Series Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates (4-2) at Chicago Cubs (2-4)

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These guys again? After taking the opening series from the Cubs, the Pirates went on to take two of three from the Cardinals. They beat up on Cards starter Shelby Miller in the first game, and the Cardinals returned the favor against Liriano in the second. They won a close game on getaway day with Edinson Volquez somehow outpitching Adam Wainwright. Can’t predict ball.

Team Overviews

2013 numbers and NL rank listed first, 2014 numbers/ranks for some stats also listed

Cubs

  • wRC+: 87 (14th), 68 (14th)
  • BSR: -8.7 (12th)
  • UZR: 37.3 (2nd)
  • DRS: 26 (7th)
  • SP FIP-: 103 (10th), 85 (2nd)
  • RP FIP-: 109 (14th), 122 (14th)

Pirates

  • wRC+: 98 (5th), 94 (8th)
  • BSR: 2.2 (5th)
  • UZR: 4.4 (8th)
  • DRS: 68 (2nd)
  • SP FIP-: 94 (3rd), 94 (5th)
  • RP FIP-: 91 (5th),  108 (10th)

Gigantic grains of salt apply due to sample size, but the Cubs offense and bullpen have been right on track with last year’s relative rankings after one week. I expect the bullpen to improve significantly on last year’s numbers, the offense not so much. The Cubs were already a good defensive team last year, I expect that to continue now that 5 of the 6 players who can play OF can hold down CF credibly.

Injury updates

Pirates backup C Chris Stewart is on the DL following minor knee surgery in March, and should be back in a few weeks. SP Jeff Locke has been down with an oblique strain since early March, and begins a rehab assignment tomorrow.

SP Jake Arrieta made a rehab start on Saturday with the Smokies, throwing 42 pitches in three innings with no hits, three strikeouts, and a walk.

News, notes, blood oaths, etc.

I meant to link this last week, but there was a long article by Steve Wulf at ESPN that looked at the history of Cubs managers. He managed to interview most of the living former managers of the team and it’s a good if long read.

Brett at Bleacher Nation wrote a piece rebutting all of the ‘OMG the sky is falling the Cubs finances are underwater’ sentiment that was stirred up over the weekend following the news that the team is considering selling a minority stake. Not surprisingly, Gordo had the strongest hand in the pot-stirring.

A baseball exec suggested to Buster Olney that they should shorten games to seven innings to reduce injuries and game length. This would never happen, because Tradition, but Calcaterra tears it apart anyway. My favorite point:

1. Why do people who think baseball games are too long and need to be shortened in order to hold viewers’ attention spans never mention that most NFL broadcasts last around three and a half hours?

1000x this. Though somehow Craig also neglects the real reason why MLB would never do it – two innings less to sell advertising = much smaller TV contracts.

Pitching matchups

Projected FIP and current xFIP listed for each pitcher.

Since the first two matchups are exactly the same as last week’s, and I didn’t have much to say before I accidentally lost half my post, I’ll just list the numbers.

Tuesday: Charlie Morton, RHP (4.07, 2.52) vs Edwin Jackson, RHP (3.79, 4.73), 7:05 PM CT

Wednesday: Wandy Rodriguez, LHP (3.93, 2.95) vs Jason Hammel, RHP (4.06, 3.68), 7:05 PM CT

Thursday: Gerrit Cole, RHP (3.65, 3.98) vs Travis Wood, LHP (4.24, 2.30), 1:20 PM CT

Cole went seven innings against the Cardinals in his first start, striking out three and walking two. If the Pirates are going to repeat their playoff run, they’ll most likely need a big year from their 23 year old proto-ace. Cole throws a 95 mph fastball, and has an above average slider, changeup, and curveball. He had great strikeout numbers in the minors (9+ K/9), but strangely saw a largish drop when going to AAA, and his mlb projections are around 7 K/9. There’s plenty of time for that number to grow though, and Cole and Cutch will be two great players for the Pirates to actually build around.

Wood was fairly sharp in his home opener start against the Phils, striking out eight in six-plus innings. However, Chase Utley had his number all day. Not much shame in getting beat by a future HOFer. I’m way down on the aging Phillies roster this year, but if Utley can stay healthy he’s probably still a top ten player in all of baseball.

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