Series Preview: Chicago Cubs (19-38) at Minnesota Twins (22-34)

The Cubs will face one of their main rivals for the #1 pick in the draft. Since 424's been on vacation I'll post a mini reverse standings to see how things are currently shaking out

Team L-W GB
San Diego 39-19
Chi Cubs 38-19 0.5
Minnesota 34-22 4
Seattle 33-26 6.5
Oakland 32-26 7

Things have separated a bit between the contenders (SD, Chi) and the rest, with the Twins square in the middle.

Team overviews

Respective league ranks in parens

  Cubs Twins
wOBA .298 (14th) .307 (12th)
UBR 3.4 (3rd) 0.4 (5th)
UZR 3.8 (7th) 7.9 (5th)
DRS +6 (4th) -1 (11th)
SP FIP 4.06 (11th) 5.28 (14th)
RP FIP 4.53 (16th) 3.75 (8th)

The Twins starters have a whopping 6.06 ERA. Yowza. They've had terrible luck with HRs, but it's mostly a underwhelming pitch to contact staff.

Position players

The biggest contributer by far has been Josh Willingham, who has posted a .286/.408/.573 line in 223 PAs, good for a ,421 wOBA and 19 wRAA. Joe Mauer is also having a pretty good year, which surprised me. Most of what I remember about Mauer these days are injuries and complaints that he's not hitting as well as he should. The big problem is his power (he's slugging .419) and the fact that to avoid further injury he's been spending time at 1B and DH, which cuts into his value. Justin Morneau is struggling in the return from his concussion injury. The power is still there (.500 SLG) but his OBP is sitting right around .300. I can't seem to figure out how to find team batting spots by position, but they've had plenty of negative offensive production from pretty much their infield with the likes of Jamey Carroll, Brian Dozier, Danny Valencia, Alexi Casilla, and quasi-backup 1B Chris Parmalee all struggling. Joe Mauer, of all people, has had the most value on the basepaths this year.

Defensively, CF Denard Span and RF Ben Revere are tops on the team, while LF Josh Willingham mitigates his powerful bat with shambolic defense in LF. Mauer is a pretty good defensive catcher when he can actually play there. Unlike infields of Twins past, Casilla, Valencia, and Dozier are not so good defensively.

Notable injuries

Mauer sprained his thumb a few days ago and did not play in the last series. He's doubtful to play tonight and is scheduled to be "re-evaluated" today. SP Carl Pavano was injured (surprise!) last week and is out indefinitely. SP Scott Baker had TJS in april and is donezo for the year.

For the Cubs, Welington Castillo begins his rehab assignment today in AA. Soto is still out recovering from knee surgery. The timetable had him starting his rehab this weekend, but he's not ready yet. Soriano will get rest for his bad knee by DH-ing this series, and he says he's looking forward to returning to the field once it's over.

Pitching Matchups

As usual, ERA, FIP, xFIP, ZiPS FIP in parens.

Friday: Travis Wood, LHP (4.56, 6.19, 4.10, 4.27) vs P.J. Walters, RHP (3.69, 5.17, 4.11, 4.75), 7:10 PM CT

Travis Wood has had a bit of a HR problem in his small sample of starts this year (30% HR/FB). He did manage to keep the ball in the yard against the anemic Giants offense in his last start, striking out seven and allowing one run in seven innings, which of course earned him the loss. 2012 Cubs baseball!

Walters was a break-in-case-of-emergency starter for the Cardinals for several years, and made his way over to Toronto in the Colby Rasmus trade. He pitched a single inning for the blue Jays, then signed a minor league deal with the Twins this offseason. His ERA this year is mostly thanks to a crazy strand rate. He spends a lot of his time working out of trouble.

Saturday: Jeff Samardzija, RHP (3.13, 3.04, 3.25, 3.95) vs Scott Diamond, LHP (1.86, 3.57, 3.03, 4.37), 1:10 PM CT

I had to stop for a second and figure out if the Twins had retreaded the Diamond that was a former Cub (and even more former Rangers top prospect), but that was Thomas Diamond. This Diamond was a rule 5 pick from the Braves that the Twins made a trade to keep around. He's very much a pitch to contact guy with a projected strikeout rate of 4.76 K/9. He's made six starts this year and only walked four batters, so his control must be pretty good. I wouldn't look for that number to go up this series.

Shark looked rocky in his last start, walking five batters and striking out six in five innings against the Giants. Luckily it was the Giants offense so the twelve baserunners in five innings only amounted to two runs. He had a solid stretch of seven starts where he never walked more than two batters, so hopefully this was just an aberration. He hasn't given up more than three runs in a start since April 19.

Sunday: Ryan Dempster, RHP (2.59, 3.34, 3.54, 3.95) vs Francisco Liriano, LHP (6.46, 4.63, 4.27, 4.08), 1:10 PM CT

Dempster finally got his first win, three months into the season after a 10-0 blowout of the Brewers. It was a nice bounceback following his shellacking by the Padres offense (and the wind at Wrigley). We'll see how much longer he's pitching in a Cubs uniform.

Liriano lost the plate last year (5.02 BB/9) and that trend has continued this season (5.67 BB/9). It's a bummer for the Twins, who could have really used him as a trade piece. He was demoted to the bullpen back in May and continued walking people all over the place, but in the two starts since he returned to the rotation he managed to keep the walks down. It probably helped that he was playing the Royals and A's, however.


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