Series Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates (22-26) @ Chicago Cubs (22-26)

The Cubs have gotten off to a good start on this 9-game home stand. They need to get as close to .500 as they can during this stretch because June is a very tough month for the Cubs. The Cubs have the right teams coming to town in the Pirates and Astros, but the Cubs have also had their troubles with those teams.

Team Overview

Team stats with respective league rankings

Pirates Cubs
wRC+ 86, 13 98, 4
UBR -2, 12 -7.7, 16
UZR 3.1, 6 -9.1, 13
DRS -4, 8 -35, 16
SP FIP 4.19, 14 4.06, 10
RP FIP 3.47, 5 3.73, 10

The Pirates have gotten no production at all from Pedro Alvarez and Lyle Overbay. Alvarez is currently on the disabled list along with pitchers Ross Ohlendorf and Mike Crotta.

Pirates batters

Andrew McCutchen, CF .355 .364
Jose Tabata, LF .336 .333
Garrett Jones, RF .355 .335
Neil Walker, 2B .337 .338
Lyle Overbay, 1B .295 .324
Ryan Doumit, C .342 .334
Brandon Wood, 3B .247 .287
Ronny Cedeno, SS .273 .296

You wouldn’t think you could get worse after Alvarez’s .271 wOBA, but the Pirates added a guy who has hit only .247 this season and is projected to hit only .287. Alvarez is much better than he’s played so far this season. The Pirates offense is a lot like the Cubs with one exception: they don’t have the holes in their lineup like the Pirates have. The best hitters in the Pirates lineup have projected wOBA’s similar to the Cubs best. When the Cubs have Koyie Hill in the linup it’s similar up and down the lineup.

Pirates pitchers

Kevin Correia, RHP 3.84 4.09 4.10 4.21
Paul Maholm, LHP 3.65 3.58 3.72 3.81
Jeff Karstens, RHP 3.57 4.81 3.18 4.60

The Cubs do miss Charlie Morton this series, which is probably good considering how well he’s pitched this season.

Pitching Matchups

ERA, FIP, xFIP, and ZiPS projected FIP in parantheses for the Cubs

Friday: Kevin Correia, RHP vs Doug Davis, LHP (8.31, 2.21, 3.53, 4.25), 1:20 PM CT, WGN

Correia has struckout just under 4 batters per 9 innings this season, which is well below his career average. He’s walked under 2 so his K/BB ratio is still pretty decent. He’s allowed a .270 BABIP and stranded many more runners than you’d expect. His FIP and xFIP are about average and ZiPS considers him an average starter. After a couple rough starts vs the Dodgers and then the Brewers, Correia pitched well last time out agains the Tigers.

Davis was hit around by the Red Sox last time out, but he’s struckout a lot of batters so far this season. His peripherals are pretty good, which shows with his 2.21 FIP and 3.53 xFIP. The Pirates have hit a bit worse against lefties than righties so I think we’ll see much better results today than last time out.

Saturday: Paul Maholm, LHP vs Randy Wells, RHP (1.50, 5.07, 3.85, 3.80), 12:05 PM CT, CSN

Maholm has been pretty good this year, but he’s facing a team that has a .353 wOBA vs lefties so I’ll be surprised if he pitches well on Saturday. Maholm has allowed only a .276 BABIP this year and has been lucky with home runs as well. I look for that luck to change on Saturday.

Randy Wells returns to make only his second big league start this season. He didn’t pitch well in his final rehab assignment, or I should say the results weren’t there. Wells is a good pitcher, but I have no idea what to expect from him after missing almost two months. I believe he only threw 70 pitches for the I-Cubs so I’d expect him to be out as soon as he reaches 80 to 85 pitches.

Sunday: Jeff Karstens, RHP vs Ryan Dempster, RHP (6.29, 4.51, 3.41, 3.74), 1:20 PM CT, WGN

19.6% of the fly balls hit against Karsents have left the yard. Considering how unlucky he’s been in that regard, it’s hard to imagine he had just a 3.57 ERA. I understand why his xFIP is so low. Then you look at his LOB% and he’s actually stranded over 81% of the runners who have reached base. That will come down and so will the HR/FB rate.

Dempster’s HR/FB rate has begun to drop finally. His ERA and FIP are still ugly as a result of how many flies left the yard, but his xFIP is actually better than any other year’s he’s been a starting pitcher. Unlike Karstens who has gotten lucky in stranding runners, Dempster has also been unlucky and not stranding runners as often as you’d expect. Dempster has a 2.62 FIP in May as well as a 2.77 xFIP to go along with his much improved 3.09 ERA. He got off to a horrible start in large part due to luck and has regressed toward the mean as we expected.