Series Preview: Chicago Cubs (2-5) at St. Louis Cardinals (5-2) and Mini-Daily Facepalm

In Facepalm, Series Previews by berselius79 Comments

Yesterday's game

Before the game I said all they had to do was beat the Brewers best pitcher, and they did. I was stuck in a tedious meeting for most of the game but I surreptitiously checked the score towards the end and was glad to see the Cubs up 8-0. Then I checked the box score and saw that all eight runs were scored on singles and barely managed to contain a laugh. Such is the 2012 Cubs offense.

Matt Garza was clearly the player of the game, taking a page from Jeff Samardzija and throwing a incomplete complete game thanks to a throwing error on the 27th out. This time it was his own fault, instead of Starlin Castro's. Garza threw 119 pitches but was never really laboring during the game. He was a little off in the first inning, but Ryan Dempster saw something and he made a small change. It must have worked, as he struck out nine, walked two, and only allowed three hits over 8 2/3 innings.

WPA winners and losers

Oddly enough, given the way the Cubs scored their runs yesterday (a ton of singles, mostly in one inning) the two biggest WPA leaders were Garza (.170) and Barney (.100). Greinke (-.319) was obviously the lowest WPA on the game, and Bryan LaHair (-0.18) was the lowest rated position player for the Cubs. He was the only starter without an RBI.

Horror of horrors

The Cardinals are celbrating their World Series victory at their home opener today. Skip the pregame and you'll be fine. I don't get all the hand-wringing over this from some Cubs fans. They won, but it's not like WGN is going to show hours of pregame ring ceremonies. And it's not like many Cubs fans are going to be excitedly attending a Cardinals home opener, especially right after they won something.

Team matchups

The Cardinals lead MLB with 12 home runs on the season, and are second in scoring with 37 runs. Here's how the teams stack up (2011 numbers, NL rank in parens)

  Cubs Cards
wOBA .313 (8th) .332 (1st)
baserunning -12.0 (16th) 4.0 (5th)
UZR -9.5 (8th) -29.8 (15th)
DRS -36 (13th) -12 (11th)
SP FIP 4.25 (12th) 3.69 (5th)
RP FIP 3.85 (10th) 3.87 (13th)

So much for defense wins championships


Cubs wOBA wOBA Cards
RF David DeJesus .330 .319 SS Rafael Fucal
2B Darwin Barney .295 .360 RF Carlos Beltran
SS Starlin Castro .336 .370 LF Matt Holliday
LF Alfonso Soriano .322 .317 1B Matt Carpenter
3B Ian Stewart .314 .322 C Yadier Molina
1B Bryan LaHair .339 .320

3B David Freese

C Geovany Soto .334 .308 2B Daniel Descalso
CF Marlon Byrd .323 .324 CF Jon Jay

The Cardinals lineup will probably be shuffled around due to Berkman's injury. He was out of Wednesday's game but another player or two had the day off too.

Injuries of note

Mercurial Outfielder favorite Lance Berkman is out with a small muscle tear in his calf. The Cardinals are also badly missing the oft-injured Chris Carpenter (nerve problems in shoulder), as well as "second baseman" Skip Schumaker (torn oblique), outfielder/postseason hero Allen Craig (knee surgery), and human pitching machine Scott Linebrink (shoulder). The Cardinals also have another large hole in their lineup, but I can't seem to remember what's missing there…

The Cubs have been pretty much healthy so far aside from occasional back problems for LaHair and DeWitt. Their back must be buckling under the extra strain of two capital letters in their last name.

Pitching matchups

As usual, ZiPS projected ERA and FIP are listed

Friday: Jeff Samardzija, RHP (4.12, 4.57) vs Adam Wainwright, RHP (3.12, 3.10), 2:15 PM CT

Samardzija shut us right up in his first start, throwing an incomplete complete game and completely dominating Nats hitters. The pfx data agrees that he's a new pitcher, as linked in Wednesday's facepalm. The biggest surprise for me, after the lack of walks, was that he was throwing just about as hard as a starter as he was as a reliever last year. And that he was throwing 97 mph sinkers for strikes. Jeebus.

It's Adam Wainwright's turn to be the staff ace with Carpenter out. He missed all of last year with an elbow injury, and I was quite surprised to see Lohse get the opening day start over him. He's still got a little ways to go yet – his fastball averaged 89 against the Brewers, which sounds bad until you consider that his average before his TJ surgery was just about 91. He's said that he still needs to build up arm strength, so he could get tired fairly quickly. He's a guy who always used to work very deep into games before the surgery and it's going to be a while before he gets there again.

Saturday: Chris Volstad, RHP (4.82, 4.63) vs Lance Lynn, RHP (4.06, 3.83), 12:05 PM CT

Volstad was pretty meh in his first start as a Cub. He racked up six strikeouts in his five innings of work, but gave up a homer and a few doubles and walked two. He's a ground ball guy but gave up a lot of fly balls in his first start. He was having a tough time locating his pitches and left a lot of balls up. If he keeps leaving balls up he's going to give up a lot of home runs. In a similar observation, if Starlin Castro leaves his glove in the dugout he's going to commit a lot of errors.

Lynn is the fill-in while Carpenter is out. The Cards are hoping Carpenter can come back in May but I'm not holding my breath. Lynn was a former first round pick of the Cardinals whose ceiling looks to be a back of the rotation innings easter type, which has value but nothing to get excited about. He has a fastball in the low 90s and his secondary pitchers aren't that great. He had a strong start agaisnt the Brewers, striking out eight and allowing only a walk and a solo HR in 6 2/3 innings.

Sunday: Paul Maholm, LHP (4.20, 3.98) vs Jake Westbrook, RHP (4.52, 4.26), 1:15 PM CT

The less that is said about Maholm's last start, the better. He had a tough time locating his pitches. Hopefully he figures it out on Sunday.

I thought Westbrook would be a great pickup for the Cards last year but he got off to an awful start. Batters were hitting him hard (25% LD% on the year) and his walk rate shot up, never a great combination. He still got tons of grounders on the non-line drives but he wasn't the stopper the Cardinals were expecting him to be.


Since this is the way things have been going, Cubs lose the first two games with a ccd-special near-rally in the 9th in each game, then eke out a win to avoid the sweep in the finale.

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  1. Suburban kid

    I was stuck in a tedious meeting for most of the game but I surreptitiously checked the score towards the end and was glad to see the Cubs up 8-0.

    Epic epic, bruv.

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  2. WaLi

    whose ceiling looks to be a back of the rotation innings easter type, which has value but nothing to get excited about

    I disagree, easter is something to get excited about!

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  3. josh

    Is the game for sure not going to happen?

    Also what’s up with the Cardinals putting their best hitters mostly at the top of the order? Everyone knows you put your best hitters at the bottom! DOY!

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  4. Rice Cube

    @ josh:
    Mike Matheny seems to be on to something.

    But I think since the Cardinals have better players it doesn’t matter who manages, they can’t possibly fuck it up…right?

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  5. josh

    @ Rice Cube:
    Probably. On second glance, the Cubs are all about the same, Barney being the glaringly obvious mistake that high up. He should be 7th or 8th. Why not Byrd hitting #2? I just keep thinking there’s a way for this team to do better than it is, but I’m probably wrong.

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  6. ACT

    mb21 wrote:

    I’m perfectly fine with Garza pitching that deep into a game like that. I remember Maddux talking about this before and he said as a starter he wanted to go deeper when he had a big lead, but wanted to turn it over to his bullpen when the game was close. This is how it should be. In a close game the average reliever is better than all but a handful of starters. Those are the games you should be turning it over to the pen.

    I’m not sure I agree with this. When you have an 8-run lead late, that is the perfect time to bring in your worst relievers. No point in wasting your best/most valuable pitchers in such a low-leverage situation.

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  7. josh

    @ Rice Cube:
    It occurs to me that this stuff and the stuff with the 10 opening days is symptomatic that MLB is struggling to increase revenue. Unfortunately, since they’ve set themselves up as an unholy cabal of rich guys, rich guys feel like they can “earn” money by not giving things away free. This whole stinks of miserliness motivated by increased (or at least slowing) revenues. That’s my read.

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  8. ACT

    I should add that though there is no strategic reason for Garza to pitch in the ninth with a huge lead, there may still be good psychological reasons to keep him in (e.g., to boost his confidence and reward him for good performance). Whether the slight injury risk outweighs the psychological benefits is not a question I can easily answer.

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  9. bubblesdachimp

    Without that shift Shark has to throw about ten less pitches. And he got squeezed. I liked the stuff i saw

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  10. josh

    @ Suburban kid:
    Pitch FX had it on the inner third of the plate, not right over the middle, with plenty of the plate. Pat actually called it a strike before he realized the umpire had called it a ball. That almost never happens.

      Quote  Reply



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