The Reds got off to a hot start, but have been scuffling a bit recently. A big reason is the lack of production from their two best players. Ace Johnny Cueto hit the DL with a lat strain in mid-April, and Joey Votto is hitting .231/.273/.357 dating back to the last series with the Cubs.
2013 NL Ranks in parens
|wRC+||92 (9th)||91 (11th)|
|BSR||0.9 (4th)||-0.5 (7th)|
|UZR||6.0 (4th)||-2.8 (10th)|
|DRS||16 (3rd)||-4 (10th)|
|SP FIP-||87 (3rd)||95 (5th)|
|RP FIP||103 (8th)||108 (12th)|
Strange to think that there have been four offenses in the NL (DBacks, Phillies, Nats, Marlins) with worse numbers than the Cubs. They'll start scoring more runs as their numbers with RISP regress back to normal.
The Reds injury sheet is pretty full. As mentioned above, Cueto is out with a lat strain. He was on pace to go on some rehab starts soon, but is now dealing with oblique soreness. Of Ryan Ludwick tore his labrum in the first game of the season, and should be out until July. OF Chris Heisey, who got a decent chunk of Ludwick's playing time, just hit the DL with a hamstring strain. IIRC he had a monster HR in the last series. C Ryan Hanigan is still out with the oblique strain suffered just before the last Cubs series, though he's improving enough to take BP. SP Mat Latos is day to day with a sore hip.
Matt Garza finally got his first rehab start in on Wednesday, throwing two innings and change. This is his spring training, so he's going to need some time to get a feel for his pitches again. Kyuji Fujikawa threw a bullpen session yesterday and apparently looked much better than he did in his first. Ian Stewart's DL time is up, but I think the Cubs end up optioning him given how bad he's been and how decently Valbuena has been doing.
Storylines and stuff to watch for
Like Garza, Jay Bruce doesn't appreciate negativity from fans either. Bruce is off to a poor start this year, and chastised/subtweeted some fans the other day. He's struck out 41 times already this year.
He brings a lot of energy. He has a ton of talent. He had struggled some down there. I told him this is a great opportunity. It's not like he really earned this spot. He was the next guy on the roster.
What a ringing endorsement!
Darwin Barney has only collected 10 hits in his return, but he's also drawn 8 walks. Hitting in front of the pitcher helps him some, but it's definitely seemed like he's been more patient behind the plate. He's been proving any Gold Glove nay-sayers wrong with his stellar defense so far this season. He'll be facing off against Brandon Phillips, once again the main contender for the award.
This was pretty funny from Borbon yesterday. Get the man an Oscar!
Leake went seven innings against the Cubs in his last start, giving up two runs and striking out five. Leake gets grounders and gives few free passes. He's also a great hitter (for a pitcher). He's put up 2.1 batting WAR so far in his career. For reference, Zambrano put up 5.2 WAR in his eleven seasons in the bigs.
Villanueva was knocked around a bit for the first time this year, though it's hard to assign too much blame to giving up a HR to Giancarlo Stanton. He has a BABIP of .176 on the year, so he's clearly due for some regression. He's a low-BABIP guy in general (career avg .276), but that's mostly because he's a flyball pitcher. He's actually been getting a decent amount of grounders this year, which is not that surprising when you realize that he's throwing twice as many sinkers as he was last year. In fact, it looks like he only added the pitch one or two years ago.
This should be a pretty quick game with all the strikeouts. I was skeptical of Cingrani when the Cubs faced him last time – pretty much all he throws is his low 90s fastball. He must get a ton of movement on it, however, as he's posting the same double digit strikeout rates that he had in the minors. Given how well he's pitched, Mike Leake might be the one to find himself bounced from the rotation when Cueto returns.
Now that his control issues seem to be mostly out of the way, only one thing seems to be a stumbling block for the transformed Jeff Samardzija, namely, his pitch counts. Shark threw a ton of pitches in his last start against the Padres and only lasted five innings. Pitch counts aside, it's illuminating to see his total batters faced numbers in all of his starts: 28, 26, 25, 28, 26, 24. Gotta avoid the fourth time through the order.
Sunday: Mat Latos, RHP (1.83, 71, 3.12, 3.45) vs Edwin Jackson, RHP (6.27, 87, 3.68, 3.62), 1:20 PM CT
Jackson has looked shaky in his debut as a Cub, but his last start was his first truly awful one. He was throwing more strikes, just getting hit hard. One silver lining was that his velocity was much better. I noted before his last start that almost all of his pitches were down ~2 mph from his career norms, this time they looked better. His secondary stats still look good, but I can't say I'm super excited to watch an EJax start right now.
Latos has simply been on cruise control this year. Over his last three starts, he's given up one run in 20 innings with 18 strikeouts and 5 walks. He's dealing with a sore hip, so maybe that would be enough for the Cubs to get a run or two off of him.