Series Preview: Iowa Cubs of Chicago (46-70) at Cincinnati Reds (71-47)

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Contest reminder: Don't forget to enter our contest to win The Essential Games of the Chicago Cubs DVD set. It runs through Sunday, August 19.

The Cubs faced the Reds less than a week ago (here's the preview). Not much has changed (Cubs still suck, Reds still in first place, Joey Votto still hurt) so I'll just stick to looking at the pitching matchups for the series.

There is a bit of breaking analysis on Aroldis Chapman that I saw while I was trying to figure out who would start the second game of the double header. You might not believe this, but Aroldis Chapman is awesome against mediocre hitters and not as awesome against really good hitters. Who would have guessed? Top NL hitters are 2-5 against him (with 2 walks) and top AL hitters are 2-3 with one walk, so you know his struggles against good hitters are legit. The Reds better trade him while he has some value, before other front offices figure this out. He has bust written all over him.

Probable Pitchers

Friday: Travis Wood, LHP (4.52, 5.34, 4.69, 4.33) vs Bronson Arroyo, RHP (3.95, 4.17, 4.24, 4.83), 6:10 PM CT

Travis Wood's problems with HRs don't particularly bode well for an outing in the launching pad of GAB. It was his home park for two seasons, and in 2010 it superficially looks as if he didn't really have a problem there, as his home HR/9 was 0.81 and his road number was 0.79 (small sample sizes apply obviously). That looks great until you notice that he pitched 80.1 innings on the road and only 22.1 at home. That could be an accident of schedule, but I'm guessing the Reds knew he wasn't a great fit for the park. In 2011 he pitched 55.1 innings away from GAB with a HR/9 rate of 0.33, and had a much more expected HR/9 rate of 1.42 in his 50.2 innings at GAB. Luckily for Wood it's relatively cool and not particularly humid tonight.

Arroyo throws tons of garbage and a lot of it for strikes. It's baffling how his strikeouts have increased when there's been little change in how batters are approaching him compared to last year's hilariously disastrous season. He's getting slightly more batters to chase at pitches outside the zone, and a slight increase in called strikes, but that's about it. He's merely giving up a lot of home runs this year instead of a ton of them.

Saturday: Jeff Samardzija, RHP (4.06, 3.54, 3.52, 3.86) vs Johnny Cueto, RHP (2.45, 3.04, 3.67, 3.67), 12:10 PM CT

Samardzija showed no signs of slowing down as he enters new innings pitched territory. He tied a season high with 11 strikeouts in seven innings against the Astros, allowing only a solo HR to Brandon Barnes. It was his sixth best start of the year by game score. Aside from his filthy splitter (profiled on Fangraphs the other day) his sinker seems to be working for him as well given his career high 1.45 GB/FB. Also, it's still technically Shark Week tomorrow so he's got that working for him too. Eno Sarris recently checked up on him at fangraphs, and all of his pFX-y peripherals continue to point more towards Samardzija's transformation leaning towards Autobot rather than a Decepticon with his first pitch strike, swings outside the zone, contact, and strikes in general percentages all above average.

Cueto gets a much better matchup than his last outing against Raley. He pitched eight innings of shutout ball against the Cubs in his last start.

Saturday: Brooks Raley. LHP (SSS) vs Someone, 6:10 PM CT

Raley managed to put together a nominally Quality Start against the Reds his last time out, allowing three runs in six innings and striking out two. His long term future with the team is probably as the next James Russell.

Sunday: Chris Volstad, RHP (6.96, 4.57, 4,48, 4.85) vs Mat Latos, RHP (3.63, 4.12, 3.84, 3.61), 12:10 PM CT

Chris Volstad is just like Cliff Lee, he's just a hard-luck guy who can't get that W that he keeps seeing on the horizon. After posting two straight quality starts following his Iowa exile, Volstad did Volstad things, giving up eight hits (three for extra bases) on the way to four runs in five innings. Somehow he only has a LD% of 21.3 this year.

Latos was supposed to be the missing piece of the puzzle for the Reds this year, but he got off to a slow start posting FIPs of 4.70 and 5.12 in April and May respectively. Since then, however, he's been the pitcher the Reds were hoping for when they acquired him for the blocked Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, and the remains of ROY candidate Edinson Volquez's elbow.


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