Series Preview: Chicago Cubs (43-65) at Pittsburgh Pirates (54-52)

The Untouchables (h/t @thecubreporter) head to Pittsburgh to lose in beautiful PNC Park. Pittsburgh improved itself at the deadline by adding former foes Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick to the squad. The Pirates picked up Lee for an unranked by BA A-ball first baseman, and Ludwick was acquired for a PBTNL.

The Cubs largely failed to improve their farm system, moving Fukudome for a relief pitcher and yet another toolsy impatient raw position player. I’m annoyed with the Cubs for declaring certain players untouchable (mainly Marshall and Marmol), but for all the complaining about the Cubs lack of movement at the deadline, most of the guys that the interwebs were begging the Cubs to move have next to no value. Yes, if Hendry shopped guys like Byrd, Pena, Baker, Johnson, or even Ramirez he probably would have found someone. But what would be the point? None up those guys have much more value than Lee or Ludwick, and the Pirates basically gave up nothing for them. Even if the Cubs sent money along with those guys they couldn’t expect much more than a C prospect or two at best. Dempster’s traditional numbers this year would make him impossible to trade for good value even if he was willing to waive his NTC, which seemed the most unlikely of any of the Cubs vets. No one seemed particularly interested in salary relief either.

I would feel a lot better if Hendry was more visibly trying to move these guys to see if someone would overpay, but in the end I think we got the same result.

Team Overviews

As usual, team stats and NL ranks are listed.

Cubs Pirates
wOBA .312 (9th) .297 (14th)
UBR -11.6 (16th) -4.6 (14th)
UZR -17.7 (13th) 8.7 (3rd)
SP FIP 4.10 (11th) 4.18 (13th)
RP FIP 4.06 (15th) 3.70 (6th)

The Pirates have had a great year and I’m glad to see excited fans at their awesome park. But those numbers do not look like the numbers of a winning ballclub. Looking at their record and stats, it makes me relieved that the Cubs record reflects how terrible the team actually is. As much as we’re gnashing our teeth now, I could imagine that we’d be gnashing them even more if this team was somehow hanging on to a .500 record and convincing themselves that they have a good squad.

Taking a closer look at the Pirates numbers, Andrew McCutchen (.388) is the only regular with a significant wOBA. Their second best regular is catcher Chris Snyder, who is on the DL following back surgery. In the rotation, they’ve received solid pitching from most of their starters, and Jeff Karstens has a monster ERA-FIP split of nearly two runs.

Pitching Probables

Monday: Carlos Zambrano, RHP (4.59, 4.09, 4.24, 3.87) vs Paul Maholm, LHP (3.16, 3.78, 3.95, 3.89), 6:05 PM CT

Checking back in with Z: his strikeout rate still sucks, his walk rate looks surprisingly decent, and his ground ball rate is slowly climbing up to what it was in the past two seasons (though still not nearly as good as his prime).

Maholm is having another quietly decent year. He’s never been a guy to blow batters away (career 5.59 K/9) but he gets teh ground balls. Like Z, his rates have been slipping alarmingly in the past 2-3 seasons.

Tuesday: Randy Wells, RHP (6.16, 5.27, 4.37, 4.22) vs Kevin Correia, RHP (4.24, 4.28, 4.19, 4.25), 6:05 PM CT

The Pirates signed Correia to a 2/8 deal in the offseason to be their nominal ace. He was a decent reliever/swing man early in his career with the Giants, then put up unsurprisingly better numbers as a starter in Petco Caverns in 09-10. He’s seen a big drop in his strikeout rate since joining the Pirates.

Wednesday: Matt Garza, RHP (3.99, 3.09, 3.12, 3.83) vs Charlie Morton, RHP (4.04, 3.86, 3.97, 4.16), 6:05 PM CT

Morton is a groundball machine that saw some tough luck in his first few stints in the majors. He struggled to find the plate in his first season in the bigs with Atlanta, but since being moved to the Pirates his control has greatly improved. He put up a 7+ ERA in 2010, largely a product of a .353 BABIP and a 18.1% HR/FB rate (his xFIP was 4.11). His numbers this season are much more in line with what was expected of him, and to top it off he’s posted a GB rate of nearly 60%.

Garza was knocked around in his last start, but 4+ months into the season I still can’t believe his GB rate (laughing). He managed to induce 12 groundballs against the Cardinals offense.

Thursday: Rodrigo Lopez, RHP (4.40, 4.83, 4.52, 5.00) vs James McDonald, RHP (4.17, 4.49, 4.25, 4.08), 6:05 PM CT

The less said about Lopez, the better.

McDonald came to the Pirates from the Dodgers in the Octavio Dotel trade. He was largely used as a reliever with the big league club, but the Pirates moved him into their rotation as soon as they acquired him. He’s a flyball pitcher that often has time finding the plate.

Prediction

Cubs lose three out of four


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