Series Preview: Chicago Cubs (9-15) vs San Diego Padres (9-15)

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It was nice to see the Cubs beating up on another team for once this year. They get to face another team that may be worse than they are in the Padres. The Padres have had a weird season so far. They opened the year with a series loss of the Mets, and have been swept by the Giants and the Rockies (twice!). However, they are currently coming off a sweep of the world champions, and managed to sweep the Dodgers in LA a week ago. Aside from the sweep of the Dodgers, they've only won a single game on the road.

Team Overviews

2013 NL Ranks in parentheses

  Padres Cubs
wRC+ 96 (8th) 83 (14th)
BSR 0.4 (6th) -1.5 (9th)
UZR -7.9 (14th) -2.8 (10th)
DRS -12 (14th) -5 (12th)
SP FIP- 136 (15th) 99 (6th)
RP FIP- 118 (14th) 104 (10th)

It's strange to see a Padres team with a decent offense and lousy pitching. Their rotation is a long way from the days of Jake Peavy and Mat Latos. Sadly, the Cubs are missing the chance to be inexplicably shut out for eight innings by Jason Marquis this series.

Injuries

Kyuji Fujikawa is supposed to throw a bullpen session today, before heading out on a short rehab assignment. 

Cameron Maybin's wrist is in terrible shape. He has a bone bruise, cartilage problems, and possible ligament damage. There's no timetable on his return. The Padres have a bunch of pitchers in various stages of recovery from TJS, but none of the names jump out at me.

Storylines and stuff to watch

Chase Headley is the main asset that the Padres have to dangle, and he'll probably be traded by the end of the year. It looks like he was a super-two player, so he has one additional year beyond this one. Headley has been underappreciated due to playing half his games in Petco. He's 21st in the NL over the past three seasons in BB%, third among 3b behind David Wright and Chipper Jones. However, last year's .498 SLG was the first time he's been above .400 in that stat for a whole season. For his career, he has hit .301/.371/.464 on the road, which disproportionately includes a lot of other NL west pitchers' parks, so he could be the real deal on a different team. He's also a plus defender at 3b. For all the talk of the Cubs being best positioned to land David Price, Headley seems like a much better guy to go after and lock up. 

Expect an article or two from the Cubs media about the Cashner for Rizzo trade during this series. Cashner was bullpenned by the Padres for much of last year until another set of injuries hit him, and he started this year in the bullpen again before moving back to the rotation two weeks ago. If they can keep Cashner on the field, it could look like a pretty good trade for both teams. Cashner gets bonus points for his high BAR (Beard Above Replacement).

Pitching matchups

2013 ERA, FIP-, xFIP, and ZiPS projected FIP listed for each pitcher.

Monday: Clayton Richard, LHP (7.94, 200, 5.49, 4.47) vs Jeff Samardzija, RHP (3.03, 74, 2.72, 3.35), 7:05 PM CT

It's fair to say that things haven't started out so well for Clayton Richard. He has a 9:11 K:BB ratio, given up four HRs, and has only pitched 17 innings combined in four starts. His ERA far outpaced his peripherals last year, and he was striking out a miniscule 4.4 batters per nine. As you might guess from that strikeout total, he's a sinkerballer.

Shark has 'lost' his past four starts, pitching a total of 23.2 innings with 30 strikeouts. Clearly he doesn't have TWTW. I would be surprised if he doesn't reach double digits in strikeouts in this game.

Tuesday: Edinson Volquez, RHP (6.39, 115, 4.40, 4.08) vs Edwin Jackson, RHP (4.76, 84, 3.74, 3.58), 7:05 PM CT

I was about to write that Edinson Volquez has fallen a long way, but after looking at his numbers I realized that his star never rose much to begin with. He had a good year with the Reds in 2008, posting 3.9 WAR, but he's struggled in every other season, whether from injuries or disappointment at continuing to lose the ROY vote or who knows what. Volquez gets strikeouts, but he also walks a lot of batters, which leads to short outings (also, runs). He averaged just over 5 IP per start last year. 

Jackson struggled again in his last start against the Marlins. He's been uncharacteristically walking a lot of batters this season, and I haven't seen any suggestion as to what might be up. He had a grip problem a few starts ago, but in general he's been kind of off. All of his pitches are down a MPH or two.

Wednesday: Andrew Cashner, RHP (3.26, 103, 3.41, 3.71) vs Scott Feldman, RHP (3.92, 148, 5.19, 4.04), 7:05 PM CT

Feldman had his first decent start of the year, pitching into the seventh and only giving up two runs. He still only struck out two batters, but it was better than some of the keystone kops stuff going on in his other starts. This was the first one where he did not have a throwing error. On the season, Feldman has given up 16 runs, 9 of them earned. He's got his work cut out for him if he wants to stay in the rotation.

I discussed Cashner a bit above. He started the season in the pen but moved into the rotation two weeks ago. He's been a walking injury ever since he hit the bigs with the Cubs. IIRC he did not have surgery after his 2011 injury, and the Padres took it easy with him in 2012 by having him pitch in relief. He was sent to the minors to stretch out half way through the year, and promptly suffered a lat strain. His MPH was way down when he returned, and he was shut down two starts later with a strained tendon "behind his armpit". I guess that's a shoulder? To make matters worse, he badly cut his hand in a hunting accident in the offseason. Suffice to say, the Cubs may have been right and starting pitching is not in his future.

Thursday: Eric Stults, LHP (5.67, 112, 3.93, 4.30) vs Travis Wood, LHP (2.25, 100, 4.27, 4.29), 1:20 PM CT

Stults shut down the Mets in his first start, but hasn't fared so well in his other starts. To his advantage, he's only walked four batters this year – it looks like he's mostly just getting burned by sequencing. He throws mostly fastballs which set up his changeup, which is his out pitch.

Wood continued his streak of solid starts by limiting the Marlins to two runs in six innings, striking out five and walking one. He's still due for some regression (.195 BABIP), but in general he's been a bright spot in the rotation. Since coming to the Cubs, he's relied on his cutter much more than in the past, which seems to be a trend around here even with Dempster gone.

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