Series Preview: Chicago Cubs (28-39) at St. Louis Cardinals (44-25)

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I had to stop and ask myself if the Cubs had even played the Cardinals yet this year. Two and a half months into the season, the Cubs and Cardinals have only played a two game series back in May that they split. This is probably a good thing for the Cubs win-loss record (or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it). The Cardinals are good. And kinda lucky. But to paraphrase Dwight Schrute quoting Billy Zane in Titanic, they make their own luck. It's utterly obscene what their farm system has churned out, and I can't think of many free agents that they've busted on either. 

Team Overviews

  Cubs Cards
wRC+ 88 (12th) 108 (1st)
BSR 0.6 (8th) -7.2 (15th)
UZR 6.3 (6th) -7.9 (13th)
DRS -6 (11th) -29 (15th)
SP FIP- 92 (4th) 77 (1st)
RP FIP- 108 (12th) 97 (6th)

The Cardinals may have an awful defense and be bad at baserunning, but that doesn't matter much when you have the best offense in the league and a starting staff that averages out to essentially having five Clayton Kershaws by FIP-. I would have guessed that the biggest hold defensively was converted 2b Matt Carpenter, but it's actually been CF Jon Jay, 3B David Freese, and RF Carlos Beltran that have been the biggest drags on the defense per UZR and DRS. Allen Craig has by far been the worst on the basepaths, accounting for a negative half win with his baserunning mistakes.

Injury Updates

David DeJesus was diagnosed with a sprained right shoulder following his collision with the wall in Saturday's game. That's not nearly as bad as it looked, I was sure he had separated it. No ETA on his return yet. Steve Clevenger should be finished with his rehab soon in Iowa, and will probably return soon to bring the bullpen down from eight pitchers to seven.

The Cardinals are missing Jaime Garcia, who is down for the season following labrum surgery. SS Rafael Furcal is also done for the year following Tommy John surgery back in March. Sometime closer Jason Motte also had Tommy John surgery this spring. The Good Chris Carpenter is working his way back from nerve problems in his shoulder. He's thrown about 20-25 pitches to live batters, but it's still a while until he returns. Maybe July, but I'm not holding my breath there either. 

News, Notes, Blood oaths, etc.

Luis Valbuena batted leadoff yesterday, and it sounds like he and Ryan Sweeney are going to be the main leadoff guys vs RHP while DeJesus is down. I like this news – aside from DeJesus they're the only other guys on the team who can take a walk worth a damn. 

Buried in the Marmol Meltdown yesterday was a great bounceback start from Matt Garza. He was roughed up in his last outing, but good to see him get a chance to rebuild that trade value.

The Cubs signed 4th round pick Tyler Skulina with a bonus well over slot. They signed him for $800k, with a slot value of $323k. Nice pickup by the Cubs. 14th round pick Daniel Poncedeleon, who memorably tweeted a picture of himself with a signed contract, is apparently now going to college instead. I guess that wasn't the 'real' contract. Maybe it was printed on a cracker or something.

Probable Pitchers

Monday: Travis Wood, LHP (2.65, 91, 4.46, 4.23) vs Shelby Miller, RHP (2.21, 67, 3.01, 3.48), 6:05 PM CT

Miller has struck out 10.07 batters per nine innings (28.7%) and walked 1.88 batters per nine (5.4%). I don't know what else to say. Wow. He gave up more than three runs for the first time this season in his last start, against the Mets. 

The Travis Wood BABIP train keeps on rolling. He's currently sitting at .214. How long will it last? He's throwing a lot more sliders this year, which could be part of the answer. His popout rate is significantly greater this year.

Tuesday: Jeff Samardzija, RHP (3.46, 3.07, 78, 3.39) vs Adam Wainwright, RHP (2.18, 48, 2.55, 2.75), 7:15 PM CT

This is clearly the marquee matchup of the series, and should be can't miss. Well, unless you have tickets to a game at Pac Bell instead :D. 

F7 is coming off two rought outings in a row, allowing four runs to the Bucs and five runs to the Reds in his last two starts. It might just be chalked up to BABIP – the opposing team just got a lot more hits off him in those starts, though he did walk a few batters. 

Wainwright has been absolutely unreal this year. He only has nine BBs on the entire season, to 97 strikeouts, and has only allowed two home runs. I guess it's safe to say he's fully recovered from his 2011 TJS. 

Wednesday: Edwin Jackson, RHP (5.40, 84, 3.64, 3.61) vs Jake Westbrook, RHP (2.05, 97, 4.46, 4.09), 7:15 PM CT

Westbrook is a worm-killing machine. This is the second start back from a DL stint, so he probably won't go too deep into this game. He allowed five runs (3 earned) in his first start back, against the Marlins. So there's still probably some rust to shake off there.

Jackson had his second solid start in a row, striking out seven in six innings and allowing only one run against the Mets. Jackson's veolocity was up to normal for his second start in a row (and third in his last four starts), so it looks like he is indeed finall coming around. 

Thursday: Scott Feldman, RHP (3.05, 95, 3.85, 3.84) vs Lance Lynn, RHP (3.56, 80, 3.75, 3.59), 7:15 PM CT

It sounded like Feldman didn't have his best stuff in his last start (at least, from what I gathered from Pat and Keith), but he still got good results anyway. He only allowed two hits, walked one, and struck out six in seven innings against the hapless Mets offense. I've been calling him Paul Maholm 2.0 this year, but in fact he's pitched even better than Maholm to this point of the season. Maholm had an ERA of 4.88 (owing to his awful first two starts) and a K:BB of 49:22. He actually never put together his really good run until July (just the right time!). The Cubs got a top 100 prospect for Maholm, maybe we should be dreaming as big for Feldman too.

Lynn gets the Jack Morris Award For Knowing How To Win, having a 27-8 record since becoming a full time starter. Of course, his numbers are much better than Morris's were, and he's playing in front of a great offense. Lynn throws mostly fastballs, with the occasional curve or sinker mixed in. He only throws 93-94, yet his fastball is overwhelmingly his out pitch so I'm guessing he gets a lot of movement.

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How appropriate. You fight like a cow.

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