Series Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles (17-8) at Chicago Cubs (9-16)

The Dodgers have the best record in the National league, and are only one win off of Tampa's 18-8 mark for the best in baseball. A big part of that is Matt Kemp, who is making Bryan LaHair's numbers look pedestrian this year. Kemp has hit 12 HRs to LaHair's 7, though their wOBAs aren't that far off when you also note that LaBomb has also hit 8 doubles. He has more XBH than singles! Aside from Kemp, catcher A.J. Ellis (who?) and Andre Ethier are having big years at the plate, and Jerry Hairston of all people is not only still being employed by a professional baseball team but it putting up good numbers and playing great defense based on the enormous sample of three innings that I've watched. Despite the departure of the underrated Hiroki Kuroda their pitching staff is rolling right along, with retreads Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano posting solid numbers in the back of what was already a solid rotation.

Pitching matchups

ERA, FIP, xFIP, and ZiPS projected FIP listed

Due to the off-day Ted Lilly could pitch on Sunday instead, maybe shifting around the Dodgers rotation the other days. Clayton Kershaw pitched on Wednesday so the Cubs will not face him this series.

Friday: Chad Billingsley, RHP (2.64, 4.24, 3.63, 3.58) vs Paul Maholm, LHP (6.20, 6.01, 5.07, 4.13), 1:20 PM CT

Remember when Billingsley had a bad stretch a few years back and people were worried that he was broken? Me neither. Billingsley posted FIPs in the high 3's in 2009 and 2011 which were not great for him but still something that most SPs would love to post. Billingsley walks more guys than I remembered (~3.8 per nine) but that's what you'd expect from a strikeout guy. Unlike most strikeout pitchers, he gets a surprising amount of ground balls and does an especially good job at keeping the ball in the park (career 0.69 HR/9).

Maholm was supposed to pitch in the last series, but it was pushed back due to Tuesday's rainout. In the interest of laziness I'll just copy the same blurb.

Maholm finally had start where he did Paul Maholm things last time out. He still gave up a HR, which has been his main problem this year, but most importantly he induced 15 ground balls. He only had one strikeout, but blowing away hitters is not his gameplan.

Saturday: Chris Capuano, LHP (2.73, 3.74, 3.94, 3.97) vs Matt Garza, RHP (2.67, 2.96, 3.02, 3.38), 12:05 PM CT

Capuano's return to starting pitcher-dom seems even more surprising than the thought of Jeff Samardzija, transformed pitcher. Capuano posted meh to okayish numbers with the Brewers before missing over two years to various injuries and setbacks. The desparate for pitching Mets put him into their rotation last year and not only did he manage to post solid numbers (4.04 FIP),  but he also managed to set a personal record for strikeout rate and even more surprisingly held up to make 31 starts. Capuano signed for a 2/10 deal with the Dodgers which could end up as a steal.

This Garza guy is pretty good. I caught most of his last start against the Phillies, one of his best since his no-hitter with the Rays, and had convinced myself for several innings that he was on the verge of throwing another one. I had forgotten about the bloop hit that Rollins recorded in the first Phllies PA of the game though (laughing).

Sunday: Aaron Harang, RHP (5.72, 3.71, 3.68, 4.03) vs Chris Volstad, RHP (6.11, 3.21, 3.70, 4.39), 1:20 PM CT

Look at what happened in the first inning of Volstad's last start

  • Bunt hit to pitcher
  • Strikeout
  • Groundball single to shortstop
  • Groundball single to center
  • Strikeout
  • Walk
  • Groundball single to right
  • Line drive single to right, followed by a fielding error
  • Groundball out to end the inning

It certainly looks like much of Volstad's problems this year have been sequencing. His BABIP is at a reasonable .313 (especially for a GB guy), his strikeout rate is up, batters aren't hitting him unusually hard (19.4% LD rate), and his walk and HR rates are down. It loosk like the main culprit is an absurdly low 49.7% LOB%. I don't think Volstad is the reincarnation of Cy Young or anything, but there's plenty of reasons to think he's much better than the results we've seen.

Harang's also has a big ERA-FIP split, but most of that seems to be related to his .341 BABIP and the 30.5% LD rate that produced it. He's striking out a lot of batters this year, but when batters do it it they're hitting it hard, and he's also walking a lot more guys than usual. It's especially surprising for Harang, who was always very stingy with walks in his years with the Reds.

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