.77, 4.70, 4.03) vs Colby Lewis, RHP (3.66, 3.99, 4.10), 7:05 PM CT

Several of the projection systems had a tough time with Lewis, as he had a shitty early career from 2002-2007, never posting a FIP below 5. He went over to Japan for the next two seasons and pitched out of his mind before returning to the team he started with. So far, his 2010 has looked a lot closer to his Japan years than his earlier MLB ones. The biggest difference is his strikeout rate, which hovered near the mid 6's before Japan but have been over 9 K/9 so far this season. He still walks a fair amount of batters though (3.68 BB/9 this year). Lilly has unsuprisingly been burned by the It could be an ugly game with Lilly pitching at the Launching Pad in Arlington, but hopefully it won't be too warm tomorrow night. Hopefully he strings together a few good starts and the Cubs move him for some more prospects.

Saturday Randy Wells, RHP (2.97, 3.47, 4.08) vs Derek Holland, LHP (4.42, 3.93, 4.90), 7:05 PM CT

Looking at those numbers for Wells really makes me shake my head at the bullpen talk. However, I'd probably keep him on my list of guys the Cubs should hang on to in the event of a fire sale. This is only his second season in the bigs (I don't think his 5.1 innings in 2008 count) so he should still be around in 2012 and 2013. If you look at Holland's strikeouts and walks, his numbers look great, but not surprisingly, given his home ballpark, he's had big problems with HRs. Here's hoping the right-leaning lineup pounds him.

Sunday Fail Whale, RHP (4.21, 4.12, 4.37) vs C.J. Wilson, LHP (3.53, 4.25, 3.69)

I'm not exactly sure what to make of C.J. Wilson's projections, as he was a reliever for pretty much all of his mlb career until this season, and that 3.69 FIP is still largely projecting him as one. He had an insane season last year, posting a 10.26 K/9 in 73.2 innings. He's pretty wild too, though not quite Marmol-esque. So far he's managed to keep things relatively under control as a starter. Silva had yet another decent start in his last outing, scattering 6 hits and giving up 2 runs, and most importantly inducing 11 grounders to only 7 liners/flyballs. It could get ugly to see the Rangers teeing off in him in that park though.

May 17, 2010

Mini Series Preview: Colorado Rockies (19-18) at Starlin Castro (16-22)

This is only a 2-game series so I'll make this preview brief. Here are the Cubs and Rockies team numbers, with their NL rank in parentheses

wOBA.337 (6th).341 (4th)
UZR-3.3 (11th)-0.6 (8th)
Starter FIP4.05 (8th)3.73 (4th)
Starter xFIP4.17 (8th)3.81 (4th)
Relief FIP3.50 (3rd)4.23 (12th)
Relief xFIP4.42 (14th)4.34 (11th)

Wow - I don't think I've ever seen as big of a FIP-xFIP split as the Rockies bullpen. They've been incredibly lucky with the HR ball, even more so considering where they play half their games. They've had decent luck on balls in play too, with a .283 BABIP in that cavern of a ballpark (contrast with the Cubs' pen's .335 BABIP)

Pitching matchups

Monday: Aaron Cook, RHP (4.58, 4.87, 4.37) vs Randy Wells, RHP (3.02, 3.66, 4.18), 7:05 PM CT
Cook is a groundball machine, guys who FIP tends to undervalue. He's pitched incredibly poorly this season, and from the looks of it a big part of it is his non-sinker fastball. It's tough to tell from Fangraphs' pitch value chart, since they combine all fastballs into one category, but he's seen a 10 to 15 run per 100 pitches drop in effectiveness. His secondary pitches have never been special either. He's still getting plenty of GB so it's probably his 4-seamer. Wells has done a great job at keeping up his stellar K rate, posting a full 2 K/9 higher than his breakout year last season, while walking even less batters and allowing fewer HRs. His bloated 4.57 ERA is pretty much entirely a factor of his .348 BABIP. I'm a broken record on this, but great work by Wells and Rothschild for avoiding the sophomore slump so far.

Tuesday: Jhoulys Chacin, RHP (3.54, 3.60, 4.65) vs Fail Whale, RHP (4.18, 4.26, 4.35), 7:05 pm CT
Who is this Chacin guy? I was never high on the Rockies rotation except for, of course, Ubaldo Jimenez. I saw the guy pitch in person last year and even from the upper deck I could tell how electric his stuff is. It's too bad the Cubs aren't facing him in this series, because I'd love to see it. I was surprised to see that he threw a no-hitter though. His stuff is as electric as Z's once was (with even MORE velocity) but he has an even bigger tendency to throw too many pitches early in the game. But I digress - I'm supposed to be writing about Chacin (dying laughing). He filled in for Jorge De La Rosa after he went down with a hand injury a few weeks ago and has pitched quite well despite the lousy projection. He gets a decent number of strikeouts and groundballs (a good fit for Coors) and has good projectability - he should be a #3 starter at worst going forward. Maybe not this year though. Silva, meanwhile, is on a roll, and is 4-0 despite throwing three straight starts that are much mroe typical of what we should expect from him - a total line of 16.1 IP, 25 hits, 11 runs, 11 strikeouts, 6 walks (more than I expected), 28:20 GB/FB ratio.

May 14, 2010

Series Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates (14-20) at Chicago Cubs (15-20)

The Cubs were swept by the Pirates in their last meeting, and they're facing two of the same three pitchers from that series. The Pirates still aren't a good team.

Batters (wOBA, ZiPS RoS wOBA, UZR)

  1. C Ryan Doumit, BHB (.344, .345, -4.0)
  2. 1B Jeff Clement, LHB (.224, .339, 0.9)
  3. 2B Akinori Iwamura, LHB (.243, .324, -8.2)
  4. SS Ronny Cedeno, LOL (.283, .300, 4.7)
  5. 3B Andy Laroche, RHB (.337, .335, 0.6)
  6. LF Lastings Milledge, RHB (.279, .318, -3.8)
  7. CF Andrew McCutcheon, RHB (.380, .357, -1.0)

  8. RF Garrett Jones, LHB (.339, .360, 0.9)

Pitchers (FIP, xFIP, RoS FIP)
  1. Zach Duke, LHP (5.34, 4.74, 4.30)
  2. Paul Maholm, LHP (5.26, 5.05, 4.10)
  3. Charlie Morton, RHP (5.51, 4.00, 3.99)
  4. Ross Ohlendorf, RHP (5.98, 6.81, 4.67)
  5. Brian Burres, LHP (4.52, 5.73, 4.47)
  6. Octavio Dotel, RHP (5.11, 4.23, 4.11)
  7. Joel Hanrahan, RHP (3.98, 3.09, 3.54)
  8. Javier Lopez, LHP (4.55, 4.87, 4.63)

Not exactly world-beaters. At least the Cubs don't have to face Charlie Morton this time.

For what little it's worth, I was one of the last people to admit that Ronny Cedeno sucked at baseball, defending him for a long time after it was obvious that Theriot was a much better player than he was. I guess he's just another one of those guys whose minor league numbers never translated. I wonder if his forgettable 2006 season hurt his development.

Cedeno has a bruised wrist from a HBP on Monday, but should be okay. Ryan Church also has a bruised wrist and missed the last 5 games. Brendan Donnelly is helping the Pirates pen by not pitching, currently on the DL with an oblique strain. Chris Jakubasukas is still out following a scary liner to the back of his head off the bat of Lance Berkman. And former Cub trade pieces Kevin Hart and Jose Ascanio are both recovering from torn labrum surgeries. For the Cubs, Theriot is day to day with right hamstring stiffness. Grabow had a cortisone shot in his knee and has been available for the past 3 games, but hasn't pitched.

Players to watch Gotta go with Ohlendorf and Burres. They're the two worst pitchers on the Pirates staff, so of course they'll pitch back-to-back one hitters. For the Cubs, Starlin Castro has this spot as long as he's in the bigs. He's pretty much my main reason to tune in these days.

Pitching matchups
Friday Brian Burres, LHP (4.52, 5.73, 4.47) vs Tom Gorzelanny, LHP (2.72, 3.34, 3.98), 1:20 PM CT
I was cautiously optimistic about Gorzelanny going into the season, expecting him to put up average-ish numbers. What I was not expecting was for him to strike out over a batter per inning. His K rate will drop as the season goes on, but I'm inclined to believe the improvment is for real. Gotta tip your cap to Larry Rothschild. Here's hoping the Cubs move him at the deadline for someone good. Burres blanked the Cubs for 7 innings in his last start, despite giving up a large number of fly balls (which never left the yard) and walking three batters. Hopefully the Cubs batted ball luck turns around in this start.

Saturday Paul Maholm, LHP (5.26, 5.05, 4.10) vs Ryan Dempster, RHP (3.83, 3.61, 3.69), 12:05 PM CT
Maholm also gave up a ton of contact in his last start vs the Cubs, though his luck manifested itself differently. He allowed a ton of baserunners (11 in 6 innings) without missing bats (only 1 strikeout) but only gave up 2 runs. 2010 Cubs baseball - feel the excitement! Demp had his 37th wasted quality start of the season in his game vs the Pirates, giving up 3 runs while striking out 7 in a wasted 7 innings of work.

Sunday Ross Ohlendorf, RHP (5.98, 6.81, 4.67) vs Ted Lilly, LHP (5.21, 4.38, 4.01), 1:20 PM CT
Ted hasn't looked quite the same since coming back, though this is still basically spring training for him. His fastball is only averaging around 85, and while it seems like he hasn't had great control with his pitches, I was surprised to see that he's only walked 4 batters this year. Still he's not fooling many batters (only 4.88 K/9) and they're making decent contact off of him. Maybe it's time for the Cubs to move Jay Jackson and Cashner into the rotation so they can further shore up the bullpen with Lilly and Dempster. Ohlendorf made his first start back from an injury last week in Cincy, and pitched an uninspiring 4 innings, walking 4 and striking out 3. He's a fly-ball pitcher who has not surprisingly been bit by the home run ball often in his career. If the wind's blowing out Sunday's game might be a long one.

May 09, 2010

Series Preview (and a Castro-inspired trip down memory lane) Marlins (14-17) at Cubs (14-18)

Since I've pretty much given up on this season already, I (mostly) enjoyed this series. We were talking about it in the comments a few days ago, but Friday's game was the most exciting Cubs game any of us could remember going back to 2008. Honestly I can't pull out a specific game memory out of any of the 2009 games, but I can list off four great ones from 2008 that were just as memorable:

Sep 20, 2008: Cubs 5 - 4 Cardinals . The greatest Cubs team any of us will see in our lifetimes capped off a fantastic season at home over their biggest rivals. Of course, they were also nice enough to do it in the one game I attended all year (dying laughing)

Sep 18, 2008: Cubs 7 - 6 Brewers, 12 innings. The Cubs were down by 4 runs and facing Brewers closer Salomon Torres. With 2 outs the Cubs rallied to score 4 runs, including a game-tying 3-run HR by Geovany Soto. The Cubs went on to win it in extras on a Derrek Lee walkoff single

July 28, 2008: Cubs 11 - 4 Brewers. The Cubs went into a big 4-game series at Miller park tied with the surging Brewers. The Brewers sent Sabathia to the mound in the first game, who had been mowing down the National league since being traded to the Crew. The Cubs eked out a win in this game, and went on to utterly embarrass the Brewers in their own park, outscoring them 31-11 in the 4 games.

And, of course Sep 14, 2008: Cubs 5 - 0 Astros.

After all that I'm too lazy to write much of a preview (dying laughing)

The Marlins have a pretty crummy offense (.318 wOBA), but then again so do many teams at this point in the season. It's strange that their two best hitters (Ramirez and Uggla) are their middle infielders. Go figure.

They're below average on the field as well, as their defense has cost them roughly half a win thus far. As per usual though, their pitching staff has put up a respectable 3.92 FIP, and it's not all smoke and mirrors as their xFIP is 4.14. I guess it's not that surprising given the pitchers' park they play half their games in.


Monday Nate Robertson, LHP (5.55, 5.59, 4.56) vs Ted Lilly, LHP (5.44, 4.06, 4.06), 7:05 PM CT

Robertson is a guy that I wished the Cubs had gone after when they were shopping Milton Bradley. The Tigers pretty much dumped him on the Marlins, paying all of his salary minus the league minimum. For some reason I thought he was right-handed. I thought that the transition to the National League would have helped him (he moved from one pitchers' park to another one), but so far not so much. Lilly just had one of those games in his last outing. It's still spring training for him, and he's a flyball guy. He had a few blowout losses in April last year too. I'm not too worried. One nice thing about Lilly is that he tends to (or at least seems to, I'm being lazy today) give up runs in bunches, so overall he's more helpful to a team than a guy like Silva who you can pretty much count on for 6 innings and 3-4 runs every time. Lilly either gets hammered or shuts them down.

Tuesday Ricky Nolasco, LHP (4.37, 3.90, 3.63) vs Randy Wells, RHP (2.60, 3.44, 4.09) , 7:05 PM CT

Speaking of Cubs pitchers getting hammered, Wells was hit hard in his last start. Though seeing how it didn't make a dent in his FIP numbers some of it was bad luck - his BABIP skyrocketed to .383....but that's right in line with the ridiculous 25.5% LD rate he's posted so far. Nolasco turned in a great 2009 despite his 5+ ERA. He struck out more than a batter an inning, walked 2.14 per nine and had a reasonable HR rate of 1.12 HR/9. He had some bad babip luck (.336), and presumably some bad defense behind him too. Maybe the Cubs could trade Lee for him and move him to the bullpen?

Wednesday Chris Volstad, RHP (4.25, 4.42, 4.47) vs Tom Gorzelanny, LHP (2.71, 3.34, 3.93), 1:20 PM CT

I seem to remember Volstad shutting down the Cubs in their first look at him last year. But my memory is usually pretty faulty. He doesn't strike out very many, but gets a fair number of ground balls. Expect a WAG-fest. Gorzelanny is the 2009 Randy Wells of this season - he just can't get any run support. Huge props to the Cubs for landing him for two guys who are on the DL with torn labrums. Even bigger props to the Cubs and Rothschild in particular for jacking up that K rate - he's struck out more than a batter an inning ever since he joined the team. That was a real steal by Hendry.

I'm out of the prediction game, but I do like the fact that the Cubs face two lefties. Go Castro Go!

May 07, 2010

Starlin Castro


Castro to the Bigs

The Cubs called up Starlin Castro today, and I'm a little giddy. I think he's going to be pretty good and do think it is the right move. I'm going to list the reasons why and then my reservations

Why it's a good move

  1. He's tearing up AA, posting a .423 wOBA (as a SS, no less), and hit well in the AFL against the top pitchers in the minors

  2. Theriot is moving to 2b, and while I admit that the defensive metrics think he's okay at SS, everyone agrees he's a plus 2b. Either way as far as defensive value goes it's a lateral move. Moving Aramis Ramirez to SS would be offset by the fact that you'd have his bat playing at SS. Though I guess that's not true of last-month-Ramirez.

  3. More importantly, Bakenot has been seriously underperforming at 2b. Fontenot has posted a .299 wOBA and while he hasn't looked quite as shitty at the plate to me (seemingly less WAGs), he's only had 3 extra basae hits and no homers. Jeff Baker has posted a .287 wOBA but for the opposite reason - he's hitting for power (1 double, 1 triple, 2 HRs) but he has to get his bat on the ball first. In his defense though he has a .200 BABIP. Not so much for Fontenot (.323). And since Fontenot is the strong side of the platoon anyway that's doubly bad. Tracy was send down in the move but I would not be surprised to see Fontenot moved by the trade deadline if Castro sticks around. The Cubs would have 3 2b, and Theriot and Baker are the better options to back up SS and 3b, respectively

The bad
  1. Lou Pineilla is an impatient guy (witness Felix Pie). I'm worried the Cubs don't give him a long enough shot, though at least he has plenty of options, unlike Pie did. It's important he gets off to a good start. Lou did really seem to like him in ST though, so that should help.

  2. Along the same lines, the scouting reports I remember on Castro were that he was still pretty raw, though Total Zone seems to like him. I'm worried that an impatient Lou will move him over to 2b and Theriot back to SS, and inertia will set in.

  3. His AA stats this year are still a small sample size, FWIW. He still has room for improvement, and this move starts his service clock.

  4. The Cubs could be expecting the red-hot Castro to turn the team around, and that's a lot of pressure for a young player

Overall though I still think this is a positive move, and a key point I haven't heard many people mention yet is that Castro still has TONS of options. It's not like they're rushing a guy who was supposed to get a cup of coffee with the team for the next 3-4 years before making the bigs. He earned this promotion.

May 06, 2010

Series Preview: Chicago Cubs (13-16) at Cincinnati Reds (14-14)

I guess I'm out of the predictions game.

The Reds are coming off a series win against the Mets. Everyone was writing them off after the first few weeks of the season, but now they're suddenly at .500. They're certainly not doing it with their offense (.313 team wOBA). Their starting pitching is a below-average 4.49 FIP. Their bullpens is pretty good (3.90 FIP, 3.74 xFIP - 2nd best in the NL). Their defense is also below average (-2.3 UZR). So maybe this is a bit of a mirage, though many of the projectatrons did like them in the offseason.


  1. C Ramon Hernandez, RHB (.327, .319, -0.7)
  2. 1B Joey Votto, LHB (.404, .383, 0.0)
  3. 2B Brandon Phillips, RHB (.326, .342, -3.0)
  4. SS Orlando Cabrera, RHB (.297, .325, -14.4)
  5. 3B Scott Rolen, RHB (.362, .352, 5.6)
  6. LF Jonny Gomes, RHB (.264, .338, -9.9)
  7. CF Drew Stubbs, RHB (.265, .292, 16.4)
  8. Jay Bruce, LHB (.340, .336, 0.0)

  1. Aaron Harang, RHP (5.06, 3.82, 4.13)
  2. Mike Leake, RHP (3.96, 4.37, -)
  3. Johnny Cueto, RHP (4.50, 4.49, 4.23)
  4. Bronson Arroyo, RHP (4.38, 4.71, 4.46)
  5. Homer Bailey, RHP (4.59, 4.59, 4.33)
  6. Francisco Cordero, RHP (4.11, 4.36, 3.48)
  7. Arthur Rhodes, LHP (2.73, 2.55, 3.31)
  8. Nick Masset, RHP (4.36, 2.55, 3.83)

I said this last time the Cubs played the Reds, but I'm still kind of surprised the projection systems liked this team so much. Also, that defense looks pretty atrocious. One thing the Reds do have going for them is their pen (as mentioned above). It's probably the only quality pen in the NL central.

Chris Dickerdoodle is on the DL with a broken bone in his hand and will be out until June. Edinson Volquez's Rookie of the Year campaign was halted by his PED 'suspension' earlier this year - he's not missing time he would have missed but he is losing out on a fair chunk of salary. Drew Stubbs has come down with a slight case of sucking. Hopefully it will meet its mate in Aramis Ramirez and they'll run away together.

Players to watch
That Joey Votto guy is pretty good at hitting. So is Soriano, who is still white-hot.

Pitching matchups
Friday: Carlos Silva, RHP (4.17, 4.12, 4.39) vs Homer Bailey, RHP (4.59, 4.59, 4.33), 6:10 PM CT
Silva was hit hard in his last start, and a big part of it was the home-run ball. His sinker must not have been working as well for him, since he gave up more fly balls than grounders for the first time this year. Bailey has been struggling with his control this year (4.13 BB/9), though control is not what he's known for. He threw 122 pitches in his last start, and has topped 100 in every start this year. Maybe we can hope he'll be a little gassed.

Saturday: Tom Gorzelanny, LHP (2.69, 3.70, 3.96) vs Aaron Harang, RHP (5.06, 3.82, 4.13), 6:10 PM CT
Harang has a terrible ERA, mainly due to a unlucky .353 BABIP and HR/FB rate pushing 20%. However, he has improved on his already admirable walk rate, walking less than 2 batters per nine. There were rumors floating around that they could pull a Zambrano on him, moving him to the pen, which is especially dumb because he IS the best starter on the team and they have a good pen. It was probably just interweb speculation.

Gorz had a great outing in his last start, racking up a career high in strikeouts and finally getting some run support. He looks like a whole new pitcher this year. Even when he had his breakout season with Pittsburgh in 2007, he only struck out 6 batters per nine (his peripherals were actually pretty bad that year - 4.88 xFIP). This year he's been striking out nearly a batter an inning. He's had a but of luck with home runs, but things are looking pretty good, even if you ignore the fact that both the players the Cubs traded to get him (Hart and Ascanio) are currently recovering from torn labrums. Great work, Larry Rothschild.

Sunday Ryan Dempster, RHP (3.75, 3.51, 3.68) vs Cy Leake, RHP (3.96, 4.37, -), 12:10 PM CT
Demp has his 157th wasted quality start of the season on tuesday. He's been pounding the strike zone, dropping his walk rate even lower than his 2.93 BB/9 from last year (which is waaay lower than I expected). This will probably be another 3-2 game where Leake allows 14 baserunners in 5 innings but only gives up 2 runs, just like the last start. He walked 7 in 6 2/3 innings in his major league debut against the Cubs but only gave up one run. He walked 5 in his next start, but in the 3 starts following those he seems to have gotten over his jitters, only walking 4 in those starts combined.

PredictionAfter the last series, I'm not going to make one. Though I guess I was right that a sweep was inevitable.

May 03, 2010

Series Preview: Chicago Cubs (13-13) at Pittsburgh Pirates (10-15)

Despite the recent offensive explosion, it's tough to believe that the Cubs offense is pretty good. They've scored the 4th-most runs in the NL, trailing the Diamondbacks (who have scored the most but have an awful pitching staff), Phillies (not surprising), and Dodgers (kind of surprising, though they've had some pitching problems too), and one run ahead of the Brewers offense. Looking at wOBA, among NL teams they trail the D-Backs and Brewers and are shockingly ahead of the run-scoring machine that is the Philadelphia Phillies. What the hell? Offensive explosion in the last series aside, it has felt like nearly every game this season has been a repeat of the Natinals/Mets/Astros series.

Luckily, the Cubs are heading to play Pittsburgh, whose season makes those godawful series look like exciting baseball. The Pirates have been outscored by 89 runs in only 25 games this season - on average they have coughed up 3-4 more runs per game than they've scored. They're "lucky" to have notched even 10 wins. The extreme shittiness of the Astros and Pirates this season should help the wild card chances of the other NL central teams, though the Brewers might have already dug themselves in too deep a hole for their shambolic pitching staff to bounce back from. Here are their primary players (note - I'm going to switch to using the updated ZiPS projections, since they're already on fangraphs)

Batting (wOBA, updated ZiPS wOBA, CHONE projected defensive runs)

  1. Ryan Doumit, BHB (.385, .350, -3.4)
  2. Jeff Clement, LHB (.231, .341, -0.8)
  3. Akinori Iwamura, LHB (.292, .332, -1.6)
  4. Ronny Cedeno, RHB (.255, .297, -0.8)
  5. Andy LaRoche, RHB (.373, .338, 1.8)
  6. Lastings Milledge, RHB (.264, .319, -3.2)
  7. Andrew McCutcheon, RHB (.362, .357, 0)
  8. Garrett Jones, LHB (.347, .364, -3.8)

Pitching (FIP, xFIP, ZiPS FIP)
  1. Zach Duke, LHP (5.59, 5.00, 4.31)
  2. Paul Maholm, LHP (4.70, 4.61, 3.94)
  3. Charlie Morton, RHP (7.28, 3.98, 4.14)
  4. Brian Burres, LHP (5.35, 6.31, 4.52)
  5. Jeff Karstens, RHP (5.40, 5.28, 4.73)
  6. Octavio Dotel, RHP (6.30, 4.46, 4.00)
  7. Joel Hanrahan, RHP (5.68, 3.99, 3.48)
  8. Brendan Donnelly, RHP (7.53, 6.16, 4.22)

They've had some crappy luck (team hitting BABIP: .275, pitching BABIP .335, on top of underperformance) but it's not like there's a ton to work with there. Andrew McCutcheon is going to be pretty good, so I guess the Pirates have that going for them. I wonder who they'll trade him for in 2 years?

Garrett Jones missed Saturday's game after surgery to remove a chunk of roast beef from Friday's post-game spread that became lodged in his esophagus. He played on Sunday so I guess he's okay. McCutcheon is day-to-day with a sprained right ankle. Brendan Donnelly has a strained side muscle, though looking at his numbers he's probably better off not pitching. Ross Ohlendorf, one of their rotation 'mainstays' is on the DL with back spasms and should miss one more start before returning (Thursday is his usual turn in the rotation). Chris Jakubauskas is on the DL after a scary head injury from a screaming liner off the bat of Lance Berkman. He seems okay - he never lost consciousness and cat scans showed no skull fractures but the team is wisely taking it easy with him. Former Cubs Jose Ascanio and Kevin Hart, the two pieces in the Gorzelanny/Grabow deal, both have torn labrums. Ascanio had his surgery in February and Hart is having his today.

For the Cubs, Silva's wrist is still bothering him, and his next start was pushed back a day. IIRC he injured it while batting a start or two ago. Caridad is working his way back, and threw an inning in extended spring training yesterday. He should be heading to Iowa next, and could rejoin the team this weekend in Cincy.

Players to watch
McCutcheon and Doumit are both pretty good players, and they're pretty much the only guys who have been hitting on the team. As for the Cubs, you have to go with the white-hot Soriano. The fact that the Cubs are facing 2 lefties this series isn't going to hurt his chances at extending his hot-hitting streak.

Pitching matchups
Tuesday: Ryan Dempster, RHP (3.48, 3.61, 3.64) vs Paul Maholm, LHP (4.70, 4.61, 3.94), 6:05 PM CT
Demp has pitched well this year, and gave a good outing that wasn't supported by his offense (8 innings, 3 runs, 2 HR). Obviously he can't be the Ace. Hitters aren't making very good contact off of him - he's posted a 10.5% LD rate so far this season, which is a big reason why he has a .243 BABIP. The most you can say about Maholm, who is probably the Pirates erstwhile ace, is that he 'battles' and 'keeps his team in the game' with his sucky pitching. Honestly, I'd rather have a more volatile guy like Ted Lilly, who is more likely to throw a bunch of really good starts and have a blowout or three (like his last start) to even out his numbers.

Wednesday: Ted Lilly, LHP (5.90, 4.22, 3.99) vs Charlie Morton, RHP (7.28, 3.98, 4.14), 6:05 PM CT
Speaking of Ted Lilly, he's getting the next start. I'm not *too* worried about Lilly - as I mentioned above he's the kind of guy who just gets shelled a few times a year because of his flyball tendencies. He's also still coming back from that injury, and from what I've heard he didn't have great control (Lilly's calling card) in his first start either (he got some help from a hack-tastic lineup). Charlie Morton was a guy a lot of people in the Pittsburgh FO thought would break out this season, but he's been terrible - mainly due to the HR ball as he's allowed 7 in only 19 innings (check out his xFIP). He's also had an absolutely horrendous .439 BABIP on balls that don't leave the yard, though that's right in line with the 31.9% LD rate he's posted. He's a decent pitcher and this should be a good matchup.

Thursday: Randy Wells, RHP (2.35, 3.20, 4.11) vs (probably) Brian Burres, LHP (5.35, 6.31, 4.52), 6:05 PM CT
Brian Burres has been filling in for Ohlendorf and should get the start, but the Pirates might opt with the right-handed Brian Bass given the Cubs right-leaning lineup. He pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings in his last start but wasn't really fooling anyone. He's had big control problems throughout his career. Wells has sure done a good job os silencing the doubters who figured he'd go into a sophomore slump this year (though there's still plenty of time...). His strikeout rate has jumped by over 2 batters per nine innings, and he's walking one less batter per nine as well. Obviously he's had a bit of HR luck but he's pitched pretty well - he's even been quite unlucky with balls in play (.370 BABIP) but still pitched quite effectively.

Prediction Even when teams are very far apart a sweep is never the most likely outcome, but I'm going to say the Cubs do it anyway. They're throwing their three best pitchers in the rotation this series against (possibly) two left-handers and the anemic Pirates offense. Wednesday's game should be the only one that's close.

May 02, 2010

New Dogs!

We adopted two new dogs today - Honey and Lucky

Honey (the female) is 5 and Lucky (the male) is 7. Their bio didn't specifically say so, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were brother + sister. They were surrendered to rescue when their former owners were divorced and could not care for them on their own. It looks like Lucky has cataracts but we heard conflicting information from the rescue people.

We've only had them for a day and they've already settled in. Lucky is much more laid back and likes to hang out with his people. Honey is much more active and likes to keep an eye on everything - she likes to sleep on top of the couch/chair in our living room, and checks out the windows from time to time when we have the curtains open. Honey has a natural tail and it's absolutely beautiful - it looks a lot like a golden retriever's tail.

Kira was a little displeased when the dogs first turned up, but now she seems okay (though Jennie thinks that she's still not all that pleased). She and Lucky were sleeping next to each other this morning so things seem to be fine. I think the biggest issue is on walks, since she moves so much more slowly than the others due to her age and blindness. But I think having some dogs to lead the way should really help her out.