Series Preview: Chicago Cubs (4-5) at Houston Astros (2-7)

The Cubs roller coaster ride to .500 continues with a trip to Houston to play the Astros. They were swept by the Phillies to start the season, and picked up getaway day wins against the Reds and Marlins for their two wins this season.

Team Overview

NL Ranks

wOBA: .285 (14th)
SP FIP: 4.25 (13th)
SP xFIP: 4.81 (15th)
RP FIP: 3.50 (10th)
RP xFIP: 4.23 (13th)
DRS: -12 (14th)


Player ZiPS wOBA
CF Michael Bourn .314
SS Angel Sanchez .283
RF Hunter Pence .338
LF Carlos Lee .333
1B Brett Wallace .321

3B Chris Johnson

2B Bill Hall .310
Humberto Quintero .268

This offense is not very good. There could be 12 total runs scored in this series by both teams.


Player ZiPS FIP
RHP Brett Myers 3.94
LHP Wandy Rodriguez 3.50
LHP J.A. Happ 4.44
RHP Bud Norris 3.99
RHP Nelson Figueroa 4.17
RHP Brandon Lyon 3.76
RHP Wilton Lopez 3.56

The Astros are going to lose a lot of 2-1 ballgames.


Bourn and Hall are both nursing minor injuries and could see a day off. Nominal starting SS and venison lover Clint Barmes broke his hand in spring training, and has only just been cleared to play catch. Even more damaging to the Astros hopes of a winning record is top catching prospect Jason Castro going under the knife for knee surgery in the offseason. He’s expected to miss all of 2011. Luckily they still have J.R. Towles on the roster. He’ll hit 20 HRs done deal sealed.

Cashner and Wells are (obviously) injured, but to add insult to injury top prospect Trey McNutt was pulled from his first start of the season at AA yesterday. Luckily it was only a blister problem, so that should clear up soon.

Pitching Probables

Current ERA, FIP, xFIP, and ZiPS projected FIP are in the parentheses

Monday: Ryan Dempster, RHP (6.59, 3.91, 3.52, 3.73) vs Nelson Figueroa, RHP (10.13, 2.85, 4.89, 4.17), 7:05 PM CT

Demp threw strikes in his last start, and the DBacks obliged by putting a lot of balls in play. They didn’t hit any HRs but collected three doubles and a triple. At least he didn’t walk anyone.

Figueroa has been bouncing around the league since 2000, playing for 6 different teams in 10 years plus a stint in the Mexican leagues in 2007. He’s a fly-ball pitcher who has done a decent job over his career with his 88 mph fastball so it must have a lot of movement on it.

Tuesday: James Russell, LHP (0, 0.04, 0.04) vs Brett Myers, RHP (2.03, 4.76, 5.60, 3.94), 7:05 PM CT

Russell is a typical fastball-slider lefty, with an eminetly hittable fastball. He posted a 5.20 ERA last year as a reliever so as we all know there’s not a lot to like here.

Myers posted good numbers with the Phillies early in his career and then suffered a Cashner-esque bullpen test that his numbers never really recovered from. However, he had a great year after signing with the Astros last year posting career best Wins, Innings Pitched, and ERA and his second best seasonal strikeout total. He’s thrown quality starts in each of his outings so far this year but the putrid offense and bullpen haven’t given him a lot of support.

Wednesday: Carlos Zambrano, RHP (5.25, 5.20, 4.85, 3.74) vs Wandy Rodriguez, LHP (6.55, 2.58, 4.23, 3.50), 7:05 PM CT

Z’s had his usual adventures with the base on balls this season, but in the two games so far the biggest problem has been the lack of ground balls. Z’s GB rate has been declining for the past few years, but it has dropped 12 percentage points so far relative to last year. He needs to get his sinker sinking.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, W-Rod is one of those pitchers that always drives me nuts. I remember his first two seasons with the Astros, when he posted 5+ ERAs and my impression of him was sealed. To his credit since then he’s managed to dramatically improve in the years since. Every time he beats the Cubs it still feels like they’ve been beaten by that replacement level callup from 2005. 


Houston’s got the home-field advantage and the pitching advantage in games two and three. The Astros will win both of those games.


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