Series Preview – Chicago Cubs (13-18) vs Milwaukee Brewers (13-18)

I liked the Brewers chances of winning the NL Central this year, even without Fielder, given the loss of Pujols and Carpenters injuries and my general distrust of the Reds pitching staff. They've had some awful luck so far though, and it looks like it's not going to happen. They've lost three of their key contributers (SP Chris Narveson, SS Alex Gonzalez, and 1B Mat Gamel) for the season to injuries, and given how they (wisely) empties out their farm system to go for it while their window was open the past few years there's not much to replace them. When Cesar Izturis is the answer, you don't want to know the question. Though he still might be an improvement over Yuni (dying laughing).

The Cubs are coming off back to back series wins against two of the top teams in baseball, so things are looking up!

Pitching Matchups

Friday: Matt Garza, RHP (2.67, 2.95, 3.00, 3.40) vs Randy Wolf, LHP (6.68, 4.68, 4.76, 4.42), 7:10 PM CT

Wolf was the Brewers "big" signing a few years back when they signed him to a ~3/30 deal. It doesn't look so great by fWAR  in the first two years of the deal (2.2) but it's bang-on the value by rWAR.  The Brewers have a club option on him for $10m next year which probably won't be picked up. His strikeout rate has continued its age-related decline and he's been knocked around by opposing batters, though his BABIP is at .361.

Garza had his last start skipped by the flu, which led to a competent start by Travis Wood and another Blake DeWitt DFA. Garza has had some good batted ball luck, and of all his numbers the most encouraging so far is his 45% GB rate. He's had only one bad outing all season, a 6 R, 2 HR outing in Miami.

Saturday: Chris Volstad, RHP (6.55, 3.37, 4.11, 4.41) vs Shaun Marcum, RHP (3.41, 3.44, 4.04, 3.47), 12:05 PM CT

Volstad hasn't had much luck either way on batted balls (.296 BABIP), it's been more of a sequencing thing (46.3% LOB). Maybe he's having trouble pitching out of the stretch. Despite his peripherals, he looked genuinely lousy in his last start. He's given up at least three runs in all of his outings, and most of them have happened in the first inning or two.

Marcum has been solid since the Brewers picked him up. He is an extreme fly ball pitcher, but manages to suppress HR anyway.

Sunday: Jeff Samardzija, RHP (3.03, 2.61, 2.93, 4.06) vs Marco Estrada, RHP (4.50, 4.91, 3.53, 3.95), 1:10 PM CT

Estrada was pushed into the rotation by Narveson's injury. He posted solid numbers as a starter in the minors, and has been meh to okayish as a reliever in the majors. He's been mostly a flyball pitcher in the majors, which is a part of his big HR rate.

I never would have guessed that Jeff Samardzija would be the Cubs pitcher I'm most excited to see this season.

Position Players

Not surprisingly Ryan Braun leads the team in wRAA. But what is surprising is that the next two biggest contributers are the Brewers catcher, George Kottaras and Johnathan LuCroy. Nyjer Morgan has been the biggest negative contributer, posting a .208 wOBA in 80 PAs. Overall the offense is middle of the pack in the NL.

Defensively, no one has been particularly impressive, though both UZR and DRS think poorly of Rickie Weeks's defense. Their team defensive numbers rank 14th in the NL by UZR and 13th by DRS. They're missing defensive wizard (and offensive black hole)



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