Series Preview: Chicago Cubs (66-93) at St. Louis Cardinals (94-65)

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As long and tedious as this disappointing season has been, I'm still kind of surprised that it's now ending. Given that I haven't written a post in over a month (other than a quick aside about Marvin Miller's legacy on Labor Day), it's safe to say that I haven't been paying much attention to watching the Cubs circle the drain. I do however plan to watch most of this series, because it's going to be another 6 months until we have something approximating Cubs baseball back on the airwaves. At least the Pirates have finally gotten over the Curse Of Barry Bonds and made the playoffs this year, and they're by far the easiest team to root for in this year's playoffs (sorry, Rays fan). I'll bring these previews back for the assorted playoff series as they come, and then I'm back to facing even fewer things to try to write something about. This is a year, everyone.

The chances are low, but it would sure be nice to see the Cubs (and in parallel the Pirates) sweep the Cardinals out of the division lead. 

Team Rankings

NL Rank listed in parentheses, team leaders chosen from those with a qualifying amount of PAs, IP, etc.

  Cubs Team Leader Cardinals Team Leader
wRC+ 88 (14th) Rizzo (100) 105 (1st) Carpenter (149)
BSR -7.1 (11th) Barney (2.6) -1.6 (8th) Carpenter (4.5)
UZR 39.1 (2nd) Barney (11.4) -49.1 (14th) Kozma (6.1)
DRS 24 (7th) Castillo (18) -37 (14th) Molina (12)
SP FIP- 103 (10th) Jackson (94) 95 (2nd) Wainwright (70)
RP FIP- 108 (14th) Parker (69) 90 (4th) Rosenthal (53)

The Cubs starting pitching was the strength of the team early on in the season, but not surprisingly after trading 40% of the staff their numbers dropped down the leaderboard. The Cubs pen finished as the third worst in the majors, progress from last year's worst-by-a-mile bullpen.

The Cardinals got huge production out of Matt Carpenter this year, and he led the team in fWAR at 7.1. Given how much success the Cardinals have had with sticking random players at second base, maybe the Cubs should consider signing/trading for a big name bat and move Anthony Rizzo to 2b (dying laughing). It just might work. You never know.

Pitching Matchups

Stats listed: ERA, FIP-, xFIP

Friday: Travis Wood, LHP (2.98, 99, 4.46) vs Lance Lynn, RHP (4.09, 92, 3.70), 7:15 PM CT

I wonder if the Cubs planned it out that their three major league quality pitchers (sorry, Rusin and Arrieta) would close out the year. Wood has been one of the few pleasant surprises of this squad, putting together a huge run of quality starts in the first half of the year and generally just not allowing runs. A big part of it is that his HR/FB rate was nearly cut in half this year, while the rest of his peripherals stayed roughly the same. As of right now, one peripheral that is exactly the same as last year's is his BABIP which sits at .244. He's posted a BABIP below .260 in three of his four seasons in the bigs, so I'm starting to cut him more slack in assuming that's just his thing. It looked like the Cubs had the edge in the Sean Marshall deal at the time of the trade, and after this season it's looking even better for the Cubs.

Lynn must have forgot how to win or something this year – after putting up 18 wins in his rookie season as a starter, he 'only' gathered 14 of the arbitrarily defined statistic this year. There's no real difference in any of his peripherals, teams have just been scoring on him a bit more this year. Lynn has a big fastball and throws it about 75% of the time, to great effect. This could be a pretty quick game.

Saturday: Edwin Jackson, RHP (4.74, 94, 3.80) vs Joe Kelly, RHP (2.81, 113, 4.23), 6:15 PM CT

We're thirty starts in and I'm still scratching my head over Edwin Jackson's 2013 season. His peripherals have been great all year, but he's generally looked like shit out there. His peripherals look almost identical (maybe even slightly better) than his 2011 season with Washington and St. Louis, when he posted a 3.79 ERA and started (poorly) in four playoff games. He never seemed to recover the dip in velocity that started last season with the Nats. I guess he's got three more years to figure it out.

I wouldn't be surprised if Scrubby Mc Scrubberson started this game and/or the next for the Cardinals, since odds are that they will clinch the division tonight. But if it is Kelly, the Cubs might be putting their position in the race to the top (of the 2014 draft) in jeapordy. Kelly is a heavily groundball-oriented pitcher that doesn't strike many batters out, and has had a lot of luck with stranding and BABIP. I'm guessing Kelly wouldn't be a part of the playoff rotation, at least not for the first round, so he might make this start anyway if the Cards clinch.

Sunday: Jeff Samardzija, RHP (4.33, 98, 3.47) vs Someone, 1:15 PM CT

Adam Wainwright is penciled in as the Cards scheduled starter for this game, but I would be shocked if he actually makes the start since that the only way this is a meaningful game is if the Cubs to win the first two games of this series as well as the Pirates winning their next two games. 

Shark didn't do as much as he might have hoped to make his case for an extension. After a strong start to the season his control slipped in a big way in the middle of the summer before eventually righting the ship over the last few weeks. He'll likely finish the season with over 210 innings, something acheived by only three other Cubs pitchers in the past decade (Dempster, Z, Maddux). Not bad company to be in, and something he can bring to the negotiating table.

 

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About aisle424

I used to write lots of things about the Cubs. Now I sometimes write things about the Cubs.

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