The Cubs aren't the only NL Central team that's scuffling early on. The Reds were a somewhat populat favorite to win the central this year with Pujols gone and Carpenter hurt in St. Louis. However, their offense hasn't seemed to wake up yet. Aside from Joey Votto (obviously) and Zack Cosart (who?) their regulars have all posted sub .300 wOBA numbers. New SP acquisition Mat Latos has struggled, and new closer Ryan Madson was knocked out for the year with elbow problems before the season even started. They beat Miami in their opening series but then dropped three straight series to the Cardinals and Nationals, avoiding the sweep in the last day of each of them.
This year's stats, and NL Rank
|wOBA||.265 (15th)||.275 (13th)|
|BSR||0.7 (6th)||0.8 (5th)|
|UZR||0.5 (8th)||3.9 (3rd)|
|DRS||-1 (6th)||-2 (7th)|
|SP FIP||4.42 (14th)||3.70 (5th)|
|RP FIP||3.52 (6th)||4.96 (16th….by a mile)|
Updated ZiPS projections
|SS Zack Cozart||.312||.329||RF David DeJesus|
|CF Drew Stubbs||.313||.293||2B Darwin Barney|
|1B Joey Votto||.397||.338||SS Starlin Castro|
|2B Brandon Phillips||.328||.313||LF Alfonso Soriano|
|RF Jay Bruce||.341||.311||3B Ian Stewart|
|LF Ryan Ludwick||.327||.344||1B Bryan LaHair|
|3B Scott Rolen||.320||.329||C Geovany Soto|
|C Ryan Hanigan||.306||.308||CF Marlon Byrd|
Aside from Ryan Madson being done for the year, the Reds bullpen is also missing Nick Masset. He's out with shoulder inflammation and was supposed to start throwing again last week, but it hasn't gone away just yet. They're also missing Dusty's current iteration of Jose Macias, Miguel Cairo, to a hamstring injury.
ERA, FIP, xFIP, and ZiPS FIP listed
Typically when I see a big split between a pitcher's numbers and their projections this early in the season, I figure it's mostly just bad luck, but Bailey hasn't had much bad luck on balls in play, he just hasn't been able to find the plate. He's walked seven batters in just under twelve innings in his two starts. He has had some bad HR luck which makes those walks hurt even more. Obviously it's just two starts, but the main thing that turned him into a decent pitcher over the last two years was the big drop in his walk rate over the past two seasons.
I was surprised to see Volstad's FIP sitting so low. If you look at all of his stats other than his ERA it looks like he's had a solid start to the year. He hasn't managed to get many groundballs relative to his past performance, but he's been striking more batters out and not giving many free passes. Teams just seem to be bunching up on him, scoring-wise.
Maholm has looked awful in his first starts, failing to get ground balls and giving up HRs. His strikout rate is down, but that's not really what he does anyway. He needs to get that sinker working right quick.
Leake has also struggled with HRs to start the year, and he's also struggled to strike anyone out (he has a lower K rate than Maholm!). Neither of these guys are big strikeout pitchers but it's a bigger drop in Leake's case. His sinker seems to be working just fine though – he got fourteen ground balls in six innings in his last start. This could be an especially ugly matchup of two struggling pitch to contact pitchers.
I always think Cueto is a very different pitcher than he is. I remember him as a big strikeout guy when he came up, but his strikeout rates have been in the pedestrian 6-7 K/9 range over the past few seasons. He's been a flyball pitcher for most of his career, but last year his GB% shot up by ten points. His three starts so far this year are a lot closer to his pre-2011 batted ball numbers so it's probably just a relatively large fluke.
Dempster has been great in three starts so far this year but has nothing to show for it, thanks to the Cubs anemic offense. Dempster has had some batted ball luck but the rest of his numbers are solid. He struck out eight in six innings in his last start.
The Reds are scuffling and the Cubs are just what the doctor ordered. I think the Cubs win the last game to just avoid the sweep. It's a good thing Bronson Arroyo isn't starting this series, it would make this year that much mroe frustrating to see him throw 8 innings of shutout junkballing against the Cubs.