Series Preview: Chicago Cubs (19-23) at Boston Red Sox (23-20)

This could be interesting. Or very ugly. If you’re looking to be patronized, be sure to check out today’s column by Gordon Edes.

Team Overview

Team stats with respective league rankings

wOBA: Sox: .331 (7th), .328 (3rd)
UZR: Sox: 5.1 (5th), Cubs: -6.7 (11th)
DRS:
Sox: -16 (12th), Cubs: -28 (15th)
SP FIP:
Sox: 4.25 (12th), Cubs: 4.03 (10th)
RP FIP:
Sox: 3.75 (2nd), Cubs: 3.63 (7th) 

The Red Sox numbers were a lot worse in general than I was expecting. Maybe a lot of it was due to their bad start.

Batters

Player wOBA ZiPS wOBA
CF Jacoby Ellsbury .358 .342
2B Dustin Pedroia .311 .363
1B Adrian Gonzalez .400 .412
3B Kevin Youkilis .395 .390
DH David Ortiz .388 .379
RF J.D. Drew .339 .362
SS Jed Lowrie .357 .340
LF Carl Crawford .241 .357
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia .260 .297

The Red Sox are missing starting SS Marco Scutaro, who strained an oblique a few weeks ago. Aside from that most of their injuries are in the rotation. I’m also smugly smiling at Crawford’s struggles this season, though I don’t expect them to continue. If he turns out to be injured, sucks to be Boston.

I don’t know who the Cubs will end up putting in at DH. I guess it will be Soriano, and we’ll get Reed in LF for the first game at least against a LHP. I thought sending Colvin down was the right move, but it should have been done weeks ago. This is a time where they can actually use him.

Pitchers

Player FIP ZiPS FIP
LHP Jon Lester 4.37 3.07
RHP Josh Beckett 2.71 3.20
RHP Clay Buchholz 4.53 3.80
RHP Tim Wakefield 5.21 4.52
RHP Alfredo Aceves 5.32 4.44
RHP Jonathan Papelbon 1.02 2.48
RHP Daniel Bard 3.72 3.35

There’s a chance we’ll see our old friend Rich Hill out of the Sox pen. He still has my favorite curveball ever, but who knows if he can throw it across the plate. The Sox are missing Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lackey to injuries, but both of those guys were at the back of the rotation anyway so replacing them with Wakefield and Aceves isn’t necessarily a huge jump.

Pitching Matchups

As always, I list ERA, FIP, xFIP, and ZiPS projected FIP

Friday: Doug Davis, LHP (1.80, 1.10, 2.01, 4.19) vs Jon Lester, LHP (3.28, 4.37, 3.31, 3.07), 6:10 PM CT, WGN

Lester has had bad luck with balls leaving the yard this year, but that was been more than balanced out by the number of baserunners he’s managed to strand. He’s given up 9 HR in 9 starts, but given his 3.28 ERA I’m guessing a lot of them were solo shots. He has a whopping 86.8 LOB%, so the runners that do get on aren’t finding the plate. Aside from his lousy HR luck, his peripherals are right on track with what you would expect from him. Hopefully the Cubs righty-heavy lineup will be able to take advantage. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Baker get a start at 1b, but given how relatively hot Pena is hitting I don’t know if Quade will sit him.

Davis had a credible start againt the Giants, striking out six in five innings and only walking one. He was probably helped by the cold dreary conditions and luckily for him it’s also likely going to be cool and drizzly for his game tonight. Combining the Human Rain Delay aspects of Davis’s starts and any Red Sox game means this game probably won’t be over until after 10.

Saturday: Carlos Zambrano, RHP (4.89, 3.55, 4.14, 3.50) vs Alfredo Aceves, RHP (2.60, 5.32, 4.72, 4.44), 6:10 PM CT, FOX

This will be Aceves’s first start for the Red Sox. He pitched for the Yankees for the last three years, and was non-tendered after breaking his collarbone in an offseason bicycle accident. His ZiPS projection is as a swingman, so you can bump that up a bit for his ‘starting’ FIP. According to fangraphs he throws a fastball, a cutter, a curve, and a changeup, but that seems like a lot of pitches for a guy that’s primarily been a reliever. Maybe HP can clear things up if he does a F/X for this series.

Z was rolling along somewhat decently for the first 5 innings but was BABIPed out of the game in the 6th. His BABIP overall hasn’t been that bad (.285) but runners that do get on base have been scoring (62.9 LOB%). I’m still concerned by the enormous drop in his GB rate this season. He’s had luck with HRs but that’s not going to last.

I’m curious to see if this game or NYY-NYM will be the ‘national’ game on FOX this week. I’m certainly hoping for the former. But it’s a moot point for me because I’ll be stuck with Rangers-Phillies. Stupid blackouts.

Sunday: Matt Garza, RHP (3.72, 1.82, 2.43, 3.59) vs Tim Wakefield, KBP (5.40, 5.21, 4.80, 4.52), 7:05 PM CT, ESPN

Garza had an atypical outing against the Reds, walking four while striking out only three in 6 innings. He’s had similar bad luck as Z, with a 62.2 LOB% but at least he can point to a .362 BABIP as a culprit. Depending on how this start turns out, we’ll either say that Garza dominated the Red Sox because he’s familiar with the batters or that the Red Sox dominated Garza because they’ve seen him so often.

Wakefield will probably go on pitching forever for the Red Sox. He started his career in 1992 with the Pirates and is now with the Red Sox for his 17th season. His overall numbers are lousy but you can always count on volatility with Wakefield. If his knuckleball is working that day, he’ll have a good start. If not, he’ll be hit hard. He’s made two starts this year, and apparently it was working against the Mariners (1 R) and it very much was not against the Twins (8 R). Given the Cubs lineup, the amount of swinging that could happen in this game could power the wind farms off Cape Cod.

Prediction

From the pitching matchups you’d think the Cubs could almost be favored in this series…but the Red Sox offense is much better than the Cubs. Sox take two out of three and a decent chance of a sweep.


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