Series Preview: Houston Astros (38-78) at Chicago Cubs (44-69)

The Cubs are 7.5 games out of the top pick in the 2013 draft, and can pick up some ground on the loss-leading Astros in this series. The Cubs have done their part, going 2-11 over the past two weeks but barely made a dent in the Astros lead after they went 3-10 over the same span.

Team Overviews

This should be ugly. NL rankings in parens

  Astros Cubs
wRC+ 86 (14th) 76 (16th)
BSR -6.2 (15th) 1.7 (6th)
UZR -10.9 (12th) 20.2 (2nd)
DRS -50 (15th) +9 (5th)
SP FIP- 116 (14th) 103 (11th)
RP FIP- 108 (14th) 111 (15th)

The Cubs might stink, but this is a rare opportunity for us to watch the Cubs play a team that they are actually superior to. The 2012 Astros are well deserving of their position at the top of the loss column.

Position Players

The Astros have Jed Lowrie and Jose Altuve…but that's about it. Former top catching prospect Jason Castro has not made much of his chance in the upper minors and majors, posting a .259 wOBA in 200+ PAs in 2010 and blowing out his ACL in spring training before the 2011 season. He struggled this year as well, posting a .308 wOBA in 195 PAs before hitting the DL with more problems in the same knee. Brett Wallace has finally started mashing now that Carlos Lee is gone, and the Astros have to be hoping that this power surge is the real deal after he posted .319 and .369 SLG in his first two years (~500 PAs) with the team. He slugged around .500 in his last few stints in AAA.

Injuries

Jed Lowrie is also out with a sprained ankle (plus nerve damage) but hopes to return before the season is over. The Astros are also missing speedster CF Jordan Schafer (separated shoulder) and Proven Closer Francisco Cordero (foot injury). Jason Castro should be back from his knee injury this series, if not tonight.

Garza is out, and the latest I see is that he won't even be allowed to pick up a baseball until the end of the month. We'll see you in March, Matt. Ian Stewart was moved to the 60-day DL in a roster move to add more cannon fodder to the bullpen today.

Probable Pitchers

Monday: Armando Galarraga, RHP (4.70, 6.94, 6.42, 5.73) vs Jeff Samardzija, RHP (4.21, 3.56, 3.60, 4.15), 7:05 PM CT

Galarraga has made three starts this year and he's been walking guys all over the place. He walked six in five innings in his first start, and followed that up with a seven walk performance in his next outing. He managed to find the platet against the less formidable Pirates offense, walking just one and allowing two runs in five innings. Even if he's on his game against the Cubs similarly awful offense, expect to see a lot of the Stros bullpen today.

Samardzija had a strong outing against the Padres, going seven innings, giving up one run while striking out six and walking one. Of course that was good enough to give him the loss. He just needs to want it more. Aside from a few major hiccups his Decepticon act is still in full swing. He's passed his inning total from 2011 by about 45 innings at this point, so we'll see if the Cubs are careful with him. I haven't heard anything to say that they'll shut him down, they'll probably just let him pitch but give him a little extra rest the rest of the way.

Tuesday: Lucas Harrell, RHP (3.97, 3.82, 3.97, 4.51) vs Chris Volstad, RHP (6.94, 4.57, 4.62, 4.78), 7:05 PM CT

Harrell is having a quietly great season with the Astros. He was drafted by the White Sox in 2004 and had middling numbers that likely disguised a big GB%, and the Astros picked him up in a waiver claim last year. He's been killing worms with his sinker, but having a little trouble with walks. Luckily plenty of those baserunners have found themselves in double plays. He could be a good back of the rotation guy for this team for some time.

Speaking of back of the rotation sinkerballers, Volstad had a Volstad-y start against the Reds in his last time out. Since his return he's had slightly more success, not giving up as many hits and more importantly not melting down every time a runner touched first base. He's given up a few HRs but has turned in two nominally Quality Starts in his return.

Wednesday: Bud Norris, RHP (4.93, 4.12, 4.01, 3.95) vs Justin Germano, RHP (3.28, 3.17, 4.32, 4.32), 1:20 PM CT

Norris has taken a small step back from his solid 2010 and 2011 seasons, and while his ERA is not so good all of his peripherals look like he's still the same guy. Must just be a sequencing thing. He's an extreme flyball pitcher so it could be a fun day if the wind is blowing out on a hot August afternoon at Wrigley.

Germano was knocked around by the Reds to the tune of six runs in 5+ innings last week. The only question in his starts is whether he'll give up more runs than the number of jokes that Brenly will make about putting away the radar gun.

 

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