Series Preview: Carlos Zambrano (43-46) at Chicago Cubs (36-52)

To judge from all the negative buzz I've seen around the interwebs heading into this series, you'd think that Zambrano is starting all three games and Cubs fans should boo the crap out of him. However, he is slated to start zero games in this series. Which is a bummer, because I love watching Z pitch.

Team Overviews

(NL ranks in parens)

  Marlins Cubs
wOBA .305 (11th) .298 (15th)
BSR -2.6 (12th) 2.8 (5th)
UZR -17.1 (13th) 11.9 (3rd)
DRS -17 (12th) +12 (4th)
SP FIP 3.75 (8th) 4.02 (12th)
RP FIP 3.76 (7th) 4.74 (16th)

I'm surprised that the Marlins bullpen numbers aren't much lower, given how much of disaster Heath Bell has been this year. The Marlins and Cubs bullpens have posted the same ERA despite wildly different FIP. The Cubs pen maintains its solid lead for the worst in the majors, though after park effects are included the Cardinals pen is right behind.

Position Players

Giancarlo Stanton has been the main cog in the Marlins offense. Unfortunately for the Marlins, he had knee surgery at the beginning of July and is missing a month. Luckily his replacement, Justin Ruggiano, has been tearing the cover off the ball with a .385/.452/.736 (!!) line in 106 PAs. Between the two of them they've provided 34.5 wRAA for the Marlins. Their next "best" hitter has been the disappointing Hanley Ramirez, who has posted a .246/.323/.424 line, while big offseason acquisition Jose Reyes has outdone him with an anemic .264/.335/.374. In 555 PAs, John Buck, Gaby Sanchez, and Chris Coglan have combined to post -30.8 wRAA, pretty much wiping out the monster seasons of Stanton and Ruggiano. It's not really clear what happened with Sanchez, who was a solid 2-3 WAR guy in 2010 and 2011. He's 29 right now so he could be a cautionary tale for anyone kicking the tires on Bryan LaHair, though for what it's worth most of Sanchez's value derived from OBP unlike LaHair's monster SLG.

Injury Update

Stanton is the only impact injury of note for the Marlins, though they are also without Juan Carlos Oviedo (formerly Leo Nunez), who has a sprained UCL, and former Cub and Kevin Gregg trade piece Jose Ceda, who had yet another injury early in the year and is out for the season with TJS.

Aside from Stewart no one of significance is currently on the Cubs injury list. Lendy Castillo is recovering from a severe case of David Patton disease in the AZL.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday: Anibal Sanchez, RHP (4.12, 3.43, 3.58, 3.50) vs Travis Wood, LHP (3.05, 4.69, 4.54, 4.15), 7:05 PM CT

Sanchez is best remembered for a particularly awful walk-filled no-hitter he threw a few years ago and probably qualifies for the Wandy Rodriguez Hall of Fame. After that infamous no-hitter and many injury struggles, he's been a quietly great pitcher for the Marlins in the past two plus seasons. After walking everything in sight early in his career, he settled down and even shockingly brought his walk rate below 3 BB/9 last year. He's had some troubles with strand rate this year but has generally been solid. I think people are going to be very surprised at the huge contract he's going to get as a FA this offseason.

Wood's numbers are still very skewed by that 4 HR performance against the Padres pitching with 30+ mph winds blowout out of the park. Since then he's been a very solid pitcher, and has done much to slience the Sean Marshall deal critics. He's gone deeper into games as the season has progressed and looks like he'll be holding down a cost-controlled spot in the rotation for seasons to come.

Wednesday: Josh Johnson, RHP (4.28, 3.07, 3.56, 2.91) vs Jeff Samardzija, RHP (4.71, 3.65, 3.51, 4.08), 7:05 PM CT

Tommny John surgery never slowed Johnson down. I thought he missed all of last year, but he actually managed to throw 60 innings (9 starts). The guy is a pitching machine. He's had some trouble with BABIP this year but he's the True Ace that he was before the surgery.

When last I checked in, Samardzija was getting rocked by everyone and his brother and it looked like he was untransformed. It turned out that he was just working on a new curveball (pfx agreed). In a season like this one, why not? He ended his experiment and promptly struck out eleven Braves in seven innings, and threw a quality start against the Mets in his last start ten days ago. Samardzija is already at 101 innings on the year after throwing 80, 120, and 123 in the previous three seasons so arm fatigue might be setting in over the next few weeks.

Thursday: Mark Buehrle, LHP (3.13, 3.75, 3.97, 3.92) vs Paul Maholm, LHP (4.33, 4.33, 4.30, 4.07), 1:20 PM CT

Buehrle's pretty much the same guy he's always been: work fast, throw strikes, put the ball in play. His strikeout rate has jumped from the pathetic ~4.5 K/9 from his last few years with the Sox to 5.44 now that he has some pitchers to strike out. He's actually been on an odd strikeout tear, striking out 29 batters in his last 28.2 innings.

When last I looked at Maholm's numbers his FIP was pretty terrible. Since then he's had a string og 5-6 strikeout, 1 walk, 0 HR, ~7 IP games. I can't wait until a team like the Indians or Orioles makes a dumb trade for him at the deadline then promptly loses 20 of their next 25 games.

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