Series Preview: Cincinnati Reds (5-8) at Chicago Cubs (3-10)

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.

Team Overviews

This year's stats, and NL Rank

  Reds Cubs
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)

Lineups

Updated ZiPS projections

Reds wOBA wOBA Cubs
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

Injuries

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.

Probable pitchers

ERA, FIP, xFIP, and ZiPS FIP listed

Friday: Homer Bailey, RHP (5.40, 6.74, 4.94, 4.12) vs Chris Volstad, RHP (4.91, 2.88, 3.46, 4.44), 1:20 PM CT

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.

Saturday: Mike Leake, RHP (5.84, 5.48, 4.27, 4.41) vs Paul Maholm, LHP (13.50, 9.47, 7.01, 4.12), 12:05 PM CT

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.

Sunday: Johnny Cueto, RHP (1.89, 4.02, 4.33, 3.82) vs Ryan Dempster, RHP (1.33, 2.53, 2.97, 3.93), 1:20 PM CT

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.

Prediction

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.

berselius

About berselius

How appropriate. You fight like a cow.

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