The league's best team vs the worst. The Cubs run differential is +149, which is more twice as much as the next best (Red Sox, +70). The Braves are -97, which is only one run worse than the Reds. This series is about as lopsides as it gets on paper. The Braves snapped a 6-game losing streak with a 4-2 win over the Padres on Wednesday. Atlanta is just 6-23 in their home park this season. They're going out in style in Turner Field's last season. The Cubs are 19-9 on the road.
Cubs (100 PA)
- OBP: Ben Zobrist (.436)
- ISO: Anthony Rizzo (.259)
- HR: Kris Bryant (14)
- R+RBI: Bryant (87)
- wRC+: Dexter Fowler (150)
- BSR: Javier Baez (2.9)
- SP K/9: Jake Arrieta (9.79)
- SP BB/9: Jon Lester (1.94)
- SP FIP: Arrieta (2.49)
- RP K/9: Pedro Strop (13.10)
- RP BB/9: Rondon (0.93)
- RP FIP: Rondon (1.89)
- WAR: Fowler (3.2)
Kris Bryant's 14th home run put him one ahead of Anthony Rizzo. Jon Lester took a small lead away from Kyle Hendricks in BB/9 and Pedro Strop has barely passed Hector Rondon in K/9 for relievers. Ben Zobrist has struggled a bit lately, but started to come out of his slump in the last game or two.
- OBP: Gordon Beckham (.382)
- ISO: Freddy Freeman (.181)
- HR: Freeman (9)
- R+RBI: Nick Markakis (53)
- wRC+: Beckham (126)
- BSR: Freeman/Jeff Francoeur (0.8)
- SP K/9: Julio Teheran (8.45)
- SP BB/9: Matt Wisler (2.52)
- SP FIP: Teheran (4.14)
- RP K/9: Arodys Vizcaino (12.60)
- RP BB/9: Eric O'Flaherty (2.60)
- RP FIP: Vizcaino (2.45)
- WAR: Chase d'Arnaud (0.9)
There were only two Braves hitters who qualify for the batting title so to make the list long enough to pick the best numbers from, I had to reduce the plate appearances to 100. Chase d'Arnaud has only 92 plate appearances, but leads the team in fWAR. Freddy Freeman has 0.6. This team is bad at baseball.
K/9, BB/9, ERA, FIP, Projected ERA listed for each pitcher
I'm not sure why, but I always think Bud Norris is a lefty. For some reason I always get him confused with Bud Smith. Norris hasn't been very good. He began the year in the rotation and after 5 starts was moved to the bullpen. In those 5 starts he threw 22.2 innings, allowed 34 hits and 6 home runs. He walked 11 and struckout 17. By the end of the first month he had an 8.74 ERA and 6.53 FIP.
He moved to the bullpen and made 12 appearances from May 2nd through June 1st. He pitched OK in relief. He had a shiny ERA, but his K/9 was only 6.87 and his BB/9 was 4.42. He was given another start on the 4th against the Dodgers and he threw 5 innings, allowed 3 hits and a run. He walked 4 and struckout 2. Thankfully it earned him another start and the Cubs batters should be able to take advantage of his control issues and knock him out early.
Hammel has done a much better job of keeping the ball in the ballpark this season, but his 6.3% HR/FB rate is probably due for some regression at some point. Hopefully not tonight.
Saturday: Jake Arrieta, RHP (9.79, 2.93, 1.80, 2.49, 2.72) vs Matt Wisler, RHP (6.59, 2.49, 3.98, 4.23, 4.34), 3:10 PM CT
Wisler is only 23 years old and he made 19 starts (20 appearances) for the Braves last season. His strikeout rate was pretty good in the low minors and even at AA, but in AAA it began to drop in 2014. In 2015 in AAA it declined even more (6.78 per 9). Last season it was only 5.94, but his walk rate was OK at 3.3. He didn't have a good season, but his 4.71 ERA and 4.93 FIP at the age of 22 was enough to keep him in the rotation. His strikeout rate has increased to 6.59 and his walk rate has dropped by nearly a walk per 9 innings (2.49. His ERA is now down 3.98 and his FIP down 4.23. If he can increase that strikeout rate a bit more and keep the walks down, he could be valuable in the same way that Kyle Hendricks is. His average fastball is close to 93 mph so I'm kind of surprised he doesn't get more strikeouts.
Arrieta has gone two starts since his last win, which is probably the most he's gone in nearly a year. His last start was not a good one in some ways and a great one in other ways. He gave up 9 hits. The BABIP gods did not like Jake Arrieta that day. The Diamondbacks have actually figured Arrieta out. In 12 innings against them this season he's allowed 17 hits and 6 runs. Arrieta's last 3 starts haven't been the best so he's due for a good one and this is a good team to get it done.
Sunday: Jon Lester, LHP (8.92, 1.94, 2.06, 2.99, 3.04) vs Casey Kelly, RHP (2.35, 2.35, 2.93, 4.63, 4.71), 12:35 PM CT
Kelly hasn't officially been named the starter for this game, but he's the most likely to start. He's only appeared in 5 games for the Braves this season and made just one start. His last start was May 22 at Philladelphia. He threw 5 innings, allowed 7 hits and 3 runs. He walked 1, struckout 1 and gave up a home run.
Kelly was once considered a top prospect. he was picked in the 1st round (30th overall) in the 2008 draft by the Red Sox. He was traded to the Padres after the 2010 season and made his MLB debut in 2012. He missed all of 2013 after having Tommy John surgery.
Aside from some early season struggles in 2015, Jon Lester has been everything the Cubs signed him to be. He's having the best season of his career right now.
Prediction: I hate to predict a sweep on the road, but the Cubs really should sweep this series and I think they will.