Series Preview: St. Louis Cardinals (11-5) at Chicago Cubs (4-12)

Well, at least the Cubs aren't the worst team in baseball right now. That honor goes to the Royals, who are 3-12 and have lost ten games in a row. But at least they have a farm system percolating its way into the bigs, provided they're not blocked by the multi-year-dealed Jeff Francouers of the world.

The Cardinals are coming off of (what else) a series win over the Pirates. It was their 16th straight series win dating back to last year.

The Cubs designated Rodrigo Lopez for assignment today to make room for Michael Bowden.

Team Overviews

This year's numbers, with NL rank in parentheses. Small sample sizes apply of course.

  Cards Cubs
wOBA .353 (1st) .278 (13th)
BSR 1.3 (3rd) 1.7 (2nd)
UZR 7.9 (2nd) -1.3 (10th)
DRS 3 (2nd) -8 (12th)
SP FIP 3.26 (4th) 3.63 (8th)
RP FIP 3.10 (3rd) 4.52 (16th)

From these numbers, there's no surprise that the Cardinals are rolling over the NL. Pretty much the only thing you can criticize on the team level is that they don't have anyone who is particularly good defensively, except for that guy behind the plate.

Lineup

Current wOBA /Rest of season ZiPS

Cards wOBA wOBA Cubs
SS Rafael Fucal .423 / .328 .324 / .328 RF David DeJesus
2B Tyler Greene .310 / .306 .493 / .299 CF Tony Campana
LF Matt Holliday .261 / .361 .411 / .345 SS Starlin Castro
RF Carlos Beltran .419 / .368 .450 / .347 1B Bryan LaHair
3B David Freese .397 / .327 .189 / .315 LF Alfonso Soriano
C Yadier Molina .414 / .330 .246 / .309 3B Ian Stewart
1B Matt Carpenter .347 / .317 .196 / .327 C Geovany Soto
CF Shane Robinson .428 / .297 .332 / .297 2B Darwin Barney

Holliday has been sluping badly, but clearly the rest of the offense is picking up the slack. Matt Carpenter's numbers are mostly due to one good game against (who else) the Cubs, so they are missing Berkman a bit too. Though not that much, with the top offense in the NL. On the Cubs side, it's really just Castro, LaHair, and not much else (maybe DeJesus). Watching Campana run will be fun whenever he gets on base. He was running all over the place in RR a week ago.

Injuries

The Cardinals have them in spades. Jon Jay is out with a shoulder spraing after colliding with a wall last week, and Lance Berkman is still out for a few more weeks with a calf strain. Playoff hero Allen Craig is still recovering from knee surgery and is still at extended spring training. The Good Chris Carpenter is still out with shoulder problems and won't even start throwing for a few more weeks. The Cubs have Wood and Dempster on the DL. Wood was reportedly throwing in the OF today and is feeling much better.

Pitching Matchups

ERA, FIP, xFIP, ZiPS FIP in parens

Monday: Jaime Garcia, LHP (3.06, 2.82, 4.03, 3.24) vs Matt Garza, RHP (3.66, 3.70, 3.07, 3.45), 7:05 PM CT

The results have been good, but Garcia's first three starts weren't particularly typical of his past resume. Garcia's strikeout and ground ball rates are down so far this year, and he's given up a lot of line drives. A big part in his low ERA is the fact that he hasn't given up any HRs. He's been quite good at suppressing HR in the past and that should continue today given the Cubs "offense" and the way the wind has been howling in at Wrigley for the past few days.

The second biggest question with Matt Garza this year is whether last year's radically different GB% was a fluke or not. After the absolutely definitive sample of three starts, it looks like Garza has indeed transformed. His ground ball rate is right in line with last year's. The strikeouts are still there too. The second biggest question is obviously whether or not he'll still be a Cub in 6 months. If his peripherals keep looking like they did last year's Thoyer can get a lot more back in a trade (or have more incentive for an extension for that matter). Honestly I think the most likely scenario could just be the Cubs hanging on to him and getting the picks in the 2014 draft – they're going to be bad for a while and any prospect they acquire would be a drop in the bucket compared to the scorched wasteland that is the cream filling of the Cubs farm system's Oreo.

Tuesday: Adam Wainwright, RHP (9.88, 6.52, 3.13, 3.21) vs Rodimus Prime, RHP (5.71, 2.88, 3.36, 4.16), 7:05 PM CT

Well, at least Samardzija's FIP looks good. After his stellar opening day near-complete game, he's been knocked around by opposing batters. His fastball has dropped a few MPH from that opening start (though still is about as hard as he threw in relief), and opposing hitters are hitting a ton of line drives off of him. He ended his little-to-no walk streak with a five-walk, 3.2 inning performance in his last outing. The jury is still out on his transformation, which was never really more than a transformation from sub-replacement level starter to mediocre starter. And mediocre starters have bad days too. Given his history though expectations are getting tempered quickly.

At least Samardzija gets a good matchup in the struggling Wainwright. He's having juuuust a bit of HR bad luck (35.7% HR/FB) but he hasn't looked the same yet in his comeback from TJS. His fastball is down about 4 mph from 2010, and his wicked curveball hasn't been an out pitch so far this year either (possibly because hitters are sitting on said fastball). He's given up a HR in every start, including two to the Cubs in a eight-run, three inning outing that put a slight damper on the Cards opening day festivities.

Wednesday: Lance Lynn, RHP (1.42, 3.15, 3.11, 3.70) vs Chris Volstad, RHP (6.19, 2.75, 3.52, 4.43), 1:20 PM CT

Lance Lynn was pressed into service after Carpenter went down, and knowing Carpenter's past could end up starting the whole year for the Cards one way or another. He was pretty meh in the minors in 2010, but had a solid year in AAA in 2011 before being called up to the Cards pen last year. His ERA is very BABIP-influcenced (.182) but he's getting tons of strikeouts too. His walk rate is well below his projection, and should stay pretty low after this start.

When I look at Volstad's numbers I figure he must be being BABIPed to death or something, but it's a reasonable.for a groundballer .321. Then again, he hasn't been getting many ground balls, and instead has a 25% LD rate. At least he's kept the homers down, and is striking out guys en route to throwing 1000 pitches an inning. I think there's a lot to like from the peripherals, but I'm sure by the second inning I'll be wondering yet again what I saw in this guy.

Prediction

Cards streak rolls on. Cubs win on Transformers Day for the honor of Cybertron.

 

berselius

About berselius

How appropriate. You fight like a cow.

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