Series Preview: Chicago Cubs (5-12) at Cincinnati Reds (11-8)

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The Reds are still the team to beat in the NL Central. They had a rough first road trip, losing two of three in St. Louis and getting swept in Pittsburgh, but bounced back with a sweep of the Phillies and winning three of four against the Marlins. The Cubs, meanwhile, already seem to be falling apart in April. It only seems like a matter of time before Sveum gets gif-ed up in a straitjacket like Cuey. The Cubs offense is lousy (second worst in the NL), but what drives me crazier has been the defenseCastro's made a few errors, but I don't really care that much on that front. That's what happens when you have the most fielding chances on the team. The pitching staff has been chipping in to replace Matt Garza's defense by throwing the ball all over the diamond. I think Scott Feldman has had a throwing error in every game he's pitched, and let's not forget Shawn Camp balking in a game-tying run, or the Cubs tying a record for five wild pitches in a single inning. This is little league shit. It's still April so I'm fine to chalking it up to (partly) shitty luck. The team is bad, but I don't think it's *this* bad. 

Team Overviews

I'm switching from the 2012 numbers to 2013. Small sample sizes apply, of course. NL ranking in parens.

  Cubs Reds
wRC+ 83 (14th) 110 (3rd)
BSR -0.3 (6th) 1.2 (4th)
UZR -10.1 (15th) 0.3 (8th)
DRS -15 (15th) 11 (3rd)
SP FIP- 91 (4th) 88 (2nd)
RP FIP- 100 (8th) 111 (14th)

I'm kind of surprised to see that the Reds pen has fared so poorly, when it was arguably the best unit of their team last season. However, Sean Marshall and Sam LeCure have been hurt, so that's probably a big reason why their numbers are down. I expect that ranking to get much much better as we get more samples.

Injuries

Reds SS Zack Cozart bruised his fingers on a bunt attempt over the weekend, but none of them were broken. Him being back in the lineup is probably a good thing for the Cubs, considering Dusty's proclivities in batting the career .285 OBP player in the second spot. Catcher Ryan Hanigan hit the DL with a strained oblique suffered while stretching to catch an errant Aroldis Chapman pitch. Sean Marshall is on the DL with shoulder inflammation and is elgible to come back tomorrow. However, it looks like it will be a while longer until he gets back. He's thrown a bullpen session or two but still needs a rehab assignment. The Reds are also missing ace Johnny Cueto, who hit the DL a week or so ago with a lat strain. OF Ryan Ludwick has a torn labrum and is out until after the ASB.

Matt Garza is still working his way back from a lat strain, and this is more or less his spring training now. He was supposed to pitch for Kane County the other day, but the game was rained out. He threw a simulated game on Friday in Milwaukee and threw a bullpen yesterday. He'll probably be shipped off to AA soon to throw some longer outings. Fujikawa is elgible to come back in a week, but he'll probably get some minor league time in. The Cubs will see how well his elbow has recovered from the rest, and cross their fingers that his forearm injury isn't a TJS indicator. Ian Stewart is rehabbing in AAA and has looked awful. He's making Brett Jackson's strikeout rate seem fantastic with his numbers so far. The Cubs aren't in any rush to get him back to the bigs.

Random News and Storylines

Buster Olney hears buzz around the industry that the Cubs would be leading suitors to get David Price from the Rays at some point (and would presumably extend him, because WTF otherwise). I'm not so sure I see that happening, though Price's age would make him rather appealing. The cost would probably be too high though. I don't think that Thoyer particularly care if they drop in the farm system rankings by trading for a guy like Price if it improves the org as a whole. The Cubs should have some money to spend, and the way things are going it's not like they're likely to get a guy like Price on the FA market anymore.

Joey Votto has been doing Joey Votto things this year. Three weeks into the season, he already has more than 2/3 the walks (25) that Starlin Castro stat-gathered in all of 2012 (36). He's also homered three times, stolen a base, and plays excellent D at first. He should be an easy pick for NL MVP.

I'm glad that the Cubs aren't facing Bronson Arroyo this season. He stinks, but always seems to shut down the Cubs anyway. 

Pitching Matchups

Huge sample size issues apply, but I will list the pitchers' 2013 ERA, FIP-, xFIP, and ZiPS projected FIP.

Monday: Travis Wood, LHP (1.83, 74, 4.56, 4.27) vs Mike Leake, RHP (4.26, 110, 4.32, 4.46), 6:10 PM CT

Wood's had a solid couple of starts, and has managed to pretty much pitched his way into guaranteeing himself a rotation spot when Garza returns. However, the lack of HR allowed has been a big factor in his great start. He's striking out even less than his usual mediocre numbers, and has thrown a lot fewer strikes. Regresionnnnnnnn…Regression.

Leake continues to be his consistendly average self. He posted FIPs of 4.22 and 4.42 in the last two seasons, and sits at 4.3 for 2013. He was knocked around and had a 1:1 K:BB ratio in his first two starts, but managed to shut down the Phillies for seven innings in his last start, fanning seven and walking no one. Leake throws a ton of different pitches, but his primary pitch is his two-seam fastball and his slider is his out pitch. 

Tuesday: Carlos Villanueva, RHP (1.29, 106, 3.38, 4.05) vs Tony Cingrani, LHP (1.80, 108, 2.47, 4.40), 6:10 PM CT

The 'Stache has had an incredible run to start the year. His strikeout rate is right in line with where it has been as a starter, but his walk rate is what has really shined so far. Villanueva currently has a 15:4 strikeout to walk ratio. Obviously, his walk rate should shoot back up to the threes going forward, but it's still nice to see him get off to a great start. He look like he might be this year's Paul Maholm.

We don't know much about Cingrani. He posted huge strikeout rates in the minors, but it's kind of puzzling to me. His only plus pitch is his fastball, and he only throws in the low 90s. Per pfx, in his ten career innings in the bigs he's thrown 186 fastballs to 36 non-fastballs. I expect Soriano to have a huge game. 

Wednesday: Jeff Samardzija, RHP (3.38, 68, 2.71, 3.41) vs Mat Latos, RHP (2.73, 71, 2.66, 3.47), 11:35 PM CT

This is obviously the big matchup of the series. Shark gave up a three-run homer to Braun in his last outing – not much shame in getting beat by one of the top five hitters in the league. Aside from that rough second inning (which included, sigh, another fielding error), he was fairly sharp.

Latos got off to a lousy start last year after the Reds picked him up in a trade with the Padres, btu righted the ship in the second half of the year to finish with a 3.48 ERA (3.85 FIP). He's had no such problem this year, striking out over a quarter of batters he's faced and walking only four. He's given up a home run or three, but allowed few enough baserunners not to have it be a problem. He has a 94 mph fastball, and a devastating slider that has a whiff rate of over 50% in his career. So unlike the previous day, probably not a great day for Soriano at the plate.

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About berselius

How appropriate. You fight like a cow.

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