Series Preview: Chicago Cubs (15-29) at Pittsburgh Pirates (20-24)

The surging Cubs could extend their streak to 12 in a row in a series against the Pirates. At least they'll get to lose in a beautiful ballpark. The Pirates are coming off a series loss at home to the Mets, and just DFA'd former future face of the franchise Nate McLouth.

Team Overviews

NL Rank in parentheses

  Cubs Pirates
wOBA .297 (14th) .267 (16th)
UBR 3.4 (2nd) 2.7 (4th)
UZR 7.9 (4th) -0.3 (9th)
DRS 6 (4th) -11 (10th)
SP FIP 3.86 (9th) 3.59 (7th)
RP FIP 4.69 (16th) 3.72 (11th)

As MB pointed out in the last thread, it's rare that the Cubs are playing a team with an even shittier offense. To be fair, the Pirates offense hasn't had a chance to tee off on Cubs relievers yet this year. It should also be noted that the next "best" bullpen FIP in the NL is the DBacks with 3.94.

Since the first game is already going on, I'll just jump to the

Pitching Matchups

As always, ERA, FIP, xFIP, ZiPS FIP are listed for each pitcher

Friday: Ryan Dempster, RHP (2.28, 2.83, 3.18, 3.84) vs A. J. Burnett, RHP (4.78, 3.48, 3.02, 3.94), 6:05 PM CT

Burnett is doing Burnett things early on. I think he's thrown 40 pitches in this first inning. He had a scary start to the season, breaking his orbital bone during a bunting drill in spring training almost as soon as the pirates acquired him. He came back much more quickly than expected from the surgery and has pitched well for the Pirates. Certainly better than his tenure with the Yankees. Batters are squaring him up a bit more than usual, but he's also seen a big jump in his ground ball rate.

Dempster has had two relatively bad starts in his last two times out, giving up four runs in six innings in each and two HR to the White Sox. Hopefully he grabs a win tonight so we don't have to keep hearing about his lack of Ws on the season, though if he gets another no-decision or loss it just further shows how pointless W-L record is as a statistic.

Saturday:  Paul Maholm, LHP (4.73, 5.47, 4.34, 4.14) vs Kevin Correia, RHP (4.50, 5.09, 4.84, 4.74), 6:15 PM CT

I remember a time when Correia was considered to be the Pirates ace after they picked him up from San Diego in the 2011 offseason. He got off to a good start and made the All-Star team based on his 11 wins, but his numbers inevitably cratered in the second half until he was shut down in late August with an oblique strain. He picked up right where he left off in his return this year, putting up Rafael Dolis-esque strikeout numbers.

Like Dempster, Maholm's run of good starts was interrupted by the Cards and White Sox. He gave up 9 runs in those two games, though he still managed to get lots of grounders. Both pitchers were damaged by the wind blowing out at Wrigley, and Maholm outdid Dempster by giving up three to the Sox. Maholm has had a lot of bad luck with the HR ball (19.1% HR/FB) but has had good luck with his grounders (.239 BABIP).

Sunday: Matt Garza, RHP (3.72, 3.78, 3.71, 3.56) vs Erik Bedard or TBA, LHP (3.52, 3.20, 3.39, 3.39), 12:35 PM CT

Garza has come back down to earth in his last few starts, and apparently his velocity has been down. The Astros (!) "offense" touched him up for seven runs in his last start. His BABIP is also low for a guy that's been getting a lot of grounders. I wonder how much of the BABIP stuff here and with the above pitchers is due to the Cubs improved defense. Surely it's not all of it, but replacing Ramirez and whatever Cylon leg treatments they've given to Soriano is converting a lot more balls into outs this year.

Bedard has been nails with the Pirates this year, but who knows how long he'll be healthy. The last time he pitched a full season as a starter was 2006, since then he's made 28, 15, 15, 0, and 24 starts, and his shoulder is being held together with the same tape that held together Chad Fox's elbow. He's had problems with his back too. The Pirates got him for cheap though at only one year and $4.5m, and even if he blows out his shoulder this weekend the Pirates have already gotten their money's worth on the deal.

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