Series preview: Chicago Cubs (17-21) at Cincinnati Reds (23-17)

It hasn’t been too long since we saw the Reds, but in that span of time they’ve gone from a mediocre record to the top of the NL Central division. A big part of it is that they’re healthy again – Bailey, Cueto, and Scott Rolen are all back on the roster now. They’ve won eight of their last ten games. Luckily for the Cubs only play two games in this mini-series. Is there anything dumber than a two-game series? The Cubs fly to Cincy for two days, then fly to Miami, then up to Boston for the big, much-anticipated series in Fenway. Maybe I’m just bitter for all the extra work in writing three of these previews this week.

Team Overview

Here are the Reds team stats (and NL rank) I’ll also give the Cubs stats and ranks for comparison

wOBA: Reds: .343 (2nd), Cubs: .326 (3rd)
UZR: Reds: 8.7 (3rd), Cubs: -6.7 (11)
DRS: Reds: -9 (9th), Cubs: -22 (14th)
SP FIP: Reds: 4.09 (11th), Cubs: 4.06 (10th)
SP xFIP: Reds: 3.68 (7th), Cubs: 3.73 (9th)
RP FIP: Reds: 4.00 (14th), Cubs: 3.57 (6th)
Reds: 3.99 (13th), Cubs: 4.00 (14th) 

It’s still kind of jarring to see the Cubs team hitting numbers look so good when they so often suck at plating runs. That wOBA isn’t AVG driven either – the Cubs also have the third best OBP in the NL. Fuck the heck?


Player wOBA ZiPS wOBA
CF Drew Stubbs .388 .335
SS Paul Janish .256 .286
1B Joey Votto .444 .411
2B Brandon Phillips .379 .339
RF Jay Bruce .335 .356
3B Scott Rolen .332 .345
LF Jonny Gomes .325 .339
C Ramon Hernandez .437 .339

One reason why I was so down on the Reds going into this season was their offense. Joey Votto is a legit great hitter (and deserved the MVP) but a lot of their other regulars (Rolen, Edmonds, Hanigan, Stubbs) beat their projections, and I was expecting to see the regression stick knock down their numbers. So far they’re still getting great performances from some of their guys but when they revert to the merely above-average offense that they should be, will it be enough to win the division?


RHP Edinson Volquez 5.56 4.03
RHP Bronson Arroyo 4.36 4.31
RHP Johnny Cueto 3.23 3.80
RHP Homer Bailey 1.32 3.86
LHP Travis Wood 3.42 3.53
RHP Francisco Cordero 4.08 3.88
RHP Sam LeCure 4.18 4.50


Monday: Carlos Zambrano, RHP (4.35, 3.60, 4.11, 3.61) vs Homer Bailey, RHP (0.69, 1.32, 2.49, 3.86), 6:10 PM CT

I’m lazy so I’ll more or less copy what I wrote about Z in the rained out game. Z had another vaguely worrisome start against the Cardinals. He only struck out three batters, gave up eight line drives, and is still not getting enough ground balls. Lucky for him Carpenter also had a mediocre start, but he probably wouldn’t have been as lucky against Timmay.

Bailey was injured in spring trianing, and has only recently returned. He started two games and looked very well in each of them…but take his numbers with a larger than usual grain of salt as both starts were against the offensively pathetic Houston Astros. He allowed only one run in those 13 innings. His best pitch is his fastball so maybe Soriano could have a good game.

Tuesday: Matt Garza, RHP (4.17, 1.61, 2.15, 3.63) vs Edinson Volquez, RHP (5.74, 5.56, 4.32, 4.03), 6:10 PM CT

Garza had a poor performance in his last start against the Reds, giving up his only HR on the season to Jay Bruce. Oddly enough he kept the ball very much on the ground in that game, and his GB% overall this year is much higher than the rest of his career, which is even more unusual considering the spike in his strikeout rates. He bounced back from his poor outing against the Reds with a short though excellent performace in the Cubs 11-4 blowout of the Cardinals.

Volquez has been a mess all year, and his BB/9 numbers have gotten even worse from the last time the Cubs faced him. Oddly enough given all the walks he’s been issuing I’m surprised that he isn’t giving up even more runs. He’s walked 17 batters over the 21.2 innings of his last four starts but never gave up more than three ERs in those games. Hopefully the swing-happy types in the Cubs lineup read the memo, though my guess is that Ari Kaplan is frantically faxing Quade stat sheets saying that batters have historically hit .450 against Volquez in May when the weather is between 47 and 53 degrees in the Ohio river valley.


Cubs lose the first game, and win the second. I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least one more rainout in these two games.


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We're gonna make it.