Series Preview: Houston Astros (19-34) vs Iowa Cubs (23-28)

Stoppable force meets movable object in this series between the Cubs and Astros. Both teams are throwing two starters in this series who probably don’t belong in a MLB rotation, but their pathetic offenses should struggle to score runs anyway. If any of you are in the Chicago area and don’t have tickets to the game, let “Aneury Rodriguez! Rodrigo Lopez! COME SEE THE CUBS AND ASTROS BATTLE FOR FIFTH PLACE!” convince you.

Team Overview

Here are the team-wide stats, with NL rank in parens

Astros Cubs
wOBA .307(10th) .325 (4th)
UBR -3.6 (15th) -7.3 (16th)
UZR -19.5 (16th) -12.1 (14th)
DRS -27 (14th) -37 (16th)
SP FIP 4.40 (15th) 4.05 (11th)
RP FIP 3.99 (15th) 3.87 (12th)

The Cubs are well separated as the worst baserunning team in the majors. I’m a little surprised that the Astros are so low in that category – the rest of the team must be Cubs-level bad to make up for Michael Bourn.


Player wOBA ZiPS wOBA
CF Michael Bourn .327 .321
SS Clint Barmes .302 .296
RF Hunter Pence .363 .347
LF Cub Killer Carlos Lee .287 .327
1B Brett Wallace .366 .330
3B Chris Johnson .262 .310
2B Bill Hall .271 .303
C J. R. Towles .283 .306

The Astros are missing C Humberto Quintero and more importantly top prospect C Jason Castro to injuries.  


RHP Brett Myers 5.29 4.01
LHP J.A. Happ 4.67 4.34
RHP Bud Norris 3.64 3.74
RHP Aneury Rodriguez 4.98 4.81
RHP Jordan Lyles - -
RHP Mark Melancon 2.67 3.64

W-Rod is out with a fluid buildup in his elbow. Too bad for the Astros, he always seems to own the Cubs. The Astros hittable closer, Brandon Lyon, is out with a rotator cuff tear and could be back in the next few weeks.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: Aneury Rodriguez. RHP (4.98, 4.98, 4.56, 4.81) vs Rodrigo Lopez, RHP (-,-) 1:20 PM CT, WGN

Is there another Aneury Rodriguez out there? I could have sworn this guy pitched for Arizona. I can’t find another guy with the same first name in B-Ref or fangraphs. It’s one you don’t forget. Am I going crazy here? Rodriguez has started five games for Houston, and to his credit has managed to go at least five innings in all of them. He’s given up a ton of fly balls (only 25% grounders) so not surprisingly he’s given up a lot of HRs. It looks like he throws a simple fastball-slider-change combo.

Lopez had two good years with the Orioles in 2002 and 2004 and has bounced around as a fringy break-glass-in-case-of-emergency pitcher since he left the Charm City. He’s been pitching in the Braves org this sesaon and has actually put up decent numbers against AAA players. There’s no projection available but I think he’ll probably be as “good” as the rest of the guys the Cubs have been trotting out in the 5th starter spot.

Tuesday: Jordan Lyles, RHP (-) vs Carlos Zambrano, RHP (4.59, 3.70, 4.24, 3.62), 7:05 PM CT, CSC

Lyles is the top prospect in the bare cupboard that is the Astros farm system. He’s only 20 years old and made it to AAA last year at the age of 19. He has a fastball-curveball-change pitch mix and has decent control. Judging from his minor league HR rates I’m guessing he’s a groundball pitcher, though those rates tend to be higher in the minors. For some reason fangraphs has him pitching in the Rangers system this year.

MB and I have been harping on the dual issues of Z’s big decline in strikeouts and his big decline in groundballs. I’m not sure which is worse for a pitcher like Z. Worm killing has always been a big part of his game, and surprisingly he posted consistently low BABIPs during the peak of his career despite it. Z has done well at keeping all those extra fly balls in the yard, relatively speaking, but has been a victim of the big inning.

Wednesday: Brett Myers, RHP (5.11, 5.29, 4.21, 4.01) vs Doug Davis, LHP (6.75, 3.59, 5.04, 4.12), 1:20 PM CT, WGN

Myers and Wandy were supposed to be the key players for this year’s squad but Wandy was hurt and Myers has put up lousy numbers. A big part of those numbers is simple bad luck on HRs, though he has also seen performance drops on his K rate and BB rate. Much like Rodriguez he’s giving up a lot more fly balls this year.

In his last start, Davis walked six Pirates in 4 2/3 innings, giving up 4 runs (2 earned). That’s about what you can expect from him at this point.


Cubs take two out of three, but given what a mess this team is right now I could see even the Astros threatening to sweep them.


About berselius

How appropriate. You fight like a cow.