Series Preview: Chicago Cubs (12-15) at Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles (14-15)

Team Overview

Dodgers team stats (NL rank in parens):

wOBA: .310 (11th)
UZR: -2.9 (10th)
DRS: -11 (11th)
SP FIP: 3.77 (8th)
SP xFIP: 3.64 (5th)
RP FIP: 4.52 (16th)
RP xFIP: 4.09 (12th)

Batters:

Player wOBA ZiPS wOBA
2B Aaron Miles .270 .272
LF Jerry Sands .252 .326
RF Andre Ethier .430 .374
CF Matt Kemp .460 .356
3B Juan Uribe .305 .322
1B James Loney .205 .315
C Rod Barajas .272 .311
SS Jamey Carroll .330 .306

The Dodgers are sorely missing the left side of their infield (Furcal and Blake), as it has meant many PAs taken by the likes of Aaron Miles and Jamey Carroll. It’s even more the case than when the Cubs last faced the Dodgers that their entire offense consists of Ethier and Kemp. Loney especially has been even more crappy than usual. I can’t believe he’s on a MLB roster. Of course now that I say this he’ll hit a HR or two and half a hundred singles in this series.

Pitchers:

Player ERA FIP ZiPS FIP
LHP Clayton Kershaw 3.52 3.71 3.07
RHP Chad Billingsley 4.46 3.30 3.03
LHP Ted Lilly 4.45 3.32 3.52
RHP Hiroki Kuroda 3.10 3.69 3.39
RHP Jon Garland 3.81 4.40 4.26
RHP Vincente Padilla 2.25 4.23 3.99
RHP Jonathan Broxton 4.76 5.54 2.87

Broxton is no longer the “primary closer”, whatever that means, and the spot is now shared between him, Padilla, and Hong-Chi Kuo. The two of them might not be much better as they’re knocking the rust off DL stints. The idea is that Padilla will work righties and Kuo will work lefties, and Broxton will be the quasi-setup man.

Pitching Matchups

The Cubs are running into a buzzsaw, the best three pitchers in a very good staff. ERA, FIP, xFIP, and ZiPS FIP given below.

Monday: James Russell, LOL (8.31, 8.75, 4.73, 5.85) vs Clayton Kershaw, LHP (3.52, 3.71, 3.27, 3.07), 9:10 PM CT

James Russell continues to take one for the team this week. The good news is that it looks like Cashner and Wells are ahead of schedule. Len and Bob mentioned yesterday that they rejoined the team in AZ, where they were rehabbing in extended spring training. They were supposed to stay there to keep working, but the training staff were impressed enough with their progress that they’ll travel with the team instead. We’ve been complaining about how the Cubs have no better options for this spot as Russell was 8th on the SP depth chart but three pitchers got injured at the same time. Jay Jackson is on his way back from an injury and could have made this start but the Cubs decided to hold him back. He might do better than Russell but we shouldn’t expect him to blow us away at this point. Why dump a bunch of extra pressure on the guy? As Colin Wyers pointed out the other day on twitter, why didn’t the Cubs just move Marshall into the rotation for a month? He wasn’t stretched out, but it’s not like Russell was that stretched out either (or going very deep into games). I can’t believe I haven’t seen more chatter about this. How quickly we all forget (myself included) that he was a decent starter.

Speaking of decent starters, I guess this Kershaw guy is okay. He’s been knocked around a little in his past few starts so maybe the Cubs can sneak a few by him and lose 9-4 instead of 9-0.

Tuesday: Ryan Dempster, RHP (9.58, 6.53, 4.19, 3.93) vs Chad Billingsley, RHP (4.46, 3.30, 3.53, 3.03), 9:10 PM CT

I was feeling better about Demp after MB’s article before his last start, and then he went ahead and threw up a start that made James Russell’s look good. At least it meant I could find other stuff to do that night and not have to think about the game. The biggest problem is obviously home runs, and he’s giving up an astonishing 23.7% of them on fly balls. Demp has always seemingly been a victim of the Big Inning and this year it’s especially been the case. Aside from crappy HR/FB luck, he’s also having a tougher time finding the plate, hence the 9+ ERA. He’s still having bad luck on balls in play too, as his BABIP is 50 points higher than his LD rate would suggest. There’s plenty of reason to expect Demp’s numbers to fall back to his projected rates when you look at the rest of his peripherals, but goddamn is this crazy.

Billingsley beat the Cubs in his last start, giving up two runs in six and a third innings and simply letting the Cubs put the ball in play after the Dodgers built a big early lead off of Casey Coleman. If Bad Beat Dempster shows up again he’ll get another day to take it even easier than he would against the Cubs punchless lineup.

Wednesday: Carlos Zambrano, RHP (4.91, 3.96, 3.98, 3.66) vs Ted Lilly, LHP (4.45, 3.32, 4.25, 3.52), 2:10 PM CT

Z had a great start against the Padres on 4/18, forgotten by various leprechauns, then followed it up with a stinker against who else, the Dodgers. He allowed a leadoff triple to Aaron Miles, after which the Cubs should have just forfeited the game. The Dodgers eked out half a hundred more hits in the inning, and Z stayed in to eat as many innings as he could. He had a decent start in the desert his last time out, giving up a two run HR in the first inning but settling down to go 6 innings against the snakes. The run numbers were good but the peripherals are not – he walked three while striking out two and gave up a 11 fly balls to only 5 grounders. Not what you expect from Z.

I love that both of the Cubs matchups with Lilly have had him opposite another of the big name Cubs pitchers. He faced Dempster his last time out and despite the fact that the wind was howling out the Cubs somehow managed to hit zero home runs. I’m sure they’ll hit three off him in Chavez Ravine just because (dying laughing). He’s had good luck with HRs this year (4.2% HR/FB) so that should change soon, especially as the weather warms up.

Prediction

There’s a lot not to like in these matchups. Dodgers win 2 out of three but it’s probably just as likely that they sweep.


berselius

About berselius

How appropriate. You fight like a cow.

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