Series Preview: Cincinnati Reds (69-71) at Chicago Cubs (60-80)

Team overview

As always, these are team stats with NL ranks in parentheses.

Reds Cubs
wOBA .323 (4th) .316 (8th)
UBR 14.2 (1st) -11.4 (16th)
UZR 39.8 (2nd) -9.1 (10th)
SP FIP 4.49 (16th) 4.26 (12th)
RP FIP 3.99 (15th) 3.93 (13th)

As usual, I feel smug about my pessimism towards the Reds pitching staff turning out to be true. I had no idea that they would be this awful though. As Cubs fans well know, depth in starting pitching can disappear incredibly quickly.

Since the Reds and the Cubs are the best and worst teams in the NL in baserunning*, let’s go back to check who the biggest offenders/assets are on the teams. Drew Stubbs, Brandon Phillips, and Jay Bruce lead the way for the Reds, with plodders Ramon Hernandez and Joey Votto the only players with significant negative numbers. For the Cubs, Darwin Barney has been the only one worth a damn on the bases, while the departed Kosuke Fukudome and, unsurprisingly, Aramis Ramirez and the decaying remains of Alfonso Soriano‘s legs have been the worst offenders on an overall terrible baserunning team.

bonus fact, the Boston Red Sox, with noted baserunning whizes Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury in the lineup, are the only other team with negative double digits in UBR.

I was surprised to see the Cubs UZR numbers inching up since the last time I wrote one of these. Marlon Byrd leads the team in UZR with 5.2, but the biggest surprise is Soriano, who is somehow posting a 3.6 UZR on the year. DRS has him at -3 as opposed to the -15 or so I was expecting. Ah, defensive metrics.

Pitching matchups

Monday: Dontrelle Willis, LHP (4.10, 4.13, 3.87, 5.13) vs Matt Garza, RHP (3.64, 3.01, 3.14, 3.69), 1:20 PM CT

The projections still think he’s pitching with a giant fork in his back, but kudos to Willis for putting together a solid season. He’s still walking a lot of batters (4.10 BB/9) but at least his pitches are now closer to home plate instead of the on-deck circle. He and Cueto have been the few bright spots in the Reds pitching staff this year.

Garza started the season with an insane strikeout rate, then saw his numbers wind down a bit surrounding his DL stint. I’m glad to see that he is still maintaining a K-rate of more than a batter per inning. He’s a different (for the better) pitcher than he was with Tampa, and all credit to the Cubs for grabbing him. They could still regret the trade, but it’s pretty much going to come down to Hak-Ju Lee who I’m still not all that high on, whatever Keith Law thinks.

Tuesday: Mike Leake, RHP (4.12, 4.31, 3.66, 4.24) vs Rodrigo Lopez, LOL (4.94, 5.47, 4.51, 5.40), 7:05 PM CT

Leake has had some problems with home runs (not surprising given his home park), but has otherwise had a fine season. There’s been no sophomore slump for Leake – he’s increased his strikeouts and slashed his walk rate by over a batter per nine.

Wednesday: Johnny Cueto, RHP (2.29, 3.51, 3.89, 3.52) vs Ryan Dempster, RHP (4.75, 3.76, 3.46, 3.83), 7:05 PM CT

I thought Cueto’s numbers would have regressed since the last time the Cubs faced him, but he’s still carrying a .245 BABIP despite a 53.6% GB rate. Unfortunately for the Reds, Edinson Volquez has been as awful as Cueto has been good.

There’s little doubt that Dempster will pick up his player option next year, given his family situation and his media role as Ginger the Clown. He’s continued to post solid numbers after his disastrous April, and if we’re reading the tea leaves wrong and the Cubs go all in yet again in 2012 he’ll be a solid contributer.

Prediction

Cubs win today, lose the next two. It’s too bad for the Reds that their most effective starters are lined up against such a sorry offense.


berselius

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