Series Preview: Chicago Cubs (2-5) at St. Louis Cardinals (5-2) and Mini-Daily Facepalm

Yesterday's game

Before the game I said all they had to do was beat the Brewers best pitcher, and they did. I was stuck in a tedious meeting for most of the game but I surreptitiously checked the score towards the end and was glad to see the Cubs up 8-0. Then I checked the box score and saw that all eight runs were scored on singles and barely managed to contain a laugh. Such is the 2012 Cubs offense.

Matt Garza was clearly the player of the game, taking a page from Jeff Samardzija and throwing a incomplete complete game thanks to a throwing error on the 27th out. This time it was his own fault, instead of Starlin Castro's. Garza threw 119 pitches but was never really laboring during the game. He was a little off in the first inning, but Ryan Dempster saw something and he made a small change. It must have worked, as he struck out nine, walked two, and only allowed three hits over 8 2/3 innings.

WPA winners and losers

Oddly enough, given the way the Cubs scored their runs yesterday (a ton of singles, mostly in one inning) the two biggest WPA leaders were Garza (.170) and Barney (.100). Greinke (-.319) was obviously the lowest WPA on the game, and Bryan LaHair (-0.18) was the lowest rated position player for the Cubs. He was the only starter without an RBI.

Horror of horrors

The Cardinals are celbrating their World Series victory at their home opener today. Skip the pregame and you'll be fine. I don't get all the hand-wringing over this from some Cubs fans. They won, but it's not like WGN is going to show hours of pregame ring ceremonies. And it's not like many Cubs fans are going to be excitedly attending a Cardinals home opener, especially right after they won something.

Team matchups

The Cardinals lead MLB with 12 home runs on the season, and are second in scoring with 37 runs. Here's how the teams stack up (2011 numbers, NL rank in parens)

  Cubs Cards
wOBA .313 (8th) .332 (1st)
baserunning -12.0 (16th) 4.0 (5th)
UZR -9.5 (8th) -29.8 (15th)
DRS -36 (13th) -12 (11th)
SP FIP 4.25 (12th) 3.69 (5th)
RP FIP 3.85 (10th) 3.87 (13th)

So much for defense wins championships

Lineups

Cubs wOBA wOBA Cards
RF David DeJesus .330 .319 SS Rafael Fucal
2B Darwin Barney .295 .360 RF Carlos Beltran
SS Starlin Castro .336 .370 LF Matt Holliday
LF Alfonso Soriano .322 .317 1B Matt Carpenter
3B Ian Stewart .314 .322 C Yadier Molina
1B Bryan LaHair .339 .320

3B David Freese

C Geovany Soto .334 .308 2B Daniel Descalso
CF Marlon Byrd .323 .324 CF Jon Jay

The Cardinals lineup will probably be shuffled around due to Berkman's injury. He was out of Wednesday's game but another player or two had the day off too.

Injuries of note

Mercurial Outfielder favorite Lance Berkman is out with a small muscle tear in his calf. The Cardinals are also badly missing the oft-injured Chris Carpenter (nerve problems in shoulder), as well as "second baseman" Skip Schumaker (torn oblique), outfielder/postseason hero Allen Craig (knee surgery), and human pitching machine Scott Linebrink (shoulder). The Cardinals also have another large hole in their lineup, but I can't seem to remember what's missing there…

The Cubs have been pretty much healthy so far aside from occasional back problems for LaHair and DeWitt. Their back must be buckling under the extra strain of two capital letters in their last name.

Pitching matchups

As usual, ZiPS projected ERA and FIP are listed

Friday: Jeff Samardzija, RHP (4.12, 4.57) vs Adam Wainwright, RHP (3.12, 3.10), 2:15 PM CT

Samardzija shut us right up in his first start, throwing an incomplete complete game and completely dominating Nats hitters. The pfx data agrees that he's a new pitcher, as linked in Wednesday's facepalm. The biggest surprise for me, after the lack of walks, was that he was throwing just about as hard as a starter as he was as a reliever last year. And that he was throwing 97 mph sinkers for strikes. Jeebus.

It's Adam Wainwright's turn to be the staff ace with Carpenter out. He missed all of last year with an elbow injury, and I was quite surprised to see Lohse get the opening day start over him. He's still got a little ways to go yet – his fastball averaged 89 against the Brewers, which sounds bad until you consider that his average before his TJ surgery was just about 91. He's said that he still needs to build up arm strength, so he could get tired fairly quickly. He's a guy who always used to work very deep into games before the surgery and it's going to be a while before he gets there again.

Saturday: Chris Volstad, RHP (4.82, 4.63) vs Lance Lynn, RHP (4.06, 3.83), 12:05 PM CT

Volstad was pretty meh in his first start as a Cub. He racked up six strikeouts in his five innings of work, but gave up a homer and a few doubles and walked two. He's a ground ball guy but gave up a lot of fly balls in his first start. He was having a tough time locating his pitches and left a lot of balls up. If he keeps leaving balls up he's going to give up a lot of home runs. In a similar observation, if Starlin Castro leaves his glove in the dugout he's going to commit a lot of errors.

Lynn is the fill-in while Carpenter is out. The Cards are hoping Carpenter can come back in May but I'm not holding my breath. Lynn was a former first round pick of the Cardinals whose ceiling looks to be a back of the rotation innings easter type, which has value but nothing to get excited about. He has a fastball in the low 90s and his secondary pitchers aren't that great. He had a strong start agaisnt the Brewers, striking out eight and allowing only a walk and a solo HR in 6 2/3 innings.

Sunday: Paul Maholm, LHP (4.20, 3.98) vs Jake Westbrook, RHP (4.52, 4.26), 1:15 PM CT

The less that is said about Maholm's last start, the better. He had a tough time locating his pitches. Hopefully he figures it out on Sunday.

I thought Westbrook would be a great pickup for the Cards last year but he got off to an awful start. Batters were hitting him hard (25% LD% on the year) and his walk rate shot up, never a great combination. He still got tons of grounders on the non-line drives but he wasn't the stopper the Cardinals were expecting him to be.

Prediction

Since this is the way things have been going, Cubs lose the first two games with a ccd-special near-rally in the 9th in each game, then eke out a win to avoid the sweep in the finale.

berselius

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