Series Preview: Cincinnati Reds (16-15) at Chicago Cubs (14-16)

The Cubs went 4-3 on their trip out west, and a winning record on any such trip is a nice feat no matter the quality of the teams played. Today they start a 2 plus week stretch of games against good to great teams, capped off by an inevitable steamrolling in Fenway. They start this stretch with the Reds, my most irrationally hated team in baseball.

Team Overview

Team statistics and NL ranks

wOBA: .334 (2)
UZR: 9.6 (3)
DRS: -6 (7)
SP FIP: 4.36 (13)
SP xFIP: 3.67 (7)
RP FIP: 3.92 (12)
RP xFIP: 3.80 (7)

A FIP-xFIP split like this is not surprising given their home ballpark. I’m surprised by their pitching numbers, seeing as Cueto and Bailey were injured and Volquez has been ineffective.

Batters

Player wOBA ZiPS wOBA
CF Drew Stubbs .364 .328
RF Jay Bruce .323 .357
1B Joey Votto .465 .414
2B Brandon Phillips .406 .339
LF Jonny Gomes .347 .342
3B Miguel Cairo .276 .299
C Ramon Hernandez .364 .327
SS Paul Janish .278 .295

The Reds are sorely missing Scott Rolen, who is on the DL with shoulder soreness and has no timetable for return. They are also sorely missing a time machine to bring back Edgar Renteria from his days with the Cardinals.

Pitchers

Player ERA FIP ZiPS FIP
RHP Edinson Volquez 5.67 5.82 4.11
LHP Travis Wood 6.21 3.21 3.54
RHP Bronson Arroyo 4.17 4.44 4.33
RHP Johnny Cueto - - 3.99
RHP Homer Bailey 1.50 1.28 4.21
RHP Francisco Cordero 1.38 3.48 3.78
RHP Nick Masset 6.06 5.45 3.80

Bailey made his first start of the year yesterday, and Cueto is making his season debut in this series. Both of them were shut down in spring training with shoulder problems. Bailey had a good return, striking out 7 and giving up one run in 6 innings.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: Edinson Volquez, RHP (5.67, 5.82, 4.12, 4.11) vs Matt Garza, RHP (3.96, 1.16, 1.95, 3.65), 1:20 PM CT

This Garza guy has been pretty good for the Cubs. His BABIP luck is evening out and his ERA is starting to reflect it. He’s been worth 2 fWAR in only 6 starts. Those numbers speak for themselves.

It’s hard to believe that this is Volquez’s seventh season in the majors. He had his breakout season in 2008, which was his first year with the Reds after being traded for Josh Hamilton and his only season of 30+ starts. He followed it up with a lackluster 2009 that ended prematurely with Tommy John surgery and returned for twelve starts in the back half of the 2010 season with inevitable post TJS command issues. His biggest issue going forward is his career 4.82 BB/9 and there’s no sign of it improving in 2011. He’s had a hard time finding the plate, and to top it off batters who do get wood on the ball have been hitting it over the fence. His strikeout and ground ball rates are still right in line with what you’d expect, but giving up that many walks in GABP is just not a recipe for success. He turns 28 this year, and time could be running out on him to be the elite pitcher that the Reds are looking for. At least if he bounces back he’ll have a shot at the Rookie of The Year award (thank you, BBRAA for the gift that keeps on giving)

Saturday: Bronson Arroyo, RHP (4.17, 4.46, 3.73, 4.34) vs Casey Coleman, RHP (7.36, 6.23, 6.02, 4.87), 1:10 PM CT

Coleman had another poor start against the Snakes in his last start, walking 5 in five innings and lucky that he only gave up one HR on the 11 fly balls he induced. It was better than his pervious start, where the Dodgers hit seven line drives in less than three innings. Coleman hasn’t been the same pitcher we would have expected from his minor league numbers. His submediocre strikeout numbers still persist, but his walk and groundball rates have deviated far from what one would have expected, and taken him from the fringy starter he was projected as to the batting tee that he’s pitched like. Maybe he’ll turn it around, but his peripherals this season don’t point that way. We just have to hope his minor league numbers win out. Or better yet, Cashner gets here sooner. If Coleman disappoints again on Saturday, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ramon Ortiz is called up to replace Coleman sometime before Cashner’s return.

Arroyo is a pitcher I love to hate and always underestimate. He’s the poster child for the Innings Eater class of starting pitchers who are kind of meh but stay healthy and crank out 2 WAR seasons. It also always seems like every time he plays the Cubs he goes deep into the game while setting career best strikeout numbers. It’s impressive that he’s brought so much production to the Reds despite the fact that he’s a fly ball pitcher in GABP. He’s putting up his usual impressively average numbers again this year.

Sunday: Johnny Cueto, RHP (-,-,-,3.99) vs Ryan Dempster, RHP (8.05, 5.74, 3.90, 3.83), 1:20 PM CT

Cueto is penciled into this slot, but I’ve seen suggestions that he could make another rehab start which would mean that Mike Leake would probably get this start intead. Cueto was shut down in spring training with inflammation in his shoulder. However, when the Reds officially put him on the DL to start the season it was apparently listed as a triceps injury, which could lead to his season being sponsored by the letters T, J, and S.

Dempster replaced his imposter in his last start, finally throwing together the classic Dempster performance we’ve been waiting for all season. Demp struck out five, walked two, and got 11 ground balls to only two fly balls. He gave up 6 line drives so there’s still a little reason for concern but it looked like he was back. 

Prediction

Cubs take two out of three. They’re getting the Reds at the right time in this series – Volquez is still scuffling, and Cueto is still coming back from his injury (let’s just pretend that Dempster guy isn’t scuffling himself…) I’d vote for a sweep because I hate Bronson Arroyo and want to seem him lose, but I don’t have a lot of faith in Coleman right now.


berselius

About berselius

How appropriate. You fight like a cow.

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