Series Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks (1-1) at Chicago Cubs (1-2)

All I should have to say about yesterday’s game is that the Cubs lost on a 2-run infield single. It was that kind of day.

However, despite the fact that the Cubs lost two games to the emintently beatable Pirates there were things to be happy about. Here’s a breakdown of what we learned

The Good

  • Starlin Castro. What a great start to the season. He hit two triples yesterday, and his baserunning led to seemingly half of the Cubs runs in the series. Even if everything else goes to shit it will be exciting to watch him this year.
  • Matt Garza fought the luck dragon for 7 innings in his first officially official start in a Cubs uniform, but I think it was good enough to make sure the fans didn’t turn on him out of the gate for not being Cy Young. He set a career high of 12 strikeouts and threw boatloads of strikes. He didn’t walk anyone and gave up 12 singles, and it seemed like every one of them were seeing eye grounders.
  • Carlos Pena is as good as advertised on defense. Brenly seems to have a new man-crush but at least it’s on a player that’s actually pretty good. I think the over/under on the number of times we’ll hear about Pena’s pregame fungo routine for the rest of the season should be set around 50 times.
  • Geovany Soto is batting higher in the order at last. We’re still seeing a few dumb lineup things like Barney batting second, but I don’t think we’ll see that as often as we’ll see Soto batting 5th or 6th.
  • Carlos Marmol had his jaw-dropping slider working in Saturday’s game.
  • Colvin looked as good defensively as we should expect, given his ability to hack it in CF, in nailing Jaramillo at the plate in the 8th inning of Sunday’s game to preserve the Cubs lead. He looked a little lost in RF last year but if his glove shows up he’ll be better than the replacement level 4th outfielder that the projections see him as.

The Bad

  • The Cubs offense is going to struggle to score runs. They scored 12 in this series,and were helped by 4 unearned runs thanks to the Pirates crappy defense. The Cubs are also swinging at everything. They didn’t have a good PA in Saturday’s game until Z’s double in the third inning. In that PA he saw as many pitches as the team did in the first and second innings.
  • Marlon Byrd needs to move down the lineup, and soon. After a gift throw into RF by Ronny Cedeno to gift-wrap the Cubs chances to tie the game on a sac fly, Marlon continued his habit seen through the series of swinging on the first pitch. He grounded out into a game ending double play.
  • Carlos Marmol did not have his jaw-dropping slider working in Sunday’s game. However, even when Marmol’s wild he can still get away with it at times. He walked the first hitter, the second hiter hit a flare just over Barney, but then the pirates gave up an out and he got the WAG that usually gets him out of trouble. Just bad luck that it glanced off of Marmol and a bad decision by Castro. Pena did a great job corraling the throw but it was too late for it to matter.

Anyway, that’s behind us now. The Cubs host the Arizona Diamondbacks for a 3-game series before their first road trip of the season. Arizona is 1-1 after Sunday’s game in Colorado was cancelled due to snow.

Team Overview

BP projects the Diamondbacks to be the low team on the totem pole in the NL west this season, with a record of 76-86. Their biggest problem is their pitching staff, which is projected to give up the second most runs after only the Coors-aided Rockies staff. To be fair, they do play in a hitters’ park themselves.

Since not much has happened in the season so far I’m just going to post their main players’ ZiPS projections.

Position Players

Player wOBA ADR
SS Drew .337 2
RF Upton .377 8
2b Johnson .358 4
1b Branyan .374 5
CF Young .340 7
C Montero .332 -5
3b Mora .309 -6
LF Nady .321 0

Drew is banged up and didn’t play in the first two games, so there’s a good chance Willie Bloomquist will get at least one of the starts if not all of them, given the weather in Chicago.


Player FIP
Dan Hudson 3.62
Saunders 4.65


Enright 4.84
Gallaraga 4.97
Putz (CL) 3.40
Hernandez 4.83

Former Pirate Zach Duke would normally be in the rotation, but a line drive in spring training broke his hand, putting him out for 6-8 weeks.

Players to watch:

Aside from the obvious Cubs choice, Starlin Castro, I’ll pick an ex-Cub in Xavier Nady (the one armed bandit) for the DBacks. I hope we get to see numerous lollipop throws back to the infield in this series.

Pitching Matchups:

(ZiPS projected FIP in parentheses)

Monday: Joe Saunders, LHP (4.65) vs Randy Wells, RHP (3.95)

Saunders came to the DBacks as part of the Angels’ Dan Haren robbery. Saunders had a breakout year in 2008, posting a 3.41 ERA and 17 wins for the Angels. However, that was tempered by a .266 BABIP and a good measure of HR luck. The following year he posted a 4.60 ERA and a 5.17 FIP, but still somehow managed to win 16 games. For some reason that was good enough for the DBacks to grab him.

Wells is looking to bounce back from his “sophomore slump”, in which his ERA jumped by a point and a quarter but his peripherals stayed just about the same. Hopefully the groundballs he’ll generate won’t find all the holes that Garza’s did yesterday.

Tuesday: Barry Enright, RHP (4.84) vs Andrew Cashner, RHP (4.46)

Enright posted superficially solid numbers after being called up from AA last year, posting a 3.91 ERA and a 6-7 record in 99 innings. However, his .248 BABIP had a lot to do with that, and his FIP and xFIP were 5.62 and 4.96 respectively. It looks like he’s a flyball pitcher that doesn’t strike a lot of guys out, which is not a great combo.

I’m glad that this is the game that I’ll actually be able to catch all of (stupid work), as I’m excited to see what Cashner can do this season. He definitely got a great matchup for his first start. From what I remember his change-up was starting to look good in ST, and if that trend continues he should be able to stick in the rotation.

Wednesday: Armando Galarraga, RHP (4.97) vs Ryan Dempster, RHP (3.73)

Galarraga is of course famous for the near perfect game with the Tigers last season. He was 8 2/3 of an inning through it and was fed the ball on a groundout to 1b to seal the deal when veteran umpire Jim Joyce ruled the runner safe (replay showed that he was out). Despite all the media hoopla around the play, Galarraga and Joyce both handled the situation well. Joyce tearfully apologized after the game and (gasp) admitted that he made a mistake. Galarraga accepted the situation gracefully saying “nobody’s perfect”, and went to great length to assure Joyce that there was no bad blood. Perfect game notwithstanding, Galarraga was never that great of a pitcher and the Tigers released him in the offseason.

Dempster started strong but fell apart in his opening day start. He lost control in the 5th and Neil Walker made him pay with a grand slam, and after Quade put him out in the 7th (with 100+ pitches and two shaky innings in the bank) he gave up another HR to put it out of reach of the Cubs offensive offense.


The matchups look good in all three of these games. I like the Cubs to win two out of three to bring themselves back to .500


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